Florida bishops discuss Real Presence, Eucharistic Revival

Jun 22, 2023
Bishop Gregory Parkes, Bishop Gerald Barbarito, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Bishop Erik Pohlmeier, Bishop John Noonan, and Bishop William Wack participate in a discussion on the Eucharist at the USCCB Conference, June 16, 2023. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

ORLANDO | Having recently celebrated the Eucharistic Pilgrimage: The Gift of Sacred Mystery at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, Bishop Noonan invited his brother bishops to share their wisdom for the people about the Eucharist. The Florida bishops gathered at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Plenary Assembly at the Omni Championsgate June 14-16.

The Florida bishops joined together for a videotaped conversation. The only shepherd not present was Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice. Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami opened the discussion saying, “We are baptized to receive Communion.”

“The Eucharist is the center of the Church,” added Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito of Palm Beach, who said of the celebration of the Eucharist, “we as the body of Christ are in union with Jesus, the Eucharist. The Sacraments of the Church flow from the Eucharist.”

Their insights are a perfect transition to the National Eucharistic Revival’s second year, helping the faithful deepen their commitment to the Eucharist in parishes.

Bishop John Noonan of Orlando quoted St. Augustine who said, “We become what we receive.” To be Christ to one another is difficult he acknowledged. To overcome self-created obstacles and sin that divide us, “we have to look at ourselves.” This leads to the Sacrament of Reconciliation – receiving the gift of mercy to share God’s love with others.

This journey of understanding may be as simple as linking one’s mind and heart. “It’s not academic and it’s not a matter of just memorizing what’s in John Chapter 6,” said Bishop William Wack, CSC, of Pensacola-Tallahassee. “And it’s not a symbol or sign. It really is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. And if it’s only a symbol, then we are only symbolically connected to Him. But if it is the Real Presence, then we have that connection.”

This unification occurs primarily through participation in the celebration of the Mass. The “re-presentation of the sacrifice of the Cross.” Archbishop Wenski reminds us that Jesus made this sacrifice “in a very violent and bloody fashion on Good Friday, but Jesus is made present to us today through the holy sacrifice of the Mass. On the Cross Jesus made a gift of Himself to His Father for us, that we might have life abundantly.” That means we are sharers in God’s abundance of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control — the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Bishop Erik Pohlmeier of St. Augustine stressed the Eucharist “feeds the deepest desire of the human heart.” Because Holy Communion is available to us at daily Mass, many become complacent.

“People look and they say, ‘Oh, the Eucharist has nothing to offer me.’ Yet at the same time, they experience a disconnect from their own life, in many ways,” he said. “It is through the mercy of God, through the redemptive power of Christ, that we receive purpose and meaning. The things we’re most hungry for are literally fed in the Eucharist.”

Bishop Noonan spoke about that issue in his pastoral letter, “The Eucharist: God Among Us.” The Eucharist is “a love-filled invitation from Jesus to you! He invites each one of us to live our lives completely, without measurement or personal interest, without thinking, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

Once we’ve been fed, we’re called to feed others. ‘Ite, missa est’ is translated ‘Go, the Mass has ended.’ But Archbishop Wenski offered perhaps a more faithful translation — “Go, it is ascending.”

“So Mass is intimately connected with the apostolic or missionary activity,” the archbishop said. “We carry Jesus to one another because in the Eucharist, we are committed to serve the poor as Jesus did. And so, we leave the Mass with Jesus, and we take Him to the poor and those not just materially poor, but the poor in spirit and announce the Good News.”

Bishop Gregory Parkes of St. Petersburg added, “The Mass is an opportunity for us to receive Christ, to celebrate Christ, but then to take what we celebrate and have that transcend the walls of the church — so that we go out and become Christ to one another, spreading the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, having received the Eucharist ourselves.”

The bishops all agreed that united in the Body of Christ, by the Body of Christ, the faithful are empowered, given courage and strength to go out into the world to preach the kerygma, the Good News. At the altar, when bread and wine is consecrated through the anointed hands of the priest, and becomes Jesus’ Body and Blood, the Eucharist carries a charge, the mission of evangelization.

“It’s no accident that the Lord comes to us as food and food as a basic fuel for whatever it is we want to do in our lives,” Bishop Pohlmeier said. “And so, the fuel of the Eucharist as Christ’s own flesh is what gives us strength to evangelize … to meet people and offer charity as the Lord calls us.”

When asked if they will travel to Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress in July 2024, the bishops excitedly nodded yes and smiled, praying this large gathering of joyous Catholics will bring all people closer to Christ.

“Like the early Christians!” Bishop Barbarito exclaimed. “Look who these people are! Look what they appreciate!”

Then, when the faithful return to Florida, the bishops pray that all God’s children will serve as the light of the world.

“We believe that Jesus loves each of us very much and that He’s always present to us,” Bishop Parkes said. “I believe that we never have any closer unity with Him in this world than when we receive Him into our own body, our soul and He dwells within us.”

Bishop Noonan recalls the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “In this way the Lord is always with His faithful, as He says, ‘Behold I am with you until the end of the age’” (Mt 28:20).

“So shall He startle many nations, kings shall stand speechless. For those who have not been told shall see, those who have not heard shall ponder it” (Is 52:15).

To learn more about the upcoming National Eucharistic Congress visit eucharisticrevival.org

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic Staff, June 23, 2023