“My purpose is writing this catechetical series is simple: to re-present the Catholic Church’s understanding of the Holy Eucharist as the Lord Jesus Christ’s own Body and Blood, his ‘gift for the life of the world’ (John 6: 51),” wrote Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in the preface to his new five-part Catechetical Series on the Eucharist.

Made available in text, video and as a podcast, the first installment of the series was released Oct. 18, the Feast of St. Luke. Each new installment will drop weekly through Nov. 15. All released content will be available at DioceseofTrenton.org/eucharist-series and the entire series will be published in The Monitor Magazine’s November issue.

“It is my hope,” said Bishop O’Connell, “that this series will help catechize the faithful and dispel recently and widely advertised misunderstandings about the Eucharist,” proposing that the series may be useful in parish or school programs, especially during the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative to inspire people to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist.

Bishop O’Connell also recalled the recently completed Diocesan Synod, in which “participants expressed concern about the lack of good catechesis among many of the faithful on any number of aspects of our Catholic faith and teaching, the Holy Eucharist included. The purpose of the Synod, as declared by our Holy Father, was ‘to listen’ to one another as we ‘journey together’ in faith.”

In light of the Eucharistic Revival, he said, “Now may be a most opportune time, by means of follow-up to that ‘listening,’ to consider the gift and mystery of the Holy Eucharist.”

Reflecting on both the chief responsibilities of a bishop and the purpose of the catechetical series, Bishop O’Connell stressed, “The role and mission of a bishop in his diocese is to teach, sanctify and govern. If I don’t teach faithfully and effectively, I can’t sanctify. And if I don’t sanctify, I can’t govern.”

Wide range of aspects

The series begins with a Preface which explains the purpose of the documents, and, in which, the Bishop points out, “I have tried to highlight many aspects of the inexhaustible gift and mystery of the Holy Eucharist as the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, drawn from Scripture and tradition, that are particularly meaningful to me and, hopefully, will be to the reader.” 

Part One is a reflection on the Eucharist in which Bishop O’Connell writes, “All that we are and believe as baptized Catholics is rooted in Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist and is directed toward Christ’s presence there. To affirm that belief throughout our Christian lives shapes, informs and guides our Catholic teachings through the ages and our Catholic faith here and now. It is both a mystery and a reality that requires our understanding, our conviction, and our way of life.”

Bishop O’Connell also discusses faith as a supernatural gift from God, and Jesus’ words, “Do this in memory of me,” as the institution of the Sacrament of Eucharist. With an emphasis on faith formation, Part Two stresses the importance of catechesis in strengthening belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and shares accounts of God’s presence among his people as found in Scripture.

Highlighting excerpts from great theologians and saints, as well as Scripture, Part Three emphasizes that the fundamental belief in the Eucharist has not changed over the centuries, while Part Four provides insight from Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist drawn from a number of papal and Vatican II documents, as well as from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The purpose of referencing all these citations,” explains Bishop O’Connell, “is to demonstrate the continuity and constancy of the Catholic Church’s Eucharistic doctrine throughout its history until the present day, despite some heretical attempts in history by ‘reformers’ to establish the contrary. The Catholic Church’s belief in the Holy Eucharist as the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ has never wavered.”

Part Five is a Eucharistic Lexicon which presents some of the words, terms and expressions used in the Catholic Church to describe or refer to the Holy Eucharist or things associated with its celebration.

A time for revival

At the close of Part Four, Bishop O’Connell shares a quote from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s November 2021 document, “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church.” In it, they revisit the Catholic Church’s Eucharistic doctrines, “conscious of the effects of the devastating pandemic from which the world was emerging,” noted Bishop O’Connell.

The Bishops wrote: “The words of the liturgy on the night the Church commemorates the institution of the Eucharist speaks to us of the Mass as the representation of Christ’s unique sacrifice on the Cross, the reception of Christ truly present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and the marvelous effects of communion in those who receive this gift (8).”

That same November meeting established the idea for a Eucharistic Revival throughout the United States to take place over the next three years, recalled Bishop O’Connell.

The “Catechetical Series on the Eucharist” will be available in English and Spanish at DioceseofTrenton.org/eucharist-series, TrentonMonitor.comTrentonMonitor.com/peces (Spanish), and the Diocese’s Facebooktwitter and Instagram pages.

For further information, or to request copies of the November issue of The Monitor Magazine, write to dotcomm@dioceseoftrenton.org, or call (609) 403-7169.