The papacy of Pope St. Pius X (1903-1914) had begun in the earliest years of the twentieth century. Among the things for which he is best known is his devotion to the Holy Eucharist and his encouragement to all faithful Catholics to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion frequently, even daily – which reception had not been the common practice up to that time. It was Pope St. Pius X who also lowered the age for reception of First Communion by children to 7.

The liturgical form of the Mass was changed several times in Church history and was changed again by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Theologically, however, Vatican II contributed little to how the Catholic Church actually understood or presented the Eucharist in its official teachings. The doctrine itself remained rather consistent through the centuries.

In their Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium (Dec. 4, 1963), the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote:
At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us (art. 47).

Here we see major “Eucharistic themes” that had accompanied – not changed – the development of the Catholic Church’s Eucharistic doctrine throughout much of its history: Eucharist as the “sacrifice” of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, continuing the sacrifice of his Cross; Eucharist as” sacrament” of love; Eucharist as “bond of unity and charity;” Eucharist as “paschal meal;” echoing the prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas, Eucharist as pledge of future glory.  

We have noted earlier the often-quoted reference in Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium (Nov. 21, 1964):

Taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, which is the “fount and apex [source and summit]” of the whole Christian life, they offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It. Thus, both by reason of the offering and through Holy Communion all take part in this liturgical service, not indeed, all in the same way but each in that way which is proper to himself. Strengthened in Holy Communion by the Body of Christ, they then manifest in a concrete way that unity of the people of God which is suitably signified and wondrously brought about by this most august sacrament (11).

Shortly before the Second Vatican Council ended, Pope St. Paul VI published an encyclical on the Holy Eucharist entitled Mysterium Fidei (Sept. 3, 1965). There he reminded the Catholic Church of its consistent teaching on the Eucharist, quoting an oath prescribed by Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-604):

I believe in my heart and openly profess that the bread and wine that are placed on the altar are, through the mystery of the sacred prayer and the words of the Redeemer, substantially changed into the true and proper and lifegiving flesh and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that after the consecration they are the true body of Christ – which was born of the Virgin and which hung on the Cross as an offering for the salvation of the world – and the true blood of Christ – which flowed from His side – and not just as a sign and by reason of the power of the sacrament, but in the very truth and reality of their substance and in what is proper to their nature (52).

We have a wonderful example of the stability of the Catholic faith in the way in which these words meet with such complete agreement in the constant teaching of the Ecumenical Councils of the Lateran, Constance, Florence and Trent on the mystery of the Eucharistic conversion, whether it be contained in their explanations of the teaching of the Church or in their condemnations of error (53).

… the Catholic Church has held firm to this belief in the presence of Christ's Body and Blood in the Eucharist not only in her teaching but in her life as well, since she has at all times paid this great Sacrament the worship known as "latria," which may be given to God alone. As St. Augustine says: "It was in His flesh that Christ walked among us and it is His flesh that He has given us to eat for our salvation; but no one eats of this flesh without having first adored it … and not only do we not sin in thus adoring it, but we would be sinning if we did not do so (55).

… The Catholic Church has always displayed and still displays this latria that ought to be paid to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, both during Mass and outside of it, by taking the greatest possible care of consecrated Hosts, by exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and by carrying them about in processions to the joy of great numbers of the people (56).

In 1980, Pope St. John Paul II issued an apostolic letter “The Mystery and Worship of the Eucharist Dominicae cenae” (Feb. 24, 1980) where he wrote:

Thanks to the Council we have realized with renewed force the following truth: Just as the Church "makes the Eucharist" so "the Eucharist builds up" the Church (16); and this truth is closely bound up with the mystery of Holy Thursday. The Church was founded, as the new community of the People of God, in the apostolic community of those Twelve who, at the Last Supper, became partakers of the body and blood of the Lord under the species of bread and wine. Christ had said to them: "Take and eat.... Take and drink." And carrying out this command of His, they entered for the first time into sacramental communion with the Son of God, a communion that is a pledge of eternal life. From that moment until the end of time, the Church is being built up through that same communion with the Son of God, a communion which is a pledge of the eternal Passover (4).

The doctrine of the Eucharist, sign of unity and bond of charity, taught by St. Paul, has been in subsequent times deepened by the writings of very many saints who are living examples for us of Eucharistic worship. We must always have this reality before our eyes, and at the same time we must continually try to bring it about that our own generation too may add new examples to those marvelous examples of the past, new examples no less living and eloquent, that will reflect the age to which we belong (5).

Beginning with the Upper Room and Holy Thursday, the celebration of the Eucharist has a long history, a history as long as that of the Church (8).

We cannot, even for a moment, forget that the Eucharist is a special possession belonging to the whole Church. It is the greatest gift in the order of grace and of sacrament that the divine Spouse has offered and unceasingly offers to His spouse. And precisely because it is such a gift, all of us should in a spirit of profound faith let ourselves be guided by a sense of truly Christian responsibility. A gift obliges us ever more profoundly because it speaks to us not so much with the force of a strict right as with the force of personal confidence, and thus – without legal obligations – it calls for trust and gratitude. The Eucharist is just such a gift and such a possession. We should remain faithful in every detail to what it expresses in itself and to what it asks of us, namely, thanksgiving (12).

Pope St. John Paul II promulgated the revised Code of Canon Law three years later in 1983. Canon law addressed the Holy Eucharist in the fourth book of the Code’s treatment of the Sacraments, canons 897-958.  

Can. 897 The most August sacrament is the Most Holy Eucharist in which Christ the Lord himself is contained, offered, and received and by which the Church continually lives and grows. The eucharistic sacrifice, the memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord, in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated through the ages is the summit and source of all worship and Christian life, which signifies and effects the unity of the People of God and brings about the building up of the body of Christ. Indeed, the other sacraments and all the ecclesiastical works of the apostolate are closely connected with the Most Holy Eucharist and ordered to it.

Can. 898 The Christian faithful are to hold the Most Holy Eucharist in highest honor, taking an active part in the celebration of the most august sacrifice, receiving this sacrament most devoutly and frequently, and worshiping it with the highest adoration. In explaining the doctrine about this sacrament, pastors of souls are to teach the faithful diligently about this obligation.

Can. 899 §1. The eucharistic celebration is the action of Christ himself and the Church. In it, Christ the Lord, through the ministry of the priest, offers himself, substantially present under the species of bread and wine, to God the Father and gives himself as spiritual food to the faithful united with his offering.

The Church’s legislation presented here treats in detail the Eucharistic celebration, the minister of the Eucharist, participation in and reception of the Eucharist, the rituals and ceremonies surrounding the celebration of the Eucharist, the time and place for Eucharistic celebration, the reservation and veneration of the Eucharist and offerings made in its regard.  Other norms related to the Eucharist are also found in the instructions and rubrics contained in the 1970 and 2011 official editions of the Roman Missal approved and published by the Holy See.

The 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church (1322-1415) approved by Pope St. Paul II and the subsequently approved and published 2005 Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1322-1405) reflect in catechetical fashion much of what has already been written here. The “Catechism” and the “Compendium” both describe the Holy Eucharist as “the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”

In 2003, Pope St. John Paul II published an encyclical on the Holy Eucharist in relationship to/with the Church, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (April 17, 2003), reminding the Church that:

Every commitment to holiness, every activity aimed at carrying out the Church's mission, every work of pastoral planning, must draw the strength it needs from the Eucharistic mystery and in turn be directed to that mystery as its culmination. In the Eucharist we have Jesus, we have his redemptive sacrifice, we have his resurrection, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have adoration, obedience and love of the Father. Were we to disregard the Eucharist, how could we overcome our own deficiency (60).

On the year before he died, Pope St. John Paul II announced a “Year of the Eucharist 2004-2005,” dedicating the entire liturgical year to a special time for reflection on the Holy Eucharist to culminate with the Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2005.  Pope St. John Paul II died on April 2, 2005.  His successor Pope Benedict XVI presided at the Synod and issued his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis on Feb. 22, 2007. He wrote:
The Eucharist is at the root of every form of holiness, and each of us is called to the fullness of life in the Holy Spirit. How many saints have advanced along the way of perfection thanks to their eucharistic devotion! From Saint Ignatius of Antioch to Saint Augustine, from Saint Anthony Abbot to Saint Benedict, from Saint Francis of Assisi to Saint Thomas Aquinas, from Saint Clare of Assisi to Saint Catherine of Siena, from Saint Paschal Baylon to Saint Peter Julian Eymard, from Saint Alphonsus Liguori to Blessed Charles de Foucauld, from Saint John Mary Vianney to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, from Saint Pius of Pietrelcina to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, from Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati to Blessed Ivan Merz, to name only a few, holiness has always found its center in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

This most holy mystery thus needs to be firmly believed, devoutly celebrated and intensely lived in the Church. Jesus' gift of himself in the sacrament which is the memorial of his passion tells us that the success of our lives is found in our participation in the trinitarian life offered to us truly and definitively in him. The celebration and worship of the Eucharist enable us to draw near to God's love and to persevere in that love until we are united with the Lord whom we love. The offering of our lives, our fellowship with the whole community of believers and our solidarity with all men and women are essential aspects of that spiritual worship, holy and pleasing to God (cf. Rom 12:1), which transforms every aspect of our human existence, to the glory of God. I therefore ask all pastors to spare no effort in promoting an authentically eucharistic Christian spirituality. Priests, deacons and all those who carry out a eucharistic ministry should always be able to find in this service, exercised with care and constant preparation, the strength and inspiration needed for their personal and communal path of sanctification. I exhort the lay faithful, and families in particular, to find ever anew in the sacrament of Christ's love the energy needed to make their lives an authentic sign of the presence of the risen Lord. I ask all consecrated men and women to show by their eucharistic lives the splendor and the beauty of belonging totally to the Lord (94).

The purpose of referencing all these citations 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.

On Nov. 14, 2006, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published a document on the Holy Eucharist, “Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper.”  There, the bishops wrote:

As bishops and shepherds of the Catholic faithful in the United States of America, we recognize our responsibility to nurture the faith of our Catholic brothers and sisters in this most wondrous mystery – Jesus’ Real Presence in Holy Communion. … we wish to affirm clearly what the Church believes and teaches concerning the Eucharist and the reception of Holy Communion. We also wish to provide a clear affirmation as to who may receive Holy Communion within a Eucharistic celebration. Finally, we want to recommend some practices that every Catholic can use for preparing to receive Holy Communion in a more worthy fashion.

In 2021, no doubt prompted by contemporary misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the nature of the Catholic Church’s doctrines of transubstantiation, Holy Communion and Real Presence that seemed to have crept into expressed beliefs among some of the Catholic faithful as well as controversies that had arisen about the worthy reception of Holy Communion by some Catholic public officials who had adopted positions contrary to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops revisited the Catholic Church’s Eucharistic doctrines and issued another document entitled “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” (Nov. 17, 2021).  

Conscious of the effects of the devastating pandemic from which the world was emerging, 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, first in the country’s dioceses (2022-2023), next in parishes of the various dioceses (2023-2024) and, finally, on a national level (2024-2025), with a National Eucharistic Congress to be held in Indianapolis July 17-21, 2024. 

Here in the Diocese of Trenton, the diocesan phase of the “Eucharistic Revival” began on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), June 19, 2022.

The Holy Eucharist is the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ instituted and given to us by him at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, the night before he died for us on the Cross. We continue to celebrate the Holy Eucharist as he commanded us to do in his memory. He is fully and really present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in Holy Communion we receive at holy Mass and wherever we might be, and “In all the tabernacles of the world, even to the end of time. Amen” (The Divine Praises).