This past Spring, in response to the pew research about the lack of belief in the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament among Catholic believers, the leadership of my parish decided to have a full-scale “Eucharistic plan” for Lent.
Among some catechesis and a few new devotionals, we were going to host a display of the prominent miracles associated with the Eucharist. We came across one of the more popular exhibits. We were making arrangements to have it set up later in the penitential season when, of course, the pandemic struck. Everything was put on pause.
With our plans suspended, I had a little extra time to look into and research the display on the Eucharistic Miracles. At first, the originator was simple enough, Venerable Carlo Acutis. Nothing stood out. I was more interested in the miracles themselves, especially the ones I had never heard of. Being a kind of soft skeptic on such things, the accounts piqued my interest. The story boards were well written and arranged in an engaging way.
As I went through the presentation, my hope intensified that at some point in the future, I can still make arrangements to show the display at my parish.
It was only later that the author of the work came to my full attention. In trying to pull up some information on the miracles, an article on Venerable Carlo Acutis came up. With the time afforded by the pandemic, I decided to read his story. And I’m so glad I did. I had no idea that it was a teenager who composed such a spiritual, thought-provoking, and inspiring exhibit.
Truly, the story of Venerable Carlo’s life, and his holy death, are the things that hagiographies are all about.
In contrast to the lukewarm faith of his family, Venerable Carlo was given a rich and compelling confidence in the Lord Jesus. The young man’s trust in the Lord Jesus was exemplified in his affection for the Blessed Sacrament. He truly knew of the Lord’s Presence in the Eucharist. He relied on it, calling it his “highway to heaven.” He went on to say: “Always to be united with Jesus, that is my life’s program.”
It was Venerable Carlo’s abiding faith that led him to research the Eucharistic Miracles, use his computer skills to compose an exhibit on them, and then share these supernatural phenomena with other people so that they might know and come to believe more deeply in the Lord’s Eucharistic Presence.
While such devotion is uncommon among young people in most centuries, we live in an age when such Eucharistic belief and piety is out-of-the-ordinary even among adult believers. As the pew research recently showed us – to our great dismay – many adult Catholics do not believe, do not know, or are uncertain whether the Lord Jesus is truly present under the appearance of the bread and wine in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
The Eucharist is rightly hailed as the summit and source of the entire Christian way of life. If we miss the boat on the Eucharist, there is no other boat worth taking. In the famous Bread of Life Discourse in John’s Gospel, when the Lord declared that we must “eat his flesh” and “drink his blood,” Saint Peter declared: “Lord, to whom shall we go you have the words of everlasting life.”
As such, we can see that the core of biblical Christianity rises or falls on Eucharistic belief. As the disciples on the way to Emmaus learned, so we know, that our encounter and connection to the Risen Lord Jesus relies on the “Breaking of the Bread,” namely, on the celebration of the Mass and the worship of his True Presence among us.
When Eucharistic faith dies in the hearts of believers, and when it diminishes in the life of the Church, our focus on the Lord Jesus fades away. We begin to forget our dignity and vocation as the children of God, and we start to neglect our mission in the Lord Jesus to grow in holiness and to share his Good News with all men and women.
Since the Eucharist is so essential to our relationship with the Lord Jesus, and is the heart of the Church’s entire health and vibrancy, it is no surprise that God had his own “Eucharistic plan” for his people. Knowing the twists and turns of divine Providence, it is no shock that such a plan involved the raising up of an unexpected apostle.
It’s no surprise that such a messenger, called to direct our attention to the Lord’s True Presence in the Eucharist, was universally recognized and elevated to the status of a “Blessed” this weekend (only one step away from being a “saint”).
And so, may Blessed Carlo Acutis pray for us. May his Eucharistic mission continue throughout the Church, and may all of the Lord’s disciples come to know him in the Breaking of the Bread!