One of the Greatest Needs of Our Day Is to Renew Our Faith in the Eucharist
By Bishop David J. Malloy
Next month, as happens each year, a count will be taken in our parishes of the attendance at our weekend Masses. 
That count, usually done quietly and unobtrusively, is carried out at approximately the same time each year. That helps to get a more accurate sense of the numbers and trends related to our fulfillment of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.
It’s no secret that for quite some time, Mass attendance has been declining. There are likely many and varied reasons for that decline. 
The demographic realities of smaller families and fewer children being born mean that the faithful who pass away are not replaced by new and upcoming family members. 
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the state of Illinois has lost population because of people moving away each of the last five years. 
Also, the number of young people who fall away from their faith and become part of the group of “Nones” (those who have no religious affiliation) is rising. This is symptomatic of a wider weakening of the faith that has been commented on by many including Pope Francis.
Last month, the Pew Research Center, which studies many elements of society and religion in the United States, released its latest findings about self-identified Catholics they interviewed. 
Among that group, only 30% of those self-identified Catholics believed the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ. The rest, 70%, in some fashion held that the Eucharist is merely a symbolic reminder of Jesus’ body and blood offered for us.
The meaning of the Eucharist, and therefore of the Mass itself, is a central aspect of our Catholic faith. The very reason for coming to Mass is linked to the Church’s fundamental belief in the words of Jesus Himself. 
At the Last Supper, Jesus took the bread and said, “This is my body, which will be given for you” (Lk 22:19). He took the chalice filled with wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you” (Lk 22:20). 
He instructed the Church, that is to say us, to “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19).
Each Mass then, presents a real challenge of faith to each of us. 
Do we believe Jesus and His words to the Church and the world? Do we hold as part of our faith that He was indeed the Son of God who came into the world to save us by His death on the cross which was linked to the Eucharist? 
Or do we allow the veil of the appearance of bread and wine to convince our senses that the Eucharist is only our own human creation, simply reminding us of a past earthly event?
The Pew Study indicates that among those who attend Mass weekly, nearly two-thirds believe the Eucharist is the True Presence of Christ. Among those who seldom attend Mass that figure is 13%.
In other words, there is a direct link between belief in the words of Jesus and Mass attendance. Of course that makes perfect sense. If Christ is truly present, we come to Mass because we are in the presence of God. 
We take that opportunity to adore Him and to place our hearts and needs before Him. And we receive Him in Holy Communion in order to be transformed into Christ.
Likewise, the lack of faith calls into question the Church herself and the priesthood. It would cast doubt on everything that the Church teaches us.
One of the greatest needs of our day is to renew our faith in the Eucharist. That renewal needs to be in our individual hearts and in our families. 
It is the first answer to the loss of faith among our young people. And when our faith is alive, the Mass itself makes so much sense for this world and the next.
This is my Body. This is my Blood.