Symposium Finds Very Good News for Eucharistic Faith (Some Very Bad News Too)
The crisis of belief in the Eucharist is not an insurmountable problem. It isn’t even a new or unusual problem. But it is definitely a crisis.
That’s what speakers at the March 24-25 Symposium on Transforming Culture at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, said.
“What an amazing weekend!” said Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis. “Every year the Symposium seems to get better and better. It is clear that the Church has a very bright future, and that Benedictine College is positioned to be a significant part of it.”
Three kinds of hope came from the keynotes at the conference, whose theme was “Proclaiming the Real Presence: The Body of Christ in a Secular World.”
Beauty was the hope author and essayist Elizabeth Lev came to Kansas from Rome to share.
“Artists led the Church out of a Eucharistic crisis before,” said the author, shown above, who teaches at the Angelicum in Rome.
And a worse one, too: The Protestant Reformation divided the Church along Eucharistic lines, along with other issues, she said. The Council of Trent led the Catechetics of the counter-reformation, but the new message found its biggest successes in the arts.
Church leaders such as St. Charles Borromeo and Pope Sixtus V brought a new spirit of imaginative catechesis to the project through architecture and art. “Art and the saints are the greatest apologetic for our faith,” Lev said, and illustrated the point with examples such as the papal chapel at St. Maria Maggiore and Caravaggio’s Entombment of Christ altarpiece painting.
Communion was the hope Notre Dame University theologian John Cavadini brought.
“The Church is a work of grace, not a work of our own doing,” he said. “The mystery of personal communion with Christ in Holy Communion does not conflict with but rather is related to the love of the Church.”
“If we account the Church on its works, it’s a merely human work,” he said. But, properly speaking, “The church is born primarily from Christ’s self-sacrifice.” We can’t love Christ and not be in communion with the Church, he said, because “The love we have for him is Church-making love.”
The Church itself was the hope provided by author Francis X. Maier, the key longtime aid to Archbishop Charles Chaput in Colorado and then in Pennsylvania. Maier’s remarks brought the most sobering assessment of the state of Eucharistic faith — and the greatest sign of hope.
“There’s no quick fix for the problems we behaved ourselves into,” he said, and recounted the statistics of failure in the Catholic Church at nearly every level, from catechesis to vocations, summing them up: “We’ve forgotten who we are, what our baptism actually means, and what a genuinely Catholic life looks like.”
Nonetheless, he said, “The one thing that history proves again and again is that the Church is very very good at the long game.”
He recently completed a project for which he interviewed dozens of bishops and priests, he said, and had good news to report: “Our bishops are good people, and so are our priests. These are honest, hard-working men who want to do the right thing.”
He reported a Chinese axiom that he expects will prove right in this instance: “Weapons are an important factor in war. But not the decisive factor. It is people, not things, that are decisive.”
Many of those who will be “the decisive factor” were presenters at the Symposium, including OSV’s Father Patrick Briscoe and Jason Shanks, Notre Dame’s Timothy O’Malley and Nathaniel Peters of the Morningside Institute which serves students at Columbia University in New York.
A Business Track took place alongside the main presentations. “Business people play a crucial role in the transformation of culture,” said David Geenens, director of the Thompson Center for Integrity in Finance and Economics at Benedictine College. The Business track featured Dr. Lawrence Feingold of Kendrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, Colynn Black of Metalcraft, Inc., in Mason City Iowa, and the Benedictine College School of Business’s Leeds Haroldson.
“We had another great Symposium at Benedictine College this weekend,” said Benedictine College theologian Matthew Muller, who organizes the Symposium. “The Colloquium Sessions featured more than 50 scholars and leaders whose presentations served as a kind of think tank for the Eucharistic Revival.”
He added, “I am grateful to all that attended, presented, and worked hard to make it happen. Especially grateful to our student volunteers, who treat our guests to real Benedictine hospitality.”
Muller announced that the next symposium will focus on the mission of Catholic education and be held March 15-16, 2024.