On Sunday in my parish, halfway through Eastertide, seven children will make their First Holy Communion because Eastertide points to the Feast of Corpus Christi. The Pascal Mystery begins with Holy Thursday, before the Resurrection, and concludes on the Thursday of Corpus Christi, ten days after Pentecost. On Holy Thursday (after Christ is arrested) we process behind the Eucharist inside our churches, but on Corpus Christi (after Christ has arisen), we will joyfully take the Eucharist into the streets, following behind Christ without fear. When the Church was strong, Corpus Christi processions, with dozens of First Communicants in their white suits and dresses, filled the streets of San Francisco. We have not seen the Holy Eucharist in the streets of San Francisco for many years, however. “The Culture War?” sneered an atheist commentator recently. “It’s over. You lost.” Most Catholic churches didn’t have the strength to even keep their churches open when secularist governments ordered them to close. Thanks be to God that our own Archbishop ordered his pastors to resist. “Keep your churches open, with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament if possible” he wrote as the lockdowns began. But most of us did not have the strength to resist. Our Lord remained locked inside shuttered churches while Catholics stopped receiving the Risen Eucharistic Lord, or even visiting the Blessed Sacrament.
A three-hour Eucharistic Fast
Our current weakness results from ignorance. If most Catholics do not know that God is truly present in the Eucharist (75% of Catholics profess ignorance of the Real Presence), why would we come to Mass (75% of Catholics do not attend Mass regularly)? How to regain faith in the Eucharist? Among many ways, I suggest a simple step: regaining the Eucharistic fast. In 1957 the fast from midnight was shortened to three hours, and in 1964 it was reduced to just one hour, which is kind of a joke: it means only that I can’t eat on the way to Mass. It means that I, as a priest, can have a donut just before walking into the sacristy for the 11:30am Mass. Rather than cursing the darkness, however, let’s light a candle. Let’s begin to practice the three-hour fast again (the sick, the elderly, and priests with multiple Masses should be prudent), offering any inconveniences and bodily sufferings to the crucified and risen Christ, Our Lord and Redeemer. We simply won't believe that the Holy Eucharist is not just a "wafer" if we don't do what Christians and believers in other religions have always done: to fast.