By Natalie Romano
With a briefcase and a Bible, Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, is stumping across the country. No, he’s not running for office, but he is running what may be the biggest Catholic grassroots movement in decades. And he’d like you to join him.
The National Eucharistic Revival is a three-year campaign launched by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). During this time, the faithful are encouraged to focus on the Eucharist and rekindle their relationship with Christ. The hope, says Bishop Cozzens, is to bolster the belief that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus.
Events to teach and inspire are already taking place across the country like the recent LA Archdiocese Eucharistic Congress. Nearly 3,500 people came out to celebrate Mass and listen to Catholic speakers, including Bishop Cozzens. Right before his presentation, Bishop Cozzens, who serves as the USCCB Evangelization and Catechesis Committee Chair, sat down with the BYTE to share his mission.
What is your number one message to the faithful today?
If the Church is going to impact the world and the 21st century, the Church needs to be renewed and strengthened in what is at her heart and in her core, and that’s the Eucharist.
Why is it important for Catholics to believe in the Real Presence?
The Real Presence is what allows us to have a living encounter with Jesus. So Jesus isn’t just a person who walked on the earth 2000 years ago and left us a nice teaching, he’s not just present in spirit, he’s actually present in a way we can encounter him tangibly through the sacraments ... which primarily happens through the Eucharist.
You see this in the Bible. When someone really encountered Jesus, all of discipleship became clear. They recognized they were sinners, they needed conversion. They recognized that this was the person who knew everything about them and that he was the Lord of their lives.
What do you say to those who think the Eucharist is merely symbolic?
I don’t know if you can print this but I actually love the quote of Flannery O’Connor (a Catholic writer), “If it’s just a symbol, to hell with it.” What did she mean by that? She meant I’m not going to give my life for just a symbol. My life isn’t going to be transformed by just a symbol.
Now [the Eucharist] is a symbol but it’s a real symbol, one that actually carries the very life of God, the person of God and that’s worth dying for, that’s worth living for. It’s what Jesus meant when He said, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you don’t have life in you. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.”
What can we do prior to Communion so we may better feel that connection with Jesus?
Remind yourselves of the key truths that we believe to dispose your heart to receive him. The first is that Jesus is the Lord, He’s the creator of everything and he gave himself for me. And that “for me” is really important ... Even Pope Francis, in his latest letter on the liturgy, Desiderio Desideravi, says when we come to Communion, we ought to think that more than we’re desiring Jesus, he’s desiring us. He’s desiring to come to us, to share with us his mercy, his love, his life.
So we ought to think that Jesus is really here and that I’m encountering a person and I want to adore him. In fact, St. Augustine said we should adore him before we receive him. When we adore him, we ask him to come into our hearts and fill us with his love. That’s why those moments right after Communion are some of the most sacred in our life because he is so close and we can talk to him.
After feeling renewed in their faith, what do you want Catholics to do?
Testify! I want you to witness that Jesus is alive and he’s a real person and you have encountered him. I want you to invite other people to encounter him in the Eucharist.
The first year of the National Eucharistic Revival focuses on the diocese. What would you like to see happen?
Every person needs a Eucharistic revival, even the bishops. We started this revival by doing adoration all night during our November meetings in Baltimore and we’re going to do it again this November.
As all bishops need to be revived in their Eucharistic faith, all priests need to be revived in their Eucharistic faith. We really hope our priests will engage in this revival then invite their lay people and equip their lay people to be missionaries. Then in the following parish year, [lay people] can really help form others. But that begins with [priests’] own love of the Eucharist and their own desire to, say, spend an extra Holy Hour a week or be more attentive in the way they celebrate Mass.
What happens during the third year?
We’re going to have a National Eucharistic Procession that starts in four different locations. From here in California, we’re going to start at one of the missions of St. Junipero Serra. We’ll also start at the tomb of Blessed Michael McGivney in Connecticut, and in Corpus Christi, Texas and in Northern Minnesota at the source of the Mississippi, which is in my diocese.
We’re going to invite young people to join us ... youth groups can walk a week or a month, college students can walk, anyone can come walk.
The four processions will end in Indianapolis in July 2024 for the National Eucharistic Congress. This is a public display ... to actually walk the Blessed Sacrament across the country in prayer for our country for our revival. We hope this shows the whole country, but especially our own Catholics what we believe. It’s never been done before.
Bishop Cozzens invites you to join this national faith movement. Visit eucharisticrevival.org and sign up to volunteer, become a prayer partner or share your testimony with others.
Natalie Romano is a freelance writer and a parishioner of The Holy Name of Jesus in Redlands.