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Meet the Catholic leader planning a Eucharistic revival in the US

BISHOP COZZENS

Dave Hrbacek | The Catholic Spirit

John Burger - published on 11/06/21

After the publication of a survey that found a majority of Catholics don't believe in the Real Presence, Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens will present details on his multi-year plan at this month's episcopal meeting.

Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens was recently named bishop of Crookston, Minnesota, an area of the country that’s mostly known for its sugar beet farms.

While Bishop Cozzens might be heading for a diocese that, for many Americans, is in the middle of nowhere, he is central to a discussion taking place among the 432 Catholic bishops of the United States. That discussion, it is hoped, will lead to a renewed faith in and love for what is central to the life of the Church: the Eucharist — the sacrament established by Jesus Christ as an eternal memorial of his death and resurrection and his presence in creation. 

In addition to his duties as bishop of Crookston — he’ll be installed there on December 6 — Cozzens is one of two U.S. bishops who head committees working on the so-called “Eucharistic revival” in the U.S. Cozzens is chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, while Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, also working on the multi-year effort, chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine.

Aleteia emailed Bishop Cozzens some questions about the joint work of the committees, as well as his view of an apparent trend among young Catholics favoring Eucharistic adoration [Read that story here]. The bishops began work on a Eucharistic revival in part because of a 2019 Pew Research survey suggesting a dramatic decline in belief among Catholics concerning the Eucharist. While Pew’s methodology has been questioned by some Catholic experts, its findings included the fact that only a quarter of Catholics under 40 believe in transubstantiation, the doctrine that when a priest consecrates the bread and wine at Mass their substance is changed into the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Bishop Cozzens said that the Eucharistic revival is “counting on young people and all who are already on fire with love for the Eucharist.” The interview follows:

Bishop Cozzens, as you and your fellow bishops consider ways to revive devotion to the Eucharist among Catholics in the U.S., it’s been pointed out that there is growing popularity among young people for Eucharistic adoration. What have you observed in this regard? Is this devotion significant among young Catholics? Do you find it to be growing? What have you seen out there?

Yes, adoration is a very popular devotion among young adults who are active in their faith. It is sometimes a preliminary step for anyone who may not be actively practicing the faith. Most places that gather young adults or university students for adoration are in a way reaping the fruits of youth ministry, summer camps, and youth conferences where adoration is not only practiced but held as a revered way of encountering the Lord. Parishes and diocesan entities with perpetual adoration or holy hours are modeling for young people the beautiful action of spending time with Jesus in the Eucharist. And many bishops have mentioned to me the connection they see between adoration and vocations. Many young people who learn to spend time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament also learn to listen to his voice, and that voice sometimes calls them to give their lives entirely to him.

As Catholics, we know that the celebration of the Eucharist, or Mass as it is often referred to, is the ultimate prayer; it is the source and summit, as we say. But the Eucharist is such a profound mystery that we need to spend time in adoration to receive all this mystery has for us, especially to open our hearts and minds to Jesus Christ and learn to respond to him fully with our hearts. Adoration opens the heart and mind to receive and respond to the gift of the Mass by allowing our hearts to receive the graces of the previous one and increasing our receptivity for the next one.  

If Eucharistic adoration really is growing among young Catholics, why might this be? How did this come about? In 2019, a Pew survey reported significant disbelief of transubstantiation among Catholics under 40. If Eucharistic adoration is growing in popularity among this group, that would seem contradictory.

There are many reasons why young Catholics attend adoration, and each reflects how the Holy Spirit is working in one’s life sometimes without that person even realizing it. A very popular reason that some attend adoration is it is something their friends are doing, an invitation. The Gospel spread through word of mouth and this devotion continues to spread one person at a time, through personal testimonies. A person can receive an invitation, a testimony, to attend from anyone but when a friend extends that invitation and witness, it has a greater depth. As young people invite each other to adoration, the experience spreads to others. Many explain that they find peace in adoration, freedom from the distractions of the modern world, space to allow their soul to breathe and experience his love. Ultimately, young people are going to adoration because they find Jesus waiting for each of them.  

It is normal when you are young to seek answers to the questions of life, like “Who am I?”, “What is the purpose of my life?” and “Why is there suffering?” Young people can find innumerable answers to those questions online or in the culture. For those who let Christ in the Eucharist pursue them, His answers do not disappoint. Since Jesus in the Eucharist “fully reveals man to himself” [Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes], young people are going to Adoration because the answers to their questions that the world provides fail to satisfy. In adoration, they not only find compelling answers; they discover who they are, and the One who loves them. As Pope Francis says, they learn to see themselves in the gaze of Jesus.

Even though the Pew study showed that most Catholics don’t believe in the real presence, it is clear that still significant numbers of Catholics are discovering the truth and beauty of this teaching. And those who do believe are perhaps more committed to the truth than the generation before them, especially among young adults. To be a believing young adult today requires someone to go against the tide of the culture, and this requires being strong in one’s faith. 

Has your planning for a national Eucharistic revival included consideration of this apparent popularity among young people for adoration? Are you thinking of leveraging that in some way, and if so, how?

Planning for the revival is exciting as we engage different people, and the enthusiasm and momentum grows, and the revival is counting on young people and all who are already on fire with love for the Eucharist. The first phase will be to energize the base. Those who are already attending adoration and/or Mass will be invited deeper to allow the fire of the Holy Spirit to permeate every part of their life and over time to consider how to reach out to those who are not as involved and later the people on the margins. 

As a bishop, I take great joy in knowing that many young people are already attending adoration. We look forward to fostering encounters so that the current young adorers can grow in their relationship with God, awakening a deeper sense of their Baptismal call to go out, and eventually become missionaries. This does not necessarily mean [going] to the other side of the world, but it may mean at work, in the gym, in the local community, and even at home. To share the Gospel may not be an effective entry point today with someone who thinks they have already heard it, but if a young adult simply shares the peace she’s found in adoration and invites a friend to come along, it literally transforms hearts. For those not ready to hear that simple testimony, the testimony of a life transformed by a living relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist is still a powerful witness. 

Would you give me an update on the work for this revival. What’s the latest with the plans, and what are the next steps? What specifically will be discussed at the U.S. bishops’ fall generally assembly this month?

The revival is in its planning year and there are many great and exciting initiatives being developed. The first year will focus on those who are currently most engaged; the second year, on inviting those who are less engaged but practicing. And the third year will focus on reaching out to the disaffiliated or those on the margins. 

One of the topics on the agenda for discussion and vote at the U.S Bishops’ meeting is a national event in 2024, which has the potential to gather close to 100,000 people to express our faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and the importance of Sunday Mass. During the meeting, I will give a presentation to my brother bishops and invite discussion on it, and then we will vote on it. I see the national event as an essential part of the revival to send the missionaries to the peripheries. Please keep the vote as well as the ongoing work of the Revival in your prayers, that what we will do will bring many people back to the heart of Christ in the Eucharist! 

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