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Why Develop the Eucharistic Formation of the Young?
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
We cannot even begin to answer this question Why develop the Eucharistic formation of the young unless we assume that our nation needs a moral conversion.
During his talks in Denver for the World Youth Day, Pope John Paul II told the young people to Pray that America might not lose its soul.
The soul of America is Christianity. Christianity is the principle of our national life. As our nation becomes increasingly de-christianized, it loses more and more of its source of vitality. Unless the moral disease is cured, America as the nation we still call the United States will disappear.
But there is another and deeper meaning to Americas danger of losing its soul. Individuals lose their souls when they die estranged from God. There is such a thing as a second death, which means everlasting separation from God in what Christ calls eternal punishment. This is the awful prospect awaiting not just single persons but whole societies unless they repent and return to the God from whom they have separated by their stubborn resistance to His will.
Sin-laden America. It is remarkable what a dream world people can be living in. By all material standards, America is a prosperous country. We are the best fed, most expensively clothed, most comfortably housed, most conveniently transported, most lavishly entertained large nation in human history.
But we are also a world leader in sin. I like St. Augustines definition. Sin, he says, is nothing else than the neglect of eternal things and seeking after temporal things. In other words, the very affluence of our country in having access to so many satisfying creatures here on earth is a demonic seduction that lures people from the love of eternal things.
When I say world leader in sin, I mean this literally. Not satisfied with world leadership in adultery, contraception, fornication and sodomy, our American State Department for months before the UN Cairo Conference broadcast to the nations that, I quote, the United States believes that access to safe, legal and voluntary abortion is a fundamental right of all women.
We are still answering the question, Why develop Eucharistic formation of the young? Our answer is:
Why Eucharistic Formation
To anyone who does not have the Catholic faith, it is meaningless to associate the Eucharist with the moral revolutions going on in our country today.
But to those who have the fullness of this true faith, the relation of the Eucharist to heroic virtue and massive conversion is not only meaningful. It is indispensable.
The key to this relationship is miracle. What am I saying?
In both cases, it is Jesus Christ, the wonder worker on earth in the Eucharist who must perform the necessary miracles. He must work the miracle of infusing heroic courage and he must perform the miracle of conversion of lapsed Christians and unbelievers in the modern world.
Remember what we are speaking about. We are answering the question of why Eucharistic faith and love must be nourished among Catholics from their earliest years. Why? In order to prepare them for heroic virtues, and in order to make them channels of miraculous grace in a Godless world.
This, then, is my principal message to you today. Train the Eucharistic faith of young Catholics today to become the living martyrs of Christ in the next century.
In the early Church, the expression was coined Sanguis martyrum est semen Christianorum. The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. This is even more true in our day. Christ needs martyrs who are willing to shed their blood, if need be, and who do shed their acceptance by the world, out of loyalty to Jesus Christ. In this same early Church, which we call the Church of Martyrs, daily Mass and daily Holy Communion were the accepted practice for Catholics. Children were not excluded.
But you might object: That was the age of the catacombs. Did I hear you say, That was the age of the catacombs? If that is what you said, let me enlighten you. Anyone who wants to really, honestly, sincerely, wholeheartedly live his or her Catholic faith today must be ready to live a catacomb existence in the closing decade of the 20th century. Twenty-five years of working for the Holy See has taught me many thingsmost of which I will never publish or even articulate in public. But this much I can say. We are today living in the Age of Martyrs.
Where do we get the strength even to survive? From Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. How do we become instruments of divine grace in restoring a Christian society to its Redeemer? From Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
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