If you’ve been keeping up with what’s going on in the Catholic Church these days, you’d be aware that there are currently two major initiatives being coordinated by our hierarchy. The first is a national Eucharistic Revival which started in 2022 and will end in 2025 with a Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis (the first one in 83 years!). The other is the Synod on Synodality, which is a world-wide process of listening and dialogue that Pope Francis hopes will guide the Church into living more deeply its call to be a church of mission and communion. Why are both going on at the same time?
For the Eucharistic Revival, the U.S. bishops discovered that many Catholics today are ill-informed about how Jesus is truly present – body and blood, soul, and divinity – in the Eucharist. Unfortunately, when many Catholics receive Holy Communion, they see the wafer in their hand as only a symbol, and not as the Real Presence of Jesus in our midst. So, to address this crisis, the Bishops began this Eucharistic Revival as a way of stirring up a deeper faith in the Eucharist, and to remind us of how important and necessary the Eucharist is in our lives.
As for the Synod, Pope Francis is asking Catholics to discern how the Church can be more relevant, more meaningful, in a world that seems to have no place for God and faith. He is challenging Catholics to live their baptismal call more fully, and to share in the mission of proclaiming Jesus to the world. So, to have both the Eucharistic Revival and the Synod going on at the same time seems to be the Church holding onto and reverencing her tradition, while simultaneously looking forward and deciding how the Church can be an agent of positive transformative change in the future. And this is what the Church has always done: cling closely to tradition as the foundation of her identity, while adapting herself to the present age to meet people where they are. This has always been a delicate tension, to not be too stuck in the past while at the same time to not be seduced by every modern idea or philosophy.
Mother Angeline, as the foundress of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm, knew very well about this tension between tradition and innovation. While she advocated for modern and up to date care for the elderly residents in the Sisters’ homes, Mother maintained that the sisters be grounded in the ideal that they should treat the residents like Christ in their midst, and that kindness be their guiding principle. The Carmelite Sisters are known for their innovation in geriatrics and have helped advance how palliative and dementia care is administered in nursing homes. But no matter how sophisticated the care the residents receive is, the residents always know their human dignity, as beloved creatures of God, is of paramount importance. In the same way, Mother Angeline insisted that as Carmelites, the Sisters should be rooted in a life of prayer. Without prayer, the work they would do would be impossible, and stripped of its supernatural meaning. She once wrote to her Sisters, “If we do not try hard each day to improve our prayer life and love of God, then we are failures and the successful administration of our houses or employments means nothing.” Mother reminds us that we must be wary of seeing success only in worldly ways, and instead we must find our “success” and our joy in doing God’s will. Let us pray that the Eucharistic Revival and Synod will help us all more faithfully live out God’s Will in our lives.