‘Spiritual disaster’ as ‘70% of US Catholics’ avoid Mass

Paterno Esmaquel II
‘Spiritual disaster’ as ‘70% of US Catholics’ avoid Mass
Filipinos in the US can help avert this 'spiritual disaster,' Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron says at the International Eucharistic Congress

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron on Tuesday, January 26, warned about a “spiritual disaster” as 70% of US Catholics reportedly “stay away” from the Eucharist, better known as the Mass.

At the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), Barron said: “How do we recognize Jesus? Through good preaching, yes. Through the proclamation of the Word, yes. But the ultimate revelation of the pattern takes place precisely in the breaking of the bread, precisely in the Eucharist, which is the self-giving of the Son of God.”

Catholics consider the Mass as their most important form of worship. During the Mass, Catholics remember the death of Jesus on the cross, and receive pieces of bread that they believe to be the real body of Jesus. 

Barron said that it is during the Mass “that we truly get” Jesus. “Which is why the fact that 70% of our brothers and sisters stay away from the Eucharist, is a spiritual disaster,” he said.

To better explain this, Barron cited the Second Vatican Council or Vatican II, a historic gathering from 1962 to 1965 that reformed the Catholic Church. 

“Why is it a spiritual disaster? Well, because Vatican II said the Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’ If you stay away from ‘the source and summit of the Christian life,’ your Christian life will dissipate,” Barron said in a news conference hours after his speech at the IEC.

Barron is said to be the second most followed Catholic leader on social media, next to Pope Francis.

Since 2015, Barron has served as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest Catholic archdiocese in the US.

He is best known for his work in media, as founder of the popular Word on Fire media ministry. He is also the host of the award-winning documentary series Catholicism

Barron spoke lengthily about the Eucharist on Tuesday morning at the IEC.

Bishop praises ‘vibrant Filipino church’

In his hour-long speech, Barron, while pointing out that avoiding Mass leads to a “spiritual disaster,” also urged Catholics to attend the Eucharist.

To stress this point, he recalled his experience distributing communion at St Peter’s Square in Vatican City around 10 years ago. 

Back then, the Italians in the large crowd stretched out their hands, and called on him: “Padre, per favore! Padre, per favore!” (Father, please! Father, please!)

“That’s the right attitude toward the Eucharist,” Barron said. “To stretch out like someone dying of hunger is the right attitude toward the Eucharist.” 

“We should all stretch out our hands as though we’re starving for the bread of life,” he said. 

Barron said Filipinos in the US can help avert this “spiritual disaster.

I don’t know any church right now in the world that’s more vibrant than the Filipino church, said Barron, whose archdiocese has a huge Filipino-American community.

He added that in places he’s been to in the US, it’s the Filipino community which is keeping the Church alive.

Barrons said: I do think, in God’s often strange Providence, he’ll take a particular church, a particular people, and use them as a means to invigorate and to evangelize the rest of the Catholic world. And I do believe, in God’s always beguiling Providence, you’re playing that role now, the church in the Philippines.

In the Philippines, however, as in the rest of the world, Catholic Church leaders continue to face perceptions that the Mass is “boring.”

During the IEC, priests explained that to address this feedback, the Catholic Church should make the Mass adapt to Filipino culture.

“The liturgies that are not inculturated, they get lost,” Archbishop Piero Marini, long-time Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations, said in a news conference on Monday, January 25.

The IEC, which runs until Sunday, January 31, aims to discuss the Mass as well as its links to controversial issues such as terrorism and climate change. 

The roster of high-caliber speakers includes Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan. – Rappler.com

Follow Rappler’s special coverage of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.