“The Eucharist is the highway to heaven.” These words were spoken by a young man, Carlo Acutis, who has been beatified by the Church and on his way to be canonized as a teenage saint. He died in 2006 from leukemia but lived a full, vibrant and joy filled life causing him to be popular among his peers as well as those older than he. He has been referred to by Pope Francis as “a role model for young people.” Carlo expressed that, “All people are born as originals but many die as photocopies.” His great love for the Eucharist inspired him to use his skills as a gamer and computer programmer to put together a narrative of Eucharistic miracles throughout the world in the centuries of the Church. We were privileged to have had the exhibit of his work here at Saint Ignatius Cathedral in February of this year. Many attended the exhibition and were impressed by the presentation of the Eucharistic miracles compiled by Carlo but just as impressed by the zeal, energy, joy, and positive spirit of this child of the new millennium as evidenced in the video about him. His spirit came from his love for the Eucharist, and he urged all to adore the Eucharist since, in his words, “The more Eucharist we receive, the more we will become like Jesus, so that we on this earth will have a foretaste of heaven.”
Since the Last Supper, as Blessed Carlo Acutis demonstrated, miracles have been recorded regarding the Eucharist and its celebration, but none as great as the Eucharist itself. In fact, these miracles are simply meant to point the miracle that is the Eucharist and to what this miracle accomplishes for us.
In the 60s, when I was in high school, I was very moved by an incident which a priest recounted in a homily regarding the miracle of the Eucharist. He said that a man approached him for prayers and specifically asked the priest “to remember me when you hold God in your hands.” At first the priest thought the man’s words were very poetic but then immediately realized he was referring to the priest holding the host at Mass once it had become the body of Christ. That was when only the priest could touch the Eucharist. Today, as a result of the liturgical changes since Vatican II, we all can hold God in our hands as we take Him into our bodies as the food for life. This should help us appreciate even more the miracle that is the Eucharist.
The miracle of the Eucharist enables us to see that God is always acting in our lives at every moment in what seems to be the most ordinary of events. There is nothing more ordinary than bread and wine and yet these become the Body and Blood of Christ, God's presence in our midst. The Eucharist still looks like bread and wine and only faith perceives the presence of Christ. Through reception of the Eucharist we come into communion with Christ Himself who leads us into the depths of God's being, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Through this union with God, we come into communion with each other in the fullest way.
Through the miracle of the Eucharist, our faith, hope and love are intensified and it is through these that we know God's miraculous presence in our lives. Through the miracle of the Eucharist, we grow in virtue and in our ability to overcome sin. By ourselves, we are unable to overcome evil. It is Christ's saving action in His Passion, Resurrection and Ascension, celebrated in the Eucharist, which strengthens us in this regard. Through the miracle of the Eucharist, we receive a peace and joy that is unattainable in any other manner. Through the miracle of the Eucharist, we are able to see that every person is made in the image and likeness of God and that life itself is indeed a miracle. The miracle of the Eucharist gives us the vision to see that all events are extraordinary since they are touched by God. Carlos Acutis had this vision.
The United States conference of Catholic Bishops has recently published a beautiful reflection on the Eucharist, entitled, The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church. The document is meant to enhance a real appreciation in the miracle of the Eucharist at a time when it is forgotten that in the Eucharist, we do hold God in our hands. A recent study of Pewsitter claims that a large percentage of Catholics no longer believe in the real presence of Christ and there is a need to rekindle this faith. The reflection of the Bishops reminds us of the reality that “in the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ without ceasing to appear as bread and wine to our five senses is one of the central mysteries of the Catholic faith. This faith is a doorway through which we, like the saints and mystics before us, may enter into a deeper perception of the mercy and love manifested in and through Christ sacramental presence in our midst.
The saints had the proper perspective toward Eucharistic miracles, always realizing that such were meant to lead to faith in the true miracle of the Eucharist. St. Louis, King of France, who lived during the thirteenth century, was working in his study when a member of his court came in and excitedly told him that the infant Jesus was appearing in the host upon the altar. The saint continued his writing and calmly expressed that he could not believe more firmly in Christ's presence in the Eucharist even if he were to behold a miracle.
St. John Bosco, the great saint of young people and the founder of the Salesian Congregation was celebrating Mass in one of his homes for the care of poor boys. He went to the tabernacle for the ciborium when he discovered that there were only about twenty hosts to distribute to the almost six hundred boys who were to receive Holy Communion. The sacristan was anxiously watching because he realized, after the Consecration, that he had failed to prepare a ciborium with sufficient hosts. St. John Bosco prayed quietly for a moment and then continued to distribute Holy Communion to the boys until all six hundred had received. After Mass the saint returned to the sacristy saying nothing. The sacristan profusely apologized for his oversight but then expressed his excitement at the miracle which had obviously occurred in the multiplication of the hosts. He also remarked that the saint was unusually calm about this miracle. Don Bosco admitted to what had happened but remarked that the miracle paled next to the one of the changing bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. That sums up the true miracle of the Eucharist.
Very recently, the United States bishops welcomed a relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis in preparation for the Eucharistic revival, which is to take place within this country. The Archbishop who presented the relic reflected that Carlos Acutis comes to teach us that a friendship with Jesus is real through the Eucharist in which Jesus is all within our lives. May our appreciation of the Eucharist, especially, remind us that, in the words of Blessed Carlos, “The Eucharist Is the highway to heaven.”
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
April 29, 2022