26 Things Pastors Can Do to Emphasize the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist
According to Church Law Governing the Novus Ordo
By Fr. Jonathan Meyer and Fr. John Hollowell
“The pastor is to see to it that the Most Holy Eucharist is the center of the parish assembly of the faithful”
- Canon Law paragraph 528 -
This list is in response to the August 5, 2019 Pew Research Study: Just one-third of U.S. Catholics agree with their church that Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. Pope Paul VI said, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers.” What witness are we as pastors giving to our world about our belief in the true presence of our Lord? The Church clearly offers us several ways to give witness to this reality.
If any of the following are to be implemented at your parish, do so with ample catechesis inspiring a deeper understanding to the “why” behind each sacred tradition, thus leading the faithful deeper into the mystery of Christ’s real and abiding presence. For pastoral reasons, never abruptly make changes, but do make adjustments with teaching and explanation.
1) Reverently genuflect to Jesus in the tabernacle when you enter the Church building and sanctuary and teach your sacristans, liturgical ministers and lay faithful to do the same. Do this outside of Mass and as you enter and leave the sanctuary during Mass. The improper custom of bowing to tabernacle is not the proper reverence (GIRM 247).
2) Use a tabernacle veil and catechize about the use of veils in the Old Testament and the tabernacle being the fulfillment of the Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant. This veil is mentioned in ID 25.
3) Be sure that you have better security surrounding the tabernacle key than you do for the parish safe (CCL 938 p3,5). “The tabernacle in which the blessed Eucharist is habitually reserved …(is) so locked as to give the greatest security against any danger of profanation.”
4) Use a chalice veil, which the GIRM states as “praiseworthy,” and catechize on how we are invited to go behind the veil and enter into the mystery of God’s love poured out for us (GIRM 118).
5) Have server or deacon incense the Blessed Sacrament at the consecration during Mass; this will require having well trained servers which will give you the opportunity to directly catechizes the youth about our Lord’s true presence (GIRM 150). It detracts from the Real Presence if incense is used at some point in Mass, but not at the consecration.
6) Have the servers ring bells at the epiclesis and consecration (optional: also have ushers ring Church bell(s) in the bell tower, if you have them) (GIRM 150).
7) Only use sacred vessels that are lined in precious metal. Just to clarify, glass is not a precious metal, pewter is not a precious metal, wood is not a precious metal, nor is pottery. If it is not a precious metal, it should not touch our Lord (GIRM 328, 290, 291, 294, 295).
8) Be sure to have a corporal unfolded and folded at each Mass. Do not get into the habit of either not using a corporal, or leaving the corporal on the altar all the time. If the point of the corporal is to catch fragments, it should be set out and put away at each Mass and laundered properly. At the start of each Mass the Corporal should be on the credence table (GIRM 118).
9) Use a pall out of reverence for our Lord, desiring nothing to contaminate our Lord’s Blood (GIRM 118).
10) Use Communion patens; they are mentioned on the list of things to be placed on the credence table in the GIRM and then were recommended again in RS (GIRM 118 and RS 93).
11) “The norm established for the dioceses of the United States of America is that Holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling.” Church law thus allows people to receive kneeling. Never deny a person nor belittle a person who chooses to exercise their right to receive kneeling. (GIRM 160, 2011 edition).
12) Take the option of purifying every sacred vessel used at Mass, at the altar, during Mass (GIRM 163). Yes, it adds a few minutes to Mass, but it gives people more time to pray, which is a second benefit. Don’t take the option of purifying the sacred vessels after Mass. Help show the people that every drop of Blood and fragment of Christ is priceless and is to be treated with care. If the laity assist with the purification of the sacred vessels, never allow sayings such as, “I’ll do the dishes;” politely instruct them to use other words. Be sure to only allow a priest, deacon or an instituted acolyte to purify (GIRM 279).
13) Purify sacred linens according to Church law. All purificators and corporals should be rinsed in water in a sacrarium (or rinsed in a container and then have that water poured directly into the ground if a Church does not have a sacrarium). Only after the purificators and corporals have been rinsed in a sacrarium should they be laundered. (“Care and Cleansing of Altar Linens” Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy, 19 March 2001)
14) Never personally refer to the Eucharist as “bread” or “wine”. i.e. don’t have extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion that have assignments with titles like “bread 4” or “wine 7;” nor should you allow the lay faithful to say such things in the sacristy; politely correct them if this has been the custom in the past.
15) Canon Law requires pastors to do processions (CCL 530). Start at least with a Corpus Christi procession each year. As a reminder, you can do Eucharistic processions throughout the year, not just on Corpus Christi weekend, but it is also worth remembering that the Roman Missal itself specifically does encourage a procession as an extension of Corpus Christi Mass (CCL 944).
16) After good catechesis, begin to celebrate Mass "Ad Orintem", where the priest and people are all facing the same direction.
17) Occasionally expose the Blessed Sacrament at the end of weekend Masses so everyone in the parish, even those who don’t go to adoration, see the Blessed Sacrament incensed in a monstrance. (
18) Begin Perpetual Adoration or at least extended adoration on a more regular basis. Promote this as the most powerful and important ministry in your parish community. Committing to a period of adoration is of utmost importance. Recall that, “the use of drapes or doors to shield the monstrance, even for a short period of time, is not the required reposition of the Blessed Sacrament.” (31 Questions on Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament- USCCB).
19) Have your church unlocked and promote people to make visits throughout the day to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. (CCL 937).
20) At every wedding rehearsal, deliver a quick “ferverino” about genuflecting when coming in to a Catholic Church, and tell them, in a kind but clear way, that we believe that Christ is truly present in the tabernacle, and so, just as there are things that might seem strange or foreign to you if you would go to a wedding ceremony at a synagogue or mosque, at a Catholic Church, when you get to the front of the aisle, the wedding party, as they arrive, will genuflect to Christ truly present in the tabernacle. Priests should stand off to the side so no one thinks that people are genuflecting toward the priest. They should also be taught to genuflect when they process out.
21) At every wedding, funeral, Easter and Christmas Mass be sure to verbally remind the faithful about the reception of Communion; this should also be printed in the program for each Mass.
22) Review the policies at your parish on how communion is brought to the sick or shut-in. Be sure our Lord is being treated with reverence.
23) When praying the Eucharistic Prayer, or other parts of the Mass that are clearly addressing God, do not look at the congregation, but only at the missal, the altar cross, at Christ Himself in the Eucharist or have your eyes elevated.
24) Personally make a prayer of thanksgiving after Mass, do not be afraid to let the people see you do it, and encourage them to do the same. Inaestimabile Donum 17 states, "The faithful are to be recommended not to omit to make a proper thanksgiving after Communion and if possible by staying behind to pray for a suitable time."
25) Ensure that First Communion is focused on the solemn reception of the Eucharist, and nothing else (not songs, skits, or any other performance or addition to the Mass not prescribed in the rubrics of the Mass). May we not underestimate their ability to be reverent; let the children enter into the solemn occasion.
26) To promote the universal nature of the Eucharist, the mystery of His presence and to fulfill the teachings of Vatican II care should be taken to foster the role of Latin in the Liturgy, particularly in liturgical song. “Pastors should ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them” (Musicam Sacram 36, 54).
GIRM = General Instruction of the Roman Missal (Rules in the front of the book for Mass)
SC = Sacrocanctum Concilium (Vatican II document on the Mass)
RS = Redemptionis Sacramentum (Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship- 2004)
ID= Inaestimabile Donum (Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship- 1980)CCL= Code of Canon Law