The Marketing Crisis of the Eucharist
It came out last week that only 1/3 of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. Clearly, the Church has a huge marketing crisis on its hands here when it comes to the Eucharist.
It's easy to understand why someone would have difficulty comprehending the Eucharist. Here are just a few of the many things we have going against us:
The Eucharist doesn't look any different after the Transubstantiation. In advertising, we're used to being able to point to clear differences in either a product, service, or the person using it following use. But physiologically, the Eucharist still looks like bread and wine, and nothing appears to really happen to the person who receives It.
It doesn't make logical sense. How does the bread and wine become different? Why can't we see any changes? Does that mean that Catholics are cannibals?
Reception of the Eucharist is excluded to Catholics in good standing only. And while this makes perfect sense if you fully understand what (and Who) it is, this rule seems unnecessarily discriminatory if you think it's just a piece of bread.
So clearly we've got our work cut out for us when it comes to marketing the Eucharist. From a Catholic marketer's perspective, here are a few things I think we can do about it to better market the Eucharist:
The Eucharist is what makes us markedly different as the Catholic Church. We need to emphasize that and be proud of it! One of the #1 tools of marketing is utilizing what makes you different. While it may turn some people away, others who are seeking this close connection to God will be drawn to it. Uniqueness is the lifeblood of marketing, and you don't get much more unique than the Son of God bodily present on earth for humans to consume.
Talk about the True Presence more often. How often do we as a church emphasize the actual Presence of God in the Eucharist? Most likely, during the second grade year when a student is about to receive the Eucharist for the first time and maybe on Corpus Christi Sunday. We should be talking about it all the time! Every single aspect of our faith should be able to point back to the Eucharist. In essence, the Eucharist is our brand identity, the "Thing" that defines who we are and makes people recognize us as Catholic. Every single thing we do should be able to point back to that and incorporate it.
Explain how we came up with this idea. Now, I have a master's degree in Theology, and I'd still have trouble answering this question. But at the very least, let's shout far and wide how the idea of the Eucharist is fundamentally biblical. Talk about the connections to the Passover and Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah. Explain how Good Friday only makes sense because of the Last Supper. Reflect on the encounter with the Risen Christ on the Road to Emmaus. Then, and the key is here: bring it all back to today. How that still happens, how the priest is given the ability to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood. Let's educate the congregations so that they actually know what is going on, instead of simply saying the equivalent of: just trust us on this one.
More adoration, more often, more hours. I am a firm believer that a personal encounter with the Eucharist in Eucharistic Adoration can change hearts. I've watched it happen several times at Youth2000 and other retreats where people are offered the opportunity to reach out and touch the humeral veil, like the woman with the hemorrhages who touched Jesus and was healed. Yes, I know that we get to do so much more when we actually receive Jesus physically into us. But having that physical touch, that moment to actually stare into Jesus' face, is something so moving that it stays with you. It reminds you, when you're back to the mundanity of a "regular" Mass, what is truly happening.
Bring reverence of the Eucharist back. Nowadays, the line to receive the Eucharist looks just like a line at the movie theater. Our words do not match our actions when it comes to the reception of the Eucharist. We say that it is the source and summit of our faith, Christ Himself, yet we hurry people along, get annoyed at the person who stops to receive the Eucharist on their knees, and try to offer as many stations as possible so we can just get it over with and get out of there. Now, I'm not necessarily advocating that we go back to the Communion rail, because I'm sure that had its problems too, and I believe that each person should be able to decide what posture is more worthy to receive Our Lord in. But between music that makes you just want to sing along instead of reflect (by the way, I love praise and worship music, just not as the Communion hymn), the "holy high five" to your buddy in the row near you, and the speed at which we try to hurry through the process, no wonder people are missing the point! We're making receiving the Eucharist seem like just another hurried process in our already stuffed Mass, an afterthought, rather than what it is: the epitome of our faith and a personal, deeply humbling encounter with the Creator of the universe.
I doubt we'll ever get to 100% of Catholics believing in the True Presence. It's too astronomical of a concept to comprehend logically, and if you're an analytical person who hasn't had a real encounter with Christ, then the Eucharist will never be accepted.
But if we can't even get 1/2 of Catholics to believe in it, then how can we expect to evangelize the rest of the world?