DAVILA: The Eucharist and the young Church

April 9, 2024

I’ll never forget my first encounter with the Eucharist.

In college, a friend invited me to Mass at the Newman Center. When we entered the chapel, I was confused by the silence and curious why everyone was focused on something on the altar. I later learned that it was a monstrance on the altar. I learned that Jesus was truly present there. As a revert to Catholicism, the things of the faith that are now so simple for me to know and understand took years of learning, prayer and community.

Aside from my personal curiosity, being surrounded by a community that authentically welcomed me, was patient with me, journeyed with me and served those whom they encountered daily created many moments of encounter with Christ and a pilgrimage to understand who the Eucharist was.

We are in a time when the U.S. bishops are doing the same for us. We’ve been sent on a mission in the National Eucharistic Revival to “renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist,” as stated on its website. This revival is only the beginning.

We were invited and called to return home to the truth. How do we teach our young Church to come home?

An often unspoken and forgotten gift of teens is their gift to recognize and know authenticity. They witness our lives and how we react to culture, current events, and daily encounters. Do they see us living our faith authentically?

We are called to challenge without fear and to be able to help others grow. Here are some ways to invite teens to be closer to the Eucharist:

• Be consistent. When the adults in their lives express that they don’t feel like attending Mass, teens will reflect that attitude as well. Adults need to model a consistent commitment to Mass and set the same expectation for their teens.

• Pray for them and ask others to as well.

• Ask them about the highs and lows of their day, week, or even month. Help teens to see the fruit and blessing in the highs and lows.

• Encourage teens to be part of Mass and the community. The more we allow our teens to engage in a variety of programming at Church, the more likely they are to begin to own their faith.

• Cultivate prayer in the home. It may be awkward at first, but you begin to create traditions that they will remember as they get older. Create a space and altar for prayer.
• Plant seeds. Bless them before bed, as they leave the home, and before school events.

• Start a conversation. It is okay not to know the answer to all their questions. We are also called to continue learning and to be open to the dialogues our teens bring forth.

• Introduce them to the saints. We often speak of the holiness of the saints and don’t dive deep into their past. Don’t be afraid to share how human and vulnerable the saints also were. How in their imperfections, they also were capable and worthy to love and serve, just like us. This helps our young people to see that holiness is possible in their own lives.

Remember, encounters and conversions are not planned nor something we can control. Somehow someone, in our lifetime, has prayed for us to know Christ, especially in the Eucharist. Our teens’ journey to Christ in the Eucharist cannot be done alone, just like us, and in my personal journey, it would not have happened without community.

As we enter into the mission phase of the Eucharistic Revival, continue to accompany your young people in their love and devotion to the Eucharist by encouraging them to participate in the various programs in your parish community. 

Amy Ann Davila is an associate director with the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.

(Photo by James Ramos/Herald)