Author, theologian Dr. Timothy O’Malley discusses Becoming Eucharistic People
By Gabrielle Nolan
The Diocese of Knoxville has begun its efforts to support the National Eucharistic Revival, which formally launched on June 19 on the feast of Corpus Christi. Two years of diocesan and parish renewal will culminate with a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis July 17-21, 2024.
The diocese is hosting local parish events such as retreats, eucharistic revivals, and presentations on the Eucharist.
Dr. Timothy O’Malley returned to his home diocese to discuss his latest book, Becoming Eucharistic People: The Hope and Promise of Parish Life, at All Saints Church in Knoxville.
More than 120 adults attended the presentation inside the West Knoxville church, which took place on Jan. 28.
The event was a response to the National Eucharistic Revival, a movement in the United States to restore understanding and devotion to the mystery that is the Eucharist. The revival is supported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Dr. O’Malley is on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops executive committee for the Eucharistic Revival.
“[The book] was written precisely to the ends of helping the Eucharistic Revival in the Church in the United States but doing so not just in such a way that tells people things about things, as I think a lot of people do,” Dr. O’Malley said.
“Part of the revival’s purpose—it’s certainly sort of teaching more things about the Eucharist, right, but it’s a sort of renewal of the Church according to not merely bureaucracy or strategic planning but really the heart of our faith, which is the self-giving love of Christ, which is given in the sacrament of the Eucharist,” he said.
“And so it’s an invitation for parishes in particular to think about what it would mean to participate in the revival in a significant way, to become ever more what we receive in the Eucharist, the love of Christ poured out for the life of the world.”
Originally from Maryville, Dr. O’Malley previously attended Our Lady of Fatima Church in Alcoa.
He is now the director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame. Additionally, he is the academic director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy and holds an appointment in the theology department at the Catholic college.
He both researches and teaches in the subjects of liturgical-sacramental theology, marriage and family, catechesis, and spirituality.
In addition to Becoming Eucharistic People, Dr. O’Malley has authored other books, including Real Presence: What Does it Mean and Why Does it Matter?; Lift Up Your Hearts: Liturgical Formation in the RCIA; and Off the Hook: God, Love, Dating, and Marriage in a Hookup World.
For Dr. O’Malley, the Eucharist permeates his daily life.
“I’m a theologian so I spend a lot of time writing on the Eucharist; [Becoming Eucharistic People] is my third book on the Eucharist,” he said.
His relationship with the Eucharist is both in his study and in his parish life.
“I go to Mass, and I go to my parish, right, that’s my life, to be sort of shaped by my parish and just regularly attending Mass,” Dr. O’Malley said. “I think that’s what shapes me most; it’s attending there and entering into communion with our Lord. I think it shapes my daily life; you know, I’m a teacher, but I’m also a dad and a husband, and the Eucharist should shape the totality of our lives, not just as a private exercise apart from everything else.”
Dr. O’Malley said he hoped his talk would be an invitation for self-reflection.
“Renewal starts with the individual, right, rather than with that person or that person, whether we’re talking about a bishop or a priest, renewal starts here,” he said. “It starts with you. So, how are people going to participate in this renewal over the coming years?”
He began his presentation with sharing why eucharistic renewal is important.
“Eucharistic renewal, as I hope to show today, is integral to the Church, it’s a constant process. The Church must become ever more what she receives in the Eucharist: the love of Christ poured out for the life of the world,” Dr. O’Malley said.
“I think the task of this Eucharistic Revival … is to foster the kind of culture where the Church becomes ever more what the Church is called to be. It’s to become more Church, a communion of love that keeps alive the memory of salvation offered by Jesus Christ, empowering men and women to live in union with Christ in the world,” he said.
Dr. O’Malley said that his book is intended to help people think about “creating and fostering and building culture.”
Chapter topics within his book include:
- What is Eucharistic Culture?
- A Culture of Eucharistic Reverence
- A Culture of Integral Eucharistic Formation
- A Eucharistic Popular Catholicism
- A Culture of Eucharistic Solidarity
“We in the United States in particular tend to view renewal as something that should happen right away,” he said. “Culture takes time to build; it takes time to build a culture in our Church, in our parishes. Culture is essential. It’s linked even to the word cult, worship. And culture, to cultivate, right, to grow, to become the kind of space where love, divine love, is made manifest.”
Dr. O’Malley asked, “how do you foster such a eucharistic culture?”
“The task of each of you is to evangelize culture. … It doesn’t mean just condemning things, but it means renewing, getting to the heart of a particular place, announcing the Gospel in that place, in that time, with all of its particularities.”
Halfway through his hour-long presentation, Dr. O’Malley gave participants time to reflect on the following questions:
- Think about a time when you experienced the Church as a source of Christ’s eucharistic love, a love given unto the end. What happened?
- What would All Saints and the Church in East Tennessee need to do (or to do more fervently) to live out of this eucharistic communion?
Dr. O’Malley highlighted that when attending Mass, people bring everything to the Eucharist: their worries and disappointments, sickness and struggles, discernments and big decisions.
“God can transform your history, your humanity, and does so throughout the totality of life. Every moment, that’s why you keep going back to Mass,” he said, noting that Mass is not just a learning experience that we can stop attending once we know the format.
“I’ve got a task, to receive love but also to become love, to let my whole life be shaped by the eucharistic mystery,” Dr. O’Malley continued.
“Worship pleasing to God becomes a new way of living our whole life, each particular moment of which is lifted up since it’s lived as part of a relationship with Christ and as an offering to God.”
Dr. O’Malley noted that people do not go to Mass to be “good people,” but rather to “enter to total union with God.”
“That’s your vocation, your destiny, and it starts now,” he said. “Yes, it’s heaven, but it’s more than heaven; it starts now. Every part of your life lifted up and offered back in love now.”
Throughout his presentation, Dr. O’Malley focused on each phrase of an antiphon by St. Thomas Aquinas, whose feast day it was.
The antiphon, O Sacrum Convivium, was written by the Dominican friar for the feast of Corpus Christi.
It reads: “O sacred banquet/in which Christ is received/in which the memory of His passion is renewed/the mind is filled with grace/and a pledge of future glory is given to us. Alleluia.”
“It’s a very beautiful text, and it summarizes the totality of the eucharistic mystery,” Dr. O’Malley said.
Following the presentation, All Saints associate pastor Father Alex Hernandez led a eucharistic procession with children from the parish. All present were invited to a holy half-hour of eucharistic adoration inside the church.
Jamie Horning, an All Saints parishioner, attended the event because of her love of learning.
“I like to hear things from different people, especially around Christ and the Eucharist, and so it just inspired me when I saw the book, and then I heard we were going to have the actual author of the book come speak,” she said.
“I enjoyed that he spoke about the Eucharist as a community and a communion and a family, and that he spoke about the love of God and how He’s always with us,” Ms. Horning said.
Pat Stapleton, another parishioner at All Saints, said that Jesus inspired him to come.
“Just getting to know and understand the Eucharist better, and how I can help others get to know and understand the Eucharist better,” he said.
Mr. Stapleton described Dr. O’Malley as “lively and down-to-earth,” noting that he enjoyed his presentation.
The message that stood out to him the most: “The end of it all is love,” Mr. Stapleton said.
To learn more about the Eucharistic Revival, visit dioknox.org/revival.