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 | By Doug Culp

The Eucharist and Adult Faith

The General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) indicates that adults “have a right and a duty to bring to maturity the seed of faith sown in them by God.” So, what does a mature, adult faith look like? Again, the GDC says it is living, explicit and fruitful. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) provides us with a deeper understanding of these elements of a mature faith in the pastoral plan, Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us.


Living faith

According to the pastoral plan, faith is by its very nature living because it consists not only of a freely given gift from God but also a free human response to this gift. Precisely because faith demands a human response, the life of faith tends to reflect human life itself. Faith grows, develops, learns, adapts and varies in intensity.

Living faith is also a searching faith. St. Anselm of Canterbury, an 11th-century Benedictine monk, famously captured this characteristic of a mature faith with his motto, “Faith seeking understanding.” Father Lawrence Hennessey, professor emeritus in the Department of Dogmatic Theology at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, was fond of putting it this way to the many seminarians he taught over the years: “Your faith won’t grow if you don’t want to know.” Pope Francis offered insight into the kind of understanding or knowledge we are talking about in a general audience in 2014 when he said that it is not simple human knowledge, but the knowledge that comes as a gift from the Holy Spirit, which leads us to understand the majesty and love of God. (May 21)

Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us also teaches that living faith is very much aware of the role that sin plays in our lives. As a result, living faith is marked by the continual need for repentance and renewal, especially through the sacraments. Finally, living faith yearns for eternal life. It lives in that tension between finite and infinite without seeking to escape the tension. Instead, living faith is stirred to work for peace and justice in this world out of a desire to dwell in God’s kingdom.

Explicit faith

A mature, adult faith is “explicitly rooted in a personal relationship with Jesus.” (55) This relationship with Jesus naturally deepens the believer’s relationship and “explicit confession of the Trinity.” (56) The pastoral plan goes so far as to declare that communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the whole Christian life. This relationship to the Trinity is explicitly lived in the Christian community. Mature faith is ecclesial by nature and reflects the life, teaching and mission of the Church. Further, faith becomes ever more explicit as the believer matures in each of the above relationships because each causes the believer to grow in confidence. In this way, we can say a mature, adult faith is a witnessing and evangelizing faith.

Fruitful faith

A mature, adult faith becomes fruitful as the believer lives in deeper communion with the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit alone that can produce the fruits of the Spirit outlined by St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians (5:22-23). Faith, as it matures, opens the believer more and more to the action and power of the Spirit, and, as the pastoral plan states, “Where the Spirit is active, faith is fruitful.” (60)

Of course, this means fruitful faith looks like something. For example, justice and compassion expressed through proactive outreach to those in need, fervent prayer, and evangelization through witness to the word of God in the service of love and justice are all indications that the Spirit is living and moving within the mature believer.

The Eucharist and mature faith

The catechism makes the relationship between the Eucharist and a mature, adult faith pretty clear. A mature faith is marked first and foremost by a deepening relationship with Christ. Holy Communion unites us intimately with Jesus. A mature faith is characterized by an indwelling of the Spirit, who is always fruitful. The Eucharist nourishes our spiritual life through the power of the Spirit preserving, increasing and renewing the life of grace we received at our baptism.

A faith that is mature is always aware of the reality of sin and of the need for forgiveness. Each time we receive Communion, we proclaim the forgiveness of sins through Christ’s death on the cross. A mature, proactive faith seeks to serve those in need out of love. The Eucharist, in which Christ gives us his very self, revives and reinforces our charity and commits us to the poor. It makes a living charity that makes cleansing us from venial sins possible and preserves us from future mortal sins. It also readies us to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who, again, alone makes faith fruitful.

A mature, adult faith is lived out within the Church. The Eucharist “makes the Church.” By uniting us to Christ, we are united through Christ to his body – the Church. Holy Communion “renews, strengthens, and deepens” our unity with the Church. It also unites us in a special way to all Christians as we pray that all may be one. (CCC 1396)

In short, the entire spiritual good of the Church, who is Christ, is contained in the Eucharist. It is the “efficacious sign and sublime cause of the communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being.” (CCC 1325) If St. Augustine is correct that we become like that which we love, then we cannot hope to meaningfully fulfill our duty to mature the seed of faith within us devoid of the Eucharist as it is the very “source and summit of the Christian life.”

Quotable Quotes

Who said the following …

“If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.”

a) St. John Vianney

b) St. Maximilian Kolbe

c) St. Thomas Aquinas

d) St. John Paul II


Answer: St. Maximilian Kolbe

Doug Culp is the delegate for administration and the secretary for pastoral life for the Catholic Diocese of Lexington.

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