Speakers at the 19th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast (NCPB) in Washington, D.C. focused, first and foremost, on the National Eucharistic Revival and encountering the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
“My goal today is very simple,” the keynote speaker, Bishop William D. Byrne of Springfield, Mass., told attendees on Feb. 8. “It’s to get you even more in love and more excited about the Eucharist in this year of Eucharistic revival — and for you to be rushing to make plane and train and bus reservations to Indianapolis.”
The revival, a three-year initiative by the U.S. Catholic bishops, seeks to renew the Catholic Church by enkindling a living relationship with Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist. The grassroots movement culminates in the 10th National Eucharistic Congress, taking place in Indianapolis July 17-21, 2024.
Bishop Byrne made his comments during the 2024 breakfast established in 2004 in response to Pope St. John Paul II’s call for a New Evangelization. The breakfast, a morning of prayer for the country and speeches from Catholic leaders, gathers more than 1,000 influential Catholic leaders and politicians each year.
‘A world on fire with crises’
This year’s theme — “Be of Good Cheer! The Eucharist, The Source and Summit of Our Faith” — hinted ahead of time the breakfast’s emphasis on the National Eucharistic Revival and Congress.
“In the face of a world on fire with crises, we must offer a common front in defense of the truth, strengthened by the Real Presence of Our Lord in the holy Eucharist,” Mark Randall, NCPB event chairman and board member, said of the theme.
He shared that, for the first time ever, the NCPB provided non-stop adoration in a chapel located on the floor above the breakfast, at the Marriott Marquis hotel.
As a special guest speaker, Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, spoke directly to attendees about the upcoming congress and the cross-country pilgrimage leading up to it.
“Brothers and sisters, don’t miss what God is doing,” he concluded. “God is doing a remarkable work in our time.”
He shared the message of the congress.
“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness, when nothing in the world can satisfy you,” he urged. “This is the Gospel message, that in Jesus we have been reconciled to God and with the Eucharist we have the opportunity to know Him — and to know the peace and the joy that He brings and He alone can bring for every person and every time and in every place.”
“For us as a Church, no matter what difficulties we encounter in the world, in the work of our mission, or in building up and advancing the Kingdom of God,” he added, “it is still that Jesus in the Eucharist that is our only hope and that is all we ever need.”
The congress, he said, will be a witness to this fact. The cross-country pilgrimage traveling with the Blessed Sacrament, he added, will “take Jesus out into the culture and invite people to know Him deeply.”
For his part, Bishop Byrne highlighted a need for the revival by citing a 2023 BBC interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, former chief White House medical advisor.
“First of all, I think my own personal ethics in life are, I think, enough to keep me going on the right path,” Fauci said at the time. “And I think that there are enough negative aspects about the organizational Church that you are very well aware of.”
He continued: “I’m not against it, I identify myself as a Catholic. I was raised, I was baptized, I was confirmed, I was married in the Church. My children were baptized in the Church. But as far as practicing it, it seems almost like a pro forma thing to do that I do not really need.”
Bishop Byrne said that Dr. Fauci’s position signifies a larger issue.
“If you’re wondering why we need a Eucharistic Revival, Dr. Fauci explains it perfectly,” he said to applause. “I don’t mean to beat up on Dr. Fauci, rather, he distinctly articulates the voice of a majority of Americans who identify as Catholic but do not recognize the beauty and the power of their baptism.”
He went on to point Catholics to Mary, Jesus’ mother, as their dignity, destiny, and guide on the way of Eucharistic revival.
“The Eucharistic revival is a time to follow Our Blessed Mother in receiving Jesus and bringing Jesus into the world,” he said. “We gather this morning to reflect on the Eucharist, as Vatican II taught us, as the source and summit of the Christian life.
He also drew insight from Pope St. Pius X, known as the pope of the Eucharist, for the revival. He said that this pope sought to renew the faithful spiritually through an encounter with Jesus not only through the Eucharist, but also through reconciliation.
“The Eucharistic Revival,” Bishop Byrne said, “really requires a confession revival.”
He gave the example of a church bulletin announcing that confessions are only available Saturdays 4-4:30 p.m. or by appointment.
“My experience, like the ‘Field of Dreams,’ is that if you build it, they will come,” he said to applause while citing the 1989 sports film.
Referencing Pope St. Pius X once more, Bishop Byrne said that the pontiff’s desire to renew all things in Christ is a call to renewed innocence or a second childhood. The revival, he added, requires a “new encounter with the mercy of Jesus Christ.”
“Only as little children can we approach the Eucharist most honestly, most joyfully,” he said. “Like a kid dragging his pals to see something cool, the enthusiasm of the true encounter with Jesus is transmitted.”
Other speakers included Bishop Wilfred Anagbe and Fr. Degi Dada Augustine from Nigeria who gave a firsthand account of the persecution there and asked for prayers. Cardinal Christophe Cardinal Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, shared his support for the breakfast in a video message.
Helen Alvaré, a pro-life advocate and legal scholar who serves as the Robert A. Levy Endowed Chair in Law and Liberty at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, spoke as the breakfast’s 2024 recipient of the Christifideles Laici Award.
Religious sisters also took part: Sister Caterina Esselen and Sister Inga Kvassayova of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy led a recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Sister Dede Byrne of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Bishop Byrne’s sister, said the closing benediction.