New film promises to set hearts on fire for Jesus in the Eucharist

5 mins read
Jesus Thirsts
Official trailer "Jesus Thirsts" | YouTube screengrab.

A new film hitting theaters nationwide this summer seeks to set hearts on fire by inviting viewers to encounter Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist.

“As you grow in relationship with the Eucharist — as the film makes clear — you start to understand that the Eucharist isn’t just a simple encounter, but it’s a dynamic encounter,” Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, spoke with Our Sunday Visitor about “Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist.”

“It means that Jesus doesn’t want to just come to me in the Eucharist, he actually wants to change me,” he added. “He wants to change me into someone who loves like him.”

On June 18 and 19, people can watch “Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist” at their local theater. The documentary, which features a plethora of Catholic leaders and experts, centers on the Eucharist — Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity present under the appearances of bread and wine. Colorful imagery and expressive music promise to engage viewers as they travel around the world to hear the stories of those transformed by the Eucharist, from men incarcerated in Texas to villagers in Uganda. Along the way, the film explores the history of the Eucharist and its basis in Scripture while also delving into Eucharistic miracles.

The film comes ahead of the 10th National Eucharistic Congress taking place July 17-21 in Indianapolis. The event marks the culmination of the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative by the U.S. Catholic bishops that seeks to renew the Catholic Church by enkindling a living relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist.

The film, like the revival, addresses a 2019 Pew Research Center survey that found only one-third of self-described U.S. Catholics believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Bishop Cozzens, chairman of the board of the National Eucharistic Congress, called the documentary’s timing “providential” and described it as “one of the best tools to help people come to understand the depth of the mystery of the Eucharist and how important it is.”

“I hope the one thing [viewers] understand is the ultimate goal of the Eucharist,” he said, “which is that Jesus longs to be in communion with them in this life and forever.”

Bishop Andrew Cozzens.

Catholics might recognize familiar faces on-screen: The film boasts a long list of Catholic leaders and experts, including Bishop Cozzens; Scott Hahn, founder and president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology; speaker Chris Stefanick; Timothy Gray, president of the Augustine Institute; Curtis Martin, founder of FOCUS; Father Robert Spitzer, SJ, president of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith; Father Donald Calloway, MIC, vicar provincial of the Marian Fathers; Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly of the Knights of Columbus; and the Sisters of Life.

To bring the film, co-sponsored by the Diocese of Orange, California, to theaters, Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry partnered with Fathom Events. The movie will include a bonus feature, “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Woman of the Eucharist,” by the Knights of Columbus.

A special invitation

Tim Moriarty, a writer, director and producer for the film, spoke with Our Sunday Visitor about how he joined executive producer Deacon Steve Greco, director of evangelization and faith formation for the Diocese of Orange and founder of Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry, and producer James Wahlberg, executive director of the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, to create the film.

Moriarty, founder of Castletown Media, confirmed that the film intended to participate in the revival.

Deacon Greco and Wahlberg realized early on that “to really help the work of Eucharistic evangelization in the country, to really heed the call of the bishops and the National Eucharistic Revival movement, a film could really be a great tool for not just individuals, but for parishes, for pastors, for bishops, for dioceses, for the whole Church,” he said.

Moriarty met Wahlberg while working on the 2022 film, “Mother Teresa: No Greater Love,” and was invited by him to be a part of this film.

“One of the things that we, from the very beginning, wanted to do was just really heed what Bishop Cozzens has said,” Moriarty described. “He actually appears in the film and he says, ‘We didn’t really want to start a program, we want to start a fire.'”

“We’re trying to break through some of the spiritual numbness, some of the dejection, some of the frustration, some of the real darkness that has been sort of over us, not just in the Church, but as a culture as a whole,” he added. “We’ve lost this sense for God, especially God’s incarnational sacramental presence in the Eucharist.”

He wanted the film to serve as an invitation.

“Our hope is that it opens people’s eyes to the gift that’s right before us and it lights people’s hearts on fire,” he said. “That it aids in this great work of the Church right now to set the earth on fire and to bring a real, renewed and revived sense of the gift of the Eucharist.”

‘Jesus Thirsts’

The film’s title, “Jesus Thirsts,” speaks to a reality, Bishop Cozzens said.

“I think Jesus thirsts for his love to be received by everyone,” he said, “And in that way, he thirsts for the salvation of everyone, he longs for the salvation of everyone.”

This insight comes from Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who had an experience of Jesus’ thirst on the cross and saw that he thirsted for souls, he said.

“When people turn to Jesus and come to him, when they receive him in Communion, they actually satiate his thirst because that’s what he wants, for them to receive his love,” he said.

An encounter with Jesus

For his part, Bishop Cozzens said that he experienced Jesus’s presence in the Eucharist from the time he made his first holy Communion and started to serve Mass.

“I couldn’t have fully explained it at the time,” he said, “but I knew that Jesus was here and I wanted to be close to him in the Mass. And that’s always been with me, throughout my life.”

Official trailer “Jesus Thirsts” YouTube screengrab

He explained: “As one grows in that relationship with the Eucharist over years, you start to find that your own heart wants to love the way Jesus loved, which is being poured out in love for others.”

He stressed the importance of Catholics coming to know Jesus’ presence not only through explanations of Church teaching but also through opportunities or invitations.

“Normally, the way they encounter it is not just through explanation, but also through testimony or witness of others who share their own encounter with Jesus,” he said. “Which is why I shared that story about my first Mass — it makes the point there’s something real to be encountered here.”

A personal testimony

At a 2015 Steubenville youth conference, Bishop Cozzens revealed that, while he always believed in Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist, he experienced a doubt around three months before his ordination to the priesthood and saying his first Mass.

“As I was practicing Mass, and I was thinking about what happens at Mass, I thought to myself, ‘I’ve always found it easy to believe that Jesus was really present here when someone else — a priest — said those words [of consecration],” he said in 2015. “But will I believe when I say those words the first time?”

He prayed that he would be able to believe. And, he said, he did.

“I can honestly say that at my first Mass, after I said those words of consecration for the first time and I held up the host for everyone’s adoration and then I genuflected — I had no doubt in my heart that I was genuflecting before the Lord of the universe,” he told Our Sunday Visitor.

A transcendent reality

Bishop Cozzens concluded by naming one thing he found particularly beautiful about “Jesus Thirsts”: The film shows that the Eucharist transcends all cultures and times.

“What’s beautiful about the film is the international witness of the people across the world from all different cultures who love the Eucharist,” he said. And it shows, he added, how sometimes the greatest witnesses include the person in Africa who has never left his or her village but is going to adoration there.

“The impact that that’s having on our world,” he said, “we will never know.”

Katie Yoder

Katie Yoder is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.