US Catholics Firmly Believe in Angels, but Eucharistic Devotion Lagged | National Catholic Register

A new survey shows that Catholics are more likely to profess belief in guardian angels than belief in the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist. The results are both a challenge and an opportunity to grow in faith, commentators say.

“The closer you get to the angels, the more they will draw you to the Eucharist,” Father Wolfgang Seitz, of the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross, told CNA. “If the devotion to the angels increased, the devotion to the Eucharist would also increase,” said Father Seitz, a priest for 20 years.

Father Seitz is secretary of Opus Sanctorum Angelorum, an international Catholic movement based in Ohio that promotes devotion to angels. It is directed by the priests of the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross.

His comments came in response to a new survey of Catholic voters that shows apparent inconsistencies in their approach to Catholic doctrine.

According to an EWTN News/RealClear Opinion Research poll released this week, nearly 77% of Catholic voters believe in guardian angels, 8.7% don’t and 14.6% aren’t sure.

In contrast, only 50.3% of respondents say they believe in the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, namely that “the processed bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Christ and not symbols”.

Among survey respondents, about 80% of Catholics who attend Mass once a week profess to believe in this Catholic teaching. This figure drops to 61% among those who attend Mass once or twice a month and to 42% among those who attend a few times a year. About 17% of those who never attend Mass hold this belief, as do 14% of those who attend once a year.

By comparison, about 74% of those who attend Mass once or twice a month profess to believe in guardian angels, like those who attend once a year. About 65% of those who never attend Mass or attend less than once a year said they believe in guardian angels.

The poll, conducted by the Trafalgar Group from September 12-19, surveyed 1,581 Catholic voters and claims an overall margin of error of 2.5%. The questionnaire was administered using a mix of six different methods, including live phone calls, text messages and emails. One of the survey partners was EWTN News, a service of EWTN, the parent company of Catholic News Agency and the National Catholic Register.

Self-declared Catholics’ inconsistent beliefs about the Eucharist have been the subject of much catechetical and devotional effort.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a two-year national Eucharistic revival to help Catholics “renew the Church by igniting a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.” website said. The Revival organizes planned events to teach the Eucharist and inspire Eucharistic devotion as part of Catholic life and mission.

Sr. Alicia Torres, a Chicago-based Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist and member of the National Eucharistic Revival leadership team, sees the poll results as an opportunity to engage Catholics.

“If there is an openness to a relationship with one’s guardian angel, then that in itself is an opportunity and an entry point where we could re-propose the relationship with Christ, and in particular his presence in the Eucharist,” she said.

Sister Alicia told CNA she finds it “particularly encouraging” that the majority of Catholic respondents have “an awareness and acceptance of the supernatural.”

“I would be interested in this one-on-one conversation to get a better sense of what awareness of the supernatural is for your average Catholic,” she added.

She wondered if any of the Catholics interviewed had an active relationship with their guardian angel. Some of the older Catholic respondents may have been brought up with the secular prayer to their guardian angel, she says.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms the reality of angels, she noted, and it says angels are present during the Eucharistic liturgy.

There is a “general interest” in angels, Father Seitz told CNA. Whether those who profess to believe in angels mean the same as Catholicism is a separate question.

“Our angels, as many Church Fathers say, prostrate themselves before Our Lord, who becomes present on the altar,” Father Seitz said. Although so many people talk about angels, he suggested, “it is harder to believe in the Eucharist than to believe in angels.”

The world and the Church are “a bit lost,” he said, because “we have lost true and living contact with the holy angels.” Father Seitz said Catholic teaching on angels is summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but sometimes this is glossed over. Angels are rarely the subject of homilies.

“Angels are pure spirits. They are very powerful, endowed with intelligence and free will,” explained the priest. “They are personal beings. They are also created in the image and likeness of God. In the hierarchy of beings, they are the highest creatures, by nature, created by God.

By divine plan, angels are in charge of the government of the entire universe, from planets to plants, from rocks to people, he said. It is in this context that individuals have a guardian angel.

“Every human being is destined to see God face to face,” Father Seitz said. “God, in his wisdom, has assigned to each human a personal guardian angel as a companion, as a guide, leading us through life,” the priest said. “It is God’s plan to bring creation back to itself. Angels play a very big role in this.

Father Seitz cited angelic and Marian apparitions at Fatima, Portugal, in the early 20th century, in the presence of three shepherd children, two of whom were canonized. The Catholic Church has taught that nothing in this appearance is incompatible with faith.

The Fatima apparitions include one of the few modern accounts of an angel encouraging devotion to the Eucharist.

In the fall of 1916, the children said, an angel made his third appearance. The children said that an angelic visitor suspended the Host and chalice in the air, then bowed in adoration. The children imitated the angel by lowering their foreheads to the ground.

They learned from the angel a prayer of Eucharistic adoration and reparation which aims at the conversion of sinners. The angel gave the Blessed Sacrament to one of the young girls, Lucia, and the Precious Blood to the other two children, Sts. Francis and Jacinta.

“It is a great instruction for us, concerning reverence before the Blessed Sacrament,” Fr. Seitz said.

More generally, he said that even the angels cannot fully comprehend the “profound condescension” of the incarnation and death of Jesus Christ on the cross, and, likewise, they cannot understand fully the mystery of the Eucharist.

“They can only prostrate themselves before this mystery and simply adore it”, said Father Seitz.

Other aspects of Trafalgar’s survey of Catholic voters help provide insight into Catholic practice:

Although Catholics are required to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, only about a third of respondents say they attend Mass weekly or more often.

About 24% of respondents attend Mass once a week, 7.5% attend more than once a week and 1% attend daily. Another 26% only go “a few times a year”, 10.4% once or twice a month and 4.6% once a year, around 12% go less than once a year, while 14% never attend.

Only about 23% go to confession once a year or more.

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