Reinvigorating Devotion

How Can We Take Back the Fire? An Interview with Archbishop Charles Thompson

In three months, Archbishop Thompson and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis will be at the center of a life-transforming experience of profound renewal of the Church in the United States. The 10th National Eucharistic Congress is a pivotal moment in American history, and at the same time, it is foreseen to be an experience of deep and transformative personal renewal where we experience healing and conversion, become unified as the Body of Christ, and launch into a new chapter of Eucharistic mission.

Christ Is Always at the Center

When I spoke with Archbishop Thompson, he was quick to remind me that it was Christ who is at the center of everything surrounding the Eucharistic Revival. Yes, there are tons of meetings, plans, ideas, an immense amount of creativity, and tremendous excitement even in the city of Indy, but he said, “Only if Christ stays at the center will everything else fall into place. We can only do it if we are Christ-centered. I think that’s why the Eucharist and the Eucharistic Revival and Congress are so important, both for us as Catholics and for the world. The Revival is rooting us in a Christ-centered awareness and appreciation not only for ourselves as Catholics but for what we are called to be as witnesses to the rest of the world: called to bring about healing, to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ the Savior of the world, to offer reconciliation, to display the beauty, truth, and goodness of God to the center of the human family.”

Catholic priest raising the consecrated host over the altar during Mass

We Gather to Strengthen One Another

Archbishop Thompson is the current Chair of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, and as a member of the National Eucharistic Revival Bishops Advisory Group and the Vice President of the Board for the National Eucharistic Congress Corporation, he has been in a unique position to witness the coming to life of a revival that will see tens of thousands of Catholics coming together as one family in Indianapolis this July. “I always remind myself and others that this is the way that God chose to bring salvation to the world. He founded the Church. He didn’t come to have a personal one-on-one as the only way to be saved. We are saved as a community of believers, and it is important for us to come together as the Body of Christ, as the People of God. When we gather, we strengthen and support one another in this communion we share with the Father, Son, and Spirit.”

The day before the opening of the Eucharistic Congress, the pilgrims who have journeyed from the four corners of the country in one of the largest Eucharistic pilgrimages in history will pour into the city of Indianapolis. Archbishop Thompson shared that surrounding dioceses were calling him to coordinate the final leg of the journey for each of the pilgrimages. “The Archdiocese of Louisville, which of course is just over the Ohio River, contacted me and asked if I would consider meeting Archbishop Fabre at the Lewis and Clark Bridge, where the monstrance would be passed from him to me as we concluded the pilgrimage coming from the south. So creative things are being worked out, and I’m willing to do whatever my schedule allows. When all four pilgrimage routes converge on the archdiocese on July 16, the day before the official opening of the Congress, there will be a Mass welcoming the pilgrims and offering gratitude to God for the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

Lucas Oil Stadium, location of the upcoming National Eucharistic Congress, in downtown Indianapolis

Worship, Adoration, and... Service

The archbishop’s sense of Eucharistic service was refreshing. “From the beginning, the components that the bishops have wanted in the Eucharistic Revival, and on display in the pilgrimages and in the Congress, have been worship and adoration but also service.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the Eucharist commits us to the poor” (CCC 1397). As St. John Chrysostom famously said: “You have tasted the Blood of the Lord, yet you do not recognize your brother.… God freed you from all your sins and invited you here, but you have not become more merciful.” It is through the works of mercy carried out in daily life that our life becomes truly Eucharistic.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis began its celebration of the Eucharistic Revival on the Feast of Corpus Christi 2022 by involving the whole diocese in a Festival of Faith, Family, and Service, which included Mass, a Eucharistic procession, a service project to provide food for the hungry, Eucharistic adoration, and benediction. “We are even thinking here in our archdiocese about making sure that there is a footprint left after the Eucharistic Congress. We’re asking ourselves questions like, ‘What are we doing for the poor, the homeless, the vulnerable?’ and ‘What are some things we can do to make sure that people in this city, not just Catholics, are impacted by this experience?’ and ‘How can our coming together in prayer, worship, adoration, and service affect people who can’t be at the Congress?’ Basically, we are trying to be intentional about what it means to be a Eucharistic people.”

Catholic priest holding a monstrance during a Eucharistic procession

Being Eucharist-centered can seem like a concept that is hard to get our minds around, but for Archbishop Thompson, it starts simply. “Eucharist means to give thanks, so first and foremost, how can we be a grateful people? Like Pope Francis says, Christians should not look like they are always coming back from a funeral. We should have the joy of the Gospel. How will we take the joy of the Congress back with us with a sense of gratitude in such a way that we take nothing for granted? Imagine if all of us exuded that joy, that belief, that conviction, our enthusiasm, and our faith in the Eucharist not only in what we say but also in how we live it out.”

Transformed and Sent Forth

When I asked the Archbishop what he thought would be the result within the Church of having thousands and thousands of people on fire with Jesus as Eucharistic disciples, he was quick to say he believed “God always surprises us with the unexpected. We can only speculate. The Congress is not the end. We aren’t all going home and saying it’s all done. The Year of Mission that the Congress inaugurates is very important. Just as at every Mass we are transformed and then are sent forth into the world to be Eucharistic witnesses, so we should leave the Congress not quite the same way as when we arrived there. Whether we are in Indianapolis July 17–21, participate virtually, or are just reading about it, there is a transforming aspect to the Eucharistic Revival that will be particularly powerful at the Congress. Sometimes we can see the transformation; other times, it’s subtle. Sometimes the impact is immediate; at other times, we may see the fruits years later. The Year of Mission flowing from the Congress is to remind us that we take with us the experience that should not only transform ourselves but through us bring transformation to the lives of those we touch through our witness.”

Three happy young women walking with linked arms and laughing together

Archbishop Thompson’s Top Five Ways to Prepare for the Eucharistic Congress

  1. First and foremost is always prayer. Be people of prayer, rooted in prayer, both personal prayer and communal prayer.
  2. Check out the National Eucharistic Revival website for resources for inspiration and deeper learning.
  3. Be engaged in your parish and opportunities that are being provided on a local level for Eucharistic devotion, faith formation, processions, and study.
  4. Make the Eucharist increasingly more the center of your own life.
  5. Check the National Eucharistic Congress website for your favorite speakers and begin to follow them on social media, blogs, and podcasts.

Join Archbishop Thompson on “Beautiful Light Mystagogy Live Episode 1: Sacrifice” on Thursday, April 4th! He’ll be talking with co-hosts Sr. Alicia Torres and Tanner Kalina about the offertory at Mass and answering your questions. If you can’t catch the show live, check it out any time after on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or our video platform!