Let’s admit it: the Solemnity of the Ascension is a practically marginal feast for Western Catholics. In many Western countries and much of the United States, it’s even been rendered ahistorical, shunted off from the fortieth day of Easter to the nearest Sunday. The dirty little secret is that the feast is so irrelevant to the self-understanding of most Catholics, evidenced by paltry Mass attendance on Ascension Thursday, that bishops, ostensibly to address the “pastoral burden” of attending Mass on a weekday, transferred the obligation to the next Sunday (where at least the remnant of Catholics still going to Church after the great episcopal lockdown of 2020 might ramp up attendance figures).

I want to suggest that our problems with belief in the Real Eucharistic Presence of Jesus are related to our ignoring of the Ascension.

In 2019—before ecclesiastical field hospitals struck tent and shut down last year—Pew reported that seven in ten American Catholics either misunderstood or simply rejected the Church’s faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  

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