The following is the first half of a very pleasant discussion with Dr. Timothy O’Malley, the Director of Education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life and Academic Director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, on his latest book Real Presence: What Does It Mean and Why Does It Matter? The book is a helpful guide for catechists and theology teachers, but it is also an accessible read for anyone seeking to understand the Church’s Eucharistic doctrines and the role devotional life plays in forming a Eucharistic worldview. 

Robert Mixa: Tim, let’s begin with the findings of a 2019 Pew Research report which said that only 31 percent of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the actual Body and Blood of Christ. I remember there was concern about the way the survey questions were phrased and whether or not the findings were truly representative. Can you elaborate on that report and the various responses to it?  

Timothy O’Malley: The study reports that 31 percent of people profess having faith in the Real Presence, or at least that’s the interpretation of the data. I believe the Pew report doesn’t actually get the doctrine of the Eucharist question correct, in fact. I think a lot of people may have answered “no” because what was actually asked in the Pew report isn’t the Church’s teaching.

Praise the Lord

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