The second reading of the Office of Readings for today is an extract from the First Apology in Defence of Christians written by Saint Justin Martyr in about 155 AD. The first paragraph highlights just how clearly the early Christians understood who may or may not share in the Eucharist.
St Justin writes: “No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.”
As a Catholic convert I often cogitate why someone who rejects some or all of the Church’s teaching insists on wanting to receive the Eucharist and remain a member of the Church? I would most certainly never have considered converting to Catholicism when I was 20 years old unless I believed and accepted all that the Church teaches. What would be the point?
The only plausible explanation that I can come up with for people receiving the Eucharist, despite not believing or accepting Church teaching, is that although they have been baptised and confirmed Catholic, they have not received all the necessary formation. As a consequence they are either not aware or do not understand what it is that the Church teaches or why it teaches what it does. (Let's ignore the apostates in this instance.)
I am therefore increasingly of the opinion that if the Church is to accomplish its mission of saving souls, more time and energy needs to be devoted to teaching the Catholic Faith and helping Catholics to truly understand the Church’s teaching. Catechism before being Confirmed, followed thereafter by homilies every Sunday at Mass, is simply insufficient formation. Much more formation is needed by the average Catholic!
There is an increasing call, even demands, for greater lay involvement in the Church. So this seems to me to be where the solution lies. An increased drive to find and select suitable lay men and women who have demonstrated that they are completely faithful to the true teaching of the Church. Men and women who accept that they have a specific vocation to help others to grow in their knowledge and understanding of the Catholic Faith. Then nurture this vocation with formal education and training and we have the much needed catechists.
These catechists would not only provide catechesis for those preparing for confirmation. That's already happening. What is of particular significance is that the increased number of catechists, who will obviously come from various walks of life and will themselves be in varying stages of life, will enable the Church to meet each of the faithful where they are in life. Thereby enabling the Church to provide 'appropriate', 'advanced', 'on going' formation to the faithful. In doing so the Church will have created Catholic formation that starts from baptism, continues through Confirmation and all the way through the life of each and every Catholic to their death beds.