The Cardinal Newman Society Eucharistic Education Task Force intern, Joseph Reilly, recently interviewed Dr. Jared Staudt, whose latest book, How The Eucharist can Save Civilization, forms the backbone of the importance of the Eucharist in Catholic education today.
JOSEPH REILLY: Dr. Staudt, thank you for taking the time in your schedule to talk about the Eucharist and Catholic education. Your book details how the Eucharist can cause such change and why it is so important for us, as Catholics, to recognize and promote the importance of the Eucharist. Moreover, the mission of The Newman Society’s Task Force for Eucharistic Education is to spark a renewal in Eucharistic devotion in Catholic schools, homeschools, and colleges.
Your book, How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization (TAN Books, 2023), argues that the Eucharist is central to Western civilization and its renewal. America seems to be sliding quickly. How would your recommendations save us?
DR. STAUDT: Jesus is the one who will save us, but the way in which he saves us is by entering into our lives. Too often we think that for God to save civilization, it would require a Deus ex machina solution of swooping in to solve our problems for us. In reality He gives us everything that we need to solve these problems if we rely on His grace within us. Saving us is His plan for saving civilization.
What does America need most right now? It is not a pious sentiment to recognize that we need God more than anything else, and God makes himself present to us most fully and directly through the Eucharist. Even if America is not going immediately to embrace the Lord’s presence there, we must be the ambassadors of this presence, acting as his tabernacle within the world. We must extend our Lord’s presence into everything we do and bring him into our encounter with others. We can also make prayers of reparation for the sins of the country before the Blessed Sacrament and pray for greater openness to the Lord’s presence hidden there.
J. REILLY: Education forms young people, and well-formed graduates should influence civilization and culture. Catholic education aims “to order the whole of human culture to the news of salvation, so that the knowledge the students gradually acquire of the world, life, and man is illumined by faith” (Gravissimum Educationis, 8). How can the Eucharist help form students to be vessels for change after completing their education?
DR. STAUDT: We often jump right into the practical results of education, but, first and foremost, education is about becoming the people God intends us to be. This entails coming to know God so that we can understand our identity and vocation in him. Education is necessary because we need formation to realize our true potential as human beings and as disciples. Where can we find the real source of transformation and life if not in the Eucharist?
If you want to learn the truth, you will find it him. If you want happiness, he is the one who can offer it. Jesus is the Word of God, the Truth of all things, and Goodness itself. It is not enough to learn about him. He must be encountered, even entering within us to teach us through his divine presence there. He changes us from the inside out and makes us ready for our mission in the world. In receiving communion, we become one with Jesus, members of his body. This unity draws us into his mission, as he acts through us in the world, continuing to offer himself as a gift to others through us.
J. REILLY: Your website, BuildingCatholicCulture.com, recommends two ways of renewing faithful Catholic education. The first is to ensure “a distinctively Catholic environment or culture.” What role should the Eucharist have in building the culture of Catholic education?
DR. STAUDT: The Eucharist is what makes us Catholic, as the place where we encounter the Son of God in the flesh. This is true also for the school. The Blessed Sacrament anchors the culture of the entire school, making it a place where God dwells and where all things are ordered to the glory of God. Faith must become a way of life and the Eucharist ensures that the life of the school is centered on the highest things. What we prioritize can be seen in how we spend our time. When schools increase the frequency of Mass, it’s common to hear teachers and parents complain about lost instructional time. We will never regret investing time in the Lord, however, as he will make all that we do fruitful. Going to Mass will make a greater impact on our students than anything else we can do.
Your second recommendation is that the “curriculum must flow from and lead to a Catholic worldview,” which goes beyond theology to history, politics, science, literature, and more. What is the Eucharist’s role in a Catholic curriculum and in forming a Catholic worldview?
The whole benefit of coming to a Catholic school should be a complete formation grounded in the faith. No other school can truly form the whole person—body, mind, and soul. Catholic education as a whole should be sacramental in that everything we learn reflects back to the fullness of truth. The entire universe, including human beings made in the image of God, should be seen as an icon reflecting the truth, goodness, and beauty of God. The Eucharist makes it sacramental in a more complete sense, truly forming soul and body at once. The Creator comes into us to remake us. The Word by whom all was created enlightens us with his presence within us. In the Blessed Sacrament, we come to the source of all truth and the true fulfillment of every genuine desire.
Education could be seen as a search. Any school can embark upon that journey, searching for answers that can guide our lives. Only at the Catholic school does the one who sparked this whole adventure come to us to walk alongside of us, guiding us from within. He is the one who will teach us most fully what it means to be a human being and enable us to reach our ultimate destination in communion with the Father.
J. REILLY: What negative effects come about when the Eucharist is absent from education?
DR. STAUDT: It’s amazing how controversial going to Mass can be. It’s hard for me to fathom how Catholic school students can come to a parish every day, or a campus with a chapel, and only visit Jesus once a month or even just once a week. Can you imagine attending an art school with a gallery of the greatest masterpieces on campus, but students remain in the classroom and only make an occasional visit to experience what they are studying? It wouldn’t make any sense. A Catholic school without the regular celebration of the Mass misses the center of its education and formation. Jesus can do all we seek to accomplish more quickly and easily. He makes our instruction proceed more clearly, enabling our studies to reach their end. He is the source of virtue and the discipline we need to grow as human beings. The Mass is not an add-on but the realization of our educational goals. We will limp along without a strong devotion to the Eucharist and a commitment to attending Mass.
In addition, would you please provide some background information for a short bio that we can add to the start of the project, including your education and work background along with past works you would like to highlight.
More about Dr. Jared Staudt:
He taught at the Augustine Institute (Denver, Color.) and the University of Mary (N.D.), served as Associate Superintendent for the Archdiocese of Denver, and co-founded two Catholic high schools. Currently, he serves as Director of Content for Exodus 90 and as an instructor for the Lay Division of St. John Vianney Seminary, Denver, Color.. He edited Renewing Catholic Schools: How to Regain a Catholic Vision in a Secular Age (Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, 2020), the author of How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization (TAN, 2023) and is author of the forthcoming book Words Made Flesh: The Sacramental Mission of Catholic Education (Catholic Education Press, 2024).