By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles
LAKE CHARLES — Dr. Brant Pitre, Distinguished Research Professor of Scripture at The Augustine Institute, told nearly 470 people — many of them catechists — that he is elated when his kids ask for the keys to his car so they can go to the chapel for Eucharistic Adoration.
“My kids are teenagers and young adults now, and it makes me happy to know they understand who is in the tabernacle,” the Louisiana native said at the Lake Charles Civic Center on Saturday, September 9.
Dr. Pitre delivered the keynote presentation for Veritas 2023, the annual Catholic Conference hosted by the Office of Religious Education in the Diocese of Lake Charles. This year’s theme, “The Eucharist and Scripture,” offered participants a greater understanding of the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence of Christ.
The Most Reverend Glen John Provost, Bishop of Lake Charles, opened the conference with a welcome and prayer.
Veritas, which is Latin for truth, created the perfect opportunity for Pitre, who traveled from the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux with his wife Elizabeth, to make clear what the Catholic Church teaches on the Eucharist.
“One of the reasons we are all together today is because we are currently in midst of a National Eucharistic Revival led by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,” Dr. Pitre noted. “This Eucharistic Revival — a three-year initiative (2022-2025) of renewal and catechesis and evangelization — has roots in part from a 2019 Pew Study Research survey with shocking results about the collapse of faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist amongst Catholics in the United States.”
Citing a “serious, serious crisis,” a couple of statistics from the survey that Dr. Pitre shared are:
- Among all U.S. Catholics: 69 percent do not believe in the Real Presence
- Among U.S. Catholics who regularly attend Mass: 37 percent do not believe in or understand the Real Presence
Pitre’s morning session focused on “The Jewish Roots of the Real Presence,” followed by his afternoon talk on “The New Manna and the Living Water.” Both presentations outlined highlights from his book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist. Dr. Pitre concentrated on what is the Catholic Doctrine on the Real Presence and what it is not, and why Catholics believe that the Eucharist is God.
“In my own family, one of our traditions was that before every one of our children made their First Holy Communion, I would take them to visit the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel for us to make a Holy Hour,” the father of five recalled. “We didn’t go as a family but just the two of us so that they could have that intimate time to be with Jesus, to recognize him as a person present in the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity.”
Dr. Pitre emphasized the importance of instilling the practice of Eucharistic Adoration at a young age, both individually and in community.
“I recommend that, in their catechetical training, and especially in their preparation for First Holy Communion, children be taught the meaning and the beauty of spending time with Jesus and are helped to cultivate a sense of awe before His Presence in the Eucharist,” he remarked.
“When we genuflect, we are not genuflecting to some thing. The Eucharist is not some thing. The Eucharist is Someone,” said Pitre about why Catholics worship the Eucharist. “We are recognizing that there is a divine person in that tabernacle or on that altar in the monstrance, and we give Jesus the honor and veneration he is due.”
It was the first time for Andre Ange to attend Veritas, but it was not his first time to hear Pitre speak. A parishioner of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Bell City, he said that he first started watching Dr. Pitre on YouTube videos when he was in high school about 10 years ago.
“I was about 15 years old when I came across his videos and thought they were mind-blowing,” Ange said. “This is my first time seeing him in person. I brought his book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist that my wife gave to me for Easter. Today, Dr. Pitre autographed it for me.”
Ange liked hearing Pitre compare the Bread of Presence to the Bread of the Face of God in the Old Testament. “When he explained the Bread of Presence being lifted up on the table, that reminded me of Eucharistic Adoration and Processions,” he said.
Dr. Pitre’s visit to the Diocese of Lake Charles was not the first time Talitha Pitre (no relation to keynote speaker) listened to him in person, but she welcomed the chance to see him again. A member of St. Francis de Sales Oratory in Sulphur, Talitha said it has been a grace for her to always have had a strong faith.
“I have been Catholic all my life, and I am blessed to never have doubted or questioned my faith,” she remarked. “I enjoy conferences like Veritas to help better educate me so I can answer people when they ask me questions about the Catholic faith and why I believe in the Real Presence.”
First-time attendees, Janet Reed and Lois Clausen felt excited to participate.
“I have been a lifelong Catholic, a tradition that was handed down from my parents,” said Reed, a parishioner of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Church. “We did things without questioning them. I think as older Catholics, we want to have a better understanding. Coming here today and listening to Dr. Pitre talk about things in the Old Testament in correlation with the New Testament was a big eye opener for me.”
Clausen related her familiarity with Dr. Pitre through a silent retreat she had attended at Saint Charles Center in Moss Bluff.
“Deacon (Brian) Soileau referred to some of Brant Pitre’s books during the retreat, so I had already bought a couple of them before coming to Veritas,” noted Clausen, who attended a break-out session presented by Father Ruben Villarreal.
“The session, Do This in Memory of Me, was excellent. Father Villarreal uses examples that one can relate to that made his presentation have more of an impact,” Clausen said. “He teaches in a way that applies to our lives and makes it click.”
John Storm and his wife Sonora traveled from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in the Diocese of Houston-Galveston to see Dr. Pitre for the first time in person. Both are the youngest of 10 children — John being a cradle Catholic and Sonora a convert to Catholicism when she was 20 years old (now 59).
“Even though I have been a baptized Catholic all my life, Brant Pitre is the reason I am catechized today,” said John. “I have been reading and listening to Dr. Pitre for many years. I never knew our Catholic faith was so extensive. He is the reason I understand typology in the Old and New Testaments.”
In addition to Dr. Pitre’s keynote presentations, break-out sessions presenters and topics included: Tolton Ambassadors Louisiana: Altha Jordan Green and Alberto Maxwell on Venerable Father Augustus Tolton; Father Ruben Villarreal on HOC FACITE IN MEAM COMMEMORATIONEM: Do This in Memory of Me; Blaine and Denise Wyninger on Eucharistic and Family Life; Father Nathan Long on Saint Paul’s Eucharistic Theology; Father Whitney Miller on Eucharistic Themes in Culture and the Arts; Ricardo Ruvalcaba on No hay verdadera Sanacion ni Esperanza, sin las Bienaventuranzas. English translation — There is No True Healing or Hope without the Beatitudes; and Michael Lavine on Diabetes and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
At the conclusion of the conference, a Eucharistic Procession to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception took place through the streets of downtown Lake Charles.
For more information on Dr. Brant Pitre or to purchase his books, CDs, and DVDs, visit www.BrantPitre.com.
VIEW MORE PHOTOS on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lake Charles Facebook Page.