[Editor’s Note: This post is in response to Real Presences: Catholic Prayer as Intersubjectivity, Robert Orsi’s portal into Reverberations’ unfolding compendium of resources related to the study of prayer.]
One of the more fascinating findings of the huge “Catholics in America” survey—conducted in 2011 for the fifth time by Catholic University sociologist William D’Antonio and his team—concerns the Roman doctrine of real presence.
Robert Orsi, in this artwork of a portal on prayer, and in Between Heaven and Earth (2006)—speaks of real presence, too. Orsi deals much less with the Roman doctrine and much more with the Catholic cosmos, woven of relationship between seen and unseen beings. But in his curation, the one gestures toward the other. Doctrine and cosmos become two more presences in relationship, like a rosary and hands.
Officially, real presence undergirds the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist, asserting since a 1551 Council of Trent document that the “body and blood,” “soul and divinity” of Jesus Christ are “truly, really, and substantially contained” in the sacrament.
Unofficially, real Catholics vary in their knowledge and belief about real presence. The survey found that about half of U.S. Catholics know the official teaching, and half do not. Of the half who know it, about 90 percent believe it. So, that translates to about 46 percent of all survey respondents.