The Most Holy Eucharist
August 2020, Outdoor Morning Adoration and Special Visit of Catholic Action's Fatima Statue at Nativity Church in San Diego Due to the Pandemic.
By Catholic Action's Team of Priests and Deacons from the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.
The Most Holy Eucharist is, in the continuous teaching of the Church, the source and summit of the whole Christian life. (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, no. 11; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1324). But what if Catholics stopped believing in it?
In the sixth chapter of St John’s Gospel, Jesus says, in the most concrete and radical terms, that He intends to give His Body and Blood as real food and drink. He says that this extraordinary gift is necessary if we wish to share His life.
“I am the bread of life.” (v. 35) “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. (v. 50) “I am the living bread, … and the bread which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (v. 51)
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” (V. 53) “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” (v. 55) “He who eats me will live because of me.” (v. 58)
In the space of about thirty verses, Jesus repeats these clear teachings over and over in the most explicit terms. So radical was this revelation from the very mouth of Jesus Christ, that “many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with Him.” (v. 66).
According to some surveys, many Catholics have stopped believing in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist. Perhaps it is sadly true that some regard it only as a spiritual presence. However, neither Jesus (nor the Catholic Church) can change the truth of this greatest gift: the “source of the whole Spiritual life;” the “Summit” – the highest expression of our worship.
The Eucharist is not only a spiritual presence. It is the “Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity” of Jesus Christ. It is the living Risen Christ, given to us in Holy Communion, and adored in the tabernacle. He promised that he would be with us always, and He meant it. He gave the power of the Mass to the apostles at the Last Supper, and said, “Do this in Memory of Me.” He meant it, not only as an historical remembrance, but as the very food for eternal life. It is likewise a Sacrament of unity by which those who make up the ‘Body of Christ,’ the Church, are brought together as they receive the Body of Christ.
We are free to walk away. Five hundred years ago, in the Great Western Schism, Protestantism rejected the Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist and most of the Seven Sacraments of Salvation instituted by Christ. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1210) There are certainly many good and holy people who have never been taught about the Church and the Sacraments. But Our Lord Jesus entrusted all seven to the Church as the continuation of His own Divine work. They are, in fact, Jesus Christ at work in the world through the instrument of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. They are the truest and most sure path to heaven.
We may be disillusioned with the sins of leaders in the Church. Each of us, priests, bishops, Religious Sisters or Brothers, and lay faithful are called to holiness.
Are we sinful human beings? Yes. Our Lord called us to repentance constantly, and He gave us Confession for the forgiveness of our sins. “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 18:18) “"If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained." (Jn 20:23)
In light of the loss of the faith in the Eucharist, some have rightly said we must teach better and more clearly. It is true. Good “catechesis” is vital to helping people come to know and believe in these very words of Jesus.
We must also say that the maxim ‘lex orandi, lex credendi,’ ‘the law of praying is the law of believing,’ reminds us that, the way we offer Holy Mass, and how we attend Holy Mass is connected to what we believe. If the identity and perception of the Mass shifts from its reality as the Sacrifice of Jesus, to a social banquet for co-believers, we can expect a loss of faith in the Holy Eucharist as a result. If we have become casual in the way we pray, it could be that we have lost sight of Who is there: Almighty God Himself; Jesus, true God and true man.
Excerpt from the Homily of Pope Benedict XVI, June, 2008, 49th International Eucharistic Congress, Quebec City
“The Eucharist is our most beautiful treasure. It is the sacrament par excellence; it introduces us early into eternal life; it contains the whole mystery of our salvation; it is the source and summit of the action and of the life of the Church, as the Second Vatican Council recalled (Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 8). … It is, therefore, particularly important that pastors and faithful dedicate themselves permanently to furthering their knowledge of this great sacrament.”
“I would like everyone to make a commitment to study this great mystery, … so as to bear witness courageously to the mystery. In this way, each person will arrive at a better grasp of the meaning of every aspect of the Eucharist, understanding its depth and living it with greater intensity. Every sentence, every gesture has its own meaning and conceals a mystery. … I urge priests especially to give due honor to the Eucharistic rite. … The liturgy does not belong to us: it is the Church's treasure.
“Reception of the Eucharist, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament -- by this we mean deepening our communion, preparing for it and prolonging it -- is also about allowing ourselves to enter into communion with Christ, and through him with the whole of the Trinity, so as to become what we receive and to live in communion with the Church.”
“The Eucharist is not a meal among friends. … "The prayers and the rites of the Eucharistic sacrifice make the whole history of salvation revive ceaselessly before the eyes of our soul, in the course of the liturgical cycle, and make us penetrate ever more its significance" (Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, [Edith Stein], Wege zur inneren Stille Aschaffenburg, 1987, p. 67). … "Every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree." (Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 7).
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By Catholic Action's Team of Priests and Deacons from the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.
The Joseph Connection
By Catholic Action's Team of Priests and Deacons from the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy
The “I Want You” recruiting poster featuring a grim-faced Uncle Sam pointing his finger at the observer was hardly a necessary motivator for the men of the World War I & II generations to join the army. Millions of young men ran to the war and enthusiastically joined the war effort, which must have made old Uncle Sam deeply proud of the youth of America.
Would Uncle Sam get the same response from America’s youth today? Does our culture produce men of such character now, men who will drop everything to join principled efforts to defend country, church, family and innocents?
Continuity or Rupture
St Vincent of Lerins (died circa 445 AD), in a letter cited in the Church’s Office of Readings, (Friday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Times), asks and answers the question about whether there can be any “development of Religion in the Church.” Can there be what we might call a development of doctrine? Can the teaching of the Church change in any way?
St Vincent says Yes, “But it must truly be development of the faith, not alteration of the faith.” “Development,” the Saint writes, “means that each thing expands to be itself, while alteration means that a thing is changed from one thing to another.”
Perhaps one example of this authentic development would be the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. At the Last Supper Jesus Christ gave Himself – His Body and Blood – to the Apostles. He told them, “Do this in memory of me,” and He consummated this complete gift of Himself in the Crucifixion and Death on Calvary, and in His Resurrection.
The Mass – as recorded in the acts of the Apostles, the New Testament Epistles, and the early apostolic writings of the Fathers of the Church - ‘developed’ to include readings from the Sacred Scriptures, and the Prayer of the Priest who says the very words of Christ, and what is called the ‘the Breaking of Bread,’ and distribution of the Holy Communion.
You know well the passage of the dialogue between Jesus and the Apostles at Caesarea Philippi (Mt 16:13-20; Mk 8:27-33). Jesus asks His closest followers, “Who do people say that I am?” They offer the different perceptions of the day, “Some say John the Baptist, others, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the Prophets.” “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responds quickly, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”
Jesus commends Peter, and entrusts to him the keys of the Kingdom; an extraordinary role in the Church.
Imagine for a moment, if Peter, a few years later, after Jesus’ Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, posed the similar question in the Church. He asks, “What do people say about the Church and Her mission?” We could expect a variety of opinions and observations.
We can ask the same question today: What do people say about the Church? Who determines Her teachings and work?
The heart is often represented as the core or center of human emotions, and especially of love. The images of Valentine’s Day bear testimony to this. We know that the heart – along with the brain – performs one of the most important works of the body. In the great first command of the Old Testament – and the New Testament – we are “to love the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength” (Dt 6: 4-5; Mt 22:37; Mk 12:29; Lk 10:27).
The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is likewise a powerful sign or symbol of Christ’s love ‘in the flesh.’ When God took human flesh in the mystery of the Incarnation, there was formed in Him also a heart. After His death Jesus rose in the body. He ascended into Heaven in His body. And so His loving and Sacred Heart continues to live and beat.