I have been a practicing Roman Catholic for almost twenty-nine years. Raised as a Protestant Christian and converting to the Roman Catholic religion in my mid-twenties. I had little Catechism given at that time.
I have raised my sons in the church, taught several years of CCD/Faith Formation, volunteered and currently I have been attending Mass in the morning before going to work. I love to go to Church. Over the years, I have spent hours there alone in prayer with our triune God.
I had a Catholic friend, years ago, tell me I should say I am “going to Mass”, not I am “going to church”. I didn’t get what he meant. Today I do. When I enter the church for services, it is for Mass. Even on Good Friday, when no Mass is celebrated it is called “Mass of the Presanctified” as the host was consecrated on Holy Thursday.
My focus has always been on the readings and more so the homily. I realize now that is due my Protestant upbringing. As a child/young person, I went to church to study the bible and pray. As an adult Catholic, I attend Mass and read the bible readings, listen to the homily but I also partake in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
His question. . .
A few weeks ago, I read an article written by a Pastor. The following is a clip of that article: “why is it so difficult to believe that same presence in the Eucharist we celebrate so frequently? Is it that farfetched to think that God can take simple elements of bread and wine and transform them, wholly and completely, into the Body and Blood of Christ?”
Talk about an “aha” moment. What have I been missing? What is the link? I am a person who puts great faith in the power of prayer. I pray often (several times a day though to see me you may not even know it). First thing in the morning before I ever get out of bed, driving to work, at work, at my desk. Prayer can be anywhere and anytime. The more often we make a conscious action to move closer to God, the easier you will find it to be. The particular passage above really caught my attention. I began chatting to God about this and listening for answers. I also began to question more people.
My turn to ask . . .
A very large majority of my friends were raised Roman Catholic. Many have left the church for a variety of reasons. I keep a short list of friends on Facebook. Under 60 and all but two are people I know in “real life”. One is a friend of several friends and advertises his wares (harmless), the other is a young Catholic Mom I “met” on a Christian woman’s Facebook page. We chatted a few times and she asked if we could “be friends”. Indeed. She has been a real asset in my quest to learn more about my religion. I digress. A little off topic there but not too far. I decided to pose the question on my Facebook wall and see who would respond. I was truthfully very surprised at the response (more than 10 people responded, some directly on my wall, some via private message).
Serious question. Reading something this afternoon . . .and I know the answer to this in my own heart and soul – but am really interested in hearing what others think. Please feel free to inbox me your reply.
Roman Catholics are taught that the Eucharist is the very body and blood of Jesus Christ, this is something that historically dates back just a thousand years or so (transubstantiation). We are taught that the very real presence of Jesus Christ becomes present in the Eucharist at Mass. Thoughts on this?
In box is open. I am not tagging anyone but will in-box some for your thoughts. Indulge me if you will. Feel free to post your reply here also – it’s up to you. Thanks”
I greatly appreciate the response that I had. It pushed me further in my own reflection and belief. I know I also surprised myself with my own answers. More on my own beliefs a bit later. . .
The response varied . . .
“yes, i believe it. although it has occurred to me often that our entire religion is based on cannibalism. Hmm”
“but I always took it symbolically & spiritual rather than actually “physical.”
“Don’t you believe this is all figurative?”
“I prefer to think of the Church’s teaching that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are everywhere all the time. Good question — thanks for putting it out there “
“One friend responded that when a child they believed it however as an adult no longer does,”
“I do believe communion said In The Name of Jesus according to The Word is the same in any church.”
“No, I don’t believe it is really Jesus.”
“NO! What do you mean the blood of Christ?”
“One of my in real life responses was pursed lips, raised eyebrows and a slight shake of the head to signify “no”.
Where is the disconnect?
For just around one thousand years the Eucharist has been presented the way it is today. There was a time in history where it was very simple, even in the Roman Catholic Church. The breaking of the bread and drinking of the wine was stated as such and “take this in memory of me.”. I am not going to dive into more detail on the history of this sacrament today and I will only briefly touch upon the Sacrament of Holy Orders today. I am following along on the path set before me and there is a lot of information and a lot of facts/details on the sacraments. It is however important to take at least a very abbreviated look at Holy Orders.
Only men baptized men can receive this sacrament. There are a lot of details and requirements surrounding this sacrament and in truth I am not completely sure how I feel about this but that is not on the table for discussion today. The very truth is this; When a man has met all the criteria, studies, age, and they become ordained Priests the church teaches that the “grace of the sacrament imprints an indelible character on the soul of the recipient and configures him to Christ”. This can be more than a little confusing when one considers we are also taught that those Baptized and Confirmed also receive the sacramental character is an indelible spiritual.
Per teaching I reference the Catechism of the Catholic Church” The three sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders confer, in addition to grace, a sacramental or “seal” by which the Christian shares in Christ’s priesthood and is made a member of the Church per different states and functions. This configuration to Christ and to the Church, brought about by the Spirit, is indelible, it remains forever in the Christian as a positive disposition for grace, a promise and guarantee of divine protection, and as a vocation to divine worship and to the service of the Church. Therefore, these sacraments can never be repeated. ”
We are taught that each marking is weighed differently. Each “level” of Holy Orders receives a new or higher level marking. This teaching does not go back to the simple teachings of Christ; however, it has been taught for hundreds of years, dating back to writings of Augustine of Hippo.
Once Baptized a Catholic you will by Baptism always be considered a Catholic and no other Baptism would be recognized. Once Confirmed a Catholic, you will have always been confirmed as such and there would be no second confirmation. Once ordained a Priest in the Catholic church that never becomes invalid, even should a Priest choose to leave for any number of personal reasons which may include a breaking away from teachings of the church or marriage.
Not fully on the table for discussion here but important to mention as this is in relation to the Eucharist which is the topic at hand. A Priest who leaves the service of the church, either by choice or suspension, even if laicized (per http://canonlawmadeeasy.com/about/ -simply put released from clerical duties and permissions to represent oneself as Priest). In this case the only sacrament a man is “allowed” and required to perform would be to hear the confession of a dying person. The instructions given to a laicized Priest is they are prohibited from exercising holy orders.
I would question or argue the point (being the apparent Cafeteria girl) that being told to not bless anyone or preach to be rather confusing because it is my understanding that all Catholics can Bless and Preach (not at Mass), and in reading about Baptism – anyone, even a non-Christian can perform a valid Baptism. I will also note perhaps most pertinent to this article, that a laicized Priest will be told they are not to celebrate Mass can still do and it will remain valid “but” it is considered illicit as it is without the permission of ecclesiastical superiors.
Further reading tells me something that I believe to be true and that a Priest belongs to Jesus Christ/God/Holy Spirit and that is who he truly answers to. Priests have and do leave the church, it is a difficult decision for most and how they chose to deal with or balance their life as an active Priest with that of a laicized Priest varies and is not on the table for discussion here. I am sharing this information because I believe it to be pertinent to the discussion of the Holy Eucharist – the body & blood of Christ and why it is taught that only a Priest can prepare and consecrate the Eucharist. That relationship with Christ does not change no matter the circumstance.
Liturgy of the Eucharist
This is one of three sacraments of initiation in the church. The other two are Baptism and Confirmation. Church teaching is that Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. This is a sacramental sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. “In the sacrifice of the Eucharist, through the death and resurrection of Christ presents all of creation to the Father as an offering of praise and thanksgiving. The church gives thanks to God in the Eucharist for all the blessings God has accomplished in his works of creation, redemption and sanctification.” “of Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the dead; the Eucharist makes present again the sacrifice of the cross in an unbloody manner.”
I would urge anyone with a sincere desire, to read and learn more detail about the Eucharist. The quotes in the above paragraph are taken from “outlines of the Catholic Faith Teachings, Beliefs, Practices and Prayers” https://www.leafletonline.com/outlines-of-the-catholic-faith something in truth I left gathering dust for a little too long.
Church teachings are that the Priest by ordination is acting as Christ, having received the indelible spiritual mark. In truth, I think these words come across too simply and find myself struggling to impart the deep spiritual connection I believe the Priest has standing at the alter with our Lord God. It is through the actions of the Priest that the bread and wine become the true body and blood of Jesus.
“This is my Body. This is my Blood. God tells us, at every Eucharist, I am real! I am here! I am no less than I have been in the past, am here today and will be in the future! This is my Body, which is broken for YOU. This is my Blood, which is shed for YOU. Do we think so little of ourselves that we cannot believe that God can and does come to us in this way?”
I have an incredibly beautiful personal relationship with God. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. I live an everyday life but my life is filled with keeping Christ close to my heart, mind and soul. I share my love of God with people throughout the day, be it a counter server asking me for the name I would like them to put on that $1.00 donation tag (God), or sitting in my office with one of the bank Vice Presidents for small business. In a way, I eat, sleep and breath Jesus – and I have taken no vows or promises to a religious order or diocese.
Sitting here I can say I do believe that the celebrating the Eucharist is a holy and sacred event. Knowing the devotion, a Priest has to Jesus there is no reason really for me to not to believe that a miracle transpires before our eyes during Mass and that when we receive, that we do receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ as explained and taught by the Roman Catholic Church.
What do I think of other religions breaking bread and offering communion in the name of Jesus Christ? I think that this is something very difficult to compare, if you really can. It is a bit of apples and oranges. In church’s other than Roman Catholic they break bread and drink wine “in memory of me”. They too are honoring what is taught in the Bible at the Last Supper. This is simple and pure teachings of Christ before his death on the cross and before the church became “the church”.
The presence of Jesus.
Now, here is where I get more than a tad bit stuck. We Catholics are taught that receiving the body and blood of Christ brings us closer to God. How do I reconcile this with knowing God is with me and in me every day – Mass or not? My own background is Protestant – though converted I own every bit of that relationship that I have with God on my childhood education of Him. My darkest days have been after I converted to the Roman Catholic religion, at times I was feelings quite lost and alone (though I know now He was always with me). I am no more holy today than I will be tomorrow if I miss the morning mass, am I? If Christ is already present within me? So, this is where I get hung up.
In truth, I accept the miracle of the Eucharist. I believe the miracle that changes the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
I cannot say today that I truly believe this brings me closer to God. I also wonder at those good Catholics who live in areas where they are unable to receive communion regularly or the elderly who don’t get out or I suppose anyone in general unable to receive this sacrament physically. I am sure there are cases where this happens and there are people that are holy and living good and moral lives in the name of God who do not receive the body and blood regularly – just as there are those who receive regularly as rote behavior or who, like many mentioned above, receive but do not believe this is the body and blood of Christ. All thoughts worthy of further examination and consideration I am sure.
Myself? I will continue to attend Mass and celebrate the Eucharist. I am glad I came across that short article posing these questions as it gave me pause to reflect and learn more. I will continue my quest to further deepen my faith, and honor God. I own my life to Him.
*Note: This essay is the first essay I posted to my blog when I began last year. It seems suitable, as I redesign and edit my blog to post this today – the last day of this year.