Continuing Chronicles: Eucharist

After a brief digression with my Mother’s Day post, I’m back to my son’s challenge of explaining my Catholic beliefs.  I have previously mentioned Theology of the Body and Humanae Vitae as two very important factors in my belief in our teaching on human dignity and sexuality.  Now I would like to address a truth that many, including Catholics, find difficult to embrace: the Real Presence.

Christ’s presence in the bread and wine at Holy Communion is certainly a mystery.  That is likely why so many people have such a difficult time accepting this teaching.  It can’t be explained in specific theological or scientific language.  It can’t be proven by tests and studies performed by scholars or scientists.  One thing is certain; Jesus very plainly and without any accompanying parable or explanation stated the following:

“I myself am the bread that has come down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever. And now, what is this bread that I am to give? It is my flesh, given for the life of the world” (John 6:51-52)

And when his followers and disciples questioned if He could truly give them his flesh to eat, he continued:

“You can have no life in yourselves, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood. The man who eats my flesh and drinks my blood enjoys eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. My flesh is real food, my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, lives continually in me, and I in him” (John 6:54-57)


Was Jesus crazy?  Was He just trying to chase away people who up to this point had followed him faithfully?  Or was He possibly showing us how He would be with us “to the end of the age”? (Matthew 28:20)

So yes, I believe the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.  My husband, who struggled with this for years, finally had an epiphany (our favorite word!).  He told our kids:  If God could create the universe and everything in it, why is it so difficult to imagine He can transform the bread and wine into His body and blood?  For a man who had such huge doubts for the majority of his life, this realization was life changing for him.  And it changed our lives as we have watched him blossom into a strong, faithful man.


In Vatican II’s document Lumen gentium, (no. 11) the Eucharistis called “the source and summit of the Christian life.”  We join with Christ, in communion with him when we celebrate the Mass.  We also are in communion with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.  We take Him in and then take Him out into the world as living examples of His love.  

I don’t believe this because any document said I must (although many important documents expound on the meaning of this mystery).  I don’t believe this because my parents told me I had to, although they gave witness to us in their actions what an important part of our faith the Eucharist is.  I believe it because Jesus eloquently told us He is flesh to eat and food to drink.  I believe it because I have seen the visible results of Its power in the lives of so many men and women.  But mostly, I believe it because of the strength and grace and love that overwhelms me when I partake.

jpII euharist


Lenten Chronicles

In my last installment, I mentioned this post would be about my discovery of Humanae Vitae (of Human Life),  Pope Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical on human life and the regulation of birth.  Written in 1968 as a response to the growing question of birth control, the pope endeavored to address this issue in the light of the teaching authority of the Church.

This should be one of the first items to read if you truly wish to learn why the Church stands by this teaching that has existed for over 2,000 years.  It is easy to read and understand; not lots of fluff, pomp and circumstance; just a concise, morally accurate account of our Church’s ethical stance on marriage, sexuality and human life.

nature marriage

Obviously the 1960’s brought about many moral and social changes, including the “sexual revolution” and “the pill”.  Some of these topics were addressed in Vatican II documents, namely Gaudium et spes (Joy and Hope), but a more specific discussion was needed to provide a definitive declaration of the Church’s position on this topic.  I was in elementary school when it was published, but I do remember through the years hearing how controversial it was and in many cases, unpopular.  What strikes me as particularly interesting about negative reactions is the fact that up until about 1930, all denominations of Christianity denounced artificial birth control.  Although a number of denominations still only approve of it  in the context of marriage (since they also teach sex outside marriage is a sin), thirty years later the Catholic Church stands alone in rejecting artificial birth control.

After reading it, I am even more convinced not only of the wisdom of this document, but of the prophetic outcome that has resulted from uncontrolled use of the pill.  The pope predicted that with its rampant use would come a 1) general lowering of morality, 2) marital infidelity, 3) men would begin to lack respect for women, treating them as objects for their own pleasure rather than “his respected and beloved companion.” and 4) as acceptance of contraception becomes widespread, it would become a “dangerous weapon” in the hands of governments who have no moral constraints.

I hardly think the outcome of his predictions are imperceptible to anyone.  The evidence is clear in areas such as divorce, sexually transmitted diseases, pornography, abortion, babies born of unwed mothers and restrictive family-size laws in countries that perform forced abortions and sterilizations.  Although none of these situations was unknown in 1968, who would have guessed to what degree they would increase?  But as in all of human history, we ignore the prophetic warnings and believe WE are in control!

One thing  in Pope Paul’s encyclical that I find heartening is his statement about our ability to follow the discipline required to live within marriage without contraception.  He says that although it demands continued effort…”Such discipline bestows upon family life fruits of serenity and peace; and facilitates the solution of other problems; it favors attention for one’s partner, helps both parties to drive out selfishness, the enemy of true love, and deepens their sense of responsibility.”  What marriage could not benefit from living life in this manner?

So as unpopular as this view might be, popularity is far outweighed by wisdom.  And I, for one, plan to follow this wisdom rather than believe I am in control!