Category Archives: Sacraments

The Real Presence

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – “Hidden God, devoutly I adore Thee, truly present beneath these veils: all my heart subdues itself before Thee, since all before Thee faints and fails” (cf. Adoro Te Devote).

MEDITATION

“Verbum caro factum est” (John 1:14). The Incarnation of the Word, the ineffable mystery of the merciful love of God, who so loved man that He became “flesh” for his salvation, is, in a way, prolonged and extended through the ages, and will be until the end of time, by the Eucharist, the Sacrament by means of which the Incarnate Word became Himself our “food.” God was not content with giving us His only Son once for all, willing Him to take flesh in the womb of a Virgin–flesh like ours, so that He might suffer and die for us on the Cross–but He wished Him to remain with us forever, perpetuating His real presence and His sacrifice in the Eucharist. Aided by the Gospel narrative we can reconstruct and relive in our heart the sweet mysteries of the life of Jesus. Had we nothing but the Gospel, however, we would have only nostalgic memories; Jesus would no longer be with us, but only in heaven at the right hand of the Father, having definitively left the earth on the day of His Ascension. With what regret we would think of the thirty-three years of our Savior’s earthly life passed centuries ago! Oh, how different the reality! The Eucharist makes the presence, of Jesus with us a permanent one. In the consecrated Host we find the same Jesus whom Mary brought into the world, whom the shepherds found wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger; whom Mary and Joseph nurtured and watched over as He grew before their eyes; the Jesus who called the Apostles to follow Him, who captivated and taught the multitudes, who performed the most startling miracles; who said He was the “light” and “life” of the world, who forgave Magdalen and raised Lazarus from the dead; who for love of us sweat blood, received the kiss of a traitor, was made one enormous wound, and died on the Cross; that same Jesus who rose again and appeared to the Apostles and in whose wounds Thomas put his finger; who ascended into heaven, who now is seated in glory at the right hand of His Father, and who, in union with the Father, sends us the Holy Spirit. O Jesus, You are always with us, “yesterday, and today, and the same forever!” (Hebrews 13:8). Always the same in eternity by the immutability of Your divine Person; always the same in time, by the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, wealth of the poor, how admirably You can sustain souls, revealing Your great riches to them gradually and not permitting them to see them all at once. When I see Your great Majesty hidden in so small a thing as the Host, I cannot but marvel at Your great wisdom.

“O my God, if You did not conceal Your grandeur, who would dare to come to You so often, to unite with Your ineffable Majesty a soul so stained and miserable? Be forever blessed, O Lord! May the angels and all creatures praise You for having deigned to adapt Your mysteries to our weakness so that we might enjoy Your treasures without being frightened by Your infinite power. Otherwise, poor, weak creatures like ourselves would never dare to approach You.

“How would I, a poor sinner, who have so often offended You, dare to approach You, O Lord, if I beheld You in all Your Majesty? Under the appearances of bread, however, it is easy to approach You, for if a king disguises himself, it seems as if we do not have to talk to him with so much circumspection and ceremony. If You were not hidden, O Lord, who would dare to approach You with such coldness, so unworthily, and with so many imperfections?

“Besides, I cannot doubt at all about Your real presence in the Eucharist. You have given me such a lively faith that, when I hear others say they wish they had been living when You were on earth, I laugh to myself, for I know that I possess You as truly in the Blessed Sacrament as people did then, and I wonder what more anyone could possibly want” (Teresa of Jesus, Life, 38 – cf. Way of Perfection, 34).”

Love,
Matthew

food for the spirit…


-by Br John Mark Solitario, OP

St. Thomas Aquinas lists among the principal effects of the Eucharist that “this sacrament does for the spiritual life all that material food does for the bodily life.” If we pay attention to the basic sacramental signs at play here, we can come to a better understanding of the spiritual reality made present by God’s design.

By the Body of Christ, we are fortified with strength for the journey, aptly represented by the appearance of bread. If a bagel from your favorite deli powers you through the first hours of the day, what kind of spiritual vitality and endurance might you expect from the Son of the living God?

By the Blood of Christ, we are spiritually gladdened so that what was formerly harsh along the way becomes sweet under the influence of divine charity. Think of the relaxation and refreshment that come from your favorite summer beverage. How much better will the spiritual drink that comes from God’s banquet table give ease to your tired spirit?

The appearances of bread and wine, although veiling the new essence of Who is there, help us to understand the purpose of Holy Communion: grace comes to nourish and enliven the charity already aflame from Baptism. We find strength for the demands of life in Jesus’s friendship. Our sacramental unity with God’s Son turns sweet what had been bitter and makes ever more fresh what before felt so dull.”

Love, refreshment, nourishment,
Matthew

Glamour of evil

In the Fox television series, of which I am a HUGE fan/geek/nerd, “Sleepy Hollow”, witches use a power known as “glamour” to disguise their true appearance, age, and other things they want to hide. This is a much older understanding and sense of the word glamour, here used in that sense in the Catholic baptismal promises below. Sir Walter Scott (1797-1826) wrote, defining the use of the word glamour, “the magic power of imposing on the eyesight of spectators, so that the appearance of an object shall be totally different from the reality.”

Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God’s Children?
I do.

Do you reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?
I do.

Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness?
I do.

Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth?
I do.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
Who was Born of the Virgin Mary,
was crucified, died, and was buried,
rose from the dead,
and is now seated at the Right Hand of the Father?
I do.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints,
the Forgiveness of sins, the Resurrection of the body,
and Life everlasting?
I do.

God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
has given us a New Birth by water and the Holy Spirit,
and forgiven our sins.

May God also keep us faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ
forever and ever.

Amen.

-by Stephen Sparrow, who writes from New Zealand. He is semi-retired and reads (and writes) for enjoyment, with a particular interest in the work of Catholic authors Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Sigrid Undset, Dante Alighieri and St Therese of Lisieux. His secondary school education was undertaken by Society of Mary priests at St. Bedes College and after leaving school in 1960 he joined a family wood working business, retiring from it in 2001. He is married with five adult children. His other interests include fishing, hiking, photography and natural history, especially New Zealand botany and ornithology.

Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) is recognized as one of the most important American writers of this century. In her short life, Flannery O’Connor left a small and precious body of writing in which the voices of displaced persons affirm the grace of God in the grotesqueries of the world.

Born Mary Flannery O’Connor in Savannah in 1925, she spent a serene childhood there, although a series of displacements lay ahead in her growing years. Her family were staunch Roman Catholics, a small religious minority in the South. Even as a child in parochial school, she was aware of being regarded as somehow different, although Savannah was where most Georgia Catholics lived at that time. In her mature years as a writer, many of her artistic contemporaries regarded any kind of orthodoxy as freakish, but she never lost her vital connection to her faith and her Church, and never lost the courage of her convictions, whether as a Catholic or an artist.

Her brief literary career was a race against time. The symptoms of lupus appeared just as she was finishing her first novel, Wise Blood. The disease progressed with occasional remissions. But, in fact it was only restrained by a medication that simultaneously damaged her bone structure. Aware of the fragility of her existence, she wrote and revised with tireless intensity. But two collections of stories, A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge, and a second novel, The Violent Bear It Away, were all she was able to finish. The Fitzgeralds posthumously published her occasional prose in a collection entitled Mystery & Manners. Some years later Sally Fitzgerald edited and published a selection of her celebrated letters under the title, The Habit of Being. Unfortunately, Flannery O’Connor’s work did not receive its highest honors until after her death, but her reputation has grown steadily and, today, she is everywhere recognized as one of the most important American writers of this century.

During her most creative years, also the years of her physical decline, she lived on a family farm outside Milledgeville, attended by a great flock of peacocks she loved to raise. She was a warmly receptive person who maintained her sharp sense of humor despite poor health. She died in Milledgeville in 1964 and is buried there near her father. Toward the end of her life she wrote:

“The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make them appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the blind you draw large and startling figures.”

Her shocking message was, and is, Behold, the dwelling of God is with men!

(Excerpted from the short biography of Flannery O’Connor on the Georgia Women of Achievement web site)

——–

During an interview granted to Jubilee Magazine, Flannery O’Connor was reminded of something she had once written to the effect that the creative action of the Christian’s life is to prepare his death in Christ. The interviewer then asked how this related to her work as a writer? O’Connor replied, “I’m a born Catholic and death has always been brother to my imagination. I can’t imagine a story that doesn’t properly end in it or in its foreshadowings.”


Flannery O’Connor
(1925-1964)

“I can’t imagine a story that doesn’t properly end in it or in its foreshadowings.”1 Flannery O’Connor was faithful to her own dictum and out of her two published collections of short stories twelve of the twenty end in death, and, of her two novels one begins with death and the other ends in it, and each also features a murder. Untimely death, or its foreshadowing, is the eschatological theme underlying most of O’Connor’s fiction, which, for the Christian, means that the last four things are: death, judgement, heaven and hell.

In her acclaimed short story “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”, O’Connor makes spectacular use of violent death to highlight this theme. The story is about a vacationing family murdered by a trio of psychopaths, and right from the beginning it is filled with portents of doom. First, we witness the manipulative grandmother lecturing her apathetic son on the dangers of heading in the same direction (Florida) as this “Misfit…aloose from the Federal Pen.” She tries unsuccessfully to gain his attention by saying, “‘Now look here, Bailey, see here, read this,’ and she stood with one hand on her thin hip and the other rattling the newspaper at his bald head.” The grandmother has another destination in mind. She would like them all to visit East Tennessee, which the children have never visited, rather than Florida where they have previously vacationed. For their part, the children bicker openly with their grandmother and disparage her to each other, while their father ignores them all, being absorbed by the daily newspaper’s sport section. Meantime, his homely looking wife just sits on the sofa saying nothing as she spoon feeds the baby. The decision to head for Florida stands, and next morning the family get in the car and commence their journey. As they leave Atlanta and drive into the countryside, O’Connor tells us, “the trees were full of silver-white sunlight and the meanest of them sparkled.” The trees stand impassively but even the meanest the worst of them sparkle, symbolising the wilderness of good and evil the family is about to enter; a very Dantesque2 image. But, it’s not just the trees that sparkle; so too do the people the family encounter. Even in the Misfit leader of the killers an infinitesimal spark of goodness shows fleetingly right at the end of the story, and this comparison with “mean” trees that sparkle illustrates the uniquely sacramental view of life O’Connor portrays through her fiction.

To get quickly to the crux of the story, we’ll only skim through the remaining portents of doom. O’Connor tells us that in the car the grandmother is dressed meticulously so that “anybody seeing her dead on the highway would know that she was a lady.” The family is not long on the journey when they pass a cotton field with five or six graves in it. “The family burying ground…that belonged to the plantation,” the Grandmother announces, and the children ask what happened to the plantation. “Gone with the wind,” the old lady tells them. They stop for a break at Red Sammy Butt’s barbecue stand and learn in passing how several days earlier, Butt’s was ripped off by three men who filled their car with gas and took off without paying. A short time later we find ourselves with the family traveling along a winding dirt road in search of an old mansion remembered by the Grandmother. The children, in an unruly display, have forced Bailey, against his better judgment, to seek out the place. The last thing Bailey wants is a detour on a dirt road and so before agreeing to search for the mansion, he warns his passengers, “this is the one and only time…we’re going to stop.” Prophetic words indeed. A short time later the Grandmother’s cat panics and springs from its basket in the back, distracting the driver, and the car crashes off the road landing right side up in a ditch. The family emerge from the partly wrecked vehicle and count the cost. The only real injury is the mother’s broken arm.

The crash has been witnessed by the Misfit and within a short time he and his two sidekicks arrive on the scene. The Grandmother makes the mistake of admitting that she recognises the Misfit and he in turn orders his sidekicks to take the mother, father and children into the woods and execute them. Left alone with the Misfit the Grandmother attempts to talk him out of killing her. She prattles on about prayer and Jesus and attempts to bribe him with all the money she’s got, causing the Misfit to respond, “there never was a body that give the undertaker a tip.” And on the subject of Jesus he continues, “Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead and He shouldn’t have done it. He thrown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness.” However, the Grandmother can’t stop prattling on until quite suddenly her head clears and she realises that both she and the Misfit are connected. They are both children of God. “Why, you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children,” she says and reaches out and touches him on the shoulder, and the Misfit retaliates by jumping up and shooting her. She had unwittingly told him the one thing he didn’t want to hear and paid for it with her life. She had touched a raw nerve and reminded the Misfit of his kinship and, by inference, his duty to all other human beings. Immediately afterward when one of his sidekicks talks about the fun they just had, the Misfit, realising the pointlessness of their actions, tells him to shut up and says, “It’s no real pleasure in life.” For the Misfit, it is the first stage on the journey of repentance. Writing about this encounter later, O’Connor said that, “The story is a duel of sorts between the Grandmother and her superficial beliefs and the Misfit’s more profoundly felt involvement with Christ’s action, which set the world off balance for him.”3

For the Misfit (or anybody for that matter) the inconvenient thing about Christianity is its all or nothing character. Christianity is either true for everybody or not true for anybody. Both stances are dogmatic. One states that Jesus Christ is God, the other denies that belief. Neither position is provable, but, if there is no such thing as a merciful God, then how can killing or murder be a crime? Isn’t murder just force? Isn’t this world merely a product of blind force? So what is the big deal? If force is supreme then surely the exercise of the greatest force would be the greatest achievement; greater by far than mercy and justice, which sit at the opposite end of the “Force” scale. If Force is supreme, then Justice is mere folly and, in conflict with Force/Natural Selection/Evolution etc, it should never have got off the ground. But first we had better define Justice. My definition is: the dignity and the freedom for each and every individual to be their unique selves. Now if Justice is really folly, there would be no moral absolutes such as the Ten Commandments and we would then have to agree with what the Misfit told the Grandmother: “If He (Christ) didn’t (raise the dead), then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness.”

Flannery O’Connor was familiar with the writings of Charles Pegúy, and with a deft touch she used fiction in “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” to echo what Pegúy’ stated in his essay “Clio I”: “You (Christianity) have eternalised everything. You have grabbed all the values on the market. And turned them all into infinite values. And now one can no longer be sure of quiet for a single moment.” 4 O’Connor often plugged this theme in various ways in her lectures, one remark being, “Redemption is meaningless unless there is a cause for it in the actual life we live,”5 and in 1959 she publicly reiterated her raison d’être saying, “I am no disbeliever in spiritual purpose and no vague believer. I see from the standpoint of Christian orthodoxy. This means that for me the meaning of life is centred in our redemption by Christ and what I see in the world I see in its relation to that.”6 The whole thrust of A Good Man Is Hard To Find is consistent with these avowals.

O’Connor had a high opinion of Dante Alighieri’s writings, especially The Divine Comedy, and she could not have overlooked the aptness of the line, “As many coals produce a single heat.”7 What a superb phrase to illumine the social role of Christianity. If we turn that meaning around and imagine the fire of Christianity cooling, all hell (quite literally) breaks loose, making it plain that Christianity should not be respected merely on account of its civilising role in history, but rather the unshakeable fact exists that the social and civil advantages gained by any State from its Christian roots have accrued as a direct consequence of the Missionary Church’s main aim of saving souls.

So, what is it like to be holy? For the individual it is to increase and enhance goodness and happiness wherever he is. It is to arrive in some situation and leave it better than when he entered it. Authentic holiness is all about wholeness, which in turn is about balance in our lives the balance of sensible things and without that balance, joy and happiness become inaccessible. O’Connor touched on this when writing to Betty Hester, “Always you renounce a lesser good for a greater; the opposite is what sin is.”8 To shy away from holiness is to veer toward sin, but, much as we may want otherwise, we human beings are incapable of leaving the transcendental alone. We’re caught in a supernatural tug-of-war; one end of the rope is good and the other end evil. We seem to be scared that holiness might somehow make us miserable, when in fact the opposite is the case, and inevitably we feel drawn to the evil end of the rope.

Flannery O’Connor’s undoubted sympathy for the Misfit in his situation is well covered by a few lines in another letter she wrote to Hester. “We are not judged by what we are basically. We are judged by how hard we use what we have been given. Success means nothing to the Lord, nor gracefulness,”9 and still later in the introduction to “A Memoir of Mary Ann” she wrote, “Most of us have learned to be dispassionate about evil. To look it in the face and find, as often as not, our own grinning reflections with which we do not argue, but good is another matter. Few have stared at that long enough to accept the fact that its face too is grotesque, that in us the good is something under construction.”10

However, as noted earlier, that infinitesimal sparkle of goodness from the Misfit shows up clearly right near the end of the story. Talking of the Grandmother he says, “She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” Note the Misfit’s use of that word good: like all of us he instinctively knows about good and evil and his comment applies to each and every one of us irrespective of gender. In other words, who would not be well behaved if there were always a loaded gun pointed at them? The threat of imminent death may be the only way some people will ever understand the deep-seated reason for being good, which is a prime aspect of the Natural Law. Such a threat surely begs the question, should people be good because of the fear of punishment or because of their love for fellow human beings? But we’re given a clue to the answer in the final line of the story where the Misfit utters those famous words showing his freely chosen change of heart, “It’s (meanness) no real pleasure in life.”

The Misfit had a rough upbringing and his behaviour had seldom conformed to the norms of middle class society. He told the Grandmother of how he had once had a “run in” with the so called Justice System (Force masquerading as Justice!), which, as everyone knows, is what governments use to tidy the frayed edges of society. The Misfit got enjoyment from hurting others because his experience of life had shown how others found enjoyment and pleasure in hurting and harming him. St Thomas Aquinas defined all evil as mistaking or misusing the means for the end.11 The Misfit did exactly that. He made enjoyment and pleasure in crime an end in itself. He thought this was his right instead of remembering that rights and duties are intertwined. His killing of someone as old and helpless as the Grandmother certainly opened his eyes and changed him and it is equally certain that the encounter changed the Grandmother as well. With one brutal stroke God’s Grace is shown to cut both ways, causing each of the protagonists to come face to face with the Mercy of God. As O’Connor said, “There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored.”12 In “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” both the Misfit and the Grandmother are portrayed (albeit covertly) as being restored to a state of grace.13 Truly, Flannery O’Connor was right when she wrote, “and the meanest of them sparkled,” because somewhere deep inside each and every one of us lies the faculty to be good; that capacity to sparkle.”

Love,
Matthew

ENDNOTES

1. Conversations With Flannery O’Connor. Rosemary Magee, ed. Mississippi: University of Mississippi Press. 107.

2. Dantesque: from Dante Alighieri 1265-1321. Italian Poet and author of The Divine Comedy. Dante frequently used sacramental imagery.

3. “Letter to Mr. .” Flannery O’Connor: Collected Works. New York: Library of America, 1988. 1148.

4. Pegúy Charles 1874-1914. French Poet and Thinker. “Clio I” extract from Temporal and Eternal. English edition. Harvil Press, 1954.

5. “The Fiction Writer And His Country.” Flannery O’Connor: Collected Works. New York: Library of America, 1988. 805.

6. Ibid Pages 804-5

7. Dante Alighieri. The Divine Comedy. “Paradiso.” Canto 19: line 19.

8. “Letter to A.” Flannery O’Connor: Collected Works. New York: Library of America, 1988. 978.

9. Ibid Page 1082

10. “A Memoir of Mary Ann.” Flannery O’Connor: Collected Works. New York: Library of America, 1988. 830.

11. The aspect of good is found chiefly in the end: and therefore the end stands in the relation of object to the act of the will, which is at the root of every sin. (St Thomas Aquinas: cf. Summa Theologica, 2.1.72.1, “reply to objection 1”) Put simply this states, “All evil exists in the mistaking or misusing of the means for the end.” (Hilaire Belloc: “The Cruise of The Nona.”) Flannery O’Connor studied Thomas Aquinas.

12. “The Grotesque in Southern Fiction” Flannery O’Connor: Collected Works. New York: Library of America, 1988. 820.

13. State of Grace: The state of being reconciled with God in His Mercy.

Confession: 6 effects


-by Br Joseph Martin Hagan, OP

“The Catechism lists six spiritual effects of the sacrament of penance (CCC 1496). For a more fruitful reception of this sacrament, let’s briefly examine each one.

Effect #1: Reconciliation with God by which the penitent recovers grace

This first effect reveals the real horror of sin. By mortal sin, we separate ourselves from God and refuse His grace. By Confession, we are reunited with God. God dwells in us through grace, and by that grace, our souls magnify the Lord. And should we have sinned only in small, venial ways, the sacrament of Penance wipes those away too.

Effect #2: Reconciliation with the Church

Sin also separates us from the Church. This separation is often experienced on a very basic level. Sin pulls us away from our families. It isolates us from our friends. It sours our relationships at work. By Confession, God restores us to the Church. We return to our families and friends with more love to give.  (Ed. to the Catholic mind, sin, even private, personal sin, is never solely, strictly a private, personal matter.  Its effects redound to the eternal public, communal detriment of the public community, believer or not, even if only known objectively and secretly to the sinner, or penitent and his/her confessor, unless resolved in the sacrament solely through the redeeming sacrice of Jesus Christ crucified..  Sin dis-integrates.  His grace integrates.)

Effect #3: Remission of the eternal punishment incurred by mortal sins

By mortal sin, we condemn ourselves to hell. Thankfully, through Confession, God freely pardons this punishment. It would be wrong to imagine that God is stingy with such a pardon. As our loving, merciful Father, He delights in pardoning us. He even gives us the very grace to draw us to Confession. At the words of absolution (“I absolve you…”), all the angels and saints rejoice at this remission. They await our entrance to the heavenly banquet.

Effect #4: Remission, at least in part, of temporal punishments resulting from sin

By our sins, whether venial or mortal, we suffer in this present life. Every sin contains some disorder, and this disorder is the sin’s own punishment. If I overindulge my desire for cheese, I’ll soon feel quite uncomfortable. God usually allows us to drink these dregs of our own folly, especially when we are unrepentant. When we humble ourselves and confess, God remits this punishment, at least in part. Whether we choose the easy way or the hard way, God wants to teach us how to love.

Effect #5: Peace and serenity of conscience and spiritual consolation

Many think of devout Catholics as harboring guilt complexes. Such a caricature ignores the power of Confession. This sacrament truly brings peace, even if unfelt in the moment. Anecdotally, it is the repeated experience of the faithful that we leave Confession light-hearted, joyful, and renewed in God’s love.

Effect #6: An increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle

Whether we recognize it or not, the Christian life is a battle. We all fight our inner old man, certain of whose tendencies linger after our baptism. Everyday, we are tempted to forget the true God, to use our neighbors, and to seek our selfish pleasure. In this daily battle, even the saints stumble and fall, even if only in small ways. Confession forgives these failures, and it also strengthens us to overcome vices with virtue. Ultimately, Christ is the true victor. He is our strength. He is our salvation.”

Love & prayers,
Matthew

Eucharist

-from Catholic Answers: 20 Answers – The Eucharist

“Nearly all Christians celebrate some form of the Eucharist by consuming bread and wine in memory of Christ’s death and Resurrection. Protestants usually refer to the Eucharist as the Lord’s Supper and do not believe that Christ is physically present in the bread and wine at their services or at the Catholic Mass. The various Protestant views on this sacrament can be found along this continuum:

Rejection of the sacrament: Some denominations do not celebrate the Eucharist. For example, the Salvation Army is usually known for its charity work but it is actually a self-proclaimed Christian denomination. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, “Catherine Booth, the influential wife of the founder [of the Salvation Army], admired the piety and practices of Quakers, who did not perform baptisms or Communion rites. In keeping with the Salvation Army’s theology of sanctification—the Holy Spirit active in the lives of holy people—she saw all of life as sacramental. Although he did not prohibit the sacraments, William Booth declared in 1883 that the rites would not be endorsed as official worship of the Army.”

A memorial dinner: This view is common among Baptists and other “born-again” Christians. According to one Baptist writer, “the Supper functions as proclamation, the presence of Christ in the indwelling Spirit not only assures forgiveness through the Word; he also convicts of unbiblical patterns of life and thought.” According to this view, the Eucharist is a sign that points us to Christ, but Christ is not present in the Eucharist. Instead, Christ is present in the “indwelling Spirit” of the believer who receives the Eucharist.

A real, nonphysical presence: The Reformed tradition observed by Presbyterians holds that Christ is actually present in the Eucharist, but not in a physical way. In 1647, the Westminster Confession of Faith, a popular confession made by those in the Reformed tradition, said that “Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually [emphasis added], receive and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death.” This can be considered a “conduit view,” since Christ’s body isn’t located in the bread and wine but is instead made manifest through them.

A sacramental union: In contrast to the Reformed position, Martin Luther held a stronger position on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He claimed that the bread and wine exist in the Eucharist in a natural state while the body and blood of Christ exist in those same objects in a supernatural state. According to Luther, “Why then should we not much more say in the Supper, ‘This is my body,’ even though bread and body are two distinct substances, and the word ‘this’ indicates the bread? Here, too, out of two kinds of objects a union has taken place, which I shall call a ‘sacramental union,’ because Christ’s body and the bread are given to us as a sacrament.” In other words, the consecrated bread and wine fully contain Christ’s body and blood, but they do not become Christ’s body and blood.

A physical change: The Catholic view of the Eucharist is different than the Protestant views because Catholics believe that the bread and wine at Mass actually become the physical body and blood of Christ. After consecration, the bread and wine no longer remain, and in their place is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. The Council of Trent taught that in the Eucharist there is a change “of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood.”

Eastern Orthodox churches hold the same view of the Eucharist as Catholics, but they sometimes use different vocabulary when describing the physical change from bread and wine into body and blood. Because Eastern Orthodox priests retain valid holy orders despite not being in union with the pope, and because they also subscribe to a belief in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, a Catholic in an emergency situation (e.g., in danger of death) may receive the Eucharist at an Orthodox service (see Question 14).

The Salvation Army cannot be considered a Christian denomination because it does not teach that its members should be baptized. The New Testament makes it clear that baptism is what brings us into God’s family and takes away original sin (1 Pet. 3:21, John 3:5, Rom. 6, and so on). Even Protestant denominations that deny baptismal regeneration usually still baptize because Jesus commanded that this be done (Matt. 28:19).”

Love,
Matthew

Penance?


-The reproach of Nathan and the penance of King David (Paris Psalter, folio 136v, 10th century). (Please click on the image for greater detail.)

-from Catholic Answers “20 Answers: Salvation

“The value of Christ’s self-offering on the cross was infinite—more than enough to pay for all the sins of mankind. But it seems that, even after God has forgiven the eternal consequences of our sins and restored our relationship with Him, He wants us to experience some negative consequences.

It’s rather like the situation in a family. When a child misbehaves, there need to be consequences. If parents simply told the child that he’s forgiven and never applied any discipline then the child would never learn his lesson. That’s why children hear their parents say things like, “It’s okay. I forgive you. But you’re still grounded.”

The Bible uses the image of parental discipline to express how God relates to us as his children. The book of Hebrews tells us that “the Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6). It also tells us that he “disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness” (Heb. 12:10).

So even when we’ve become children of God and been forgiven, God still disciplines us. He allows us to experience some consequences for our sins so that we may grow in holiness.

That’s why we do penance. It’s a way of embracing discipline, of learning to do it, to internalize it, and it builds strength and self-control for the future. If we learn how to say no to ourselves as part of penance, we’ll be better able to say no to temptations in the future.

The idea that Christians shouldn’t do penance because Christ died for their sins is not found in the Bible. In fact, Christ Himself expected us to do penance.

At one point, Jesus was asked why His disciples did not fast—fasting being a form of penance—and He said that they would in the future. He compared Himself to the bridegroom at a wedding and His disciples to the wedding guests. Jesus pointed out that it’s not appropriate to fast at a wedding celebration, but He went on to say, “The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day” (Mark 2:20).

He expected fasting, and thus penance, to be a regular part of Christian practice. That’s why, in the Sermon on the Mount, He told the disciples, “when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites” (Matt. 6:16).

Notice that He doesn’t say, “if you fast” but “when you fast.” He expects us to fast, and He gives instructions on how to do it.

In the book of Acts, we see the early Christians putting this into practice. St. Paul’s commission to missionary work occurred after he and other church leaders “were worshiping the Lord and fasting” (Acts 13:2), and later Paul appointed elders “in every church, with prayer and fasting” (Acts 14:23).

Fasting is also mentioned in early Christian writings outside the New Testament. For example, the Didache indicates that it was common for first-century Christians to fast twice a week. The Didache states, “And let not your fastings be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and the fifth day of the week [i.e., Monday and Thursday]; but keep your fast on the fourth and on the preparation day [i.e., Wednesday and Friday]” (Didache 8:1-2).

By voluntarily embracing fasting and other forms of penance, we embrace spiritual discipline that will, as the book of Hebrews says, help us grow in holiness. And that’s one of the reasons why, even though Christ died for us, we still do penance.

Penance also provides us with an opportunity to express sorrow for our sins. We have an innate need to mourn when something tragic has occurred, and that includes our own sins.

The fact that we have been forgiven does not remove this need to mourn any more than the fact that a man’s wife may be in heaven means that he doesn’t need to mourn her death.

Both sin and death are tragedies, and while forgiveness and salvation mean that they do not have the last word, we still need to grieve. To insist that a person not feel or show any grief for them would be unnatural, and would short-circuit natural responses that God built into us. There is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccles. 3:4).”

Love, my favorite penance is PATIENCE!!!!  ARRRRGH!!!!!! & HOLDING MY TONGUE!!!!!  ARRRGH!!!! 🙁
Matthew

advice for a new Catholic

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-by Rachel Lu,

“It’s an especially happy Easter for the Lu family this year, since a near and dear relative of mine came into the Church at the Easter Vigil. Eleven years into my Catholic life, I am no longer the only Catholic in my natal family. God is good.

In light of that, I’ve been reflecting on the topic of conversion, and what I as his sponsor really ought to convey. Since everyone’s life is a bit different, it’s hard to know what will really help. Even so, generating advice for neophytes is a healthy exercise in self-evaluation. What have I learned in my time so far as a Catholic? I made a list of the most important things, and would encourage others to make theirs, if only to reflect on where we might improve.

The first and most important thing I would say is that the repeatable sacraments are the bread and butter of Catholic life. No matter what else happens you must keep going to Mass, and to Confession. If you’re in a rut and they don’t seem to be helping, carry on anyway. If you’re busy, make time for it. Every kind of moral and spiritual problem can be worked out over time with the help of God’s grace. But if you discontinue these practices, you are spiritually starving yourself.  (Ed. where is your faith?  Trust Him always!  He will provide.  Assume the position of anticipation, reception, patience and trust.  Trust.  He will gloriously provide in ways we could NOT imagine!  He ALWAYS does.  He always does.  His timing NOT ours!!!  His!!!  Trust not in your own devices or wisdom! (Ps 143:6)  Trust Him!!!  ALWAYS.  ALL WAYS.  Praise Him, Church!  Praise Him.)

Don’t worry too much if you initially feel like you’re “going through the motions” in your sacramental life. Seasoned Catholics sometimes feel this way too, but over time we come to understand that sacraments go on working in our lives in ways we can’t immediately appreciate. Partly, that’s because grace is mysterious.  AMEN!  AMEN!  (Thinking you know it all, or adhering obsessively to ONLY the humanly quantifiable, is a sure way to prevent/resist it!  HUMBLE YOURSELF BEFORE THE LORD!!!!  Ps 51:17  Do NOT DEMAND HIs Presence or action, but patiently await His gifts.  Kings grant their gifts in their own way, in their own time!  Not under duress, or from demands of subjects/sinners!  Allow for the possibility of His love, His grace.  It will come much more swiftly and dramatically to you.  I promise!!  Be careful what you pray for!!  That Holy Spirit is POWERFUL, POWERFUL!!!  And, subtle as the whisper or the breeze. (1Kgs 19:13)  Just ask St Paul.)  🙂  But also, the Church has a lot more wisdom than most people realize. AMEN!  AMEN!  

Sacraments were filling deep human needs long before psychologists made up fancy terms for them. Modern people are inclined to lose heart if it doesn’t feel like their worship is sufficiently “authentic.” They should stop worrying so much. AMEN!  AMEN!  THE CHURCH UNDERSTANDS better than you do what is happening in your soul when you follow her advice. Think of her as a spiritual life coach, whose self-improvement program has an excellent track record of helping people over the long run.  (Or, the Instrument, the Bride of Christ on Earth!!!  His Spouse, as I prefer, as is more traditional!!!)

Confession especially can be quite awkward in the beginning. It’s also often disappointing if you’re expecting cinematic moments of stunning sacerdotal insight. (cheap parlor trick grace?  this is your god?  I pity you, truly. 🙁 ) (This, of course, is what the movies lead us to expect.)

Realistically, we probably shouldn’t see the confessional as a regular vehicle for external spiritual direction. (It has a more utilitarian focus, namely, the forgiveness of your sins.  And, there’s a line waiting behind you!)  Some priests really do have a kind of charism for it, and there are innumerable stories of penitents receiving a much-needed word at precisely the right time, enabling them to turn their lives around. It’s certainly good to make oneself available to that kind of grace. But it isn’t simply available on demand, and most of the time you’ll hear something brief, like a Bible verse or a quick platitude (“keep trying!”), followed by a penance and absolution. Don’t be disappointed. The priest has a lot to do and he doesn’t even know who you are.

My early confessions felt like awkward bean counting. Over time though, the regimen of regular confession completely changed my interior life. Sometimes bad habits get nipped in the bud just because I feel shame at the thought I might need to confess them.

I’m painfully aware of which sins are “my regulars,” (You can root out your “regulars”, too, if you are truly serious about it, and we ALL SHOULD BE, we should.  That is NOT to say, we can make ourselves sinless in this life by our own power.  We must let Him be God.  Makes sense, because He is.  His will, His way, even, especially when we do not understand why, especially then, trust, trust, trust.  Because of our fallen nature, sinner that I am, I will sin, again.  But, the power of His grace is AWESOME!!!  DON’T try harder.  Cooperate with grace!!  THIS IS GOD, we’re talking about, here!! If drugs are your problem, or such, STOP taking drugs!!!  Throw away in the trash where neither you nor anyone else can retrieve, EVER!!!  If you ARE going to repeat this sin, again, make it as expensive, and difficult to do so, as humanly possible.  Give yourself a chance, in a temporal way, at least.  Be practical.  Be real.  Deal.  Either you will, or you won’t.  Either way you & God will know the truth.  He ALWAYS DOES!!!  My money’s on God.  Sorry self, not really.  No more self-deception.  No more equivocating.  No more bullshitting yourself & God.  None!!!  Then trust, trust, trust, pray, pray, pray, love, love, love Him, more.  Rinse, and repeat, until He gives you the strength to be sober, to live soberly, and DO HIS WILL!!!  Let Him come to you!!  How sweet, how refreshing, how placid, it is, when He does.  🙂  I promise.  I do.  Literally, as God is my witness!!  I have benefitted.  I have.  I swear.) and at the same time, it often happens during my examination of conscience that I become unexpectedly aware of some failing that I hadn’t even noticed.  (Don’t be neurotic.  Be honest.  Be open.  Love Him more.  It will be easy, because you know He does.)

The most important thing to understand, though, is that confession is not about wallowing in guilt. Quite the contrary, it provides a healthy outlet for channeling justified guilt towards genuine moral growth. Instead of wallowing in an aimless sense of shame and inadequacy, Catholics put themselves on a sacramental “diet” that gives structure to our efforts at moral improvement. As with other healthy life habits, the typical result is less debilitating guilt, not more.

Now that you are Catholic, draw strength from the realization that you are part of an enormous family. It includes the saints in Heaven. It includes the suffering souls in Purgatory. It includes all 1.2 billion of us here in the Church Militant today… and you’re stuck with us. The Church is like the Hotel California that way. (?, uh…ok, whatever.  You get those “moments”, “expressions”, when dealing with the Holy Spirit.  It’s weird.  It is.  Get used to it.  Just roll with it.  It’ll be all good.  🙂

You can be a good Catholic or a bad Catholic, but nobody gets evicted. What is done CANNOT be undone! The mark on your soul is INDELIBLE!!!  (Yay!!!) 🙂

In that spirit, try not to pay too much attention to Church politics. Catholic politics is, well, politics. Unless your profession requires it, you probably don’t need to obsess about it, and there are much more edifying ways to immerse yourself in the faith. But whatever you do, don’t trust journalists to educate you about Catholicism. Far too many Catholics take their cues from the ordinary media instead of their priests and bishops, the Catechism, the saints, reliable historians and theologians, and the wealth of faithfully Catholic media sources. AMEN!

Journalists, as a rule, are as ignorant as they are hostile when it comes to Catholicism. Living in an information age, we have lots of fantastic resources to help us increase our understanding. The New York Times and Huffington Post aren’t among them. Don’t trust anything they tell you about our faith (or any other).

Finally, cherish the realization that your Catholic faith anchors you in something far bigger than you, or the year 2016, or the United States of America, or even the whole world. This may sometimes cause you trouble. Christ has already warned us of that. But fear not! He has conquered the world.(Jn 16:33)”

“Inquire not simply where the Lord’s house is, for the sects of the profane also make an attempt to call their own dens the houses of the Lord; nor inquire merely where the church is, but where the Catholic Church is. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Body, the Mother of all, which is the Spouse of Our Lord Jesus Christ” (Catecheses, xviii, 26). St Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386 AD)

Love & Great Welcome!!!,
Matthew

Renewing Devotion to the Eucharist

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Life wears us down. It is this fact which can lead directly to despondency with regards to the Eucharist, the Church, the Christian life, the via Crucis each of us must walk in our own lives.

I recently became aware of the book by Rev. Timothy Radcliffe, OP, “What is the Point of Being Christian?”. I have yet to purchase and read, but one line in one review was a spark.

Radcliffe describes Christ on the Cross as the One Who bore in His own body all the violence that human beings turn against each other, the pettiness, the dysfunction, as we may well be intellectually aware of already from childhood catechetics. Lived experience of fifty years gives new, new meaning to that fact. It does. It does. Christ bore in Himself, His Body, the Eucharist, directly, immediately, literally all the sin in human history – that which might discourage us, immediately, directly about the Eucharist, truly His Body.

So for me receiving the Eucharist is no longer, pardon, getting in line because I am not conscious of grave/mortal sin, and going up because everyone else is, but, rather, the recognition, divinely so, so beautifully, poignantly, by the Divine, Himself, through His Very Own Passion, of all that might discourage me, ultimately, from receiving Him in the Eucharist. Okay. I like That, NEED THAT, REALLY, even more now! I get it, and needed to. Praise Him!!!!! Thank, God, literally for the Eucharist!!!! No, no “symbol” would ever do!!!

Quickly! Hurry! Give me my Jesus directly!!!! Yes, Lord!! Yes!!! I NEED to receive!!!! I NEED Him. NEED Him.

Love,
Matthew

The Real Presence 2

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an excerpt from an article by Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, (Daughters of St Paul) a former atheist who, thanks to the grace of God, has returned to the faith she was raised in and now tries to help others bring their loved ones back to the faith. A few years after returning to the Church, she heard God calling her, so she left her job in Silicon Valley to join the Daughters of St. Paul. She now lives in Miami, where she prays, evangelizes, bakes bread, and blogs.

“I know a man who converted from Hinduism, and when he shares his conversion story he says, “All of the Hindu stories about God becoming incarnate are something that humans would make up. They were odd, but they were filled with human reasoning. The story of Christ is too strange to have been invented by humans.

Today, for the first time, I was a Eucharistic minister to our elderly sisters during Mass. While the priest gives the Eucharist to the able-bodied sisters, we have one sister who usually goes around to the nuns who are unable to walk in the communion line. I had heard from the Eucharistic ministers that this is a coveted job in the convent but I never really understood why. Until today.

As I walked around to the older sisters sitting in their wheelchairs and leaning on their canes, I realized that here, in front of my eyes, were the people I had always expected to join me to crowd around Jesus. These women understand that Jesus is a rock star. As I neared them, the sisters would lean toward me as if I were about to hand them their first meal in weeks. Their eyes lit up with joy.

One sister, appropriately named Sr. Charitas, is barely able to communicate because of serious Parkinson’s. But when I approached her, she looked up at me and her face became a smile. All of it. Her entire face. Her smile pierced my soul.

Sr. Augusta, who is a young 99 years old, has serious dementia and often forgets that she has received the Eucharist. Sometimes you can hear her minutes after she has received, asking a sister next to her, “Have I received yet?”

Sure enough, today when I passed by her for a second time after giving her Jesus, she looked at me expectantly. I shook my head to tell her that she already received. She looked disappointed. I realized that her illness may affect how she sees reality but in some ways her world is more real than mine. She has a real thirst for the eternal liturgy of heaven.

To her, we were made for union with Jesus.

We are made for union with the real rock star of the world.

Every minute of every day.”

Love, and begging for union with my Jesus, every minute of every day, may it be mercifully so, Lord!
Matthew

The Real Presence

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“As two pieces of wax fused together make one, so he who receives Holy Communion is so united with Christ that Christ is in him and he is in Christ.” —St. Cyril of Alexandria

I have to tell you, sadly, ever so sadly, the ubiquity, online at least, and I am sure in person mirrors exactly, of Catholics who are ever so quick and witty and apparently theologically gifted and well-trained living saints (you have to be a saint to be a doctor of the Church) and doctors of the Church and strident to judge another soul’s worthiness of receiving Him is scandalous to me as a life-long Catholic; you fellow sinners, you scribes and Pharisees. Grievously scandalous, it is. I pray upon my and their deaths, our Lord is not so quick to as they do note others’ unworthiness. I pray. Lord, have mercy on me, for I am a sinful man! Depart from me, Lord! For what sinner can remain in Your presence and live? Theresa Noble got the same treatment, you may read. Shame, shame, shame on you. None of us is ever worthy!!! Or, ever will be!! Domine!!! Non sum dignus!!!

theresa_noble_fsp
an excerpt from an article by Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, (Daughters of St Paul) a former atheist who, thanks to the grace of God, has returned to the faith she was raised in and now tries to help others bring their loved ones back to the faith. A few years after returning to the Church, she heard God calling her, so she left her job in Silicon Valley to join the Daughters of St. Paul. She now lives in Miami, where she prays, evangelizes, bakes bread, and blogs.

“…One day while I was wandering around, I noticed that the main church at the center of the campus was bustling with people. I saw a man with billowing white robes standing outside.*

I was intrigued. I knew he must be a priest of some sort but I had been away from the Church for too long to understand much else. (Isn’t it kind of funny how intelligent, educated people feel that learning even the most basic things about Catholicism are beneath them?) Anyway, I looked at his face.

He was young, handsome and really happy.

I stood there gaping at him for much longer than is socially acceptable. “Strange.” I thought. I stepped into the church, half expecting sirens to go off.

“Warning. Warning. Atheist in the church. Warning. Warning.”

But nothing happened. A lady smiled at me warmly.

I took a seat in the back of the Church, near the door. I figured I would stay just for a few minutes. But the moment I entered the Church, I felt a Presence. It was not the presence of the other people; I could physically locate this Presence. It overwhelmed everything else in the room. It was like a giant magnet drawing me toward the area of the altar. I kept looking in that direction. I saw the tabernacle and my formerly Catholic mind registered the fact that these people believed that God resided there. I pushed that thought away. But the Presence did not go away.

When it came time for Communion, I considered sitting in my seat. “I don’t believe this stuff,” I reasoned. But I went up.

All the while, my head and my heart were ferociously at war.
I received Communion and as I did I remembered a friend of mine who had told me about the time one of her friends went to a Catholic funeral and received Communion, not knowing what it was or what she was doing. When she got back to her seat, she thought, “I must not be meant to eat this, it tastes like cardboard!” So she took the Eucharist out of her mouth and put it on the bottom of her seat like a wad of gum.** I remember my friend laughing when she told me the story. I did not believe in God at the time so I should have found it funny. But I only felt sick to my stomach, terror, and a deep sadness. All of these memories rushed into my mind, overwhelming it for a moment.

When I got home my boyfriend asked me, “What were you doing?”

I told him I went to Mass.

He looked shocked.

“Why?”

My head responded, “The traditions soothe me, it is like a lullaby…but I don’t believe any of it.”

As I said this my heart began beating wildly.***

* Several years later I met the man I had seen with the billowing white robes outside the church that day. He is now a Dominican priest and we are godparents to a beautiful little girl named Theresa.
**This is hopefully motivation for any priests reading this to verbally instruct Mass goers on proper reception of the Eucharist at funerals and weddings and other similar events.
***It would be several years before I would do things right and formally return to the Church. But it would be just months before I began to believe in God again. I can only believe that my recognition of the Presence on that fateful day was a seed planted that would eventually break the hardened earth around my heart on the day of my conversion.

Love, and always praying for the grace to more fully realize His Presence,
Matthew