“In the eighth century AD, a Basilian monk was saying Mass in the Church of St. Legontian in modern-day Lanciano, Italy. As he was saying Mass, he doubted the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. After the consecration of the bread and wine into the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ, the host became Flesh and the wine became Blood.
The Eucharist is a twofold miracle. First, bread and wine are substantially changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ at the consecration during Mass. Second, the presence of Jesus Christ is veiled behind the accidents (the taste, shape, smell, etc.) of bread and wine. At the miracle of Lanciano, the veil that normally shrouds the Real Presence was lifted, the accidents of the bread and wine departed, and the substance of Jesus Christ—His Body and Blood—were seen.
The Flesh and Blood were kept safe for many centuries and were investigated by the Vatican on a number of occasions. In the 1970s, two scientists, professors Odoardo Linoli and Ruggero Bertelli, examined the Flesh. They determined a number of things. The Flesh was that of a human, and it was specifically heart tissue. They also found that the blood type was AB (the same found on the Shroud of Turin). The fact that the Flesh and Blood have lasted through so many centuries is a miracle in and of itself.
What can this tell us about the Sacred Heart and the Eucharist? Namely, that devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is oriented to the Eucharist. The miracle of Lanciano tells us that we receive the very heart of Christ when we receive the Eucharist at Holy Communion. The heart is one of the most vital organs of the body. Thus, when we receive Jesus, we receive His very heart with which He loves us and calls us to follow Him. It is clear from Sacred Scripture, and indeed from various Eucharistic miracles, that when one thinks of the Sacred Heart, they should also be thinking of the Eucharist.
In the Passion narrative in the Gospel of John, we read, “But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out (John 19:33–34). Many of the Church Fathers have made an allegorical connection between the blood and water that flowed from the heart of Christ and the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. In his Commentary on the Gospel of John, St. Thomas Aquinas does a good job of summarizing this:
This happened to show that by the passion of Christ we acquire a complete cleansing from our sins and stains. We are cleansed from our sins by His blood, which is the price of our redemption: you know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things, such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Pet. 1:18). And we are cleansed from our stains by the water, which is the bath of our rebirth: I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you will be clean from all your filthiness (Ezek. 36:25); on that day there will be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness (Zech. 13:1). And so it is these two things which are especially associated with two sacraments: water with the sacrament of baptism, and blood with the Eucharist. Or, both blood and water are associated with the Eucharist because in this sacrament water is mixed with wine, although water is not of the substance of the sacrament.
The sacrament of Baptism is the most important sacrament not only because it washes us of original sin and makes us members of the Mystical Body of Christ, but also because it is the gateway to the rest of the sacraments. Without Baptism, one cannot receive any of the other sacraments. But once one has received Baptism, they must continue to be nourished with spiritual food. The sacrament of the Eucharist is that nourishment, and it flows directly from the heart of Christ on the cross.
Again, the Gospel of John offers us another insight into the Sacred Heart when John the Evangelist rests on the heart of Christ at the Last Supper: “He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to Him, ‘Master, who is it?’” (John 13:25 NABRE). Aquinas also offers insight into this passage:
As for the mystical interpretation, we can see from this that the more a person wants to grasp the secrets of divine wisdom, the more he should try to get closer to Christ, according to: come to Him and be enlightened (Ps. 34:5). For the secrets of divine wisdom are especially revealed to those who are joined to God by love: He shows His friend that it is His possession (Job 36:33); His friend comes and searches into Him (Prov. 18:17).
It is said that St. Thomas Aquinas would go to the tabernacle and rest His head against it as if he was resting his head against the heart of Christ. In a General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “In speaking of the sacraments, St. Thomas reflects in a special way on the Mystery of the Eucharist, for which he had such great devotion, the early biographers claim, that he would lean His head against the Tabernacle, as if to feel the throbbing of Jesus’ divine and human heart.”
We too can rest on the heart of Christ—in Eucharistic Adoration. So many of the saints have recommended this practice, and the benefits are innumerable. It is in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that the Sacred Heart of Jesus speaks with, comforts, and guides us along our life’s journey to fulfilling His will. If we wish to remain close to the Sacred Heart of Christ, we must remain close to the Eucharist.”
“The nature of marriage has been a subject of much discussion and debate over the last couple of decades. Receiving somewhat less attention are the differences among religions over marriage, particularly the differences between Islam and Christianity. In many respects, Islam and Christianity share a common view of the importance of marriage, but there are some significant differences that all Christians should understand.
The Catholic faith teaches that marriage is an unbreakable bond between a man and a woman. The foundations for this understanding can be found in both the Old and New Testaments:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” . . . Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen. 1:27-28, 2:24).
Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church (Eph. 5:28-33).
The Catechism builds upon God’s call to this fruitful, loved-filled, and unbreakable bond:
The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament (1601).
Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” The woman, “flesh of his flesh,” his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a “helpmate”; she thus represents God, from whom comes our help (CCC 1605a).
To Catholics, marriage between baptized persons is a sacrament, which has the meaning of oath or covenant. This covenant bond is a lifelong exchange of persons with God as witness. This exchange forms the basis for a community of love that reflects the sacrificial and holy love God has for his people and is ordered for the good of the man and woman and toward the begetting and education of children. We heed Christ’s words—“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:9)—so, after a baptized couple consummates a validly contracted marriage, it is impossible to break that union except by death. (Non-sacramental marriages, where one or both spouses are unbaptized, are also ordinarily indissoluble except in certain rare cases.)
Like Christianity, Islam values marriage as an important institution for the building of family and society and an integral part of salvation. Various hadiths (traditional religious sayings) bear this out. For example: “There is no foundation that has been built in Islam more loved by Allah . . . than marriage. . . . Allah loves no permissible like marriage, and Allah hates no permissible like divorce” (Mustadrak al-Wasa’il). “Whoever gets married has safeguarded half of his religion” (Wasa’il al-Shia).
The Quran and tradition give further guidance and reasons to marry:
And marry off the single among you and among the righteous of your male and female slaves. If they are poor then Allah will supply their needs from his generosity. And Allah is expansive, knowing. And let those who do not find marriage hold back until Allah grants them of his generosity (Quran 24:32-33).
O young people! Whoever among you can marry, should marry, because it helps him lower his gaze and guard his modesty, and whoever is not able to marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual desire” (Sahih al-Bukhari).
Whoever chooses to follow my tradition must get married and produce offspring through marriage (and increase the population of Muslims), so that on the Day of Resurrection, I shall confront other Ummah (nations) with the (great) numbers of my Ummah (Wasa’il al-Shia).
Marriage is so important within Islam that no other option is recognized as praiseworthy. Unlike Catholics, who view celibacy for the sake of the kingdom as a high calling, Muslims see the permanent celibate life as unnatural, given men’s sexual needs and the community’s need to grow. Muslims are encouraged to marry early in life in order to avoid forbidden sexual relations (known as zina).
The Arabic word most often associated with marriage is nikah, which means “contract.” A widely quoted definition from influential Salafi cleric Ibn ‘Uthaimin states that marriage is “a mutual contract between a man and a woman whose goal is for each to enjoy the other, become a pious family and a sound society.”
Now, a contract is a promise regarding an exchange of goods. A Muslim marital contract is brokered between two men—the husband-to-be and a representative for the wife-to-be. The contract stipulates the exchange of a mahr, or “bride price,” in exchange for the woman’s hand. It dictates that married life be conducted in accordance with the Quran and requires consent by the woman and two witnesses.
The first and most common category of marriage is the nikah between one man and one woman. A second category, though, is called a nikah mut’ah, or temporary marriage. This type of “marriage” is common in Shia Islam and is designed to make otherwise illicit sexual acts licit by a short-term legal arrangement. Although most Sunni Muslims reject nikah mut’ah, they accept nikah misyar, in which both prospective husband and wife agree to give up certain normal marital rights, like living together, equality between wives, rights to income, and rights of homekeeping, in order to be married. This can be understood as a middle ground between a nikah and a nikah mut’ah.
In addition to these different types of marriage, in Islam, one man can have multiple wives and contract several different types of marriages at the same time. “And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four” (Quran 4:3). This verse and others like it condone polygynous relationships (between one man and multiple women—but not one woman and multiple men). Men are allowed to marry up to four women, provided that they can treat them all equally (see Quran 4:129).
Classically, Muslim men were also allowed to conduct sexual relations with their female slaves, a practice that was brought back recently by ISIS and is found in the Quran: “And they who guard their private parts except from their wives and those their right hands possess [concubines] . . . they will not be blamed” (23:6).
Divorce by either party is allowable within Islam, though it is discouraged. “And when you divorce women and they fulfil their term [of their ‘Iddah, or post-divorce waiting period], either keep them according to reasonable terms or release them according to reasonable terms, and do not keep them, intending harm, to transgress [against them]” (Quran 2:231).
If either party violates the conditions of the signed marital contract or if they have irreconcilable differences, they can obtain a wide variety of types of divorces: from khul’ (mutual contractual divorce initiated by the wife) to talaq (a variety of simple ways for the husband to repudiate the wife, usually requiring a waiting period before the divorce is finalized) to three different types of divorce oaths and finally judicial divorce. Historically, this last right was given to men only, but recently, in some places, women have been given the right to divorce as well.
So although from a distance Christian and Muslim marriages may look a lot alike, there are major differences. Marital contracts within Islam elevate marriage above the mundane while allowing for the reality of man’s frailty, but Islam’s allowance for multiple wives, temporary sexual arrangements, and partial forms of marriage expose a baser contractual view of marriage that falls far short of God’s plan for lifelong covenantal relationships.”
-Islamic marriage contract, please click on the image for greater detail
“Marriage in Islam
The institution of marriage and family is pivotal in Middle East societies, both ancient and modern; perhaps the biblical genealogy of the Old Testament is an indication of this fact. Marriage practices, customs and traditions evolved throughout many thousands of years in this central part of the ancient world.
When the Divine Message of Islam was revealed in the sixth century AD, it was a revolutionary reformation of all aspects of human life: economic, social, and political, and of course religious. Among these was the reformation of marriage practices that prevailed in the pre-Islamic times or ages of ignorance (Al-Gahiliah). These reformations included: limiting the number of wives a man can marry to only four after it was unlimited; allowing women to carry their own family name, and have their financial independence, because they were allowed to trade in their own name and maintain their wealth separate from the husband.
Perhaps marriage in Islam is best described in the following two verses from the Holy Quran, the words of the All Mighty:
“And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Undoubtedly in these are signs for those who reflect.” (30:21)
“And Allah has made for you wives of your own kind, and has made for you, from your wives, sons and grandsons, and has bestowed on you good provision. Do they then believe in false deities and deny the Favors of Allah” (by not worshipping Allah Alone). An Nahl, 72
Please note the emphasis in the first verse on love and mercy, and on the family in the second verse. This in itself was an important reformation, indicating the necessity of Divine guidance as to the very basic elements of successful marriage, and successful human love, and the family.
Islamic marriage laws together with the inheritance laws regulate the relationships in the basic unit of the human society, the family, in a manner that promotes fairness and dignity, as well as the emotional needs of both the woman and the man and all members of the extended family: in-laws and siblings. So Marriage laws in Islam, while they regulate the relation between men and women in a perfect balance, also foster the preservation and welfare of a healthy relationship in the immediate and the extended family, and in society as a whole.
In Islam, marriages are not considered to be ‘made in heaven’ between ‘soul-mates’ destined for each other; they are not sacraments. They are social contracts which bring rights and obligations to both parties, and can only be successful when these are mutually respected and cherished.
It is interesting to note that in most western countries including Australia modern marriage laws adopted the principles of the Islamic Marriages as a social contracts and departed from the 13th century ideas of marriage as sacraments. In fact the system of marriages registration and marriage celebrants was developed in the ninth century Egypt by the Fatimid’s.
Islamic Contract of Marriage:
In Islam marriage is a formal agreement or a contract (Aqqd Azwag, Aqqed Alqran or Nikah) between a woman and a man, which creates the marital relationship. A marriage contract has a number of essential conditions, and also it can include special conditions that the two parties may wish to include and agree upon.
The Prophet (SAW) said that marriage is the most favored institution by Allah (SWT). As such it is the most important agreement a Muslim will enter into in his life.
The formal conditions or requirements for a valid marriage are as follows:
The Offer and Acceptance (Al Ijaab Wa Qboul):
1.1. The essential requirement of the contract is the Offering and Acceptance known as Ijaab and Qabool. These statements verify the mutual agreement of the parties concerned and create the marriage relationship.
1.2. The Ijaab and qabool should be stated in clear, well defined words, in one and the same sitting, and in the presence of the witnesses. The person conducting the ceremony may help the two parties to say the offering and accepting words.
1.3. Ijaab and Qabool should be in a language understood by both parties. Qabool should be in the past tense to indicate that acceptance has actually happened and has been completed.
1.4. While documenting the marriage contract is not a requirement, yet it is important to document it for future reference and to preserve the rights of the husband and wife.
Eligibility of Bride and Groom:
2.1. The groom must be a chaste Muslim having attained the age of puberty. He must not be related to the bride by any of the permanently prohibiting blood, breast feeding, or marital relationships, such as his sisters, paternal and maternal aunts, daughters, grand daughters and others.
2.2. He must not be prohibited from marrying the bride for any of the temporary reasons stipulated in the Quran and Sunnah. For example if a man has four wives, then all other women become temporarily prohibited from him. Another example of a temporary reason is that as long as a man is married to a particular woman, all of her sisters become temporarily prohibited for him.
2.3. The requirement a bride must fulfill is that she must be a chaste Muslim, Christian or Jew. She must not be married to another man, and must not be related to the groom by any of the permanently prohibiting blood, breast feeding, or marital relationships in addition to not being prohibited from marrying the groom for any of the temporary reasons.
Bride’s Permission and Consent:
3.1. Without the bride’s permission, the contract of marriage is null and void, or may be invalidated by the Islamic authorities at the bride’s request.
3.2. The minimum required permission may be done by either voicing her approval or through a passive expression such as remaining silent when asked about a potential husband and simply nodding her head, or making any other motion to indicate that she does not object to the marriage.
3.3. The Prophet (S.A.W) said: “A deflowered unmarried woman (i.e. widow or divorcee) may not be married without her expressed approval; and a virgin may not be married without her permission, and her silence indicates her consent.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
The Woman’s Wali (Male Guardian):
4.1. The next requirement for a valid contract of Marriage is for the protection of the woman’s rights, and that is the approval of the woman’s guardian known as the wali. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “A marriage (contract) is not valid without a wali.” (Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi)
4.2. Normally, a woman’s wali is her father. If, for any reason, her father is unable to act, her wali would then be her next closest blood relation: the grandfather, uncle, brother, son and so on. The guardian or wali should ascertain the suitability and capability of the prospective husband and review any special conditions and make sure that the bride understands and agrees to it.
4.3. If the bride does not have a Muslim blood-relative as a wali, the Islamic authority, represented by the ruler or judge, would appoint a wali for her. In non-Muslim communities the local Muslim Minister of Religion (Imam) or an elder Muslim can act as the wali of a woman, with her consent.
5.1. Another requirement for the validity of a marriage contract is the presence of at least two trustworthy Muslim male witnesses. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “A marriage is not valid without a wali and two trustworthy witnesses”. (Ahmad, Ibn Hibbaan, and others, Authentic according to al-Albaani)
The Mahr (Dowry):
6.1. The mahr or Sadaqq (Dowry) is a gift given by the man to the woman, on the occasion of the marriage. Allah (SWT) said:
And give to the women (whom you marry) their Mahr (obligatory bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) with a good heart, but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it, and enjoy it without fear of any blame (as Allah has made it lawful). (an-Nisaa, 4)
6.2. Allah (SWT) also made a commandment regarding this by saying:
6.3. “… so with those with whom you have enjoyed sexual relations, give them their Mahr as prescribed; but if after a Mahr is prescribed, you agree mutually (to give more), there is no sin on you. Surely, Allah is Ever All-Knowing, All Wise”(An-Nisaa, 24).
7.1. At the time of the marriage contracting, either the bride or the groom may wish to set conditions whose violation would invalidate the contract. This is acceptable as long as the conditions do not violate any Islamic principles. An example of a condition may be that a woman stipulates that she remain in a particular homeland or country during their marriage, or that the wife may have the right to terminate the marriage by divorcing her husband.”
Anti-Catholics claim that the early Church took John chapter 6 symbolically. Is that so?
Let’s see what some early Christians thought, keeping in mind that we can learn much about how Scripture should be interpreted by examining the writings of early Christians.
Ignatius of Antioch, who had been a disciple of the apostle John and who wrote a letter to the Smyrnaeans about A.D. 110 said, referring to “those who hold heterodox opinions,” that “they abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh that suffered for our sins and that the Father, in his goodness, raised up again” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2, 7:1).
Forty years later, Justin Martyr wrote, “Not as common bread or common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, . . . is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66: 1-20).
Origen, in a homily written about A.D. 244, attested to belief in the Real Presence. “I wish to admonish you with examples from your religion. You are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, so you know how, when you have received the body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish. You account yourselves guilty, and rightly do you so believe, if any of it be lost through negligence” (Homilies on Exodus 13:3).
Whatever else might be said, the early Church took John 6 literally.
In fact, there is no record from the early centuries that implies that Christians doubted the constant Catholic interpretation. There exists no document in which the literal interpretation is opposed and only the metaphorical accepted.
Why do Fundamentalists and Evangelicals reject the plain, literal interpretation of John 6? For them, Catholic sacraments are out because they imply a spiritual reality-grace-being conveyed by means of matter. This seems to them to be a violation of the divine plan. For many Protestants, matter is not to be used but to be overcome or avoided.
One suspects that, had they been asked by the Creator their opinion of how to bring about mankind’s salvation, Fundamentalists would have advised him to adopt a different approach. How much cleaner things would be if spirit never dirtied itself with matter! But God approves of matter-He approves of it because He created it-and He approves of it so much that He comes to us under the appearances of bread and wine, just as He does in the physical form of the incarnate Christ.
The doctrine of the Real Presence asserts that in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is present—body and blood, soul and divinity—under the appearances of bread and wine. This teaching is based on a variety of Scriptural passages (see 1 Cor. 10:16–17; 11:23–29; and, especially, John 6:32–71).
The early Church Fathers interpreted these passages literally. In summarizing their teaching on Christ’s Real Presence, Protestant historian of the early Church J. N. D. Kelly writes: “Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood” (Early Christian Doctrines, 440).
Kelly also writes: “Ignatius roundly declares that . . . the bread is the flesh of Jesus, the cup his blood. Clearly he intends this realism to be taken strictly, for he makes it the basis of his argument against the Docetists’ denial of the reality of Christ’s body. . . . Irenaeus teaches that the bread and wine are really the Lord’s body and blood. His witness is, indeed, all the more impressive because he produces it quite incidentally while refuting the Gnostic and Docetic rejection of the Lord’s real humanity” (197–98).
He continues: “Hippolytus speaks of ‘the body and the blood’ through which the Church is saved, and Tertullian regularly describes the bread as ‘the Lord’s body.’ The converted pagan, he remarks, ‘feeds on the richness of the Lord’s body, that is, on the Eucharist.’
The realism of his theology comes to light in the argument, based on the intimate relation of body and soul, that just as in baptism the body is washed with water so that the soul may be cleansed, so in the Eucharist ‘the flesh feeds upon Christ’s body and blood so that the soul may be filled with God.’
Clearly his assumption is that the Savior’s body and blood are as real as the baptismal water. Cyprian’s attitude is similar. Lapsed Christians who claim communion without doing penance, he declares, ‘do violence to his body and blood, a sin more heinous against the Lord with their hands and mouths than when they denied him.’
I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible [Letter to the Romans 7:3 (c. A.D. 110)].
If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood? (Against Heresies 4:33–32 (C. A.D. 189)].
He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life—flesh that is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him? [ibid., 5:2].
ST. CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA
“Eat my flesh,” [Jesus] says, “and drink my blood.” The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutrients, he delivers over his flesh and pours out his blood, and nothing is lacking for the growth of his children [Instructor of Children 1:6:43:3 (c. A.D. 197)].
A recent article by Thomas Reese, S.J. for National Catholic Reporter has attracted attention. There’s a lot to respond to in Fr. Reese’s article, but I have a word limit, so I’ll keep it short.
Under the deliberately provocative title “The Eucharist is about more than the real presence,” Reese discusses what he thinks is wrong in the contemporary Church concerning the Eucharist. And about halfway through, he states:
Since my critics often accuse me of heresy, before I go further, let me affirm that I believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I just don’t believe in transubstantiation because I don’t believe in prime matter, substantial forms and accidents that are part of Aristotelian metaphysics.
Thomas Aquinas used Aristotelianism, the avant-garde philosophy of his time, to explain the Eucharist to his generation. What worked in the 13th century will not work today. If he were alive today, he would not use Aristotelianism because nobody grasps it in the 21st century.
So, first, forget transubstantiation. Better to admit that Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is an unexplainable mystery that our little minds cannot comprehend.
Reese is correct that Aristotelianism was an avant-garde philosophy in the time of Aquinas. Except for Aristotle’s work on logic, the rest of his philosophy had been unavailable in the Latin-speaking West for centuries, and it was just before and during Aquinas’s time that translations of most of Aristotle’s works were becoming available.
The major figure in synthesizing Aristotelian and Christian thought was Aquinas’s mentor, Albert the Great (c. 1200-1280), and the new ideas were considered quite daring. In 1210, 1270, and 1277, ecclesiastical authorities in Paris prohibited the teaching of various ideas connected with Aristotle’s thought, and Albert himself found it expedient to state, “I expound, I do not endorse, Aristotle.”
Aquinas’s own synthesis of Christian and Aristotelian thought was viewed with considerable suspicion, and some of the Condemnations of 1277 were directed at Aquinas’s ideas. Particularly suspect were Aristotle’s physics and metaphysics.
But what does any of this have to do with transubstantiation?
From what Reese says, you might suspect that Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) came up with transubstantiation, that the concept is inextricably bound up with Aristotle’s thought, and that it’s purely optional for Catholics. However, none of these things is true.
In the first place, the term transubstantiation had been around for quite some time before Aquinas. Its first recorded use was by Hildebert of Tours, who used it around 1079—two centuries before Aquinas. The term was regarded as an apt one for expressing what people believed, and it quickly spread among theologians.
It appears—and is endorsed—in a letter of Pope Innocent III from 1202 (DH 784), and in 1215, the ecumenical council of Lateran IV taught that Christ’s “body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the appearances of bread and wine, the bread being transubstantiated into the body by the divine power and the wine into the blood” (DH 802).
So transubstantiation was not the brainchild of Thomas Aquinas. What about it being inextricably linked to Aristotle’s thought?
That the term was proposed before the major translation of Aristotle’s writings into Latin and the integration of Aristotelian and Christian thought should be a big clue that there’s no essential connection between the two.
So is the fact that the term had been widely adopted—including by a pope and an ecumenical council!—during the period when Aristotelianism, and especially its physics and metaphysics, were viewed with suspicion.
The term transubstantiation itself is not Aristotelian, and Aristotle did not use it. The word is Latin rather than Greek, and it comes from perfectly common Latin roots: trans, which means across or beyond, and substantia, which means substance. Any Latin speaker of the day would naturally understand it to mean a change of one substance or reality into another, as you can tell from the context in which Lateran IV used it.
Neither do we find distinctly Aristotelian terms like prime matter, substantial form, or even accidents in the Church’s articulation of transubstantiation. When the Council of Trent met, it issued the following definition:
If anyone says that in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of bread and wine remains together with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and denies that wonderful and unique change of the whole substance of the bread into his body and of the whole substance of the wine into his blood while only the species of bread and wine remain, a change which the Catholic Church very fittingly calls transubstantiation, let him be anathema (Decree on the Sacrament of the Eucharist, can. 2; DH 1652).
There’s nothing distinctly Aristotelian in that. The Council even avoids the Aristotelian term accidents and uses the term species—which means appearances—instead. The council thus articulated the faith of the Church without endorsing any particular philosophical school of thought.
I don’t know how much catechesis Reese has done in his career, but you don’t have to sit down and give a person a mini-course in Aristotelianism—or any philosophical system—to explain transubstantiation. It’s not a familiar term outside Catholic circles, but all you have to say is, “The bread and wine become Jesus. After the consecration, bread and wine aren’t there anymore. Jesus is present under the appearances of bread and wine.”
This understanding was present in the Church’s faith before the term transubstantiation was coined. Indeed, it’s why the term was coined.
Reese’s comments about transubstantiation, Aquinas, and Aristotle are thus misinformed and misdirected, but he raises the question of whether he can be accused of heresy and professes his faith in the real presence as proof that he is not a heretic. It’s good that he believes in the real presence, but is this sufficient to avoid heresy?
The charge of heresy is a very serious one and should be made only in the gravest circumstances. It is defined as follows:
Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith (CIC 751).
A “truth which is to be believed with divine and Catholic faith” is another way of saying a dogma—that is, a truth that has been infallibly defined by the Magisterium to be divinely revealed. Dogmas are a subset of other infallible teachings, which may or may not be divinely revealed.
It is commonly held that Trent’s canon (above) contains two infallible definitions: first, that the whole substance of bread and wine is changed into Christ’s body and blood so that bread and wine do not remain and, second, that this change is fittingly called transubstantiation.
The term transubstantiation was coined in the 1000s, so it is not part of the deposit of faith and not divinely revealed. Reese would not be a heretic for denying this term.
But in rejecting transubstantiation, Reese said that “Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is an unexplainable mystery.” On its face, that appears to be a doubt of (a refusal to believe) the explanation provided by Trent—that the whole substance of bread and wine are changed into the whole substance of Christ’s body and blood.
Reese thus should clarify whether he actually accepts this change, which is divinely revealed and was made a dogma by Trent.
Doubting this dogma obstinately would make Reese guilty of heresy—and that’s for the competent ecclesial authorities to judge, not me. I thus am not in a position to accuse him of heresy, but based on what he has said, he is dancing on the edge of it.
“The eighth chapter of the Book of Leviticus brings us to the Israelites’ encampment at the foot of Mount Sinai, after their march through the scorching desert. Here we find the entire community assembled at the entrance of the tabernacle, before Aaron and his sons disappear inside for seven days to be ordained as priests of the Lord. As part of this long and mysterious rite, they become extensions of the altar of sacrifice—the altar is anointed with oil, and Aaron is anointed with oil; the altar’s extremities and base are anointed with blood, and Aaron’s extremities and foot are anointed with blood. As is the rite’s requirement, Aaron and his sons burn sacrifices. The Lord then brings the ordination rite to a dramatic conclusion as flames rush from the Lord’s presence to completely consume the sacrifices on the altar (Lev 9:23-24). By that same act, the Lord’s divine fire sanctifies the fire that Aaron and his sons originally kindled on the altar. Keeping in mind Aaron’s new connection with the altar, we can understand that the Lord igniting and sanctifying the altar is a visible sign of his Spirit igniting and sanctifying those who are to serve Him as priests.
The Rite of Ordination today does not involve setting anyone on fire—for obviously good reasons—but this account from Leviticus presents a powerful image of the Holy Spirit igniting the heart of the priest. The priesthood is not a matter of doing, but of being. Jesus Christ conforms the ordained man to Himself as both priest and altar. The heart of the priest is connected to the new altar of sacrifice: the Cross of Christ. At this new altar, the priest unites his own sacrifice and the sacrifice of his flock to the glory of God the Father at the Mass. No man is worthy of the grace of being conformed to Christ. It is the work of God. Adding wood to a pile will never make it catch fire. The ignition must come from outside because it is a sharing in the divine nature of God, Who Himself “is a consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24). To stress the importance of this, God commanded Moses that “the fire on the altar is to be kept burning; it must not go out” (Lev 6:5). In fact, in this same place God gives this commandment three times! The fire on the altar of the priest’s heart must not go out. Should the fire stop, the heart ceases to share in God, the very source of its burning. All that would remain is a heart of cold ashes.
Were there ever bonfires that were brighter and hotter than the one on the altar of sacrifice? Of course. But the fire on the altar was the one that God chose as the only one acceptable for sacrifice (Lev 10:1-2). Are there people who seem like they could do “the job” of a priest better? Of course. But the priest is the one whom God chose, regardless of that man’s failings and the brokenness of his human nature. A man is not a priest because of what he does, a man is a priest because of what God has done.”
(This confessional screen is ridiculously well-lit. I guess to let you know what it looks like. It is usually near pitch black dark. The only light comes through the screen towards your darkened side (pun intended) from the confessor’s chair in the center of the confessional. You can make out the outline of the confessor’s silhouette from the light in his confessional chair. It is nearly pitch black and dark on either penitent’s side. Each side takes turns with heavy velvet curtains to muffle any conversation and a sliding wooden door the confessor controls due to an internal wooden knob. The screen opens when it is your turn. If you are waiting your turn inside and you hear voices, you are to do your best to ignore even muffled voices. There is never clarity. When you kneel before the screen this may close an electrical switch in the red velvet (classically) kneeler (whose movement you can feel) which turns on a red let immediately above and outside some (older) confessionals telling others that side of the confessional is occupied. It is extremely embarrassing to pull the current gently aside to discover the prior occupant if you’re not careful and before they’ve departed or started or, eek!, in the midst of. The confessional screen is hardly visible from the penitent’s side due to darkness except for the pattern it gives immediately before the penitent’s face when in use. The idea is to hide the identity of the penitent. Protocol, as traditionally taught, is if you are waiting for your turn outside the confessional either standing in line or seated in pews immediately in front of the confessional and can hear voices, you are to move further up in pews closer to the altar, or generally further away from the confessional until you can no longer hear voices. An organ is sometimes played during confession to aid in the secrecy where sins are being divulged. Absolution is critical to Catholics. As the Church teaches, “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire’.” CCC 1035)
“Priests should grant absolution in the confessional even when the penitent has no intention to repent, the Pope has said in a speech which has shocked seminarians.
The Holy Father put aside a written speech, describing it as “boring”, and delivered an off-the-cuff address to seminarians from Barcelona, Spain, in which he frequently used foul language.
In his address, he ordered students for the priesthood “not to be clerical, to forgive everything”, adding that “if we see that there is no intention to repent, we must forgive all”.
“We can never deny absolution, because we become a vehicle for an evil, unjust, and moralistic judgment,” Francis reportedly told the seminarians, who were accompanied by the Auxiliary Bishop Javier Vilanova Pellisa of Barcelona.
Priests who deny penitents absolution are “delinquents”, the Pontiff said, according to the Church Militant website.
If accurate, the Pope’s remarks appear to put him at odds with the moral theology expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which emphasises that contrition occupies the “first place” of any act of a penitent and that it involves “the resolution not to sin again”.
Canon 987 of The Code of Canon Law also says that for the faithful to receive “the saving remedy of the sacrament of penance, they must be so disposed that, repudiating the sins they have committed and having the purpose of amending their lives, they turn back to God”.
According to reports, Francis also used his speech to rant against “f***ing careerists who f*** up the lives of others”.
The Pope also criticised “those who climb to show their a**”, the Italian media outlet Daily Compass reported.
The speech in December was the second time in two months that the Pope has dispensed with a prepared text on the grounds that it was boring.
Speaking to rectors and directors of seminaries in Latin America in November, he allegedly put down a 12-page written speech, saying: “It is a heavy thing, let us read it calmly”, before proceeding to deliver an extempore message, according to Vatican News.
Again, the Pope took issue with the rules about a penitent’s amendment of purpose being a necessary criteria for absolution.
He said that priests should “ask the permission of the bishop” before they dared to withhold absolution from people confessing mortal sins.
“This happens, please!” he said. “Our people cannot be in the hands of criminals. And a priest who behaves like this is a criminal, in every word. Like it or not.”
….In his bestseller The Dictator Pope: The Inside Story of the Francis Papacy, author Henry Sire (Marcantonio Colonna) records several instances of the pontiff using expletives, saying he was “prodigal with bad language”.
According to Sire, Fr Peter Hans Kolvenbach, former superior general of the Jesuits, wrote a damning report on Fr Jorge Mario Bergoglio in 1991, accusing the future pope of “a series of defects, ranging from habitual use of vulgar language to deviousness”.”
“A recent news story discusses a talk Pope Francis gave to a group of seminarians in December.
Reportedly, the pope said that priests should not refuse absolution to penitents. However, the same story discusses him saying priests should check with their bishop before denying absolution.
Unfortunately, there are no recordings or transcripts of exactly what was said, so we can’t know. However, we can review the basic principles on this topic.
The first thing to say is that withholding absolution is a real possibility. When Jesus granted the power of absolution to the disciples, we read,
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:21-23).
Jesus thus told the disciples that they needed to make a choice: to either forgive or retain sins.
He thus did not envision the disciples granting absolution in each and every case. Rather, he called upon them to make a decision—to exercise discernment, as our Jesuit friends would say.
Jesus thus envisioned the disciples withholding absolution in some cases, but on what basis? Obviously, as wrenching a decision as withholding absolution is not to be made capriciously or on a personal whim. So what would justify a priest in doing it?
In Scripture, the fundamental condition on which God forgives sin is repentance. If a person repents of his sins, God is willing to forgive. But if he clings to his sins, his salvation is in jeopardy.
This is the rational basis on which a priest can decide whether or not to absolve a penitent. If the individual has repented of his mortal sins, he is to be absolved, and if he has not repented of them, he is not.
The mere fact that an individual has come to a priest for confession indicates a desire for forgiveness, and it creates a presumption that the person is repentant. Confessing your sins is not fun, and subjecting yourself to the shame of doing so in order to be forgiven suggests that you regret what you did and have repented.
Therefore, in general, priests should presume that the individual has repented and absolve him. But the presumption of repentance can be overcome.
If a penitent behaves in the confessional in a way that is inconsistent with repentance, the priest is warranted in inquiring further—asking questions to see if the individual is repentant or not.
This can be a delicate matter. Many penitents recognize that, out of human frailty, they are likely to fall into the same sins in the future. But that does not mean that they are not repentant now. They may regret what they did, they may want not to sin in the future, and they may be hoping for grace—including the grace of confession—to help them not to sin, even though they are objectively likely to.
Such penitents are to be absolved as long as their will is currently turned away from sin.
But if the individual is genuinely non-repentant—showing no signs of contrition and being perfectly comfortable with committing mortal sin in the future—then denying him absolution is warranted.
Discerning this is a delicate enough matter that in some cases it could be advisable for a priest to check with his bishop.
Fortunately, stark unrepentance is rare when it comes to people going to confession, and—at least in the United States—the denial of absolution is very rare.”
“The Church’s ritual has the priest introduce confession with these words: “May God Who has enlightened every heart help you to know your sins and trust in His mercy.”
As the Code of Canon Law (CIC) puts it, “individual and integral confession and absolution constitute the only ordinary means by which a member of the faithful conscious of grave sin is reconciled with God and the Church” (960). We need God’s grace to recognize our sins, and the confessor is, by his office, an instrument of God’s grace.
Occasionally, when a confessor has significant doubts as to a penitent’s disposition, circumstances, Scripture, traditional pastoral practice, and canon law require a priest to deny absolution.
After the Resurrection, Jesus breathed on his new priests and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22-23).
Canon 987 reads, “To receive the salvific remedy of the sacrament of penance, a member of the Christian faithful must be disposed in such a way that, rejecting sins committed and having a purpose of amendment, the person is turned back to God.”
Canon 980 reads, “If the confessor has no doubt about the disposition of the penitent, and the penitent seeks absolution, absolution is to be neither refused nor deferred.”
Certain particularly grave sins impede the reception of the sacraments, and absolution cannot be granted until ecclesiastical authorities grant approval (see paragraph 1463 of the Catechism).
“Amen” is a solemn expression of our belief. It derives from the Hebrew verb aman, “to strengthen” or “to confirm.” “Amen” concludes the Creed at Mass, and we can think of “amen” as the Creed in brief. Above all, “amen” is on our lips in response to “the body of Christ” immediately before we receive the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. Jesus gives Himself to us in friendship, and our “amen” opens our hearts, adorned by His grace, to Him and the entirety of His teaching.
“Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic Communion must be in the state of grace. (Ed. My mother would regularly inquire of her children if they were, at that moment, in the state of grace.) Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive Communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance” (CIC 1415). We must confess every mortal sin by kind and number—or an approximation, as we are aware—with a firm purpose of amendment. Confession restores our honesty and personal integrity and gives meaning to our “amen.”
Yet, often, we cannot see our sins except after many years. The prophet Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? ‘I the Lord search the mind and try the heart, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings’” (Jer. 17:9-10). If God would reveal the entire burden of our deficiencies, perhaps our discouragement would be crushing and our sorrow unbearable. We are a work in progress.
The life of Bartolomé de las Casas, the Spanish missionary and Dominican priest, is a story of a spiritual and moral work in progress. Las Casas was the first to expose the oppression of the Indians by Spaniards in the Americas. He was also the first to agitate for the abolition of slavery. However, at one point, Las Casas suggested that African slaves substitute for Indian slaves. The suggestion conformed to cultural expectations. But with God’s grace, Las Casas regretted the proposal. He took his “amen” seriously.
Las Casas tirelessly wrote books, tracts, and petitions, arguing his defense of the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. He became an adviser to King Charles of Spain, who signed laws requiring Spaniards to free their slaves after a generation. It would take the English-speaking Americans another 300 years to free their slaves, and only after a brutal American Civil War.
Church bells tolled throughout Hispaniola upon news of the death of Las Casas in 1566. The Dominicans introduced his cause for canonization in 1976. In 2002, the Church began the process of his beatification.
Why this history? It may come as a surprise that the heroic life of Bartolomé de las Casas begins with a priest denying him absolution. A group of Dominican friars arrived in Santo Domingo in 1510, led by Pedro de Córdoba. They were appalled by the injustices of the slave owners and refused them absolution without a purpose of amendment. Las Casas—a slave-holder—was among those denied. The anonymous priest hearing the confession of a young Las Casas became a powerful instrument of God’s grace.
The prophet Ezekiel proclaimed that we are responsible for the sins of others if we cooperate with them. “If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.” But a priest saves his life when he judiciously denies absolution as a warning: “If you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you will have saved your life.” (Ezek. 3:18-19)
With academic study and pastoral experience, we can understand the conditions under which the refusal of absolution is essential to respect human freedom and provoke repentance. (Alas, some sins, such as forms of genital mutilation, cannot be physically reversed, but they can be reversed in a supernatural way by a sorrowful heart.) The possibilities are rooted in Scripture and the precepts of canon law. But the fundamental reason is also rooted in honesty and integrity when we receive Communion.
Denying absolution, under certain strict circumstances, provides clarity and discourages a lie when responding with the word “amen.” Honest repentance accepts God’s promise: “I, I am He Who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isa. 43:25).”
Love, Lord, have mercy on me, for I am a sinful man,
“Historically, the Church has taught that the graces of baptism can be received not only through the administration of the sacrament itself (baptism of water) but also through the desire for the sacrament (baptism of desire) or through martyrdom for Christ (baptism of blood).
Recent doctrinal development has made clear that it is possible for one to receive baptism of desire by an implicit desire. This is the principle that makes it possible for non-Christians to be saved. If they are genuinely committed to seeking and living by the truth, then they are implicitly committed to seeking Jesus Christ and living by his commands; they just don’t know that he is the Truth they’re seeking (cf. John 14:6).
In the last century, this has been denied by certain radical traditionalists—for instance, the followers of Fr. Leonard Feeney, or “Feeneyites,” as they are sometimes called. They deny not only that one can be saved through baptism by implicit desire, they also deny that one can be saved by baptism of desire at all.
The pretext for holding this belief consists of certain statements made by medieval popes and councils emphasizing the doctrine of extra ecclesiam nulla sallus (“outside the Church, no salvation”).
With this doctrine as a starting point, radical traditionalists use a simple chain of reasoning: No one outside the Church is saved. All unbaptized persons are outside the Church. Therefore, no unbaptized person is saved.
The problem with the argument is its second premise—that all unbaptized persons are outside the Church. It is true that baptism is required for full incorporation into the Church (CCC 837), but it is not true that all of the unbaptized are unlinked in any way with the Church.
This is something the Church has always been aware of. For example, in A.D. 256, Cyprian of Carthage stated of catechumens who are martyred before baptism, “They certainly are not deprived of the sacrament of baptism who are baptized with the most glorious and greatest baptism of blood, concerning which the Lord also said that he had ‘another baptism to be baptized with’ (Luke 12:50)” (Letters 72 :22).
Likewise, in the thirteenth century, and in response to the question whether a man can be saved without baptism, Thomas Aquinas replied: “I answer that the sacrament of baptism may be wanting to someone in two ways. First, both in reality and in desire; as is the case with those who neither are baptized nor wish to be baptized; which clearly indicates contempt of the sacrament in regard to those who have the use of free will. Consequently, those to whom baptism is wanting thus cannot obtain salvation; since neither sacramentally nor mentally are they incorporated in Christ, through whom alone can salvation be obtained.
“Secondly, the sacrament of baptism may be wanting to anyone in reality but not in desire; for instance, when a man wishes to be baptized but by some ill chance he is forestalled by death before receiving baptism. And such a man can obtain salvation without being actually baptized, on account of his desire for baptism, which desire is the outcome of faith that works by charity, whereby God, whose power is not tied to the visible sacraments, sanctifies man inwardly. Hence Ambrose says of Valentinian, who died while yet a catechumen, ‘I lost him whom I was to regenerate, but he did not lose the grace he prayed for’” (Summa Theologia III:68:2, cf. III:66:11–12).
As these passages indicate, Catholics have historically understood that what is absolutely necessary for salvation is a salvific link to the body of Christ, not full incorporation into it. To use the terms Catholic theology has classically used, one can be a member of the Church by desire (in voto) rather than in reality (in re).
This is necessary background for understanding the papal and conciliar statements radical traditionalists appeal to when trying to deny the reality of baptism of blood and desire. The popes and councils of the Middle Ages who emphasized extra ecclesiam nulla sallus had no intention of overturning what was standard teaching in their day regarding catechumens and baptism of desire.
The fact that certain radical traditionalists today do not understand this shows—ironically—how out of touch with Catholic tradition they are, since they do not understand the basic theological assumptions behind the magisterial texts they quote.
When confronted with such passages from Church fathers and doctors, radical traditionalists sometimes try a blocking move: “I don’t deny that those fathers and doctors said those things, but they were not infallible. The statements I quote from popes and councils are infallible, and so you should stick with what’s infallible and not pay attention to the non-infallible.”
There are a couple of reasons this argument is bad. First, when the Church defines something, it tends to define only a single point, which it does not intend it to be understood in a theological vacuum.
That’s why, for example, when Pius IX and Pius XII defined the Immaculate Conception and Assumption, they didn’t simply issue single-sentence documents containing only the definitions. The definitions they issued did consist of only single sentences, but they were contained within much larger documents that explained and prepared for the definitions so that everyone would understand what was being done.
Context is also the reason why ecumenical councils such as Trent would prepare for the canons (in which they infallibly defined certain points) by writing decrees that expounded at more length the points of theology that would be defined in the canons.
Similarly, whenever the Church issues a definition, it intends that definition to be understood in the context of the standard theology of the day. It intends its definitions to be taken in the sense that the approved doctors and fathers would understand them.
Indeed, magisterial definitions are made to shore up and defend the teachings of the approved doctors and fathers. If it were suggested to Boniface VIII or Eugene IV (the popes Feeneyites cite) that they were overturning the standard teaching on baptism of desire and blood, they would have been stunned and probably replied, “No, that’s not what I’m doing at all!”
Second, the Feeneyite’s blocking move is wrong because there are infallible statements regarding baptism of desire.
Canon four of Trent’s Canons on the Sacraments in General states, “If anyone shall say that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for salvation but are superfluous, and that although all are not necessary for every individual, without them or without the desire of them . . . men obtain from God the grace of justification, let him be anathema [i.e., ceremonially excommunicated].”
This is confirmed in chapter four of Trent’s Decree on Justification, which states that “This translation [i.e., justification], however, cannot, since promulgation of the Gospel, be effected except through the laver of regeneration [i.e., baptism] or its desire, as it is written: ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ (John 3:5).”
Trent teaches that, although not all the sacraments are necessary for salvation, the sacraments in general are necessary. Without them or the desire of them men cannot obtain the grace of justification, but with them or the desire of them men can be justified. The sacrament through which we initially receive justification is baptism. But since the canon teaches that we can be justified with the desire of the sacraments rather than the sacraments themselves, we can be justified with the desire for baptism rather than baptism itself.
To avoid this, some radical traditionalists have tried to drive a wedge between justification and salvation, arguing that while desire for baptism might justify one by remitting one’s sins, it would not communicate to one the state of grace and thus allow one to be saved if one died without baptism.
This is shown to be false by numerous passages in Trent. For example, in the same chapter that it states that desire for baptism justifies, Trent defines justification as “a translation . . . to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God” (Decree on Justification 4).
Justification thus includes the state of grace. It is not a mere remission of sins. Since whoever is in a state of grace and adopted by God is in a state of salvation, desire for baptism saves. If one dies in the state of grace, one goes to heaven and receives eternal life. Justification, and thus the state of grace, can be effected through the desire for baptism (for scriptural examples of baptism of desire, see Acts 10:44–48; cf. Luke 23:42–43).
Trent also states: “Justification . . . is not merely remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man through the voluntary reception of the grace and gifts, whereby an unrighteous man becomes a righteous man, and from being an enemy [of God] becomes a friend, that he may be ‘an heir according to the hope of life everlasting’ [Titus 3:7]” (Decree on Justification7).
Thus desire for baptism brings justification and justification makes one an heir of life everlasting. If one dies in a state of justification, one will inherit eternal life. Those who die with baptism of desire are saved. Period.”
Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge. Counsel and Piety. Fortitude and Fear of the Lord.
The virtues of faith, hope, and charity stably equip our intellects and wills to make supernatural movements of knowing and loving. In the gifts, however, we receive stable supernatural perfections that equip us to be moved in a divine mode, in a way that human reason can neither grasp nor initiate. Our acts remain our own, but they exceed our understanding: God Himself moves us according to His wisdom (ST I-II q. 68). The gifts serve as spiritual instincts for the soul, once it is healed and elevated by grace.
To be sure, anyone who has charity (love) has all seven gifts of the Spirit (ST I-II q. 68, a. 5). And yet God, in His wisdom, activates these gifts differently in the life of each individual saint: “The wind blows where it wills . . . so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). The Spirit gave to the martyrs the courage to confess Christ, to St. Dominic an outstanding sensitivity to our fallen condition, to St. Catherine a piercing insight into the truths of faith, and to St. Thomas a sweeping vision of the things of God. Only God, in his provident knowledge, could understand and foreknow the surprising ways that He drew each saint to Himself.
Only someone who grasps the apparently dry truth that the gifts “as to their essence” remain in heaven (ST I-II q. 68, a. 6) could write this book’s finale, which so forcefully conveys the splendor of heavenly glory. All of us are called to this glory.
The gifts of the Spirit, unlike the virtues, are not ours to direct as we will. We wait upon God, Who Himself is the wind who fills our spiritual sails. At the same time, however, we pray for God to activate in us His seven gifts, and the more we know about these gifts individually, the more we can ask for them specifically, according to our daily needs. Thus may the Spirit, as He does for every saint, govern us firmly and sweetly the whole of our lives.
“We often speak of the four marks of the Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Yet during our apologetical endeavors, it would be a missed opportunity not to bring the argument to a climax by unveiling the Eucharist as the mark of Christ’s Church par excellence. The Eucharist is the ultimate mark of Christ’s Church, for the Eucharist not only is a visible sign of each mark, but has the power to maintain the essence of what each mark of the Church represents.
First, the Church is one through the Eucharist. In October 2004, John Paul II graced the Year of the Eucharist with the apostolic letter Mane Nobiscum Domine. In it, the Holy Father recounted several instances in Scripture where Christ was leading His disciples to an understanding of a Church united in him through the Eucharist. In John 6:55, Jesus says, “My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” This was shocking to those who heard it—so much so that many left. Jesus asked the Twelve if they too would go away. Peter, speaking for the Twelve, said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” In other words, those who understood, though they were shocked by the reality of the words just spoken, refused to abandon Christ’s teaching because they would be abandoning Christ himself.
St. Cyril of Alexandria understood the Eucharist’s ability to unite us with Christ. He said, “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.”
The Eucharist is, therefore, the sign and cause of unity because the Eucharist is Christ. It was instituted by Christ as a means of drawing us to himself. The Eucharist expresses our unity and also brings it about when we receive him worthily. The fact that we share the same body and blood makes us sisters and brothers in Christ. Even at the natural level we realize that sharing the same blood forms a family bond. Those who are too ill to participate in the Eucharistic celebration are often brought the Eucharist both as a sign of unity and to provide them with spiritual food. Blessed Theophane Venard wrote of the Eucharist, “When the body is deprived of food it languishes and dies; and it is the same with the soul, without the Bread that sustains life.”
By receiving this spiritual nourishment, we, Christ’s body, are equipped to give of ourselves to each other and to him in a more perfect way. The visible structure of the Church maintains the succession of priests who can offer the sacrifice of the Mass and consecrate bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood. “Just as the Church ‘makes the Eucharist’ so the Eucharist builds up the Church” (Dominicae Cenae 4).
The Eucharist also unites heaven and earth. Many who have lost a loved one may experience closeness to that person after receiving Communion or while in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. These feelings may be a result of a deep theological awareness that those who died in grace are alive in Christ; thus, our nearness to Christ in the Eucharist brings us nearer to them as well.
Another way of seeing this fusion of heaven and earth is to realize that when Christ instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, its sacrificial dimension was revealed. Throughout history, Christ offers himself for the salvation of all mankind—but why? So we can live with him eternally. As one family, we, who share the same divine body and blood, will share in the heavenly banquet together—perfected in love and united in that love.
Augustine said of the Eucharist, “O sacrament of love! O sign of unity! O bond of charity! He who would have life finds here indeed a life to live and a life to live by.”
Second, the Church is holy through the Eucharist. The greatest commandments are to love God and neighbor, and the greatest expression of this love is found in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is Christ, and it recalls the love he has for us—a love so great that he was willing to become one of us, suffer incredible physical and spiritual pain, and die a human death. Consuming Christ in the Eucharist has the capacity to make us more like him—and thus more holy. “For the partaking of the body and blood of Christ has no less an effect than to change us into what we receive” (Eucharisticum Mysterium 7).
Such thoughts help us to understand St. Teresa of Avila’s words that “Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out, yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good, and yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now.”
Third, the Church is catholic through the Eucharist. Christ’s presence in the Church makes it catholic, or universal. He is wherever the Church is, and wherever the Church is, there is the Eucharist.
As a universal Church, we have the responsibility of being Christ to others. This means that not only must we say what he said, but we also must do what he did. Jesus admonished sinners, showed mercy, asked for repentance, and demonstrated compassion and forgiveness. He also fed the hungry, healed the sick, and encouraged the poor. He did not deny anyone because of race, sex, age, or state in life. Just as we are to be Christ to others, so we must see Christ in others. He can be found in everyone. When we see Christ in others, we find ourselves. In this way, the Church is also universal.
By participating in the Eucharistic celebration, we are reminded that the loving sacrifice that he made for us, he also made for everyone. All activities of the Church to spread the kingdom of God are linked with the Eucharist and are directed back to it. St. Peter Chrysologus said, “The Eucharist is the link that binds the Christian family together. Take away the Eucharist and you have no brotherliness left.”
Fourth, the Church is apostolic through the Eucharist. The Church is apostolic because her mission in and to the world is a continuation of the work of the first apostles, a mission given to them by Christ. Because this mission will go on until the end of time, the apostles had to make provisions for others to succeed them. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the bishops, who are the successors to the apostles, continue to teach and guide the Church today. All the members of the mystical body of Christ share in this mission and are called to activities that further God’s kingdom. This means they are to spread the gospel of Christ through works of love in their state of life. “But charity, drawn from the Eucharist above all, is always ‘as it were, the soul of the whole apostolate’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 864).
The Church is governed by spiritual fathers representing God. Throughout the Old Testament, genealogies had great importance because they identified individuals as part of a succession of people who shared the same blood and, thus, were part of the same family. Christ continued this linkage by appointing apostles to succeed him, and he gave us the Eucharist so we could all share in the same blood that our brothers and sisters in faith also shared.
So you see how Christ’s body and blood factor into each mark of the Church. The Eucharist both symbolizes the oneness of Christ’s Church and causes and sustains it. Christ is God, who alone is perfectly holy. Christ is present within the Church for which he dies, making it holy. The Church has been entrusted with the Eucharist, and therefore it has the means to make men holy by partaking in Christ. Christ’s Church is universal because he died for each and every one of us wherever we are, whoever we are, and whenever we lived.
St. John de Brebeuf, a Jesuit who was martyred bringing the Catholic faith to the natives of North America, contemplated the mystery of the Eucharist’s universality, saying,
The only external sign of our holy religion that we have is the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. . . . It seems, moreover, that God supplies what we lack and rewards us with grace for having transported the holy sacrament beyond so many seas and having found an abode for it in these poor cabins.
By bringing the Eucharist to the New World, continents were spiritually united. The Eucharist is a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice for all men, and it keeps in our mind the dignity of all men because of Christ’s love for them. The Church’s ability to trace its roots to the apostles assures us that the successors to Peter are part of our family tree and that it is the true Church. The power to consecrate bread and wine has been passed on within the family as our spiritual treasure that keeps each mark of the Church present and its identity authentic.
The reason, therefore, why the Eucharist is the ultimate mark of the Church, the mark par excellence, is that the Eucharist is Christ, Who remains in the Church; sustains it; and, through its members, draws others to himself. Because of the Eucharist, the Church maintains its marks and grows in unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolic works. The Eucharist was instituted because of the Church, and the Church is sustained and grows because of the Eucharist.
Articulating this truth to non-Catholic Christians would resonate in many hearts and draw them into this great mystery of our faith: Christ’s real presence among us. St. John Henry Newman said, “A true Christian may almost be defined as one who has a ruling sense of God’s presence within him.” How much more within us can he be than through the partaking of the Eucharist?”
“Christians sometimes find themselves discussing their experiences in confession—especially if they had an unpleasant or confusing experience. They trade stories—some humorous, others jaw-dropping, some of them exaggerations, others misunderstandings. The words and personality of the confessor are always the center of the story—to which, by the way, he can never respond, since he is forbidden by the seal to defend himself from your complaints!
What makes a good confessor? How can we evaluate a confessor as “good” or “bad”? To answer, we need to know what confession is all about. We may be surprised at what we do not know, even if we have gone to confession habitually our whole lives.
First off, going to confession is not about having a conversation. Yes, that’s what I said. It’s not about the penitent’s talking, nor about the priest’s talking. It’s not about asking for advice or giving advice. Neither one is a requirement for the sacrament.
Notice the word sacrament. We call confession the sacrament of penance or the sacrament of absolution or the sacrament of reconciliation. If we understand what a sacrament is, we will go a long way in understanding confession and confessors correctly.
A sacrament is a sign of a particular grace established by Christ in order to convey the saving graces of His holy passion and resurrection. The grace of a particular sacrament corresponds to the different stages and circumstances and relationships of life. The sacrament of penance or confession corresponds to the circumstance of having sinned, especially mortally, after baptism and needing a new cleansing after our first one.
Each sacramental sign is made up of its matter and the form, which clarifies the meaning of the matter, as water and the baptismal words in baptism, or bread and wine and the words of consecration in the holy Eucharist, or the laying on of hands and the appropriate words in ordinations.
So when the priest who celebrates the sacrament of penance with you prepares, what is the matter, and what is the form? The matter is not precisely your sins! A sacrament is an act of divine worship, and we do not offer things that are evil in worship, and our sins are evil. We bring matter that is good, like water, wine, bread, oil, and chrism. The precise matter of the sacrament is contrition for sin, not sin. It is a loving and complete sorrow, not just felt, but willed, for grave sin committed after baptism.
So what is the job of the confessor? It is to determine and ensure as much as possible that the penitent has true contrition—that is, is sorry out of love, and sorry universally.
This is all from the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, by the way. Aquinas teaches that confessing our sins out loud is a super-prudent way of ensuring our contrition. This is so true that Aquinas advises that if we are dying and no priest is available, we may confess to any lay person just to establish our sorrow for sin. This extreme case (or maybe not so extreme in this age) reveals the basic reason for speaking our sins in confession.
Thus, the reason for talking at all is just to signify (sacraments are signs!) our sorrowing love. If we must ask questions, it is to know what to be sorry for. Any other discussion in confession is not part of the sacrament.
The sacrament of confession is not spiritual direction or counseling. Those things may conveniently take place, but they may well, and even best, be accomplished outside the sacrament, if there are other opportunities. Sometimes they may even be a hindrance, filling the sacrament with lots of non-sacramental discussion.
Ironically, too much talk, even pious talk, may undermine the penitential and loving purpose of our verbal confession, dissipating our attention from the experience of confessing our love of God. So the priest may need gently to correct us if we talk outside the purpose of the sacrament we are celebrating. If the penitent is uncomfortable and needs to be encouraged, the priest may talk a little more as well, but that is only to make it easy for the sinner to be sorry out of love, and not nervous or afraid of the priest or the circumstances.
All talk should point to loving contrition. This is true of almost everything we say at Mass, from the Kyrie to the “Lord I am not worthy.” This means that the priest also should not talk too much or ask too many questions or dwell on any details beyond what is necessary to clarify what sin was committed and whether the penitent intends to struggle against it. This is especially important regarding sins against chastity.
Sometimes a priest may be a little chatty. If he is, and it is not to the point, don’t encourage him. Just ask him for penance and absolution as sweetly as you can, and make room for the next penitent.
Often one hears the complaint, usually legitimate, from a devout penitent that a confessor will tell him he comes to confession too often, that he has only venial sins to confess. This is nonsense and an insult to the freedom of the faithful in approaching the sacrament. Even so, it is an opportunity to point out that venial sins never have to be confessed, and they do not all have to be confessed in any case. So if there is a long line, and you intend to confess many venial sins, you might be so kind as to limit your confession to the ones that threaten your love the most. There is no obligation to be complete when there is no question of mortal sin.
In fact, the best thing to do, better than confessing venial sins, is to renew your confession of some mortal sin already confessed for which you are especially sorry and which makes you especially aware of how you have offended our loving Lord. Renew your sorrow and confess past sins of adultery, theft, violence, abortion, the things that have wrecked your life and hurt others the most. Some priests do not understand that you are free to confess past sins already confessed. Just tuck it in after some venial sin you are also sorry for, and ignore Father if his lack of instruction makes him wonder at your devout practice.
After all, the form, the absolution, works off the matter, and in confession, the closer the matter is to the form—that is, the more intense the loving sorrow—the greater the effect of the form. The sorrier you are, the more you get out of confession. So if you have reached a point in life when you no longer commit many new sins, that does not mean that you cannot have confessions more contrite than when you were a fresh, young sinner. It is love that counts, and we can become more and more grateful and loving as the years go on.
So imagine if the priest is unkind to you, even cruel. Recognize that none of the sacrament depends on his priestly ministry in the strict sense for anything but that he can pray the words of absolution over you. If you come to confession with a sincere, loving, and universal contrition, nothing else matters except the words “I absolve you from your sins . . .”
To be sure, talk is important, and instruction is important, and our feelings are important, but “love endures,” and any experience of the priest, good or bad, is nothing in comparison with the amazing power of the instant when our loving sorrow meets the power of absolution.
Think of it. At your last confession, you may be unconscious, and the priest may not even know you, and there will be no talk, but only this: that he was told you are a Christian who desires the forgiveness of the Savior. Your confessor will recite the words of absolution over you, in obedience to the institution of Christ, and this will usher you into eternal life.
Then it will not matter whether he was a good or a bad confessor, and it will not matter how good or bad you were in life. As St. John of the Cross says in a way so perfectly in line with the matter of this sacrament: “In the evening of this life we will be judged on love.” You will be safe in the loving embrace of the Savior, Who will continue to purify, perfect, and delight you forevermore. Amen.”
“It is necessary to confess our sins to those to whom the dispensation of God’s mysteries is entrusted. Those doing penance of old are found to have done it before the saints. It is written in the Gospel that they confessed their sins to John the Baptist [Matt. 3:6], but in Acts [19:18] they confessed to the apostles.” –St Basil the Great (Rules Briefly Treated, 288 [A.D. 374])
Love, pray for priests! Our Lady, Queen of Priests, pray for priests, and us, too!!!!
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "“Si comprehendus, non est Deus.” -St Augustine, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, “Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him . . . God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways.” —St. Teresa of Avila, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom