Tag Archives: Body of Christ

That Pesky Pew Study

By now you may have heard about that new Pew research study. You know…the one that claims only ⅓ of Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the Eucharist. Of course this is upsetting and has led many to contemplate how to fix this. 

But first, let’s put things in perspective. This is a study. Presumably the sampled people represent the Church as a whole. However, we can all recognize that the statistics may not be fully accurate. Not to say we shouldn’t be concerned, but just to keep in mind this statistic is an approximation. 

Now, what should we do? 

I strongly believe the answer lies in catechesis in 3 main forms: religious education, through homilies, and catechesis by example. Allow me to elaborate.

Religious Education

Proper instruction for children preparing to receive First Holy Communion, and afterwards the education should not stop! At minimum one lesson every single year of religious education should be devoted to the Eucharist, with the teaching deepening as children grow older. 

Similarly, adult faith formation opportunities that focus on the Eucharist should be available at least once a year to the entire parish. These could be in the form of weekly classes, a one day lecture series, even an online course or lectures such as those offered through Formed, Ascension Press, or Dynamic Catholic.  

In person instruction is great but some people simply cannot attend classes at church or do not feel comfortable doing so. A quick blurb in the church bulletin about online videos to watch, a link on the church website or social media is a great way to reach out to more people with this theology. 

Homilies

I was so pleased to hear my priest mention this survey in his homily yesterday and reiterate what we believe about the Eucharist. But i know not all priests do.

I have been to Mass where the Bread of Life discourse was proclaimed and yet not talked about in the homily. Or where the homily centers on a relationship with Christ but never mentions the most intimate relationship we can have in the Eucharist.

No matter what educational opportunities are available, there will always be people who do not want to, or are not able to participate. The homily is an amazing opportunity to remind the congregation what we are about to partake in and conveniently it fits in with many many scripture readings.

Example

Still with all the instruction in the world, sometimes faith is not knowing on an intellectually theological level, but trusting and believing in your heart even when you cannot fully understand. And in truth, none of us here on earth can ever fully comprehend the mystery of the Eucharist. So to better instill a true belief in the Eucharist,  we need to teach not only at the intellectual level, but reach to the heart. And that, I believe, is best accomplished through example.

This is where people are most inclined to argue. Some insist that the only way to restore reverence for the Eucharist is to restore the Traditional Latin Mass. Others argue we must receive the Body of Christ only on the tongue. Some blame the music, the lack of altar rails, etc. Maybe some of these would work, but true reverence can be shown whether in English, Spanish, Latin, French, or any other language. We can sit, stand, kneel, or crawl but true reverence comes from the heart and may look different for different people…but when one approaches with sincerity of heart and true belief, it shows through. 

Each of us needs to search within ourselves and ask…do we receive the Eucharist with true sincerity of heart and faith that it IS the Body Of Christ And does that belief shine through in our daily living?

While I believe these things will help spread belief, it is important to note that some still may struggle with this teaching. And that is ok! This simple prayer can help us through doubt, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

One final thought…

It seems to me, that if the devil really wanted to tear apart the Church, wouldn’t it be convenient that this study would come out just as we are still dealing with the abuse scandal? And wouldn’t it only make sense that he would attack Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith? Wouldn’t he delight in the many who don’t believe in the Eucharist and oh how he would love if this study plunged devout Catholics into despair and doubt? Better still, wouldn’t the devil love for this study to create arguments over how to fix it, and cause division within Christ’s Church?

Let’s not give him what he wants. Don’t give in to argument, to despair, to doubt or hopelessness. Stay strong in faith and let this information fill us with renewed love and commitment to faith. To draw us closer to Christ in the Eucharist and to bring our Church together in greater unity to serve the Lord. 

The Eucharist is the greatest gift we can receive because it IS Jesus!!! Let us allow that truth to transform our lives each and every day.

Adoration

adorationI love going to Mass on Sundays.  The peace and joy that I feel does wonders for my soul and rejuvenates every part of me.  Even if I am having an emotional day and find myself crying during Mass, when we are given the instruction to go forth in the peace of Christ and sing that final hymn, I always leave feeling uplifted.

Throughout the week though, sometimes life gets in the way.  Despite my prayers and trying my best to remain focused on His light and His love for us, by the time Sunday comes around again I am in need of more.  I am relieved to be able to go to Mass once more and refresh my soul in the community of prayer and in the ultimate peace that comes from being in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Recently I decided that rather than waiting until I am overwhelmed by the usual weekly worries, I should work to find a way to continually be in His peace.  Not to take the place of the prayer life I currently have, but to enhance it.  While I cannot attend Mass daily, my church has Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every Tuesday.  I decided to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.  I went and was not disappointed.  My soul was refreshed, my worries were gone.  Everything melted away until only the peace and love of Christ remained.  I was eager to return next week and again found the same peace.

This week I was unable to go after work.  I found myself sitting at my desk Tuesday morning feeling again overwhelmed.  My brain started to derail and head down a path of negative thinking.  Worries crammed into my head and stress began to eat away at me.  I thought to myself, it is too bad I cannot attend Adoration at my church tonight.

But then I thought, why let that stop me?  I remembered hearing a listing on my local Catholic radio station of all the parishes in our area offering Adoration.  I looked online and sure enough I found a Catholic church not even five minutes from my office that holds perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament!  Immediately I started to feel better and was looking forward to going on my lunch break at work.

I only have a half hour lunch so I had to be quick.  I was worried I would find myself feeling rushed and wouldn’t be able to focus or relax.  In five minutes I arrived at this little chapel set back from the main church.  I went inside and was immediately at peace.   Tiny pews just big enough for one person, or perhaps two people if they squeezed together close,   lined a short aisle leading up to a beautiful altar where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed beneath a large Crucifix.  A statue of Mary was on one side of the altar, and St. Joseph on the other.  There were little stained glass windows lining the walls of the tiny chapel.  It was very beautiful.

But more than the beautiful appearance of this little chapel, you could feel the presence of the Lord.  There is something about sitting silently in Adoration, knowing that in a mystery we will never understand, Jesus is right there before us.  Not as a representation.  Not as an invisible presence.  Truly, visibly there.  I sat in a pew and took a quick glance at my watch making a mental note of when I would need to leave to be back to work in time.

As I began to pray, time stood still.  I did not feel rushed.  I did not feel the need to continually check my watch.  I prayed and knelt in the presence of my Lord and felt at peace.  When my prayers were finished and it was time to leave, although I had only been there for perhaps 15 minutes, it felt so much longer.

I went back to work and about my day as usual.  Nothing was different about the rest of the day.  The things I was worried about before, they didn’t disappear.  The things that were stressing me out, they weren’t magically gone.  What changed was me.  Instead of letting those things control me, I did what I needed to do to refocus myself on Christ.

My schedule will change and there will be times I cannot make it to Adoration.  Work obligations, family obligations, travel, weather, appointments, these things happen.  But I realize now how to deal with the little things that threaten to overwhelm me.  It is to place myself fully in God’s presence.  Through prayer, through Scripture, through Adoration.   Through being with Him and letting His Spirit fill my body, my mind, and my soul, until there is nothing but the love, joy, and peace of Christ.

“In this silence of the white Host, carried in the Monstrance, are all His words; there is His whole life given in offering to the Father for each of us; there is also the glory of the glorified body, which started with the Resurrection, and still continues in Heavenly union.”  – St. John Paul II, June 19, 1979 – Angelus Address At The Vatican

What the Eucharist Means to Me {Guest Post}

My youngest sister is a senior in High School and was asked to give a witness to her experience with the Holy Eucharist for an adult retreat at their church.  Here is the speech that she gave:

I’m here tonight to talk to you about the Eucharist and how it’s impacted my life. We all know what the Eucharist is; if you’ve ever gone to mass you’ve received it in Holy Communion. But do we really understand? Where it comes from? Why it’s so sacred? How does it affect my daily life? How do we value or measure it? Can it even be valued or measured?

These are all questions that I asked myself as I sat down to write this talk. However, when I began to think about the Eucharist and all that it brings, including forgiveness, my mind wandered to the cross instead. I often think about the cross as a symbol of forgiveness. It appears to be one of the biggest symbols of our faith, and I constantly see it referenced with the saying “nothing but the blood of Jesus can wash away our sins”  however, I must remind myself that the Eucharist provides just as good a symbol of forgiveness and our faith as does the cross. For without Holy Communion, without Christ’s offering of himself to us for eternal life, then the passion lacks meaning. Jesus didn’t just die for us, but he offered himself up for us. The blood that washes away our sins comes from Jesus’ passion on the cross, however, it is in his last supper that he explains to his disciples how he gives them his body and blood and THAT is the new covenant. The Eucharist IS the FLESH and BLOOD of Jesus that saves our souls. It can be so easy for me to just walk up during communion and take it as bread and wine, but instead I constantly remind myself that it is so much more. It is a gift from God, an immeasurable gift, so valuable that I am not worthy to receive it, yet Jesus loves me so much that he will give it anyways.

It is for this reason that the Eucharist is the most powerful part of mass for me. During this time, peace and serenity surround me and I am completely alone with Jesus; able to feel his love and power. Every day I face personal crosses. I must work hard to manage my time with school, sports, community service, church, family, and friends then if there’s time maybe some sleep…I constantly feel that even though I appear to be doing so much for others and for God, I lack personal intimacy in my relationship with him. I’m always striving to do more for God and grow closer to him, yet the more I strive, the more the weight of my cross bears down on me, and causes me to feel unable. When I receive Holy Communion however, I feel relieved of the weight bearing down on me, and it is the one time I can just clear my mind and feel God’s presence. This holy experience affects me so strongly that I cannot find it elsewhere, and so I hold it dearly to my heart. After receiving Communion, I pray and I feel as though I’m right there with God, and he can read everything on my heart. I sometimes just sit in silence and welcome his presence as I begin to feel rejuvenated, healed, and loved by him like I never do at other times.

The Eucharist possesses the ability to affect me so strongly because it is a sacred miracle where we not only receive Jesus but remember him. Each week at mass while receiving Holy Communion, we unite as a community through worshiping him and reliving the paschal mystery. The power of the Holy Trinity grants us the ability to come together as one community in Jesus Christ. I have seen this in my own life with my church friends and my family. I have plenty of friends in my classes or on my team, but I lack depth in these relationships compared to those of my friends who share my faith. Through our faith, we grow closer and recognize that Jesus unites us as a family, and because of this I can come to them with anything. In the same way, I have seen the effects of this sense of community within my family. I have two wonderful parents and three older sisters that I look up to for many things including their faith. We are all faithful Catholics and help lead, teach, and guide each other in our walks of faith. If there was not something we could believe in to unite us, we would not be able to use our different gifts to unite as one, yet in the body of Christ we can do just that; we become not just a family but one body in Christ.  

It is because of this very fact that Communion is so sacred. During communion, Jesus intercedes for us to the Father and it is through him that our sins are forgiven and our prayers are answered. We are not just sharing a meal; we are sharing a mystery–When we say the prayer before communion, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Jesus hears our plea for forgiveness and washes away our sins so that we may reunite with him and accept him into our hearts.

While all of this is what the power of Communion can do for you and the reasons it is so sacred, you may be asking yourself how to reach this level of intimacy and holiness with communion. The answer lies in the word “desire.”…. We must desire to know, love, and receive Jesus so that we may receive eternal life as well. Jesus doesn’t ask the people to eat of his flesh and blood, he tells us to. THIS is the way to eternal life. If we keep this in mind: if we think about the fact that he doesn’t say do this as a symbol of me, he says this is my body, if we can make ourselves picture Jesus himself standing at the foot of the altar when we walk up to receive holy communion—then—we will truly understand the value of the Eucharist. The holiness, the sacredness, if we can cause our minds to realize that Jesus is therepresent in mass—then we will grow to desire him and love him. Communion will no longer be something we simply eat but it will become a part of our lives because as we realize that Jesus is there within us, that realization will change our hearts and cause them to desire to live as him, and love him and others with all our heart, mind, and strength.

When we just begin to reach this level of understanding and intimacy with the Eucharist, it creates profound effects on our community life. I have witnessed for myself the effects of this desire. Through receiving communion, I receive Jesus into my hearts and soul, and give him a welcoming home. Accepting Jesus, and recognizing the value and sacredness of the Eucharist however, is not something I obtained over night. I made my first communion in 2nd grade. As a child, I grew up in a faithful family and I’ve always felt close to God, so I knew my 1st communion was a very special moment. I can still go back and read my diary and remember how excited I was to make it, I remember pretending our treadmill was an aisle and practicing walking down it to receive communion, yet I didn’t fully understand why it was so special. As I’ve grown over the past 7 years I’ve greatly increased my understanding of faith through prayer and reflection. I started increasing my desire to know Jesus by reading my bible and getting drawn into the mysterious of God, after that I began to pray more, I began reading Catholic books, involving myself in church, praying the rosary, and asking God to deepen my faith. As these changes occurred, I found myself dying to selfishness and instead rising to service. My own worldly desires seemed to slowly fade away as I began to desire to serve only God. I like to think of myself as a dandelion, when I desire to serve only God; I give up my life, my time and precious activities that take up my time to grant God’s wishes just like how when a dandelion dies, you blow the white seeds to make a wish. I’m still growing in my faith, but I now see communion in a whole new light…

As we grow closer to God and live a life of love, we become more united as a community and we begin to share in a life that is loved. We are united by sharing the sacrament of the Eucharist. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, Paul says: “the cup that we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread that we break: when we eat it we are sharing in the body of Christ. Because there is the one loaf of bread, all of us, though many, are one body, for we all share in the same loaf.” When we embrace this unity, this oneness in Christ, through the holy Eucharist, as a community we can accomplish great things. We can learn to accept others as they are, to see the poor, the outcasts, the hurting, as the beautiful creations of God that they are. We can come together to love and serve God each with our own special gifts and the community as a whole will grow closer to Christ through his unfailing love and grace. With God guiding us from the inside out, there’s nothing we can’t do! We receive him into our bodies and he uses us, he blows his seeds all around the world to go spread his word and heal and comfort the sick and hurting… The Eucharist is God’s greatest gift because it coincides with his passion, his giving of his life to SAVE OUR SOULS. When we truly accept it, it recreates us into a church of people eager to let the light of God explode out of them, to show the world Christ’s love…

When we walk up the aisle during communion with our crosses, we are walking up to Jesus.

Just as God can take any form, Jesus takes the form of the bread and wine we share. And although we are unworthy it is the blood of Jesus that washes away our sins, and he offers it to us as an immeasurable gift that has been around since Jesus’ last supper. He only says but one word and heals, unites, and accepts us,—in return, we need only to open our hearts and let him in and he will begin to change our lives from the inside out.

 So I pray, as I end my witness, may we reflect on the sacredness and power of the Eucharist. When we walk up to the aisle next time, and for the rest of our lives, we not  see it as bread and wine, but instead see Jesus standing there, smiling, ready to welcome us in.