Many of you may have heard about the recent Pew survey that shows that the majority of Catholics, about 69%, do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Basically, those who do not believe in transubstantiation—meaning that the consecrated bread and wine, while having the appearance of bread and wine, are wholly and substantially changed into Christ’s body and blood by the power of the Holy Spirit—see the bread and wine as merely symbolic of Christ’s body and blood.
I remember being in a class on the writings of St. Paul while in theology taught by a renowned Baptist theologian. We discussed 1 Corinthians 12: 23-25, where Paul begins by saying, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” Our Baptist professor stunned most of his Baptist graduate students by announcing that he believed that St. Paul believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. There was almost an open rebellion in the classroom! That people still wrestle with this intellectually doesn’t surprise me, as long as they are truly wrestling with it!
I also remember a course I took on the gospel of John. Our professor simply told us: “You will not understand this gospel with your intellect alone. You must pray with it or its deeper meaning will be hidden from you.” I think the same applies to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. You cannot get at the core mystery of our Catholic faith without prayer and meditation.
It is alright to have doubts about our faith. I have had enough of them myself. I would just be slow to dismiss a truth that has been at the center of the lives of apostles, martyrs, church fathers and mothers, saints, and mystics for over 2,000 years. If what they believed about the Mass is true, what are the implications for my life if Christ is fully present, body, soul, and divinity, in consecrated bread and wine at Mass? So I will let the saints speak a few words of wisdom on our behalf:
The celebration of the Mass is as valuable is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross. – St. Thomas Aquinas
If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy! – St. John Vianney
If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the door, you will not find him in the chalice. – St. John Chrysostom.
Yours in Christ,