The Last Supper

Thursday, March 16th, 2017
The Last Supper Puzzle

The Last Supper is when the disciples gathered in the Upper Room with Jesus and He instituted the Holy Sacrifice of His Body and Blood to be perpetuated by the Church with His command, "Do This In Memory of Me"

What?

Jesus Institution of the Eucharist

Where?

In the Upper Room in Jerusalem the night before His crucifixion

How?

By God the Father's plan of salvation

Why Do they Call It the Mass?

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016
Priest_at_Altar   The word Mass comes from the Latin and means “to send”, or more precisely, “to have been sent”. The word mission has the same Latin root.   The Mass itself contains the elements of what we are sent to do: • Publicly acknowledging our failings and our need to be reconciled with God. • Praying with others, for those in need and the needs of the world • Making peace with our neighbor • Sharing God’s Word We have been sent by the Holy Spirit to do the Father’s will, strengthened by the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This "sending" is scriptural in origin, coming from our Lord when he said to His disciples "...as the Father has sent Me so I send you" (John 20:21)

What is a Deacon?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
deaconsA deacon is an ordained minister of the Catholic Church. There are three groups, or "orders," of ordained ministers in the Church: bishops, presbyters and deacons. Deacons are ordained as a sacramental sign to the Church and to the world of Christ,who came "to serve and not to be served." The entire Church is called by Christ to serve, and the deacon, in virtue of his sacramental ordination and through his various ministries, is to be a servant in a servant-Church.

What are these "various ministries" of the Deacon?

All ordained ministers in the Church are called to functions of Word, Sacrament,and Charity, but bishops, presbyters and deacons exercise these functions in various ways. As ministers of Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach, and teach in the name of the Church. As ministers of Sacrament,deacons baptize,lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services As ministers of Charity, deacons are leaders in identifying the needs of others, then marshaling the Church's resources to meet those needs. Deacons are also dedicated to eliminating the injustices or inequities that cause such needs. But no matter what specific functions a deacon performs, they flow from his sacramental identity. In other words, it is not only what a deacon does,but who a deacon is,that is important.

Why do some deacons become priests?

For many years ordained ministers "ascended" from one office to another, culminating in ordination to the presbyterate, or priesthood. The Second Vatican Council (1962 – 1965), however, authorized the restoration of the diaconate as a permanent order of ministry. So, while students for the priesthood are still ordained deacons prior to their ordination as priests, there are more than 13,000 deacons in the United States alone who minister in this Order permanently. There is no difference in the sacramental sign or the functions between these so-called "transitional" and "permanent deacons."

May married men be ordained deacons?

Yes. The Second Vatican Council decreed that the diaconate, when it was restored as a permanent order in the hierarchy, could be opened to "mature married men," later clarified to mean men over the age of 35. This is in keeping with the ancient tradition of the Church, in which married men were ordained into ministry. Also in keeping with ancient practice is the expectation that while a married man may be ordained, an ordained man, if his wife should die, may not marry again without special permission. "Celibacy Affects Every Deacon: In one way or another, celibacy affects every deacon, married or unmarried. Understanding the nature of celibacy —its value and its practice—are essential to the married deacon. Not only does this understanding strengthen and nurture his own commitment to marital chastity, but it also helps to prepare him for the possibility of living celibate chastity should his wife predecease him. This concern is particularly unique within the diaconate. Tragically, some deacons who were married at the time of ordination only begin to face the issues involved with celibacy upon the death of their wives. As difficult as this process is, all deacons need to appreciate the impact celibacy can have on their lives and ministry." -- National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, par. 72.

Is a Deacon ordained for the Parish or the Diocese?

Whenever a person is ordained, he is to serve the diocesan Church. Deacons are no different in this regard: they are assigned by the bishop to ministries for which the bishop perceives a great need, and for which the deacon may have special gifts or talents. Most often, this will be within a parish setting, just as most priests serve in a parish. Once assigned to the parish, the deacon and any other clergy assigned to the parish minister under the immediate supervision of the pastor. However, this assignment may be changed at the request of the deacon or the initiative of the bishop. From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

What is the Sacrament of Holy Orders?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
Holy_OrdersBy virtue of our Baptism, all Christians are part of a common priesthood of believers. We are all called to participate in Christ’s mission. Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, bishops and priests are given a special role in carrying out this mission. They exercise a ministerial priesthood. Deacons also receive a special grace through ordination and are called to assist the ministry of bishops and priests (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], nos. 1547, 1554). Pope Benedict XVI writes, “The priest is above all a servant of others” (Sacramentum Caritatis [Sacrament of Charity], no. 23). In gathering the community, modeling Christ’s love for the poor, presiding at Eucharist, and evangelizing social realities, ordained ministers help Christians imitate Christ’s mission of love and justice. Representatives of Christ Through ordination, priests become representatives of Christ to the Church—as witnesses of holiness and love, preachers of the Gospel, shepherds of the faithful, conveners of divine worship, and builders of the Church. Through their ministry, priests are called, in imitation of Christ, to “preach good news to the poor . . . proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Lk 4:18-19)” (Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis [I Will Give You Shepherds], no. 11). Deacons, too, are ordained to imitate Christ in his ministry of service and charity to the poor and needy in the community. Proclaimers of the Word As co-workers with their bishops in teaching and carrying out Christ’s mission, priests and deacons proclaim the Word of God to his people. This includes education about the social teaching of the Church, which is based in both Scripture and Tradition, and helping community members become aware of their “right and duty to be active subjects of this doctrine” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church [Compendium], no. 539). Pastors Each bishop is entrusted with the care of a particular church, and priests and deacons assist in pastoring the people of God locally. Pastoral ministry requires that ordained ministers develop competency in “social analysis and community organization” and cross-cultural ministry (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB], The Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests, 29). Priests should “animate pastoral action in the social field,” especially assisting lay Christians who are involved in political and social life (Compendium, no. 539). Pastoral concern extends beyond the local Church; bishops and priests must also attend to problems facing the people of the world, “sharing their experiences and growing, above all, in solidarity towards the poor” (Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia in America [The Church in America], no. 39) Presiders of Eucharist Bishops and priests preside over the Eucharist, offering the sacrifice in the name of the whole Church, the Body of Christ (CCC, no. 1553). In celebrating the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit transforms the people of God for mission. In the words of Bishop William S. Skylstad: Especially at the celebration of Eucharist we help our people find Jesus in their lives through word, sacrament, and community. We also help them to appreciate that as they leave the church building they move into the world as Eucharistic people. They too are to become “foot washers of humanity.” (Priests for a New Millennium, 158). From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

What Makes Marriage a Sacrament?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
Priest_Wedding_RingSacred Scripture begins with the creation and union of man and woman and ends with "the wedding feast of the Lamb" (Rev 19:7, 9). Scripture often refers to marriage, its origin and purpose, the meaning God gave to it, and its renewal in the covenant made by Jesus with his Church. God created man and woman out of love and commanded them to imitate his love in their relations with each other. Man and woman were created for each other. "It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him. . . . The two of them become one body" (Gn 2:18; 24). Woman and man are equal in human dignity, and in marriage both are united in an unbreakable bond. Jesus brought to full awareness the divine plan for marriage. In John’s Gospel, Christ’s first miracle occurs at the wedding in Cana. “The Church attaches great importance to Jesus’ presence at the wedding at Cana. She sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ’s presence” (CCC, no. 1613). By their marriage, the couple witnesses Christ's spousal love for the Church. One of the Nuptial Blessings in the liturgical celebration of marriage refers to this in saying, "Father, you have made the union of man and wife so holy a mystery that it symbolizes the marriage of Christ and his Church." The Sacrament of Marriage is a covenant, which is more than a contract. Covenant always expresses a relationship between persons. The marriage covenant refers to the relationship between the husband and wife, a permanent union of persons capable of knowing and loving each other and God. The celebration of marriage is also a liturgical act, appropriately held in a public liturgy at church. Catholics are urged to celebrate their marriage within the Eucharistic Liturgy. From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

What is the Anointing of the Sick?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
The Rite of Anointing tells us there is no need to wait until a person is at the point of death to receive the Sacrament. A careful judgment about the serious nature of the illness is sufficient. The Sacrament may be repeated if the sick person recovers after the anointing but becomes ill once again, or if, during the same illness, the person's condition becomes more serious. A person should be anointed before surgery when a dangerous illness is the reason for the intervention (cf. Rite of Anointing, Introduction, nos. 8-10). Moreover, "old people may be anointed if they are in weak condition even though no dangerous illness is present. Sick children may be anointed if they have sufficient use of reason to be comforted by this sacrament. . . . [The faithful] should be encouraged to ask for the anointing, and, as soon as the time for the anointing comes, to receive it with faith and devotion, not misusing the sacrament by putting it off" (Rite of Anointing, nos. 11, 12, 13). Only bishops and priests may be ministers of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. A penitential rite followed by the Liturgy of the Word opens the celebration. Scripture awakens the faith of the sick and family members and friends to pray to Christ for the strength of his Holy Spirit. The priest lays his hands on the head of the sick person. He then proceeds to anoint, with the blessed Oil of the Sick, the forehead and hands of the sick person (in the Roman Rite). He accompanies these acts with the words, "Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up" (CCC, no. 1513). For those who are about to depart from this life, the Church offers the person Penance, Anointing of the Sick, and the Eucharist as Viaticum (food for the journey) given at the end of life. These are "the sacraments that prepare for our heavenly homeland" (cf. CCC, no. 1525). These rites are highly valued by Catholics as powerful aids to a good death. Since Holy Communion is the effective sign of Christ's Paschal Mystery, it becomes for the recipient the opportunity to unite one's own suffering and dying to that of Christ with the hope of life eternal with him. The special words proper to Viaticum are added: "May the Lord Jesus protect you and lead you to everlasting life. Amen." From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

What is the Sacrament of Penance?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
Penance_3The Sacrament of Penance is an experience of the gift of God's boundless mercy. Not only does it free us from our sins but it also challenges us to have the same kind of compassion and forgiveness for those who sin against us. We are liberated to be forgivers. We obtain new insight into the words of the Prayer of St. Francis: "It is in pardoning that we are pardoned." Jesus entrusted the ministry of reconciliation to the Church. The Sacrament of Penance is God's gift to us so that any sin committed after Baptism can be forgiven. In confession we have the opportunity to repent and recover the grace of friendship with God. It is a holy moment in which we place ourselves in his presence and honestly acknowledge our sins, especially mortal sins. With absolution, we are reconciled to God and the Church. The Sacrament helps us stay close to the truth that we cannot live without God. "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). While all the Sacraments bring us an experience of the mercy that comes from Christ's dying and rising, it is the Sacrament of Reconciliation that is the unique Sacrament of mercy. -From the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults

What is the Sacrament of Confirmation?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
Confirmation, together with Baptism and Eucharist, form the Sacraments of Initiation that are all intimately connected. In the Sacrament of Confirmation, the baptized person is "sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit" and is strengthened for service to the Body of Christ. The prophets of the Old Testament foretold that God's Spirit would rest upon the Messiah to sustain his mission. Their prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus the Messiah was conceived by the Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus on the occasion of his baptism by John. Jesus' entire mission occurred in communion with the Spirit. Before he died, Jesus promised that the Spirit would be given to the Apostles and to the entire Church. After his death, he was raised by the Father in the power of the Spirit. Those who believed in the Apostles' preaching were baptized and received the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands. The Apostles baptized believers in water and the Spirit. Then they imparted the special gift of the Spirit through the laying on of hands. "'The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church'" (CCC, no. 1288, citing Pope Paul VI, Divinae Consortium Naturae, no. 659). By the second century, Confirmation was also conferred by anointing with holy oil, which came to be called sacred Chrism. "This anointing highlights the name 'Christian,' which means 'anointed' and derives from that of Christ himself whom God 'anointed with the Holy Spirit'" (CCC, no. 1289, citing Acts 10:38). —From the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults

What is the Sacrament of the Eucharist?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
The Lord Jesus, on the night before he suffered on the cross, shared one last meal with his disciples. During this meal our Savior instituted the sacrament of his Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages and to entrust to the Church his Spouse a memorial of his death and resurrection. As the Gospel of Matthew tells us: While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins." (Mt 26:26-28; cf. Mk 14:22-24, Lk 22:17-20, 1 Cor 11:23-25) Recalling these words of Jesus, the Catholic Church professes that, in the celebration of the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the instrumentality of the priest. Jesus said: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. . . . For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink" (Jn 6:51-55). The whole Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine—the glorified Christ who rose from the dead after dying for our sins. This is what the Church means when she speaks of the "Real Presence" of Christ in the Eucharist. This presence of Christ in the Eucharist is called "real" not to exclude other types of his presence as if they could not be understood as real (cf. Catechism, no. 1374). The risen Christ is present to his Church in many ways, but most especially through the sacrament of his Body and Blood.
  • What does it mean that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist under the appearances of bread and wine? How does this happen?

The presence of the risen Christ in the Eucharist is an inexhaustible mystery that the Church can never fully explain in words. We must remember that the triune God is the creator of all that exists and has the power to do more than we can possibly imagine. As St. Ambrose said: "If the word of the Lord Jesus is so powerful as to bring into existence things which were not, then a fortiori those things which already exist can be changed into something else" ( De Sacramentis, IV, 5-16). God created the world in order to share his life with persons who are not God. This great plan of salvation reveals a wisdom that surpasses our understanding. But we are not left in ignorance: for out of his love for us, God reveals his truth to us in ways that we can understand through the gift of faith and the grace of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. We are thus enabled to understand at least in some measure what would otherwise remain unknown to us, though we can never completely comprehend the mystery of God.

As successors of the Apostles and teachers of the Church, the bishops have the duty to hand on what God has revealed to us and to encourage all members of the Church to deepen their understanding of the mystery and gift of the Eucharist. In order to foster such a deepening of faith, we have prepared this text to respond to fifteen questions that commonly arise with regard to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We offer this text to pastors and religious educators to assist them in their teaching responsibilities. We recognize that some of these questions involve rather complex theological ideas. It is our hope, however, that study and discussion of the text will aid many of the Catholic faithful in our country to enrich their understanding of this mystery of the faith.


  • Why does Jesus give himself to us as food and drink?

Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist as spiritual nourishment because he loves us. God's whole plan for our salvation is directed to our participation in the life of the Trinity, the communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our sharing in this life begins with our Baptism, when by the power of the Holy Spirit we are joined to Christ, thus becoming adopted sons and daughters of the Father. It is strengthened and increased in Confirmation. It is nourished and deepened through our participation in the Eucharist. By eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Christ in the Eucharist we become united to the person of Christ through his humanity. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him" (Jn 6:56). In being united to the humanity of Christ we are at the same time united to his divinity. Our mortal and corruptible natures are transformed by being joined to the source of life. "Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me" (Jn 6:57). By being united to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we are drawn up into the eternal relationship of love among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As Jesus is the eternal Son of God by nature, so we become sons and daughters of God by adoption through the sacrament of Baptism. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation (Chrismation), we are temples of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, and by his indwelling we are made holy by the gift of sanctifying grace. The ultimate promise of the Gospel is that we will share in the life of the Holy Trinity. The Fathers of the Church called this participation in the divine life "divinization" ( theosis). In this we see that God does not merely send us good things from on high; instead, we are brought up into the inner life of God, the communion among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the celebration of the Eucharist (which means "thanksgiving") we give praise and glory to God for this sublime gift.


  • Why is the Eucharist not only a meal but also a sacrifice?

While our sins would have made it impossible for us to share in the life of God, Jesus Christ was sent to remove this obstacle. His death was a sacrifice for our sins. Christ is "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29). Through his death and resurrection, he conquered sin and death and reconciled us to God. The Eucharist is the memorial of this sacrifice. The Church gathers to remember and to re-present the sacrifice of Christ in which we share through the action of the priest and the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the celebration of the Eucharist, we are joined to Christ's sacrifice and receive its inexhaustible benefits. As the Letter to the Hebrews explains, Jesus is the one eternal high priest who always lives to make intercession for the people before the Father. In this way, he surpasses the many high priests who over centuries used to offer sacrifices for sin in the Jerusalem temple. The eternal high priest Jesus offers the perfect sacrifice which is his very self, not something else. "He entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption" (Heb 9:12). Jesus' act belongs to human history, for he is truly human and has entered into history. At the same time, however, Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity; he is the eternal Son, who is not confined within time or history. His actions transcend time, which is part of creation. "Passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation" (Heb 9:11), Jesus the eternal Son of God made his act of sacrifice in the presence of his Father, who lives in eternity. Jesus' one perfect sacrifice is thus eternally present before the Father, who eternally accepts it. This means that in the Eucharist, Jesus does not sacrifice himself again and again. Rather, by the power of the Holy Spirit his one eternal sacrifice is made present once again, re-presented, so that we may share in it. Christ does not have to leave where he is in heaven to be with us. Rather, we partake of the heavenly liturgy where Christ eternally intercedes for us and presents his sacrifice to the Father and where the angels and saints constantly glorify God and give thanks for all his gifts: "To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever" (Rev 5:13). As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "By the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all" (no. 1326). The Sanctus proclamation, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord . . . ," is the song of the angels who are in the presence of God (Is 6:3). When in the Eucharist we proclaim the Sanctus we echo on earth the song of angels as they worship God in heaven. In the eucharistic celebration we do not simply remember an event in history. Rather, through the mysterious action of the Holy Spirit in the eucharistic celebration the Lord's Paschal Mystery is made present and contemporaneous to his Spouse the Church. Furthermore, in the eucharistic re-presentation of Christ's eternal sacrifice before the Father, we are not simply spectators. The priest and the worshiping community are in different ways active in the eucharistic sacrifice. The ordained priest standing at the altar represents Christ as head of the Church. All the baptized, as members of Christ's Body, share in his priesthood, as both priest and victim. The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. The Church, which is the Body and Bride of Christ, participates in the sacrificial offering of her Head and Spouse. In the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ becomes the sacrifice of the members of his Body who united to Christ form one sacrificial offering (cf. Catechism, no. 1368). As Christ's sacrifice is made sacramentally present, united with Christ, we offer ourselves as a sacrifice to the Father. "The whole Church exercises the role of priest and victim along with Christ, offering the Sacrifice of the Mass and itself completely offered in it" ( Mysterium Fidei, no. 31; cf. Lumen Gentium, no. 11).


  • When the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, why do they still look and taste like bread and wine?

In the celebration of the Eucharist, the glorified Christ becomes present under the appearances of bread and wine in a way that is unique, a way that is uniquely suited to the Eucharist. In the Church's traditional theological language, in the act of consecration during the Eucharist the "substance" of the bread and wine is changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the "substance" of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. At the same time, the "accidents" or appearances of bread and wine remain. "Substance" and "accident" are here used as philosophical terms that have been adapted by great medieval theologians such as St. Thomas Aquinas in their efforts to understand and explain the faith. Such terms are used to convey the fact that what appears to be bread and wine in every way (at the level of "accidents" or physical attributes - that is, what can be seen, touched, tasted, or measured) in fact is now the Body and Blood of Christ (at the level of "substance" or deepest reality). This change at the level of substance from bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is called "transubstantiation." According to Catholic faith, we can speak of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because this transubstantiation has occurred (cf. Catechism, no. 1376). This is a great mystery of our faith—we can only know it from Christ's teaching given us in the Scriptures and in the Tradition of the Church. Every other change that occurs in the world involves a change in accidents or characteristics. Sometimes the accidents change while the substance remains the same. For example, when a child reaches adulthood, the characteristics of the human person change in many ways, but the adult remains the same person—the same substance. At other times, the substance and the accidents both change. For example, when a person eats an apple, the apple is incorporated into the body of that person—is changed into the body of that person. When this change of substance occurs, however, the accidents or characteristics of the apple do not remain. As the apple is changed into the body of the person, it takes on the accidents or characteristics of the body of that person. Christ's presence in the Eucharist is unique in that, even though the consecrated bread and wine truly are in substance the Body and Blood of Christ, they have none of the accidents or characteristics of a human body, but only those of bread and wine.


  • Does the bread cease to be bread and the wine cease to be wine?

Yes. In order for the whole Christ to be present—body, blood, soul, and divinity—the bread and wine cannot remain, but must give way so that his glorified Body and Blood may be present. Thus in the Eucharist the bread ceases to be bread in substance, and becomes the Body of Christ, while the wine ceases to be wine in substance, and becomes the Blood of Christ. As St. Thomas Aquinas observed, Christ is not quoted as saying, " This bread is my body," but " This is my body" ( Summa Theologiae, III q. 78, a. 5).


  • Is it fitting that Christ's Body and Blood become present in the Eucharist under the appearances of bread and wine?

Yes, for this way of being present corresponds perfectly to the sacramental celebration of the Eucharist. Jesus Christ gives himself to us in a form that employs the symbolism inherent in eating bread and drinking wine. Furthermore, being present under the appearances of bread and wine, Christ gives himself to us in a form that is appropriate for human eating and drinking. Also, this kind of presence corresponds to the virtue of faith, for the presence of the Body and Blood of Christ cannot be detected or discerned by any way other than faith. That is why St. Bonaventure affirmed: "There is no difficulty over Christ's being present in the sacrament as in a sign; the great difficulty is in the fact that He is really in the sacrament, as He is in heaven. And so believing this is especially meritorious" ( In IV Sent., dist. X, P. I, art. un., qu. I). On the authority of God who reveals himself to us, by faith we believe that which cannot be grasped by our human faculties (cf. Catechism, no. 1381).


  • Are the consecrated bread and wine "merely symbols"?

In everyday language, we call a "symbol" something that points beyond itself to something else, often to several other realities at once. The transformed bread and wine that are the Body and Blood of Christ are not merely symbols because they truly are the Body and Blood of Christ. As St. John Damascene wrote: "The bread and wine are not a foreshadowing of the body and blood of Christ—By no means!—but the actual deified body of the Lord, because the Lord Himself said: ‘This is my body'; not ‘a foreshadowing of my body' but ‘my body,' and not ‘a foreshadowing of my blood' but ‘my blood'" ( The Orthodox Faith, IV [PG 94, 1148-49]). At the same time, however, it is important to recognize that the Body and Blood of Christ come to us in the Eucharist in a sacramental form. In other words, Christ is present under the appearances of bread and wine, not in his own proper form. We cannot presume to know all the reasons behind God's actions. God uses, however, the symbolism inherent in the eating of bread and the drinking of wine at the natural level to illuminate the meaning of what is being accomplished in the Eucharist through Jesus Christ. There are various ways in which the symbolism of eating bread and drinking wine discloses the meaning of the Eucharist. For example, just as natural food gives nourishment to the body, so the eucharistic food gives spiritual nourishment. Furthermore, the sharing of an ordinary meal establishes a certain communion among the people who share it; in the Eucharist, the People of God share a meal that brings them into communion not only with each other but with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Similarly, as St. Paul tells us, the single loaf that is shared among many during the eucharistic meal is an indication of the unity of those who have been called together by the Holy Spirit as one body, the Body of Christ (1 Cor 10:17). To take another example, the individual grains of wheat and individual grapes have to be harvested and to undergo a process of grinding or crushing before they are unified as bread and as wine. Because of this, bread and wine point to both the union of the many that takes place in the Body of Christ and the suffering undergone by Christ, a suffering that must also be embraced by his disciples. Much more could be said about the many ways in which the eating of bread and drinking of wine symbolize what God does for us through Christ, since symbols carry multiple meanings and connotations.


  • Do the consecrated bread and wine cease to be the Body and Blood of Christ when the Mass is over?

No. During the celebration of the Eucharist, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, and this they remain. They cannot turn back into bread and wine, for they are no longer bread and wine at all. There is thus no reason for them to change back to their "normal" state after the special circumstances of the Mass are past. Once the substance has really changed, the presence of the Body and Blood of Christ "endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist" ( Catechism, no. 1377). Against those who maintained that the bread that is consecrated during the Eucharist has no sanctifying power if it is left over until the next day, St. Cyril of Alexandria replied, "Christ is not altered, nor is his holy body changed, but the power of the consecration and his life-giving grace is perpetual in it" ( Letter 83, to Calosyrius, Bishop of Arsinoe [ PG 76, 1076]). The Church teaches that Christ remains present under the appearances of bread and wine as long as the appearances of bread and wine remain (cf. Catechism, no. 1377).


  • Why are some of the consecrated hosts reserved after the Mass?

While it would be possible to eat all of the bread that is consecrated during the Mass, some is usually kept in the tabernacle. The Body of Christ under the appearance of bread that is kept or "reserved" after the Mass is commonly referred to as the "Blessed Sacrament." There are several pastoral reasons for reserving the Blessed Sacrament. First of all, it is used for distribution to the dying ( Viaticum), the sick, and those who legitimately cannot be present for the celebration of the Eucharist. Secondly, the Body of Christ in the form of bread is to be adored when it is exposed, as in the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction, when it is carried in eucharistic processions, or when it is simply placed in the tabernacle, before which people pray privately. These devotions are based on the fact that Christ himself is present under the appearance of bread. Many holy people well known to American Catholics, such as St. John Neumann, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Katharine Drexel, and Blessed Damien of Molokai, practiced great personal devotion to Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament. In the Eastern Catholic Churches, devotion to the reserved Blessed Sacrament is practiced most directly at the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, offered on weekdays of Lent.


  • What are appropriate signs of reverence with respect to the Body and Blood of Christ?

The Body and Blood of Christ present under the appearances of bread and wine are treated with the greatest reverence both during and after the celebration of the Eucharist (cf. Mysterium Fidei, nos. 56-61). For example, the tabernacle in which the consecrated bread is reserved is placed "in some part of the church or oratory which is distinguished, conspicuous, beautifully decorated, and suitable for prayer" ( Code of Canon Law, Can. 938, §2). According to the tradition of the Latin Church, one should genuflect in the presence of the tabernacle containing the reserved sacrament. In the Eastern Catholic Churches, the traditional practice is to make the sign of the cross and to bow profoundly. The liturgical gestures from both traditions reflect reverence, respect, and adoration. It is appropriate for the members of the assembly to greet each other in the gathering space of the church (that is, the vestibule or narthex), but it is not appropriate to speak in loud or boisterous tones in the body of the church (that is, the nave) because of the presence of Christ in the tabernacle. Also, the Church requires everyone to fast before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ as a sign of reverence and recollection (unless illness prevents one from doing so). In the Latin Church, one must generally fast for at least one hour; members of Eastern Catholic Churches must follow the practice established by their own Church.


  • If someone without faith eats and drinks the consecrated bread and wine, does he or she still receive the Body and Blood of Christ?

If "to receive" means "to consume," the answer is yes, for what the person consumes is the Body and Blood of Christ. If "to receive" means "to accept the Body and Blood of Christ knowingly and willingly as what they are, so as to obtain the spiritual benefit," then the answer is no. A lack of faith on the part of the person eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ cannot change what these are, but it does prevent the person from obtaining the spiritual benefit, which is communion with Christ. Such reception of Christ's Body and Blood would be in vain and, if done knowingly, would be sacrilegious (1 Cor 11:29). Reception of the Blessed Sacrament is not an automatic remedy. If we do not desire communion with Christ, God does not force this upon us. Rather, we must by faith accept God's offer of communion in Christ and in the Holy Spirit, and cooperate with God's grace in order to have our hearts and minds transformed and our faith and love of God increased.


  • If a believer who is conscious of having committed a mortal sin eats and drinks the consecrated bread and wine, does he or she still receive the Body and Blood of Christ?

Yes. The attitude or disposition of the recipient cannot change what the consecrated bread and wine are. The question here is thus not primarily about the nature of the Real Presence, but about how sin affects the relationship between an individual and the Lord. Before one steps forward to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion, one needs to be in a right relationship with the Lord and his Mystical Body, the Church - that is, in a state of grace, free of all mortal sin. While sin damages, and can even destroy, that relationship, the sacrament of Penance can restore it. St. Paul tells us that "whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup" (1 Cor 11:27-28). Anyone who is conscious of having committed a mortal sin should be reconciled through the sacrament of Penance before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, unless a grave reason exists for doing so and there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, that is, an act of sorrow for sins that "arises from a love by which God is loved above all else" ( Catechism, no. 1452). The act of perfect contrition must be accompanied by the firm intention of making a sacramental confession as soon as possible.


  • Does one receive the whole Christ if one receives Holy Communion under a single form?

Yes. Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is wholly present under the appearance either of bread or of wine in the Eucharist. Furthermore, Christ is wholly present in any fragment of the consecrated Host or in any drop of the Precious Blood. Nevertheless, it is especially fitting to receive Christ in both forms during the celebration of the Eucharist. This allows the Eucharist to appear more perfectly as a banquet, a banquet that is a foretaste of the banquet that will be celebrated with Christ at the end of time when the Kingdom of God is established in its fullness (cf. Eucharisticum Mysterium, no. 32).


  • Is Christ present during the celebration of the Eucharist in other ways in addition to his Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament?

Yes. Christ is present during the Eucharist in various ways. He is present in the person of the priest who offers the sacrifice of the Mass. According to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, Christ is present in his Word "since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church." He is also present in the assembled people as they pray and sing, "for he has promised ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them' (Mt 18:20)" ( Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 7). Furthermore, he is likewise present in other sacraments; for example, "when anybody baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes" (ibid.). We speak of the presence of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine as "real" in order to emphasize the special nature of that presence. What appears to be bread and wine is in its very substance the Body and Blood of Christ. The entire Christ is present, God and man, body and blood, soul and divinity. While the other ways in which Christ is present in the celebration of the Eucharist are certainly not unreal, this way surpasses the others. "This presence is called ‘real' not to exclude the idea that the others are ‘real' too, but rather to indicate presence par excellence, because it is substantial and through it Christ becomes present whole and entire, God and man" ( Mysterium Fidei, no. 39).


  • Why do we speak of the "Body of Christ" in more than one sense?

First, the Body of Christ refers to the human body of Jesus Christ, who is the divine Word become man. During the Eucharist, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. As human, Jesus Christ has a human body, a resurrected and glorified body that in the Eucharist is offered to us in the form of bread and wine. Secondly, as St. Paul taught us in his letters, using the analogy of the human body, the Church is the Body of Christ, in which many members are united with Christ their head (1 Cor 10:16-17, 12:12-31; Rom 12:4-8). This reality is frequently referred to as the Mystical Body of Christ. All those united to Christ, the living and the dead, are joined together as one Body in Christ. This union is not one that can be seen by human eyes, for it is a mystical union brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Mystical Body of Christ and the eucharistic Body of Christ are inseparably linked. By Baptism we enter the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, and by receiving the eucharistic Body of Christ we are strengthened and built up into the Mystical Body of Christ. The central act of the Church is the celebration of the Eucharist; the individual believers are sustained as members of the Church, members of the Mystical Body of Christ, through their reception of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. Playing on the two meanings of "Body of Christ," St. Augustine tells those who are to receive the Body of Christ in the Eucharist: "Be what you see, and receive what you are" (Sermon 272). In another sermon he says, "If you receive worthily, you are what you have received" (Sermon 227). The work of the Holy Spirit in the celebration of the Eucharist is twofold in a way that corresponds to the twofold meaning of "Body of Christ." On the one hand, it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that the risen Christ and his act of sacrifice become present. In the eucharistic prayer, the priest asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit down upon the gifts of bread and wine to transform them into the Body and Blood of Christ (a prayer known as the epiclesis or "invocation upon"). On the other hand, at the same time the priest also asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit down upon the whole assembly so that "those who take part in the Eucharist may be one body and one spirit" ( Catechism, no. 1353). It is through the Holy Spirit that the gift of the eucharistic Body of Christ comes to us and through the Holy Spirit that we are joined to Christ and each other as the Mystical Body of Christ. By this we can see that the celebration of the Eucharist does not just unite us to God as individuals who are isolated from one another. Rather, we are united to Christ together with all the other members of the Mystical Body. The celebration of the Eucharist should thus increase our love for one another and remind us of our responsibilities toward one another. Furthermore, as members of the Mystical Body, we have a duty to represent Christ and to bring Christ to the world. We have a responsibility to share the Good News of Christ not only by our words but also by how we live our lives. We also have a responsibility to work against all the forces in our world that oppose the Gospel, including all forms of injustice. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: "The Eucharist commits us to the poor. To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren" (no. 1397).


  • Why do we call the presence of Christ in the Eucharist a "mystery"?

The word "mystery" is commonly used to refer to something that escapes the full comprehension of the human mind. In the Bible, however, the word has a deeper and more specific meaning, for it refers to aspects of God's plan of salvation for humanity, which has already begun but will be completed only with the end of time. In ancient Israel, through the Holy Spirit God revealed to the prophets some of the secrets of what he was going to accomplish for the salvation of his people (cf. Am 3:7; Is 21:28; Dan 2:27-45). Likewise, through the preaching and teaching of Jesus, the mystery of "the Kingdom of God" was being revealed to his disciples (Mk 4:11-12). St. Paul explained that the mysteries of God may challenge our human understanding or may even seem to be foolishness, but their meaning is revealed to the People of God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 1:18-25, 2:6-10; Rom 16:25-27; Rev 10:7). The Eucharist is a mystery because it participates in the mystery of Jesus Christ and God's plan to save humanity through Christ. We should not be surprised if there are aspects of the Eucharist that are not easy to understand, for God's plan for the world has repeatedly surpassed human expectations and human understanding (cf. Jn 6:60-66). For example, even the disciples did not at first understand that it was necessary for the Messiah to be put to death and then to rise from the dead (cf. Mk 8:31-33, 9:31-32, 10:32-34; Mt 16: 21-23, 17:22-23, 20:17-19; Lk 9:22, 9:43-45, 18:31-34). Furthermore, any time that we are speaking of God we need to keep in mind that our human concepts never entirely grasp God. We must not try to limit God to our understanding, but allow our understanding to be stretched beyond its normal limitations by God's revelation.


By his Real Presence in the Eucharist Christ fulfils his promise to be with us "always, until the end of the age" (Mt 28:20). As St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, "It is the law of friendship that friends should live together. . . . Christ has not left us without his bodily presence in this our pilgrimage, but he joins us to himself in this sacrament in the reality of his body and blood" ( Summa Theologiae, III q. 75, a. 1). With this gift of Christ's presence in our midst, the Church is truly blessed. As Jesus told his disciples, referring to his presence among them, "Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it" (Mt 13:17). In the Eucharist the Church both receives the gift of Jesus Christ and gives grateful thanks to God for such a blessing. This thanksgiving is the only proper response, for through this gift of himself in the celebration of the Eucharist under the appearances of bread and wine Christ gives us the gift of eternal life. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. . . . Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. (Jn 6:53-57) From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

What is Baptism?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
Baptism_InfantIn his dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus taught that Baptism was necessary for salvation. "No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit" (John 3:5). After his Resurrection, Jesus met with the eleven Apostles and gave them the commission to preach the Gospel and baptize, telling them, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16). The word baptism in its origins is Greek and means "immersion" and "bath." Immersion in water is a sign of death and emersion out of the water means new life. To bathe in water is also to undergo cleansing. Saint Paul sums up this truth when he says, "You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead" (Colossians 2:12).

The origin and foundation of Christian Baptism is Jesus. Before starting his public ministry, Jesus submitted himself to the baptism given by John the Baptist. The waters did not purify him; he cleansed the waters. "He comes to sanctify the Jordan for our sake . . . to begin a new creation through the Spirit and water" (St. Gregory Nazianzen, Liturgy of the Hours, I, 634).

Jesus' immersion in the water is a sign for all human beings of the need to die to themselves to do God's will. Jesus did not need to be baptized because he was totally faithful to the will of his Father and free from sin. However, he wanted to show his solidarity with human beings in order to reconcile them to the Father. By commanding his disciples to baptize all nations, he established the means by which people would die to sin — Original and actual — and begin to live a new life with God. —From the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults