Continuing Chronicles: Eucharist

After a brief digression with my Mother’s Day post, I’m back to my son’s challenge of explaining my Catholic beliefs.  I have previously mentioned Theology of the Body and Humanae Vitae as two very important factors in my belief in our teaching on human dignity and sexuality.  Now I would like to address a truth that many, including Catholics, find difficult to embrace: the Real Presence.

Christ’s presence in the bread and wine at Holy Communion is certainly a mystery.  That is likely why so many people have such a difficult time accepting this teaching.  It can’t be explained in specific theological or scientific language.  It can’t be proven by tests and studies performed by scholars or scientists.  One thing is certain; Jesus very plainly and without any accompanying parable or explanation stated the following:

“I myself am the bread that has come down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever. And now, what is this bread that I am to give? It is my flesh, given for the life of the world” (John 6:51-52)

And when his followers and disciples questioned if He could truly give them his flesh to eat, he continued:

“You can have no life in yourselves, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood. The man who eats my flesh and drinks my blood enjoys eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. My flesh is real food, my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, lives continually in me, and I in him” (John 6:54-57)

LastSupper

Was Jesus crazy?  Was He just trying to chase away people who up to this point had followed him faithfully?  Or was He possibly showing us how He would be with us “to the end of the age”? (Matthew 28:20)

So yes, I believe the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.  My husband, who struggled with this for years, finally had an epiphany (our favorite word!).  He told our kids:  If God could create the universe and everything in it, why is it so difficult to imagine He can transform the bread and wine into His body and blood?  For a man who had such huge doubts for the majority of his life, this realization was life changing for him.  And it changed our lives as we have watched him blossom into a strong, faithful man.

Eucharist-Black-White1

In Vatican II’s document Lumen gentium, (no. 11) the Eucharistis called “the source and summit of the Christian life.”  We join with Christ, in communion with him when we celebrate the Mass.  We also are in communion with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.  We take Him in and then take Him out into the world as living examples of His love.  

I don’t believe this because any document said I must (although many important documents expound on the meaning of this mystery).  I don’t believe this because my parents told me I had to, although they gave witness to us in their actions what an important part of our faith the Eucharist is.  I believe it because Jesus eloquently told us He is flesh to eat and food to drink.  I believe it because I have seen the visible results of Its power in the lives of so many men and women.  But mostly, I believe it because of the strength and grace and love that overwhelms me when I partake.

jpII euharist

Mother’s Day Memory

With Father’s Day just a couple of days away, and Mother’s Day lingering as a sweet memory, I can’t help but share some wonderful news.  Anybody that knows me is quite aware of my love of babies and toddlers.  I used to be surprised when friends or co-workers would say “of course, we know you love babies”!  How could they know?  Then I would recall how at work, I “ooo’d” and “aaahhh’d” over an infant in her stroller or my offer to hold a fussy baby for a friend, or babysitting for friends with four kids under 6.  

baby shoes

When my son married his sweetheart a few years ago, I promised him I would not be one of those moms who constantly asks when they will start a family.  (Secretly I was recalling the times in recent past when I teased him he could hardly remember to brush his teeth, how could he take care of a baby?)  In his defense, my son has a gift with kids.  He can make them laugh, talk, play anywhere any time.  I’ve always known he’d make a great dad.

granddad and toddler

I kept my promise – well, almost.  Just before we moved (a story for another day!), my son came to church with us where we ran into a friend.  She mentioned her granddaughter who came to spend Spring Break, then asked when I would be a granny.  So I turned to him and said “yeah, I’ve been wondering that myself”.  He looked a little perturbed with me and said he couldn’t believe I said that.

Admittedly, I shouldn’t have said it and I was feeling a bit guilty.  But it was my one and only slip, so I hoped he would overlook it.  Over the next few months the subject was not mentioned – a sigh of relief.  Mother’s Day was approaching; our move put a bit of a kink in the plans, especially since the house was still inundated with boxes.  My daughter wasn’t going to be able to meet us, but she planned to come up for a four-day weekend on Memorial Day.  We decided to meet my son and daughter-in-law halfway, go to mass together then head out to brunch.  It was a gorgeous day.  We all arrived a little early, talking in the narthex before mass began.  I felt a tickle on the back of my leg.  Suspecting it was a little one, I turned around and my daughter gave me a hug.  She had decided to come anyway, just to surprise me.

We have a family joke about Father’s Day.  One year, when my son was about 16, fathers were asked to stand for a blessing.  He looked around, started to stand up a couple of times, then sheepishly sat back down.  Of course, it elicited the expected laughter.  (He didn’t get that from me!)  I tell this story to help explain what happened next in church.

Just before the last song and processional, the priest asked for all moms to stand for a blessing.  I was sitting next to my daughter-in-law and she stood up with me.  I turned to my son, thinking he talked her into pulling an “Eric”.  He had this look on his face like: you really aren’t getting this.  Then I saw tears in my husband’s and daughter’s eyes.  It took much too long for me to realize she was pregnant!  Suddenly, I just wanted to holler – instead I clapped a quick tiny clap, squeaked and gave her a big hug!  My son was flabbergasted that it took me so long to “get it”.  When we went to brunch, he admitted the day I had asked when I was going to be a granny, they already knew about the pregnancy.

infant yawn

I am beyond overjoyed to know we will soon have another member of our family; a new, tiny, innocent, adorable baby.  In a world where many couples decide NOT to bring a new life into the world, the faith and optimism my kids are showing is powerful.  I’m  sure they don’t see it as a courageous decision, but I am so proud of them.  It is so much easier to find excuses to avoid having children.  Raising a family is hard work. But not to worry, they’ll do a terrific job.

I’ve worked hard to be a good mom, an example to my kids of what a mother should be. I know I’ve made mistakes and probably not apologized as often as necessary.  But I pray enough good things remain in their memory that they’ll become not only amazing adults but exceptional parents.

And I can’t begin to explain how excited and grateful I am to be a granny!  Now if I can just convince my husband he’s ready to be a grandfather!

boy and dog