Friday, March 12, 2010

"You might know this better"

To all GW students: have a great, fun, and safe Spring Break! Get some much needed rest but remember that “idleness is a devil’s workshop”. So, you’ll want to stay active spiritually, intellectually, and physically. Please pray for us down in South Carolina! See you at the student Masses (7:30 and 10 pm) on Sunday, March 21.
Occasionally, I get emails from GW Catholics about questionable comments made by their professors about Catholic teaching. These comments are not just made in religion classes here; in fact, I have fielded more questions from students about comments made in psychology classes, history classes, etc. This was my experience as a student at the University of Maryland. For example, a professor of communication occasionally brought up Catholic teaching in unflattering (to put it nicely) ways.

I welcome all GW Catholics to contact me if you hear the Church being questioned, attacked, or misrepresented in serious ways by your professors. Here’s the most recent email exchange with a classic comment at the end:

GW Catholic:
I was hoping you could clarify a question that has repeatedly popped up in my… class. My professor keeps referring to catholics believing that the eucharist represents the “bones” of Christ and not the flesh. I thought as catholics we believe the eucharist is in fact Christ's flesh. Who is right?

Fr Greg:
Thanks for the question. Our belief is that the Eucharist truly is the flesh and blood of Christ. This is based primarily on the Last Supper account when Jesus says "this is my body...this is my blood". But, it is augmented by Christ's teaching in John 6 that the bread he will give is his flesh for the life of the world. He uses the word "flesh" several times in John 6 in relation to the Eucharist; he never uses the word "bones".

The Church teaches that "the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained" (Council of Trent, 1551) in the Eucharist. So, Christ is truly, really, and substantially present. One word the Church doesn't use is physical. This is where it gets confusing and maybe where the problem is with your prof.
He's not physically present because it's NOT like we're eating his bones. We don't go up and chomp into his arm or anything at Communion. We don't see bones and we don't taste bones. We see bread and taste bread. So, it is more of a spiritual presence but it's REAL! If he was physically present, we would see flesh and blood and taste it. The consecration of bread and wine comes about in a spiritual way but REAL. Again, if it was physical, we would see a change. (btw, there is one documented miracle of the Eucharist becoming physical flesh and can see human flesh and blood).

The early Church fought against the heresy your prof is suggesting that we believe. I forget the name of it, but it may just be cannibalism. That's basically what he's saying that we believe. It's not cannibalism because Christ died "once and for all". It's His Risen Body and Blood that we receive in the Eucharist. The Church has believed this from the beginning.

Lastly, if you're ever talking to your prof, he might try to use the arguments that the Protestant Reformers used. They argued that if Christ is spiritually present in the Eucharist, then the Eucharist is only a symbol. They pointed to the Fathers of the Church who said Christ is "spiritually" present in the Eucharist (the Fathers did this in condemning the heresy that he's physically present...that we're eating bones). They said spiritual but REAL. They never wavered in their belief that Christ is really present in the Eucharist. The Reformers did; they separated "spiritual" and "real" while the Church never has.

Hope this didn't confuse you too much and it actually helped. Bottom line is that he's misrepresenting what Catholics believe and suggesting that we believe in something heretical. Feel free to send him my way so I can ask him to get it right! Great job!

GW Catholic:
Thanks a bunch! That made complete sense and I will be sure to describe to him what you've said after class. The Prof has done a good job trying to stick with Catholic facts as best he can (He's Jewish) but his main "source" that he brings up a lot is "Angels and Demons." Its funny because I answered a question he asked the class about the primacy of the papacy and his response was, "wow that sound like something from Angels and Demons."… Anyway, he then asked me if I was Catholic and when I said yes he quickly changed tone. Now whenever he is a little unclear on Catholic "stuff" he finds me and goes "you might know this better..."


Anonymous said...

It is the Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli who asserted that the bread and wine were merely symbols. If memory serves his logic was that Christ could not be truly present both in heaven and on earth.

Anonymous said...

So.....while renovating houses, did anyone bash their finger with the hammer rather than the nail and get to experience a smidgen
of what Christ endured on Good Friday?