J.M.J. Much has been made of the widespread misunderstanding regarding the Most Blessed Sacrament among Catholics in the United States. One poll after another indicates that the majority (most polls suggest about 70 percent) of adult Catholics in this county do not share the Church's conviction that the Most Holy Eucharist is the real, true and substantial Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the God-Man under the mere appearances of bread and wine.
The inevitable question which arises from such data is: why? Dozens of reasons have been given of which three seem to resurface again and again: 1. a lack of catechesis outlining the nature and dignity of the Most Blessed Sacrament at every stage of Catholic life, from childhood to adulthood; 2. a prevailing lack of reverence for any and all supernatural realities; 3. a contemporary secularized climate that is not at all conducive to fostering manifestations of belief in and piety towards God and respect for and obedience to the age-old doctrines of the Church.
Before the Faithful will once again accept the Church's teaching concerning the Most Holy Eucharist, a concerted effort to dispel this woeful ignorance is urgently required. It is vital that those in leadership positions acknowledge and fulfill their duty to proclaim the Church's understanding of the Sacrament of Sacraments.
Three instances which promote the erroneous notion of the Holy Eucharist are presented below. These must cease if the true concept of the Most Blessed Sacrament is to hold sway again in the minds of Catholics throughout our nation.
1. A popular hymnal used in scores of Catholic churches throughout the United States includes a hymn whose first line reads; "Precious Body, precious Blood, here in bread and wine." This is, of course, outright heresy. The Catholic Church has never held that the Body and Blood of Christ are present in bread and wine. Rather, by virtue of transubstantiation, the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Hence, the Real Presence of Christ is on the Altar under the appearance of bread and wine. Traditional Catholic theology attests that the essence (i.e., the substance) is changed while the accidents (i.e., taste, smell, shape, etc.) remain.
2. A coordinator of religious education in a large urban parish regularly holds court after Sunday mass just a few feet from the sanctuary, evidently oblivious to the Real Presence of Christ in the nearby tabernacle, speaking out loud to anyone who will listen about sundry topics that have no relevance to anything sacred. A visitor from another parish complained to the pastor, observing that he found it next to impossible to pray because of the coordinator's loud conversations. The coordinator responded by saying that Jesus would not care. Jesus does indeed care that His Real Presence is adverted to and that His Body and Blood are adored with fitting praise. The coordinator gives poor witness to the grandeur of the Most Blessed Sacrament by such inappropriate behavior and lamentable deportment that will undoubtedly be mimicked by others, especially the religious education students.
3. A newsletter designed to assist Extraordinary Ministers of the Most Holy Eucharist contains an article in which a nationally known author writes of the "bread and wine" (sic). This language is disturbing, particularly coming from one who teaches others about the beauty of the church's Sacred Liturgy. Bread and wine exist during Mass only before the Consecration. Afterwards, the real Body and Blood of Christ are present.
Clergy, consecrated persons and laity alike share the daunting but possible task of reeducating Catholics in our land as to the inherent worth and meaning of the Holy Eucharist. There are hopeful signs. Think, for example, of the explosion in different places of the opportunities of adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
With ardent prayer and constant instruction, the glory of the Bread of Angels and the Chalice of Salvation will once more be known and loved in the souls of Catholics from one coast to the other.
Mary, Mother of the Most Blessed Sacrament, pray for us.