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Communion

Why Everyone Should Be Catholic!

Disclaimer: If you’re expecting a long, detailed theological dissertation, let me apologize in advance.  Being somewhat of a simple minded person, I’m going to present a basic reason why I believe everyone should be Catholic.   On a very broad level, everyone should be Catholic because the Catholic Church contains the fullness of truth.  However, since this can be a little abstract, I’m going to offer a reason that is a little easier to grasp. 

One of the great things about being a Catholic is our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  Just to make sure that everyone understands me, let me elaborate a bit.  In the Eucharist, what looks like a round piece of bread (or a wafer) and what appears to be wine is actually Jesus.  You got it, it’s REALLY Him – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity!  It’s not a representation, it’s not some sort of spiritual presence, but it is actually Jesus Christ.  As a member of the Catholic Church, I get to pray before Him and receive Him every day!  If your “fluff meter” is going off, I suggest you back up and read this last paragraph again.  I wasn’t speaking figuratively and I wasn’t referring to anything abstract.  As a Catholic, I take Jesus at His word (John 6:22-71) and believe that He is fully present in the Eucharist.  It’s Him!

This past Saturday night, as I do each week, I visited the local adoration chapel and prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Before doing so, I put out a notice on Facebook asking for prayer requests.  As usual, I got a few responses, but most ignored the offer (By the way, don’t tell anyone,  but even though many of my Facebook friends ignore the invitation, I pray for them anyway.  After all, what kind of friend would I be if I saw Jesus face to face and didn’t put in a good word for them?).  Interestingly enough, one person replied with a “thanks, but no thanks” indicating that he’ll talk to Jesus Himself.  While that is strongly encouraged and definitely possible, I replied that unless you’re Catholic and believe in the Real Presence, you’re passing up meeting the Lord in person and settling for a “phone call” or “email”  instead.  As expected, he disagreed and made a comment about tolerance and love.  We did agree to pray for each other, but I got the feeling that I should write some more.

As baptized Catholics, we are all called to evangelize (sorry, fellow Catholics, but it’s true!) and that means sharing the “Good News” of our Faith with others.  Unfortunately, some people don’t want to hear what we have to say.  There’s no getting around this.  It happened to the prophets and it even happened to Jesus.  As Catholics, we believe that we have the fullness of truth and that our Church was founded by Christ (Matthew 16:18).  Why wouldn’t we want to share that truth with others, especially if it gives them a chance to TRULY meet Jesus?  Again, no “phone calls”, “letters” or “emails”, I’m talking about a chance to REALLY meet HIM!  I would have to be a real jerk to keep that to myself! 

My statement that “everyone should be Catholic” doesn’t mean that I think I’m better than anyone or part of an exclusive club.  Rather, it means that I’ve found the “pearl of great price” and I want to share it with others.  In other words,  I’d like to invite everyone to become a member of the Church founded by Christ.  In the meantime, if you’re not a Catholic and you don’t want to be, you better believe that I’ll be tolerant of your beliefs.  In fact, I’ll be happy to pray for you and ask you to pray for me. We can even discuss the beliefs that we share in common.  And when I visit Jesus each week, I’m still going to put in a good word for you. 

If you decide that you want to meet the Lord in person, contact your local Catholic parish or send me an email (gary@followingthetruth.com).

So, You Just Received Jesus…Now What?

I’m sad to admit that, over the course of my life as a cradle Catholic, I have received Our Lord in Holy Communion many times and didn’t have too much to say to Him.  It’s understandable, isn’t it?  There are lots of important things to do after receiving Communion: we have to look around the church and see how many people we know, we have to plan what we’re going to do after Mass and let’s not forget that we have to read the parish bulletin to see if we’re having coffee and donuts after Mass.  With all of these distractions, it’s easy to forget that we received the Lord and Savior of the Universe into our very bodies in a foretaste of the Heavenly banquet! 

While I’m obviously using sarcasm to make a point, it really can be difficult to keep our focus after receiving Holy Communion.  Since the Church teaches that there are infinite graces available after we receive Jesus, however, this isn’t the best time to become distracted.  But what can we do?  In reality, there is a simple acronym that help you to better focus on speaking to Our Lord after receiving Him in Holy Communion.  The acronym?

A.C.T.S.

Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, Supplication.  Generally accepted as the four types of prayer, this acronym is hardly a secret.  What is not well known, however, is the effectiveness of  using this method immediately after receiving Holy Communion.  My wife, Eileen, has used it for years and finds it very helpful for collecting her thoughts after receiving the Eucharist.  After trying it myself, I can see why she likes it …it works!  Here’s an example of just how simple this method of prayer can be:

Adoration – Lord Jesus, I bow down before You and give you glory.  I adore and love You and acknowledge Your power over all areas of my life.  I ask my Blessed Mother, Mary, to supplement my feeble prayers and give You the proper adoration and praise of which You are so deserving.

Contrition – I am sorry that MY sins caused You to die a painful death on the cross.  Please forgive me, Jesus, for the times that I’ve failed to “do the right thing”.  Have mercy on me, a poor sinner.

Thanksgiving – Lord, I give You thanks for the many blessings in my life: my family, my job, my house, my friends.  I thank You for the gift of the Catholic Church and her clear and infallible teachings.  I thank You for the Sacraments which give me the grace that I need to lead a good and holy life, especially for the gift of Your Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist.

Supplication– Please help me, Lord.  I am a sinner who is struggling to be good.  I know that I can’t do it alone and I ask for your help.  Allow me to receive all of the graces possible from this reception of the Eucharist.  Help me to love You more and grant me an increase in faith, hope and charity.  I ask You to pour out Your blessing on my family and friends and those who have asked for my prayers.

Why not try it for yourself and see what happens?  The next time you receive Jesus in Holy Communion, close your eyes (the first step in avoiding distractions) and think of “A.C.T.S”.  Go through the letters, one by one, and speak from your heart.  I predict that you’ll find yourself getting closer to Jesus than you ever thought possible!

Mary: The Key To Unlocking The Eucharist!

Let’s face it, what Christian doesn’t want to get closer to Jesus?  Those of us who are Catholic are especially blessed because we get to encounter the Lord in most intimate way possible – by receiving Him in Holy Communion.  Because we are human, however, we often take this miraculous encounter for granted.  How many times do we receive Our Lord into our very body, while are minds are a thousand miles away?  Oh sure, we may mutter a few quick prayers after Communion, but are we really treating Jesus with the respect He deserves?  Do we pay Him the homage and adoration fiiting for the King of King and Lord of Lords?  Do we ask to receive all of the graces possible from this powerful sacrament?  If you’re like me, you could probably do a better job – at least some of the time.   

The good news is that there is an answer to this dilemma.  There is a person that can help you to get closer to Jesus at every moment, especially after receiving Him in Holy Communion.  The “even better” news is that this person is ready to help you TODAY and all you have to do is ask.  As you’ve probably determined, that person is Our Blessed Mother Mary and she is standing by, waiting to take you by the hand and lead you closer to Jesus!

Not sure what to say?  It can be as simple as, “Mary, please  lead me closer to Jesus” or “Mother, magnify and perfect my prayers so that they are pleasing to your Son”.  If you’d prefer something more formal, you can try this prayer composed by St. Bernard of Clairvaux:

Powerful, sovereign Queen, come to our aid.  Speak for us to Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Who can do it better than you who conversed with Him so intimately here on earth, and now so fully possesses Him in heaven?  Speak to your Son for us.  He cannot refuse you anything.  Ask for us a great love of God, perseverance in His holy grace, and the happiness of dying in His friendship that we may see you and thank you with Him eternally.  Amen.

Will asking for Mary’s intercession suddenly make all of your distractions go away?  Not necessarily, but they will decrease.  And on those days when you still find yourself empty and at a loss for words, Mary can fill in the gaps and perfect your feeble prayers, making them worthy for the Savior of the world.  Let’s look at a prayer from an old prayer book (Mary My Hope, Catholic Book Publishing Company) that can be recited before receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion.  It ackowleges the fact that we are imperfect and often don’t receive Jesus with the respect He deserves.  Instead of simply making us feel guilty, this prayer asks Mary for her assistance and acknowledge the fact that we can only get so far on our own.  We need help in order to get as close to Jesus as possible. 

Mary, my Mother, I am now about to become the sanctuary of Jesus.  But what a poor dwelling that I offer to the King of heaven!  Receive Him in me and be to Him a dwelling place.  He finds His pleasure and delight wherever you are; even the stable of Bethlehem was delightful to Him because of your presence.  Then He will also be pleased to take up His abode in my soul, if He finds His dear Mother there.

Come, dearest Mother, give me your pure, loving heart in place of mine, so cold and guilty.  Adorn me with your virtues and merits, and Jesus will find in my soul the perfect preparation which your soul offered Him at the moment of His incarnation, and which He found there also after His ascension, when you received Him in Holy Communion.  What happiness for me to be able to give you Jesus, the same gift the Heavenly Father gave you on the day of the incarnation.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you Jesus, your Son, the King of angels and of men.  Through Jesus and in Jesus I wish to honor, love and thank you worthily for the many graces you have shown me during life.  Mary, lend me your heart, help me to love my God.  Help me to prepare my poor heart to receive Jesus.  Amen.

Ad Jesum per Mariam! (To Jesus through Mary)

St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s Gift To Me

As we celebrate the memorial of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, an 18th century bishop and doctor of the Church, we can be thankful for many of his gifts.  He founded the Redemptorist order and contributed much to the field of moral theology.  In fact, St. Alphonsus is the patron saint of moral theologians.  On a personal level, however, I am most grateful for a simple prayer that he composed.  More than just a set of words, it is a way for me to remain in communion with Our Lord throughout the day.  By making a spiritual communion, I express my desire to receive Jesus and then worship and adore Him just as if I had received Him sacramentally.  While I can certainly use my own words, the words of St. Alphonsus perfectly express all that I wish to say.

Act Of Spiritual Communion by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri

My Jesus,

I believe that Thou art present in the Blessed Sacrament.

I love Thee above all things and I desire Thee in my soul.

Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.

As though Thou wert already there, I embrace Thee and unite myself wholly to Thee;

permit not that I should ever be separated from Thee.

Why Mass Is Boring

“Mass is Boring!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that familiar phrase.  Sadly, I have to admit that I’ve even used it myself.  As a Catholic apologist, I obviously need to have a response for this complaint – and I do.  The answer is actually very simple.  My answer to anyone who claims that Mass is boring is this…

You don’t understand it!

Make no mistake about it, this is a very common and serious problem among Catholics.  At the very least, it could cause us to miss out on the many graces that are available for the taking.  At worst, it can cause Catholics to leave the Church, putting their salvation in jeopardy, because they found another church service that had better music, preaching or entertainment. 

I recently was given an old missal that belonged to my wife’s grandmother.  At the beginning of the section on Holy Mass is the following simple, but powerful, explanation:

Holy Mass is the highest act of Divine Worship.  It is the renewal of the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary which merited the infinite grace of Redemption.  In measure as you unite with the Victim Jesus in offering this Sacrifice to God and nourish your soul with His Sacred Body and Blood in Holy Communion, to that extent you apply to yourself the graces of the Redemption. (Mary My Hope Missal, Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1961)

None of us reading this were present at Calvary when Jesus sacrificed Himself for our sins.  Every time we attend Holy Mass, however, we are mystically transported to that event, not as a spectators, but as participants.  We are invited to offer ourselves to the Father, along with Jesus.  The more sincere our offering, the more grace we will receive.  Why is grace important, you might ask?  Very simple – it’s what we need to get to Heaven!

So, the next time you hear someone complain that Mass is boring (or you’re tempted to say it yourself), I recommend that you think about this simple explanation buried in an old Missal.  I also encourage you to read as much as you can about the Mass, in order to increase your appreciation of this great event.  My Recommended Resources page lists some books that will also point you in the right direction.

“To me, nothing is so consoling, so piercing, so thrilling, so overcoming, as the Mass.  It is not a mere form of words – it is a great action, the greatest action that can be on earth.” (Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman)

3 Reasons Why The Eucharist REALLY Matters

As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, commonly referred to as Corpus Christi, I thought it would be a good idea to point out 3 benefits we obtain by receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  Why must I do this?  Because, for many Catholics, receiving Holy Communion has become nothing more than a custom – something that we do out of habit.  Unfortunately, that is the biggest mistake we can make.  Our Lord’s gift of His Body and Blood provides us with what we need to reach Heaven.  Let’s look at 3 reasons why the Eucharist REALLY matters, direct from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1391 – 1401):

Holy Communion augments our union with Christ – The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus.  Do you want to know Christ?  There is NO better way than to receive Holy Communion. 

Holy Communion separates us from sinThe Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins.  Would you like the become a better person and eliminate some of your “favorite” sins from your life?  Here’s your answer!

The unity of the Mystical Body: the Eucharist makes the ChurchThose who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body—the Church.  Receiving Holy Communion not only allows you to get closer to Christ, it unites you with all the members of His Catholic Church – including your deceased relatives, friends and the saints.

Don’t get fooled into thinking that the Eucharist really doesn’t matter.  IT DOES MATTER, and a sinner like me would have just about no chance of getting to Heaven without this Sacrament.  If you want to be a better person, if you want to get to know Jesus, if you want to live with Him in perfect happiness forever…

The Eucharist is the answer!   

 

What’s Wrong With Me?

As Catholics, we are blessed to be able to receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion.  Unfortunately, many of us fail to appreciate this tremendous gift.  As we’re walking up the aisle to receive Our Lord, we look around the church and think of everything under the sun.  After we receive Him, we sometimes find ourselves distracted with thoughts of our “to do” list.  What’s “wrong” with us?  Why don’t we care more about this unimaginable gift?

First of all, let me reassure you by telling you that this happens to ME all of the time!  I constantly have to work on focusing at Mass and when receiving Communion.  Like it or not, we are human and are afflicted by all of weaknesses that go along with our humanity.  We must also remember that we can fix some of the problem, but God has to help us with the rest.

What can WE do?  For starters, we can ask the Lord to help us appreciate the gift of Holy Communion…and ask, and ask, and ask, etc.  This is something we should continue to do for the rest of our lives, as we want to constantly seek a greater appreciation of the Eucharist. 

Secondly, we can read about and meditate upon the Holy Eucharist.  There are tons of books and resources out there that can inspire us and help us to understand this great gift.  Many of the saints and Church Fathers have reflected upon the Real Presence and we can learn a lot from their insight.

Finally, don’t panic!  There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t always “feel something” after receiving the Eucharist.  The only time to panic is when you’re not trying to do anything to appreciate this great gift.  Before receiving Holy Communion, ask the Lord to help increase your joy and desire to receive Him in Holy Communion.  Afterward, thank Him, talk to Him and ask to receive all of the possible graces associated with the Sacrament.  It might take a little time, but you’ll start to see a difference in your life.

Try it out and let me know…