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Eucharist

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)

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)

The Power of Eucharistic Adoration

While there’s no doubt that we can pray anywhere, there are special graces that can be received by praying before the Blessed Sacrament.  If you’re skeptical (as I once was), I encourage you to try it for yourself.  Try spending some time each week with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and see what happens.  If you can do it for an hour, that would be ideal.  If you can only spend 15 minutes, you will still receive many graces.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen made a holy hour every day of his life and wrote his homilies in Our Lord’s presence.  Numerous Saints and popes throughout the ages spoke of the importance of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.  The time I spend in adoration is my refuge from the craziness of my daily life and a tremendous source of blessing.  Why not try it and see what happens in your own life?

Archbishop Timothy Dolan recently wrote an excellent piece about the relationship between Eucharistic adoration and parish vibrancy.  I’d highly recommend that you read it and think about how the power of the Eucharist can transform your life. 

If you have any stories about how Eucharistic adoration has affected your life, I’d love to hear them!

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!   

 

The Greatest Love Story Of All Time

“Pause before the tabernacle by yourself, for no special reason, even without saying a thing, simply remaining in His presence, contemplating the supreme gestures of love contained in the consecrated Bread.” (Blessed Pope John Paul II – April, 1995)

On the eve of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, it would be wise for us to spend a few minutes meditating upon the mystery of Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist.  When you enter the Church and see the tabernacle, think about the birth, death and resurrection of the Lord.  Jesus became man, suffered and died out of love for you.

As you genuflect before the tabernacle, think about that love.  It’s a love that we too often forget.  Then, when it’s time to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion, pause for a minute.  As the priest raises the little white host and says, “The Body of Christ”, remember the words of the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

“The greatest love story of all time is contained in a tiny white host.”

Thank you, Jesus…I love you too!

Now It Makes Sense!

Over the past several days, I’ve been discussing how the Bible can be used to support the argument that the Catholic Church is the one, true Church established by Christ.  We started our journey by looking at the fact that God wants everyone to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth.  In my last post, I examined Jesus’ instruction that we must eat His Body and drink His Blood in order to acheive eternal life.  This command greatly confused His disciples and caused many of them to scatter.  It wasn’t until the Last Supper that it all became clear.

Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you (Lk 22:19-20).

Now the words about eating His Body make sense and thankfully it has nothing to do with cannibalism!  Our Lord didn’t say that “this REPRESENTS my Body” or “this SYMBOLIZES my Body”.  He said, “This IS my Body”.   Is there a church that believes that Our Lord’s Body can actually exist under the appearance of bread and that follows His command to “do this in memory of me”?  This sounds like the Catholic Mass…and, come to think of it, the Catholic Church fits all of the other scriptural requirements, but it can’t really be “the Church”, can it? 

Although some folks literally “stand on their head” to explain away all of the Bible passages that support Catholic doctrine, the evidence is clear.  If you are Catholic, you can take comfort in the fact that our beliefs are totally in harmony with the Bible.  If you are not Catholic, I invite you to compare the teachings of your church to God’s Word contained in Scripture.  Look at the passages we discussed, meditate upon them and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to “the truth”.  A careful and honest study of Scripture has brought many people into the Catholic Church.  If you would like to learn more about becoming Catholic, please contact your local Catholic parish or email me.

The Most Important Words Jesus NEVER Said

Ordinarily, when we look at the public ministry of Jesus, we focus on His words.  His parables, commands and sayings provide us with the guidelines needed to live good Christian lives.  In one case, however, what Jesus didn’t say is of equal or greater importance than what He did say.  Over the past few days, I’ve been looking at some Scripture passages supporting the Catholic Church as the one, true Church.  Today, let’s look at the Lord’s Bread of Life discourse, where He gave an astonishing teaching, using a combination of words and silence.

Jesus said to them, “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. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 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. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him (Jn 6:53-66).

Jesus said that eating His flesh and drinking His blood is necessary in order to have eternal life.  This created quite a stir among His disciples, as evidenced by their comment about it being a “hard saying”.  Throughout the ages, many who don’t believe in the Catholic teaching of the Real Presence, have argued that Jesus wasn’t speaking literally.  They feel that He was just speaking figuratively.  If that’s the case, why are His words difficult to accept?  They are difficult to accept because everyone standing there that day knew that Jesus was speaking literally and really meant what He said.  It didn’t make sense to them.  How could they eat His Body and drink His Blood?  As further proof that Jesus really meant what He said, Scripture tells us that many of His disciples walked away, returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him! 

If Jesus was only speaking figuratively, wouldn’t it make sense for Him to call them back and clear up the misunderstanding?  Instead, He said…

NOTHING! 

Why?  Because He meant exactly what He said previously.

Next:  The “difficult” words of Jesus suddenly make sense as He celebrates the Last Supper (Luke 22:19-20).

How Much Do I Love Jesus?

“Every time I hear anyone speak of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or of the Blessed Sacrament I feel an indescribable joy. It is as if a wave of precious memories, sweet affections and joyful hopes swept over my poor person, making me tremble with happiness and filling my soul with tenderness. These are loving appeals from Jesus who wants me wholeheartedly there, at the source of all goodness, his Sacred Heart, throbbing mysteriously behind the Eucharistic veils… I love to repeat today ‘Sweet Heart of my Jesus, make me love You more and more.'” (Blessed Pope John XXIII, Journal of a Soul)

I ran across the above quote from the autobiography of Blessed Pope John XXIII, and I couldn’t help but ask myself a question…

“Do I feel the same way?”

While my first answer was a resounding “Yes!”, I started to think of all those occasions when I’ve daydreamed while at Mass, of the all the times I passed up stopping in at the adoration chapel to pay a visit to Jesus who gave up His life for my salvation, of those times when I sinned and caused disappointment and sadness to be felt in Our Lord’s Sacred Heart.

While I do love Jesus and try to visit and receive Him frequently, I still think that I have some work to do.  I’m going to take the late Holy Father’s recommendation and make that last line my frequent prayer. 

Sweet Heart of my Jesus, make me love You more and more.

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…