Resources for understanding the Catholic Church’s teaching on the Holy Eucharist
By Clare Walker
Holy Trinity In-House Writer
The PEW Research Foundation just released a shocking study: nearly 7 out of 10 Catholics in the United States believe that the bread and wine of Holy Communion are symbols of Jesus Christ.
Hello? Is this thing on? Did you hear that?
The ancient and unchanging teaching of the Roman Catholic Church is that during Mass the bread and wine undergo a process called transubstantiation and become, really and truly, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church has always taught that the Sacred Host and the Consecrated Wine are not symbolic, yet almost 69% of American Catholics get it wrong.
How is it possible that such a huge majority of self-identified Catholics either reject or misunderstand this teaching?
To be fair, the survey includes Catholics of every stripe, including people who still self-identify as Catholics even though they seldom or never attend Mass. Of these, 87% believe the consecrated species are symbols of Christ. In other words, the vast majority of Catholics who think the Eucharist is merely symbolic aren’t really part of the Church anymore.
But what of Catholics who faithfully attend Mass at least every week? Surely, close to 100% correctly understand and believe what the Church actually teaches?
Nope. Only 63% of weekly Mass-goers believe that the Eucharist is the Body & Blood of our Lord. 37% either don’t know the truth about the Eucharist or they reject it. That is not a majority but it’s still a large percentage.
The causes and the remedies for this discouraging situation are obviously beyond the scope of this brief article, but if you’re a regular attendee at Sunday Mass and you’re unsure about the Eucharist, here are some helpful resources.
Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brant Pitre. The author is a Catholic scholar and university professor who specializes in the Jewish origins of Christian belief and practice. He explains that there is no way the first century Christians, who had grown up steeped in Jewish culture and tradition, would have misunderstood Jesus’s phrase, “This is my body” to be merely symbolic.
The Basic Book of the Eucharist by Fr. Lawrence Lovasik. Fr. Lovasik is most known for his spiritual classic The Hidden Power of Kindness, but this book will help you become more devoted to Our Lord in the Eucharist. The book is currently ON SALE at Sophia Institute Press (www.sophiainstitute.com)
Catholic and Christian: An Explanation of Commonly Misunderstood Catholic Beliefs by Alan Schreck (St. Anthony Messenger Press) Dr. Schreck is a professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville. This book covers many doctrines of the Church and includes an excellent section demonstrating that from its very beginning, the Church taught that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.
Audio & Video
This summer Fr. Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, South Carolina, presented an excellent homily on the Real Presence in which he unpacked how the consecrated bread and wine can still look and taste like ordinary bread and wine, yet really be the Lord Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. Go to the parish’s archive of homily recordings and scroll down to Corpus Christi: https://smcgvl.org/category/homily/
Bishop Robert Barron, as usual, is very good on this topic. His YouTube channel can be found under “Bishop Robert Barron” or “Word on Fire.” I recommend his video “Bishop Barron on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.” His reaction to the latest PEW survey is also worth watching. (“Bishop Barron on Catholics Misunderstanding the Eucharist”)
To read the entire PEW article, go to the PEW Research Center’s website and search for this article: “Just one-third of U.S. Catholics agree with their church that Eucharist is body, blood of Christ.”
Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist
The Basic Book of the Eucharist by Fr. Lawrence Lovasik
Catholic and Christian: An Explanation of Commonly Misunderstood Catholic Beliefs by Alan Schreck
The PEW Research Center article:
St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, South Carolina
“Bishop Barron on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist”
“Bishop Barron on Catholics Misunderstanding the Eucharist”
Clare T. Walker, a Holy Trinity Parishioner since 2003, writes for the National Catholic Register (www.ncregister.com). She is also an independent fiction author. Here are some handy links to her website and her books:
Clare T. Walker
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