Editor’s Note: This is the first in a five-part series on the Real Presence in the Eucharist.
If every issue of the Catholic Herald published from now until the end of time devoted its entire word count to the examination of the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, it would still be impossible to plunge the depths of Catholic teaching on this topic, or to fully emphasize the necessity of the Eucharist in our lives as followers of Christ.
But as we approach the end of our liturgical year — one that has contained unexpected trials but also unexpected miracles — there is no better subject upon which to reflect in these pages, even if we can never hope to do it justice. For so many weeks earlier this year, the vast majority of the faithful went without the Eucharist. It makes it even more imperative that our understanding of this sacrament and our love for it be constantly sustained.
In his apostolic letter “Dominicae Cenae,” Pope St. John Paull II wrote that “the Eucharist is the principal and central raison d’etre of the sacrament of the priesthood, which effectively came into being at the moment of the institution of the Eucharist, and together with it.”
“In a certain way,” he continued, “we (priests) derive from it and exist for it.”
With that unique and meaningful bond in mind, we asked several priests who serve in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to share with us their thoughts on the Eucharist — what it means to us, for us and in us as the mystical Body of Christ. Their reflections have been compiled into a series of articles which will examine the Real Presence of the Eucharist — the Source and Summit of the Christian life.
Fr. Stephen Buting, associate pastor of Lumen Christi Parish in Mequon, said there is nowhere else in creation where we encounter God so completely and so intimately than in the Eucharist.
While God is present in all of his creation, he is present in different modes,” he said. “Only in the Blessed Sacrament is he present in the person of Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, the same person who lived on Earth and who dwells in Heaven.”
There is also a marvelously practical aspect of the Eucharist, which equips us with the graces necessary to lead a Christian life, said Fr. Jacob Strand, pastor of Holy Trinity and St. Michael Parishes in Kewaskum.
“The Eucharist deepens our intimate union with Christ,” said Fr. Strand. “As Jesus says in the Bread of Life discourse, whoever worthily partakes of the Eucharist ‘abides in me, and I in him.’ (John 6:56) By strengthening our participation in divine life, or giving us grace, the Eucharist also strengthens us from falling into sin while also forgiving venial sins. A further fruit of communion is our deeper incorporation into the Body of Christ, the Church.”
“I wish people knew that even if their Communion is dry and distracted, this does not mean it is not as powerful as if it were full of fervor and they had beautiful thoughts and meditations,” said Fr. Michael-Joseph Paris, OCD, a Carmelite priest serving the Basilica and National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill. “The Eucharist is supposed to draw out our faith, and faith means that we believe and trust even if there is darkness in our understanding and aridity in the face of this intense mystery. The light of God is so bright that our poor understanding is left in darkness and our emotions in dryness; they can’t handle the supernatural reality.”
Fr. Andrew Linn, associate pastor of St. Mary and St. Anthony parishes in Menomonee Falls, described the Eucharist as “the final cause of everything.”
“The Eucharist ties together everything we believe about the incarnation,” he said. “Jesus Christ is God and his humanity, his materiality, is now so caught up into his identity as the Son of God, that we cannot speak of Christ’s divinity, his being the purpose of everything in the universe, without speaking of his real presence in the Eucharist. Everything is ordered to the Eucharist. Part of what that means is you can’t waste too much time adoring him. You can’t spend too much time in his presence. You can’t go wrong trying to love him more in the Eucharist.”