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Deepen your knowledge of the Catholic faith. You are invited to share in a series of weekly faith formation articles during the season of Easter. The goal of the series is to provide clarity to what the Church teaches, and to refresh and build a deeper appreciation of the Catholic faith.

Always Growing in the Faith is a faith formation series focused on prayer and the Eucharist.

Always Growing in the Faith: A Series on Prayer & the Eucharist

1. Prayer: A Personal Response to God’s Presence (4/22/17)

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PRAYER: A PERSONAL RESPONSE TO GOD’S PRESENCE

                             By Father Armand M. Nigro, S.J.                                      

The single, most important conviction I want to share with you is that Prayer is a Personal Response to God’s Presence. May I explain this?

Either you and I are more important than God or God is more important than we are. The answer is obvious, isn’t it? God is more important than we are. Further, if what God wants and does is more important than what we want or do, then more of our attention should be focused on what God is and does. Again, what God wants to say to us is more important for us than anything we may have to say. And God does want to speak and communicate to us.

When prayer becomes too self-centered, even if it is centered upon noble and holy desires, if the focus of our prayers is I, me, or my, we are going to be in difficulty.

Prayer is a personal response to God’s presence. This means that God first makes God present to us. Prayer is our awareness and acknowledgement of God’s presence. It is what God does to us, rather than anything we do. St. John reminds us that genuine love means first of all not that we love God (which may or may not be true), but that God first loves us. God’s love for us is more important than our love for God. God wants and appreciates and is grateful for our love; but since God’s love for us is more important than our love for God, God’s love deserves more of our attention.

It seems to me that there are three aspects of genuine prayer that we should keep in mind. First of all, if prayer is a personal response to God’s presence, then the beginning of prayer is to be aware of that presence, simply to acknowledge it, to be able to admit: “Yes God my Father, You do love life into me. Yes, You love life and being into the things around me and into all that comes into my senses. You love talents and these longings into me, etc.” The focus is on God and what God does.

I want to make a distinction. I know that the terms meditation and prayer are used interchangeably and that they are used differently by different authors. By religious meditation I mean thinking about God or what God does or about anything good, holy, or pious; but this is not prayer. When I am thinking about you, you are the focal point of my thoughts, but that is not communication with you.  Prayer is a person-to-person communication with God. If I am thinking about God or the life of Christ and what he has done, that is holy, meritorious, good and helpful for prayer, but it is not essentially prayer.

Prayer is when “God” becomes “You” when I say, “Yes God my Father, You love life into me.” When I say to myself, “God loves life into me,” that is meditation. Do you see how I am using the words? When there is a You-I relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit, I call this response genuine prayer. If there is a consideration of what God is and does, but not a You-I relationship, it may be helpful, good and holy, but it is not essentially prayer.

The basis or first step in prayer is for me to wake up and to face reality; to realize that God is present to me, that God loves breath and being, a share of divine life and all my capabilities into me, and to be able to say, “Yes, God my Father, You do love all this into me. Yes, Jesus my Brother, You do. Yes, God my Spirit, You do.” That is to pray. If in the few minutes that we have during the times of private prayer, we do nothing else but merely make ourselves aware of the God who is already present to us, that experience in itself is profound prayer; it is fruitful prayer; it is even the beginnings of mystical prayer. This is a genuine opening up to God who communicates to us, if we only give God the opportunity.

There is a difference between persons and things. God is present to things; God saturates  things with God’s presence, because God loves life and being into them. But there is no acknowledgement on the part of non-personal things; they are incapable of prayer. You and I, however, because we are persons, can acknowledge that presence; and that is the first step of prayer.

The second step, it seems to me, is that once we realize what God is to us, what God does for us and how much God loves us, the only decent, and polite, obvious and spontaneous response is not only to say “Yes, You do,” but also “Thank You, God my Father, for loving life, being, and a share of your own nature into me. Thank You, Jesus, God the Son and my brother. Thank You God the Holy Spirit, for living on in me.” Gratitude is an obvious, spontaneous outflow of being aware of what God is and is doing for us.

As an analogy, if a person is very good to me and unselfish and financially supports me, but I do not know the person or realize this, I cannot respond to that person’s goodness and love. But if I find out that my support is coming from that person, that many good things that make my life much better are coming from that person, personally, uniquely to me, it is one thing when I begin to realize and acknowledge it: “Yes that person does. Yes, you do,” and something more when I say: “Thank you.”

Do you notice the focus of this response? It is essential for gratitude that there be an awareness of receiving from another. No one opens a door into a strange and dark room where one sees nothing, and begins to converse into the room just in case there might be somebody there. Rather, we are first conscious of someone; we look into someone’s eyes; we are assured that if we talk into this microphone there is a radio audience waiting on our words; or if we look into that camera there is a T.V. audience present; of if we put our words on tape, somebody will listen to them. We speak and respond only to some kind of personal presence.

Prayer is like that. Sometimes in our good and holy desires to communicate with God we “junk up” our prayer. We begin immediately to make acts of faith, hope or love, of contrition or sorrow; we ask for things or just say something, because, after all, we can’t just sit there and let nothing happen; so we do something, we say something! I call this “junking up” prayer. If we do that before we are really conscious of God being present to us, it is like opening up a dark room and talking because there might be somebody there who might just possibly be listening. It is important that we take time peacefully and quietly (even if we have only a few minutes to pray) first to make ourselves aware of the loving, creative, sustaining, divinizing presence of God, because prayer is a personal response to God’s presence.

The first step then, is to acknowledge God’s presence; the second is to thank God. The third is a loving response. A person responds to love freely given by saying, “I love you, too.” When we say this to God it implies that we first become aware that God first loves us. To say, “God my Father, Christ my Brother, God my Holy Spirit, I love You, too,” is our response at its best.

With regard to asking God for favors, I hope we don’t misunderstand it as imperfect prayer. When we beg God for sunny weather, or pray that our bursitis will go away, or pray for something more holy or important such as international peace and justice, we pay great compliment to God. This is an expression of “becoming as little children”, which Jesus recommended, and honored. A child, who comes to his or her parents and asks for things, is paying them a big compliment. What is the child saying but, “You are good and can fill my needs. Please, may I have a candy bar?”

When we approach God with this sense of our absolute dependence, and need, we are conscious of being precious and important, but without God of being nothing, because all that we have is loved into us by God. In this consciousness, we are profoundly acknowledging what God is and what we are. Did not Jesus Himself say “When you pray, face God and say Abba, (Hebrew for Papa or Daddy) give us this day our daily bread, forgive our offenses, lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil”. Notice how much of the “Our Father” is petition. Our Lord teaches us to pray this way. If the prayer of petition is made correctly, it says “God, You are everything: Creator, Sustainer, Divinizer, Forgiver, Merciful Lord of the Universe, Provident God of all, and I belong completely to You”. When we pray for any favor we mean, of course, “Thy will be done.” We are not trying to blackmail or fool god into giving us something by groveling in God’s presence. No, we presuppose “Thy will be done” … but we still would like to have a sunny day tomorrow, etc.

To return to an earlier point: what God does is more important than what we do. And God longs to communicate to us. The tragedy is that so few of us permit God to communicate to us in prayer. One reason for this failure is faulty teaching or education in prayer. A second is a lack of trust or faith that God really wants to and is going to communicate personally and uniquely to us. Since we feel uncertain about this, we do most or all of the talking or meditating, or we fill in the time with spiritual reading or something “profitable”; but we are reluctant to empty ourselves and abandon ourselves to God’s presence and movements so that in silence God can communicate to us the way he prefers.

A third reason is that we are afraid of failing, afraid of trying this kind of prayer and finding out that it doesn’t work for us. It will always work, if we remove obstacles and give God a chance, because God longs to communicate to each of us personally. God wants to make our prayer more and more mystical. And this is not in any dangerous, quietistic, way-out extraordinary sense. God wants us to be normal, ordinary, everyday healthy mystics. By mystic, I mean the sort of people who open up to God’s presence, who let God fill their consciousness with God’s presence.  The older we grow in our prayer life, the more aware, sensitive, attuned, docile, responsive to God’s presence we become; because all genuine prayer is a personal response to that presence.

We have developed or been given two different kinds of capacities or facilities with which to respond or act socially or otherwise. One set of habits we call virtues. These are active capacities; they enable us to do things, and through our activity we perfect these habits. They are acquired by activity; sometimes the beginnings of them are infused, but at least they can be perfected and made stronger by exercise and they render our virtuous activity easier. They are the “can-do” of our operating capacities, and are very important. But there are also capacities loved into us by God which enable us to be receptive. A radio station not only has a transmitter, but it also has a receiver; they are both important. These receptive capacities become more and more important in our prayer life. They are called gifts of the Holy Spirit. They make us aware, and receptive attuned, sensitive, responsive, docile to God’s communicating presence; and God wants us to pray more and more that way.

All growth in prayer, then, is rooted in our conviction that God is present to us, that the divine presence is personal, loving and provident, uniquely saturating us; that God is and wants more and more to be our Father and that, like every good father, God wants to speak and communicate with us. God keeps trying to speak to us through all the experiences of our life, through the Church, through God’s living word in Holy Scripture, through the Eternal Word Jesus Christ, in whose Holy Spirit we are invited to be sons and daughters. God, I repeat, longs to communicate to us and God invites us to listen and to receive. But God will not force this on us.

Now, may I make some practical suggestions? I said that some of us are afraid to give God a chance, because we fear it may not work. But it will work (that’s a guarantee) if we give God a chance. In practice, what can we do in order to enable God to communicate more fully and freely to us?

Try to be faithful to at least 15 to 30 minutes daily of being alone with God. Try to make room for this at a regular time each day. God wants time to be alone with each of us and communicate with us; and what God wants from us God deserves.     


This article was provided by Faith Formation Commission at Saint Patrick Catholic Church.  

About the Author

Father Armand Nigro, S.J. has dedicated his Jesuit life to the teaching of Theology and Scripture, and to providing a world-wide ministry of retreats and spiritual direction.

2. Praying With Scripture (4/28/17)

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PRAYING WITH SCRIPTURE

By Father Armand M. Nigro, S.J.

GOD SPEAKS TO US FIRST

This fundamental truth makes it possible for us to pray to God. He has been concerned for each of us long before we became concerned for ourselves.

He desires communication with us.

He speaks to us continually, revealing Himself to us by various modes:

  • through Jesus Christ, His Word;
  • through the Church, the extension of Christ in the world (because we are joined together in Christ, God speaks to us through other people.);
  • through visible creation around us, which forms the physical context of our lives. (Creation took place in God’s Son, and it is another form of God’s self-revelation.);
  • through the events of our lives;
  • through Holy Scripture, a real form of  His presence. This is the mode of communication we are most concerned with in prayer.

GOD INVITES US TO LISTEN

Our response to God’s initial move is to listen to what He is saying. This is the basic attitude of prayer.

HOW TO GO ABOUT LISTENING.

What you do immediately before prayer is very important. Normally, it is something you do not rush into. Spend a few moments quieting yourself and relaxing, settling yourself into a prayerful and comfortable position.

In listening to anyone, you try to tune out everything except what the person is saying to you. In prayer, this can be done best in silence and solitude. Select a favorite passage from Holy Scripture, 5 to 10 verses. Put a marker in the page. Try to find a quiet place where you can be alone and uninhibited in your response to God’s presence. Try to quiet yourself interiorly. Jesus would often go up to the mountain by Himself to pray with His Father.

In an age of noise, activity, and tensions like our own, it is not always easy or necessary to forget our cares and commitments, the noise and excitement of our environment. Never feel constrained to blot out all distractions. Anxiety in this regard could get between ourselves and God. Rather realize that the Word did become flesh – that He speaks to us in the noise and confusion of our day. Sometimes in preparing for prayer, relax and listen to the sounds around you. God’s presence is as real as they are.

Be conscious of your sensations and living experiences of feeling, thinking, hoping, loving, of wondering, desiring, etc. Then, conscious of God’s unselfish, loving presence in you, address Him simply admit: “Yes, you do love life and feeling into me. You do love a share of your personal life into me. You are present to me. You live in me. Yes, You do.”

God is present as a person, in you through His Spirit, who speaks to you now in Scripture, and who prays in you and for you.

Ask God for the grace to listen to what God says.

Begin reading Scripture slowly and attentively.

Do not hurry to cover much material.

  • If it recounts an event of Christ’s life, be there in the mystery of it. Share with the persons involved, e.g. a blind man being cured. Share their attitude. Respond to what Jesus is saying.
  • Some words or phrases carry special meaning for you. Savor those words, turning them over in your heart.
  • You may want to speak or recite a Psalm or other prayer from Scripture. Really mean what you are saying. Make it your own.

When something strikes you, e.g. when:

  • you feel a new way of being with Christ. Jesus becomes for you in a new way (e.g., you sense what it means to be healed by Christ.);
  • you experience God’s love;
  • you feel lifted in spirit;
  • you are moved to do something good;
  • you are peaceful;
  • you are happy and content just to be in God’s presence.

This is the time to – pause. It is also the time to pause when you feel disturbed, puzzled, or even repelled by something in Scripture

These are the times when God may be speaking directly to you in the words of Scripture. Do not hurry to move on. Wait until you are no longer moved by the experience.

Don’t get discouraged if nothing seems to be happening.

Sometimes God lets us feel dry and empty in order to let us realize it is not in our power to communicate with Him or to experience consolation. God is sometimes very close to us in His seeming absence (Ps. 139: 7-8). He is for us in an entirely selfless way. He accepts us as we are, with all our limitations – even with our seeming inability to pray. A humble attitude of listening is a sign of love for Him, and a real prayer from the heart.

At these times remember the words of Paul: “The Spirit, too, comes to help us in our weakness, for when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit Himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words” (Rom. 8:26-27).

Relax in prayer. Remember, God will speak to you in His own way. “Yes, as the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.” (Isaiah 55:10-11).

Spend time in your prayer just being conscious of God’s presence in and around you. If you want to, speak with Him about the things you are interested in or wish to thank Him for, your joys, sorrows, aspirations, etc., do that.

SUMMARY OF THE 5 “P’S” OF PRAYER

  • Passage from Scripture. Pick one and have it marked and ready.
  • Place. Where you are alone and uninhibited in your response to God’s presence.
  • Posture. Relaxed and peaceful. A harmony of body with spirit.
  • Presence of God. Be aware of it and acknowledge and respond to it. If nothing happens turn to the
  • Passage from Scripture. Read it very slowly aloud and listen carefully and peacefully to it.

Read aloud or whisper in a rhythm with your breathing – a phrase at a time – with pauses and repetitions when and where you feel like it. Don’t be anxious; don’t try to look for implication or lessons or profound thoughts or conclusions or resolutions, etc. Be content to be like a child who climbs into his or her father’s lap and listens to his words and his story. When you finish, remind yourself that God continues to live in you during the rest of the day.


This article was provided by Faith Formation Commission at Saint Patrick Catholic Church.

About the Author

Father Armand Nigro, S.J. has dedicated his Jesuit life to the teaching of Theology and Scripture, and to providing a world-wide ministry of retreats and spiritual direction.

3. The Eucharist As the Real Presence of Jesus (5/5/17)

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THE EUCHARIST AS THE REAL PRESENCE OF JESUS

By Mike Moyer

Imagine yourself as an apostle at the Last Supper when Jesus blessed the bread with the words “This is my body,” sharing it with His Apostles as food, and blessed the wine with the words, “This is my blood,” sharing it with His Apostles as drink.

You might have been prepared for this if you had already been present at the scene described in St. John’s Gospel when Jesus declared to the Jews at Capernaum that He was the Bread of Life, and explained that they must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood in order to have eternal life. This was a critical turning point for many of His followers, as reported by John. “After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.” (Jn. 6, vs 66)

The first exception to this rejecting response was Peter’s declaration of faith. “Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’” Jn. 6; 67-69.

Peter was just as confused by the statements of Jesus as any of the other listeners. However, the difference was that Peter had gotten to know Jesus, and recognized His extraordinary power and relationship with God. Though, most likely, Peter was struggling to understand the words of Jesus, he trusted in the person of Jesus, and accepted His words with an act of faith.

The Eucharist is referred to as the “Magnum Mysterium,” or “Great Mystery.” As a sacred mystery, we will never understand “how it works.” However, we are invited by Jesus to accept, through an act of faith, his plain language, as an invitation to an intimate personal relationship with Him. If we believe that Jesus is God, acting with the Father and Holy Spirit, as the Creator of the Universe, the source of all that exists, who was able to become man through the action of the Holy Spirit, then transforming bread and wine into Himself, and communicating Himself to us in that form should be very possible.

For the first thousand years of the Christian Church, without any major groups breaking away because of this belief, Christians believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The writings of the “Fathers of the Church” in the first 750 years, from St. Clement of Rome to St. John Damascus, clearly assert their belief in the “Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. This includes St. Augustine, who has been incorrectly interpreted by dissenters, as believing the Eucharist to be only symbolic of Jesus’ Presence. A complete reading of St. Augustine clearly shows his conviction of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Around 1040 A.D., Berengarius, the Archdeacon of Angers, France, influenced by the writings of a couple of 9th century monks, publicly presented his interpretation of the Eucharist as being merely a symbolic presence of Jesus. As it typically does, in correcting contradictions to its traditional beliefs, the Church, more specifically stated the traditional Eucharistic beliefs in relation to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. About five centuries later, during the Protestant Reformation, the Church continued this definition of  doctrine regarding the Real Presence, in the Council of Trent, when some of the Reformers followed the thinking of Berengarius. Since then, Church Councils have reaffirmed these teachings.

In a subsequent article, we will present these detailed doctrinal definitions related to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. For now, we can summarize by stating the fundamental Catholic Church teaching of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. This teaching is that Jesus is present in his totality as a divine person with both His human and divine natures, or in the words of the Council of Trent, “present in His body, blood, soul and divinity,” under the appearances of both the consecrated bread, and the consecrated wine, as perceived by our senses, and has replaced the actual bread and wine with His presence.

If we struggle to believe this, even more than the first disciples, is it because of our modern cultural conditioning that science contains the ultimate access and method for arriving at truth? Perhaps, like Thomas, we need to “see (understand) it to believe it.”

Perhaps humility is a pre-condition of faith, and the very basis of that humility can be found in the amazing world revealed to us by modern day science. So many of our discoveries are still inexplicable, though we theorize explanations for them. Consider the following: the co-relation of matter and energy, and how one can change into the other; the existence and order of the uniquely individualized DNA molecule for the creation of human life in individual persons; the vastness and order of the universe; the order and functional relationships of the parts in living bodies; the abilities of the human mind to conceive and communicate abstract ideas; the ability of the human person to love and to give of oneself for the interests of others. Are not all of these also “mysteries”?

The Eucharist is the centerpiece of Christianity because it is Jesus. He left the gift of himself under this form requiring a response of Faith to fully share his companionship. This Magnum Mysterium Fidei seems to defy our modern world’s belief in scientific knowledge, which is methodically obtained and verified through our senses. Yet, as our scientific knowledge grows and matures, we discover other mysteries in our universe that we struggle to explain, but, until we learn how to explain them, we do not deny their existence. How much more so should we trust the words of Jesus?


This article was provided by Faith Formation Commission at Saint Patrick Catholic Church.

Primary Reference and Source: The Hidden Manna, by Father James T. O’Connor, 2005 edition, with ecclesiastical approval.    

About the Author

Mike Moyer, father of four grown children, and grandfather of seven, is a product of Jesuit education and formation. He has a Licentiate Degree in Thomistic Philosophy, an MA in Anthropology, and, in recent years, has studied Theology on a graduate level. Mike is retired from a career that encompassed 14 years working with Native American groups, and then, also 20 years working in the senior management of three vacation resort companies.

During Mike’s lifetime in the Northwest, he has been an active member of a number of Catholic parishes. In that time his participation has included service as lector, retreat organizer, parish council member and Archdiocesan Deaconate Board member. His most recent parish, before calling Saint Patrick Catholic Church home, was St. Edward Catholic Church in Shelton, WA. Besides his service on the Faith Formation Commission of Saint Patrick Catholic Church, Mike will be serving as a extraordinary minsiter of Holy Communion to the sick and homebound and as a member of the Bellarmine Mission and Formation Committee.

                                

                                                                                                                 

4. How Jesus is Present in the Eucharist (5/12/17)

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HOW JESUS IS PRESENT IN THE EUCHARIST

By Mike Moyer

In our previous Article, “The Eucharist as the Real Presence of Jesus,” we asserted that in the case of sacred mysteries, we should not expect to understand how they work. However, that statement can be qualified by what has been revealed about the mystery through the tradition of practice and belief, as known and interpreted by the inspired teaching authority of the Church.

In the case of the Eucharist, that inspired teaching authority was invoked when the traditions of sacred beliefs and practices were contradicted. The result was a series of doctrinal definitions or teachings from formal bodies of the Church, such as Synods and Councils, that do explain some of “how the Eucharist works,” and that do provide fresh ground for Theological reflection. The following is a summary list of those definitions or teachings.

  1. Jesus is really physically present, not just symbolically, or spiritually.
  2. Jesus is present in his totality as a divine person with both His human and divine natures, present as stated by the Council of Trent, “in body, blood, soul, and divinity,” under the appearances of both the consecrated bread, and the consecrated wine.
  3. Jesus is totally and really present in these two different forms to remind us of His death, when His body and blood were separated at the time of His suffering and death.
  4. Jesus is not multiplied in many hosts, or through many Masses, but the same one Jesus is present through the Consecration of all Masses in all Eucharistic species of bread and wine.
  5. Jesus is not re-located from His presence in Heaven, but “He is in many other places present to us sacramentally in his own substance, by a manner of existing that is possible to God…” Decree of the Council of Trent, Session XIII, Chap. I
  6. Jesus remains present after the Consecration of the Eucharistic species of bread and wine, as long as their appearances last.
  7. This remaining presence can and should be adored as the presence of God, administered to those who are unable to attend Mass, and kept in the Tabernacle in Catholic Churches as a focal point of prayer and God’s presence for our worship.
  8. After the Consecration, only the appearances of bread and wine remain. The bread is no longer bread, and the wine is no longer wine, but rather Jesus Himself. This “Consecration” is described as “Transubstantiation,” the change of one substantial reality into another.
  9. The Power and Authority to Perform the Consecration of the Bread and Wine, transforming these Eucharistic elements into Jesus, is conferred through the Sacrament of Holy Orders in the ordination to the priesthood. For the Sacrament of Holy Orders to be valid, there must exist an unbroken line of authority from the Apostles to the Bishop conferring the ordination, referred to as “the Apostolic Line.” In other words, only validly ordained Bishops, who are in the line of apostolic succession, validly confer the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

One of the most difficult, but theologically rich teachings, from the above list, is Item 5, declaring that Jesus is not relocated from His presence in Heaven, but is present to us sacramentally by a manner of existing that is possible to God. In his book, The Hidden Manna, Father James O’Connor provides us with some theological reflection on this teaching, which can enrich our experience in receiving the Eucharist.

Jesus does not come “down” from heaven to be present in the Eucharist, rather the Eucharist brings us to the living presence of Jesus through a mysterious window, connecting us to His eternal living reality with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Father O’Connor eloquently describes this process in the following excerpts.

“the Eucharistic elements can be compared to a window on the invisible dimensions of the universe. Hidden by the veil, nearly transparent to the eyes of a living Faith, having the appearances of earthly food, the heavenly banquet is present.” The Hidden Manna. p.297.

“By his power, then, as Universal Lord to attract all things to himself, Christ “lifts” the creaturely realities of bread and wine, draws them to himself, changes them into himself, leaving the appearance of the earthly realities as vehicles for the heavenly exchange by which he physically comes to us as our food while drawing us to himself through and in the Eucharistic species. . . Having been, however “de-structured” of any real being of their own and preserved miraculously, the appearances of what were bread and wine mediate to all who touch them, receive them, worship before them the Person whose Flesh and Blood they contain and whose reality their own former reality has become. . . it is only through the sacramental species that he is physically accessible at all on this side of the divide that separates the visible and invisible dimensions of creation, both of which already contain spiritual and material-physical elements.” Ibid. p. 294

When we receive the Eucharist we are entering into a mysterious intersection of time and eternity, of spirit and matter. To the degree that we can grasp this with our minds and hearts, it is an event that should cause great awe and reverence. All that is expected, however, is a humble and open heart to receiving the love and presence of Jesus.

Two other Church teachings of great value regarding Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist, items 6 and 7 above, are: that Jesus remains present in the bread and wine as long as those appearances last; and that the reserved Eucharist gives us the great privileges of being able to give Jesus in the Eucharist our continuing worship, and to share the Eucharist with those who cannot attend Mass, or may be in the process of dying, and need the Last Sacraments, including the Eucharist, referred to as “ Viaticum”.


This article was provided by Faith Formation Commission of Saint Patrick Catholic Church.

Primary Reference and Source: The Hidden Manna, by Father James T. O’Connor, 2005 edition, with ecclesiastical approval.

About the Author

Mike Moyer, father of four grown children, and grandfather of seven, is a product of Jesuit education and formation. He has a Licentiate Degree in Thomistic Philosophy, an MA in Anthropology, and, in recent years, has studied Theology on a graduate level. Mike is retired from a career that encompassed 14 years working with Native American groups, and then, also 20 years working in the senior management of three vacation resort companies.

During Mike’s lifetime in the Northwest, he has been an active member of a number of Catholic parishes. In that time his participation has included service as lector, retreat organizer, parish council member and Archdiocesan Deaconate Board member. His most recent parish, before calling Saint Patrick Catholic Church home, was St. Edward Catholic Church in Shelton, WA. Besides his service on the Faith Formation Commission of Saint Patrick Catholic Church, Mike will be serving as a extraordinary minsiter of Holy Communion to the sick and homebound and as a member of the Bellarmine Mission and Formation Committee.

5. Eucharist As A Participation In The Sacrifice of Calvary (5/19/17)

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THE EUCHARIST AS A PARTICIPATION IN THE SACRIFICE OF CALVARY

By Mike Moyer

There is no Eucharist without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” and the Eucharist are integral. The Consecration of the bread and wine for the Eucharist is always done in a Mass, where the bread and wine, along with the gift of our lives, in union with the sacrifice of the life of Jesus in His passion and death on the cross, are offered to God. Jesus, through his ordained priest, then transforms the bread and wine into Himself through the Consecration, giving our offering a divine value, and presenting it to His Father in reconciliation of our human sin, and as an expression of our love and need for Him in our lives.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, each time it is reenacted, constitutes more than just a symbol of the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary for our redemption. The Mass is the actual un-bloody presence of the Sacrifice of Calvary. Jesus suffered and died only once in time. However, as God, He is eternal and His offering of His Sacrifice on Calvary has an eternal value. Each Mass is Calvary made present, allowing participants to join their own lives, along with their joys, sufferings and sacrifices to the great sacrifice of Jesus. Again, this is where time and eternity intersect miraculously, giving us an opportunity to share in the saving and life giving work of Jesus. Father O’Connor describes this understanding of the sacrificial nature of the Mass.

“the Mass is a sacrifice because, in it, in a sacramental and mystical manner, Christ’s offering, immolation, and priestly activity in heaven become effectively present for us, while he simultaneously subsumes into his unique sacrifice the sacrificial offerings of the Church.” The Hidden Manna, p. 241

Through the Holy sacrifice of the Mass, Christ has made it possible for us to participate directly with Him in our own salvation, and in the salvation of all mankind. This is the Christian vocation, to participate in the Priesthood of Christ.

As with the Church’s tradition of belief in the Real Presence, the belief in the celebration of the Mass and our receipt of the Eucharist as our participation in Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary has been asserted from the beginning of the Church. From St. Paul through the 800 years of Patristic writings by the Church Fathers, and up to the time of the Protestant Reformation, in the early 1500s A.D., there was broad agreement on this belief.

The belief that the Mass was a sacrifice, as a participation in Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary was denied by most of the Protestant Reformers. Martin Luther was the first to deny the sacrificial nature of the Mass, even though he believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Luther’s views on man’s justification by faith alone, rather than by “good works,” resulted in his position that the Mass, as a “good work,” could not be propitiatory and earn anything more in the way of grace and forgiveness for man than what the original one act of sacrifice by Christ had already earned. He obviously did not view the “intersection” of time and eternity, previously mentioned, to allow man’s participation in the sacrifice of Christ. Luther was, no doubt, also influenced to take this view, against the sacrificial value of each Mass, which had long been an accepted doctrine, because of the abuses in the sale of indulgences prevalent at the time. These abuses represented a commercialization and exploitation of the sacrificial nature of the Mass.

Two other major reformers at the time of Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin asserted that the Mass was not a sacrifice and could not be considered a participation in the Sacrifice on Calvary. During the same time period, these denials were also joined by Bishop Thomas Cranmer in Article XXXI of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, establishing the separate English Church.

Again, the Catholic Church, at the Council of Trent (1545-1564 A.D.), corrected this error by defining the doctrine of the Mass in relation to the Sacrifice on Calvary. The Council asserted that the Mass as a sacrifice was truly propitiatory for the living and the dead. It is with confidence in our great Christian Tradition that we participate in the Mass, and in offering each day’s “prayers, works, joys and sufferings through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

Our participation in the Priesthood of Christ is rooted in our participation, through our lives, in the great redemptive sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. This also is a sacred mystery, but is made possible through God’s grace and power, as Creator and Savior, and as Lord of both Time and Eternity.       


                                                          

Primary Reference and Source: The Hidden Manna, by Father James T. O’Connor, 2005 edition, with ecclesiastical approval

This article was provided by Faith Formation Commission at Saint Patrick Catholic Church.

About the Author

Mike Moyer, father of four grown children, and grandfather of seven, is a product of Jesuit education and formation. He has a Licentiate Degree in Thomistic Philosophy, an MA in Anthropology, and, in recent years, has studied Theology on a graduate level. Mike is retired from a career that encompassed 14 years working with Native American groups, and then, also 20 years working in the senior management of three vacation resort companies.

During Mike’s lifetime in the Northwest, he has been an active member of a number of Catholic parishes. In that time his participation has included service as lector, retreat organizer, parish council member and Archdiocesan Deaconate Board member. His most recent parish, before calling Saint Patrick Catholic Church home, was St. Edward Catholic Church in Shelton, WA. Besides his service on the Faith Formation Commission of Saint Patrick Catholic Church, Mike will be serving as a extraordinary minsiter of Holy Communion to the sick and homebound and as a member of the Bellarmine Mission and Formation Committee.

6. The Eucharist As The Heart Of The Church (5/26/17)

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THE EUCHARIST AS THE HEART OF THE CHURCH

By Mike Moyer

 

The Eucharist is the heart of the Church by providing the life giving relationships and energy that create The Mystical Body of Christ. It is through the Eucharist that we join with all other Christians, as brothers and sisters in Christ, and with all mankind, as children of God. This relationship carries the solemn obligation of exercising Charity, and living for others. The truth of this obligation is found in the words of Jesus, “what you have done to the least of my brothers, you have done to me.”

 

The model for the Church or Mystical Body of Christ is not social, political or economic, but is rooted in the Spirit of Jesus, the love of God. This love should be present and expressed in our social, economic, and political relationships, transcending all differences, and energizing our unity, especially when those human relationships appear broken.

 

What does it mean that the Church or Mystical Body of Christ is “rooted in the Spirit of Jesus”? This means that the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, brings forth the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and thus, the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, in the following ways.

 

The Holy Spirit is the life force of love God employs in creating the world. The Holy Spirit acted in Mary to bring forth the Incarnation of the Word of God, Jesus, the human expression and model of God’s love. In each Mass, right before the Consecration, the priest invokes the Holy Spirit to come down upon the gifts of bread and wine, so that they can be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. This prayer is referred to as the “Epiclesis.” In the Eastern Rights of the Church, this prayer is considered to be as fundamental to the Consecration as the Consecratory words themselves. Finally, it is the Holy Spirit which unites the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, through Charity.

 

Mary, the mother of Jesus, also plays a profound instrumental role in making the Eucharist available to us, and in creating the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. She accomplishes this in the following ways.  

 

By her humility and dedication to doing God’s will, Mary provided the physical and spiritual environment for the Word to become Flesh, the Incarnation of God, and gave birth to Jesus. It is His human body and, through that, His Divine Personhood that is available to us in the Eucharist. Mary, with God, is the co-creator of Jesus. In this sense, she is instrumental in providing us with the Eucharist and the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church

 

Mary, as mother of Jesus, suffered deeply with Him in His act of our salvation. This act is central to each Mass, as we also join our sufferings and lives with Jesus for our salvation and the salvation of the world. Mary is, therefore also instrumental in the central action of each Mass, resulting in the Eucharist and the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.

 

Mary nourished Jesus in the womb, and, as a child, to mature growth. She performs an analogous role, as the Eucharist is shared by the members of the Church. Mary is there to nourish the life of the Mystical Body of Christ by strengthening and encouraging us to forgiveness and Charity.

 

Finally, it is though the Sacraments that we are empowered to be active and contributing members of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. The Eucharist is considered a Sacrament in a very analogous sense to the other six Sacraments. The Sacraments are ways of leading us to God in our human lives, empowering us through God’s graces to live out certain aspects of our lives in the Spirit of Jesus. The Eucharist is the primary and most important Sacrament, because The Eucharist is God, in the Person of Jesus, and gives us an immediate way to be united with Him. The purpose of all the Sacraments is to bring about our union with Jesus and with one another in Charity, through the Love of the Holy Spirit, building the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

 

All of these life giving relationships for building the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, begin and end in our Eucharistic life. As Catholic Christians, we have the greatest of all gifts, and the most powerful of all resources to achieve our life’s purpose, union with our God and one another. It is a heritage that we should long to share, and a heritage that deserves to become central to our lives. It is the heritage of the Eucharist and a Eucharistic life. It is the Heart of the Church.


                                                     

Primary Reference and Source: The Hidden Manna, by Father James T. O’Connor, 2005 edition, with ecclesiastical approval

This article was provided by Faith Formation Commission at Saint Patrick Catholic Church.

About the Author

Mike Moyer, father of four grown children, and grandfather of seven, is a product of Jesuit education and formation. He has a Licentiate Degree in Thomistic Philosophy, an MA in Anthropology, and, in recent years, has studied Theology on a graduate level. Mike is retired from a career that encompassed 14 years working with Native American groups, and then, also 20 years working in the senior management of three vacation resort companies.

During Mike’s lifetime in the Northwest, he has been an active member of a number of Catholic parishes. In that time his participation has included service as lector, retreat organizer, parish council member and Archdiocesan Deaconate Board member. His most recent parish, before calling Saint Patrick Catholic Church home, was St. Edward Catholic Church in Shelton, WA. Besides his service on the Faith Formation Commission of Saint Patrick Catholic Church, Mike will be serving as a extraordinary minsiter of Holy Communion to the sick and homebound and as a member of the Bellarmine Mission and Formation Committee.

Formed in the Faith

Through these articles, the Faith Formation Commission, wants to communicate, as desired, the Catholic Church’s tradition and teaching to parishioners, through affective and effective ways, for the growth of each parishioner’s personal faith. The Commission has decided that one of those ways is to offer weekly articles, through established parish communication channels— Church Bulletin, The Cornerstone eNewletter, YouTube and myParish app, that will cover a variety of faith related topics. The Commission is hoping for feedback from parishioners regarding the quality and content of the articles, as well as suggestions future topics.  The feedback will be collected in the form of an online survey.

Meet Mike Moyer

The newly formed Faith Formation Commission, which was established in October 2016, has assigned one of its newest members, Mike Moyer, to be responsible for gathering and authoring articles.

Mike, father of four grown children, and grandfather of seven, is a product of Jesuit education and formation. He has a Licentiate Degree in Thomistic Philosophy, an MA in Anthropology, and, in recent years, has studied Theology on a graduate level. Mike is retired from a career that encompassed 14 years working with Native American groups, and then, also 20 years working in the senior management of three vacation resort companies.

During Mike’s lifetime in the Northwest, he has been an active member of a number of Catholic parishes. In that time his participation has included service as lector, retreat organizer, parish council member and Archdiocesan Deaconate Board member. His most recent parish, before calling Saint Patrick Catholic Church home, was St. Edward Catholic Church in Shelton, WA. Besides his service on the Faith Formation Commission of Saint Patrick Catholic Church, Mike will be serving as a extraordinary minsiter of Holy Communion to the sick and homebound and as a member of the Bellarmine Mission and Formation Committee.