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Catholic Faith
Vol. 3 - #6, Nov / Dec 1997

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Q.  Does Satan have power to put thoughts in our minds? How can we discern the influence of the evil one in our lives? —D.M., South Carolina

A.  Yes, Satan can put thoughts in our minds. Strictly speaking, the devil can have direct and immediate contact only with what is corporeal, that is, the human body and its organs and functions. This means that the devil is able to act on our external and internal senses and on any organ of the human body. Consequently, Satan has a deep influence on our faculties of intellect and will, not directly, but indirectly through some bodily sense or faculty. Since we acquire thoughts through our senses, the devil has constant influence over our thoughts through his influence on our bodily senses.

The most elaborate explanation of this discernment of spirits is in my commentary on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. The book is called All My Liberty. Put more concisely, discernment of spirits is the ability to distinguish whether a given idea or impulse in the soul comes from the good spirit or from the evil spirit. It may be an act of the virtue of prudence, or a special gift of supernatural grace, or both. In persons who are seriously intent on doing God’s will, the good spirit is recognized by the peace of mind and readiness for sacrifice that a given thought or desire produces in the soul. The evil spirit produces disturbance of mind and a tendency to self-indulgence. An opposite effect is produced by both spirits toward sinners.

Q.  What is meant by the Real Presence? —A.O., Nebraska

A.  On the definition of the Real Presence, depends whether a person believes in the Roman Catholic Church or not. No single mystery of Christianity more clearly distinguishes authentic Catholicism than the Real Presence. By now, not just volumes, but whole libraries have been written about the Real Presence. According to our Catholic faith, the Real Presence identifies the manner of Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist. In its definition on the subject, the Council of Trent in 1551 declared that “in the sacrament of the most holy Holy Eucharist is contained truly, really, and substantially the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ” (Denzinger 1636, 1640). Hence Christ is present truly and actually and not only symbolically. He is present really, that is objectively, in the Eucharist and not only subjectively in the mind of the believer. And He is present substantially, that is, with all that makes Christ Christ and not only spiritually in imparting blessings on those who receive the sacrament. The one who is present is the whole Christ (totus Christus), with all the attributes of His divinity and all the physical parts and properties of His humanity.

Q.  What is meant by transubstantiation? —E.D., Ohio

A.  Transubstantiation is the term used by the Catholic Church to identify how the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist takes place.

It will be useful to first define transubstantiation. Then we shall give a definition of the two terms, transfinalization and transignification. These latter were coined by Catholic theologians who deny transubstantiation.

Transubstantiation is the complete change of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of Christ’s body and blood by a validly ordained priest during the consecration at Mass, so that only the accidents of bread and wine remain. While the faith behind the term was already believed in Apostolic times, the term itself was a later development. With the Eastern Fathers before the sixth century, the favored expression was meta-ousiosis, “change of being;” the Latin tradition coined the word transubstantiatio, “change of substance,” which was incorporated into the creed of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. The Council of Trent, in defining the “wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and the whole substance of the wine into the blood” of Christ, added “which conversion the Catholic Church calls transubstantiation” (Denzinger 1652). After transubstantiation, the accidents of bread and wine do not inhere in any subject or substance whatever. Yet they are not make-believe; they are sustained in existence by divine power.

Transfinalization is the view of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist that the purpose or finality of the bread and wine is changed by the words of consecration. They are said to serve a new function, as sacred elements that arouse the faith of the people in the mystery of Christ’s redemptive love. This theory was condemned by Pope Paul VI in the encyclical Mysterium Fidei (1965), if transfinalization is taken to deny the substantial change of bread and wine into the body and blood Christ.

Transignification is the theory of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist which holds that the meaning or significance of the bread and wine is changed by the words of consecration. The consecrated elements are said to signify all that Christians associate with the Last Supper; they have a higher value than merely food for the body. Like transfinalization, the theory of transignification was condemned by Pope Paul VI in the encyclical Mysterium Fidei (1965), if it is understood as denying transubstantiation.

Catholic Faith
Vol. 3 - #6, Nov / Dec 1997

Copyright © 1997 by Inter Mirifica
No reproductions shall be made without prior written permission

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