|THE REAL PRESENCE||CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST|
What are we saying when we say that the greatest need in the world today is to form the Eucharistic faith and love of children. What do we mean?
We mean that what the world most needs is to believe in Jesus Christ; indeed believe that Jesus Christ is on earth in the Holy Eucharist. The world needs to love Jesus Christ, with us in the Blessed Sacrament, offering Himself for us in the Sacrifice of the Mass and present within us in Holy Communion.
In the measure that this faith and love are nurtured from the tenderest years as children, to that extent will Jesus Christ continue working the miracles of grace He performed during His visible stay in Palestine.
My plan for this conference, therefore, is very simple:
When errors arose as early as 100A.D. about the Real Presence, the Churchs defenders, who became martyrs, made it clear that the Holy Eucharist is Jesus Christ.
Not coincidentally, the Eastern churches gave Holy Communion to infants on the day they were baptized. When about the year 1000 A.D., heresies cropped up which openly denied that Jesus Christ is on earth in the Blessed Sacrament, these heresies were condemned by popes and councils. Surely symptomatic of our times, Pope Paul VI issued a historic encyclical during the Second Vatican Council, the Mystery of Faith, in which he verbally repeated the profession of faith in the Real Presence demanded by his predecessors a thousand years before. The reason for the encyclical is obvious. Millions of Catholics are being challenged on their Eucharistic faith in todays widespread climate of skepticism.
In the sixteenth century, the rise of a militant Protestantism challenged the Eucharistic belief on a scale never before experienced in history. Many of the Churchs martyrs were killed for their faith in the Blessed Sacrament. Thus, the Jesuit John Ogilvie, was murdered by command of the Scottish crown for daring to celebrate Mass. St. John Ogilvies feast is October 14.
Since the sixteenth century, the education of Catholic children has had to stress the Real Presence and the Mass as never before. Why? Because of the penetration of so many erroneous ideas about the Eucharist that we are only now beginning to wake up to what has happened since 1517, when Martin Luther broke with the Catholic Church. Not surprisingly, Luther denied the priestly power of transubstantiation.
We get some idea of how confused things had become once we realize what Pope St. Pius X had to do to restore the Churchs practice of early and frequent Holy Communion. 700 hundred years before Pius X, at the Fourth Lateran Council, an ecumenical council, the Church had prescribed First Communion on reaching the age of reason. Yet, in the height of Jansenism in the 17th century, religious women were known to receive the Holy Eucharist for the first time on their deathbed!
Coming to our own day, the two popes, Paul VI and John Paul II have been, I would almost say militant, in the insisting on sound Eucharistic education.
The whole of Pope Paul VIs encyclical, Mysterium Fidei is a plea for charity and orthodoxy in teaching the faithful about the Real Presence. All the liturgical progress made in the last generation will be lost, says the pope, unless Catholics from their earliest years understand that the Holy Eucharist is the presence and sacrifice of Jesus Christ on earth in our day.
On August 12 of last year, speaking to half a million young people in Denver, Colorado, Pope John II told them:
Your pilgrimage will lead you to Christ present in the Holy Eucharist. Praying before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, you can open your hearts to Him, but you should especially listen to what he says to each of you. Christs special words to young people are the following:
Do not be afraid. (Mt. 10:31) and Come, follow me. (Mt. 19:21). Who knows what the Lord will ask of you young people of America, sons and daughters of Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania?
So the Churchs Eucharistic pedagogy has gone on for 2,000 years. Aimed especially at the young, it is in essence simplicity itself. From infancy through adolescence the young people are to grow in their believing love of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.They are to be taught and trained to realize that Jesus Christ is indeed at the right hand of His heavenly Father. But Jesus Christ is also:
During his talks in Denver for the World Youth Day last year, Pope John Paul told the young people to Pray that America might not lose its soul. The soul of America is Christianity. Christianity is the principle of our national life. As our nation becomes increasingly dechristianized, it loses more and more of its source of vitality. Unless the moral disease is cured, America as the nation we still call the United States will disappear.
But there is another and deeper meaning to Americas danger of losing its soul. Individuals lose their souls when they die estranged from God. There is such a thing as a second death, which means everlasting separation from God in what Christ calls eternal punishment. This is the awful prospect awaiting not just single persons, but whole societies, unless they repent and return to the God from whom they have separated by their stubborn resistance to His will.
Sin-laden America. It is remarkable what a dream world people can be living in. By all material standards, America is a prosperous country. We are the best fed, most expensively clothed, most comfortably housed, most conveniently transported, most lavishly entertained large nation in human history.
But we are also a world leader in sin. I like St. Augustines definition. Sin, he says, is nothing else than the neglect of eternal things and seeking after temporal things. In other words, the very affluence of our country in having access to so many satisfying creatures here on earth is a demonic seduction that lures people from the love of eternal things.
When I say world leader in sin, I mean this literally. Not satisfied with world leadership in adultery, contraception, fornication and sodomy, our American State department for months before the UN Cairo Conference in 1994, broadcast to all nations that, and I quote, the United States believes that access to safe, legal and voluntary abortion is a fundamental right of all women.
We are still answering the question Why develop the Eucharistic formation of the young? Our answer is:
The key to this relationship is miracle. What am I saying?
Remember what we are speaking about. We are answering the question of why Eucharistic faith and love must be nourished among Catholics from their earliest years. Why? In order to prepare them for heroic virtue, and in order to make them channels of miraculous grace in a godless world.
This, then, is my principle message to you today. Train the Eucharistic faith of young Catholics today to become the living martyrs of Christ in the next century.
In the early Church, the expression was coined Sanguine martyrum est semen Christianom, the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. This is even more true in our day. Christ needs martyrs who are willing to shed their blood if need be, and who do shed their acceptance by the world, out of loyalty to Jesus Christ.
In this same early Church, which we call the Church of Martyrs, daily Mass and daily Holy Communion were the accepted practice for Catholics. Children were not excluded.
But you might object. That was the age of the catacombs. Did I hear you say, That was the age of the catacombs? If that is what you said, let me enlighten you. Anyone who wants to really, honestly, sincerely, wholeheartedly live his or her Catholic faith today must be ready to live a catacomb existence in the closing decade of the 20th century. Twenty-five years of working for the Holy See has taught me many things-most of which I will never publish or even articulate in public. But this much I can say. We are today living in the Age of Martyrs.
Where do we get the strength even to survive? From Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. How do we become instruments of divine grace in restoring a Christless society to its Redeemer? From Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
What is an apostle of the Eucharist? An apostle of the Eucharist is one who has certain Eucharistic qualities, eight to be exact.
You told us, Allow the little children to come unto me, and do not prevent them from doing so. In saying this, You were telling us to nourish the Eucharistic faith of the young. It is by believing in You that they come to you. It is by growing in their understanding of this faith that they will grow in their love for You.
Here on earth, they cannot see You with their bodily eyes. But they can see You with the eyes of their soulprovided we nurture their faith by our own deep belief in You our Eucharistic Lord and nourish their hearts by our own selfless affection for you our Eucharistic Love. Amen.
Copyright © 2002 Inter Mirifica
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