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Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Eucharist As Catalyst For Unity And Conversion

I have a friend who is in the process of possibly revising his theology. He told me that the "memorialist" position on the Eucharist that characterizes the communities of the radical Reformation no longer makes sense with how he reads John chapter 6. Obviously, I agree. Yet if someone is Protestant, there must be some sort of juxtaposition between faith in Jesus as the Bread of Life, and the Eucharist as the Bread of Life. Certainly, the end of the passage (vv. 51-68) is the part that Catholics point to as the clearest exposition of Catholic Eucharistic faith. It makes sense to spiritualize the graphic parts that a plain reading--and in the ears of the Jewish audience--suggest cannibalism. Jesus makes no effort to comfort the listeners, however. And in fact, a Catholic reading sees no juxtaposition between faith in Christ, and Eucharistic piety. The spiritual and the sacramental are one.

I said to my friend, “It's not definitive evidence by itself, but the best refutation of the memorialist view is the sustained, frequent reception of the Lord's Supper, no matter the community.”

The Council Fathers noted in Unitatis redintegratio, 22,

"[Protestant ecclesial communities]  when they commemorate the Lord's death and resurrection in the Holy Supper . . . profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and await his coming in glory."

Earlier, in Lumen Gentium, they said:

"This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic,  which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as "the pillar and mainstay of the truth". This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity." (LG, 8)

I could "hear" Christ calling out to me in the Eucharist, though I could not partake in it for two years. I had not even begun to examine the evidence for believing that Christ founded the Catholic Church. I had only known that a mere memorial of Christ's finished work on the Cross could not account for my experience. I wept aloud at the retelling of the story of the papal nuncio saying Christ called to every person from the altar. I wonder if Bryan Cross remembers this. I most certainly do.

We should say that many Christians take Holy Communion seriously. But to be drawn near involves more than devotion. It involves professing what is true, and only that, about the Eucharist. The Catholic doctrines concerning the Eucharist are not true because they are majestic; they are majestic because they are true. An Anabaptist community can not only learn from Catholic reverence; a deeper union with Christ must certainly imply a greater correspondence with those true doctrines.

"And after I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself."


Friday, August 24, 2018

A Note On "Clericalism"

"Clericalism" is an idea that inordinate honor and deference is given to those in the clerical state. It does happen. The people of God at an individual level have placed too much trust in clergy with whom they have been associated, and have been exploited as victims on some occasions. Predators often misuse trust; that's how these crimes happen.

Clericalism as an explanation might be a lazy explanation for what's happening, if the reason one believes that inordinate honor has been given to the clerical state is that no honor should be given at all. To be direct, if someone believes in the abolition of the sacramental priesthood, they should just say that. It's unprincipled to decry clericalism when you don't believe in clerics at all.

Still, we should do our best to remember that no cleric--even the pope--has the right to command that which is evil. We should know the Commandments, and our catechisms, and refuse obedience if we're commanded to participate in sin.

In the freedom of holiness and truth, we can rightly celebrate the great gift of the priesthood. For without the priesthood, we would have no sacraments, including the Blessed Sacrament, and therefore, no reasonable hope of salvation. Those who casually toss this truth aside must ask themselves if the life of Heaven means anything to them at all, or if religion truly is only a coping mechanism.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A Loss Of Identity, But A Liberation

I think it no longer wise to identify with any political party. As a Catholic, I am duty-bound--and joyfully hold to--the teachings of the Catholic Church. In regard to, "You shall not commit adultery," and the teachings of our Catechism, it had never been difficult to identify as a Republican, because at least regarding public policy on these questions, progressive ideology has almost nothing to offer. Abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, divorce, contraception, and a host of other evils are actively promoted.

We also know that vicious totalitarianism of a socialist nature gripped large portions of the world in the twentieth century, and the United States spent much of its time and treasure combating both the ideology, and the nations promoting it, for good and ill. Socialism that manifests especially in atheistic materialism has been roundly condemned as contrary to the dignity of the human person by the Church since the late 19th century. I think the postwar ascendance of the United States, and the consensus of the Greatest Generation that occasioned a brief time of good feelings in domestic politics--that happens to coincide with most Americans getting very rich, especially relative to the rest of the world--has blinded us to the ways that capitalism--not distortions or misuses, mind you--degrades the human person: personally, in the family, in community, and in regard to other nations. I have only scratched the surface of the encyclicals that comprise our social teaching, but the longstanding Catholic suspicion of market ideology and the individual accumulation of great wealth only intensified when the implications of classical liberalism came into view.

To be crude about it, if all you're worried about is not being "those commies," you're going to miss a lot of instruction from holy mother Church.

Wasn't the main problem of European Christian social democracy that it failed to be Christian?

Americans and Catholics typically uncritically accept libertarian critiques of government excess as though there is no distinction between an imprudent decision by government at any level, and one motivated by malice, incompetence, and the usurpation of individual rights. Yet an ideology that makes the existence of government as such contingent upon individual whim cannot be Catholic. The individual is not the focal point of a Christian account of human purpose and destiny. There is no real subsidiarity, if the common good--and social groups dedicated to it, including government--is denied. Needless to say, solidarity is also a fiction, if so.

I think I personally have spent most of my life playing at politics, as if it were a sport, instead of the serious matter it is. There was "them" and "us", and the ends of theories and particular policies--as well as real conversations about what we're supposed to be doing--never really took place. Maybe it's too late for that, but I hope not.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Father Of Mercies

I know this guy. Frankly, I wish you did, too. He's one of those special people who changes the world some small way every time he says anything. Those are dangerous and wonderful people. And I feel something of what he's feeling and trying to communicate here, but from an odd direction: as a son who lost a father long ago. My one enduring memory is a happy one, and it made me think of a story.

I was in the house of a guy Russ probably knows, and my college buddy lent me a hand, and left me alone for a few minutes. My friend--we'll call him "Jim"--went back to the kitchen to speak to his father. We'll call him "Larry".

Larry was lamenting that day, all his putative failures great and small. I heard him apologize to Jim more than once. It still shakes me, what I heard next.

"All I remember is that you loved me, Dad."

It's not sacramental absolution, but it's pretty close.

When you entrust yourself and your son to God's mercy, his own words to you, spoken honestly, are the sum and substance of that mercy, and it will be an act of faith for you to accept it.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Truth Is The Truth

There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. It's better to live in the truth and be occasionally reminded that you hate and resist the truth than it is to pretend the truth is other than it is.

I don't have anything to add to discussions of current events, except to say that the truth about any situation is preferable to any comforting lies. It is indeed a comforting thing to know that the Church does not need me, in a sense. When I offer my gifts to the Body of Christ, I do so in the complete knowledge of God's sovereign care. Jesus will preserve His Church; he does not promise to preserve the reputations of those who have done wickedness in darkness.

I think some people read this--especially the part about freedom--and secretly go, "Yeah, but..." It's easier to blame God than it is to face the darkness within. Then again, why does God permit all manner of evil to be visited upon the innocent? Your guess is as good as mine. It's an age-old difficulty, one that doesn't become easier or harder. It just is.

If the all-good God asked me to suffer for the good of another, even without knowing why, or seeing the fruit, would I do it? Yeah. I've seen this movie lots of times before. I may stumble, but I know the Way. I start to understand: We make the "little" sacrifices so that when the big ones come, we're not overwhelmed.

I gave to Jesus a great pain I have been feeling. Once upon a time, I did a very hard thing. It's the right thing, but it was hard. But maybe I hadn't said fully to Him, "But I hate this. It hurts. I would do this all differently." Because I hadn't done that, I was struggling to go forward in obedience. Jesus knows what I really think; it's my image of myself that has to die.

What else has to die for the sake of the truth?