Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is hard to gauge sometimes how effective I am in communicating. Part of that is because of my introverted nature, which is unsure if the outside message I give matches my inner thoughts. Part of it is people don’t always give consistent feedback. Given that I’m a priest, there is a slight risk that people tell me that I’ve done a good job with a homily or letter simply to be polite.
But when I encounter a rare moment of true learning from what I am saying or teaching, it is immensely satisfying. I had one such moment this past week. Every Monday afternoon, I teach religion to the eighth graders in our school. I enjoy doing it, though with eighth graders, I question sometimes how much enjoyment they get out of our time together. This year, I’ve decided to go through the seven Sacraments with them. The importance of the Sacraments cannot be overstated in the life of a Catholic, and the better we understand them, the more we can appreciate their effects and God’s grace in our lives.
At the moment, we are discussing the Eucharist, a subject we could really spend a whole year learning about given its importance and depth. I’ve been trying to explain the miraculous nature of the Eucharist, how through the process of transubstantiation, the Eucharist truly becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, despite the fact that the characteristics of it remain that of bread and wine. For anyone, this is a difficult concept to grasp, but for an adolescent mind that thinks rather concretely, it is a very tall order to understand.
In order to prove what we say happens does in fact occur, I pointed to the reality of the Eucharistic miracle in Lanciano, Italy in the eighth century. In that miracle, the host that the priest was using at Mass completely became human flesh and blood. Modern scientific testing has confirmed what had started as bread is now truly human flesh, the blood having the same composition of proteins as what’s coursing through you right this second; it is still very much alive.
At first, the students were weirded out by it. Some of them even grossed out. But then they started questions like, “Could this happen at a Mass at St. Charles?” and “What would you do if it did?” You could see the wheels turning as they went from not realizing what truly happens with the Eucharist, to the sudden possibility that what we say happens to the bread and wine really occurs, in every Mass that’s celebrated.
It was a beautiful moment of true learning. One that I hope not only stays with them, but help us all come to believe more deeply in the True Presence of Jesus Christ found in the Most Blessed Sacrament!
Peace and Goodness,