Bread of Life

BREAD OF LIFE
 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. (john 6: 50)
The miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him. Jesus Christ celebrated the first Mass with His disciples at the Last Supper, the night before He died. He commanded His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The celebration of the Mass then became the main form of worship in the early Church, as a reenactment of the Last Supper, as Christ had commanded. Each and every Mass since commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through the Holy Eucharist. Because the Mass “re-presents” (makes present) the sacrifice on Calvary, Catholics all around the world join together to be made present in Christ’s timeless sacrifice for our sins. There is something fascinating about continuing to celebrate the same Mass—instituted by Christ and practiced by the early Church—with the whole community of Catholics around the world…and in heaven.

THE REAL PRESENCE

Why does the Catholic Church believe Christ is really present in the Eucharist?
The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity. Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because Jesus tells us this is true in the Bible:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” - John 6:48-56
Furthermore, the early Church Fathers either imply or directly state that the bread and wine offered in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrine of the Real Presence that Catholics believe today was believed by the earliest Christians 2,000 years ago!

This miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

THE POPE MEETS TRUMP

The Three Crucial Issues at the Pope-Trump Meeting

By John Horvat II

The upcoming meeting in Rome between Pope Francis and President Trump is fast approaching. It is an opportune occasion to share some thoughts and concerns about the future.

The two figures could not be more different. The Pope is the head of the greatest spiritual power on Earth. The President is the elected leader of the world’s only superpower.

They will speak about a world in turmoil. From a purely human perspective, the situation looks dire. Thus, there is so much that could be discussed at this meeting since they both have vast resources at their disposal.

The Church has Her moral teachings, and wisdom garnered over the ages that is essential to any debate about the future. Completely different in nature, America has vast material resources that have often been channeled to help humanity.

Conflict or Cooperation?

Progressives are rooting that this meeting turns into a conflict. Liberal media will do everything possible to accentuate the differences between the Pope and the President.

They will try to fit their meeting into a false and exaggerated narrative that would have one defending the poor and the other representing those who supposedly oppress them through their wealth and lifestyles.

There is no doubt that Pope Francis and President Trump are indeed different and disagree on many things. However, inside the realm of Catholic social doctrine, there is much about which they might and should agree.

Both the Pope and the President are known for their outspokenness. Thus, they need to speak out and denounce the world’s true evils. Both have broken conventions. They must now break the typical agendas put before them. In light of the centennial year of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, they urgently need to address the core problems that have caused men to go awry.
For this reason, it would be helpful if Pope and President were to talk about three things upon which they might agree and which few can deny.

Addressing the Causes, Not the Effects

We pray that, with God’s help, they would focus on the causes of the present crisis. It is easy to see that they might disagree on the means to deal with the dangerous effects of the world crisis. Let them at least agree on its causes.

Without addressing causes, it is impossible to solve problems. No amount of money can fill the void when problems perpetuate themselves and grow ever larger due to causes that are allowed to fester. Yet this outlook is typically absent from today’s postmodern world that prefers to deal with the sensational and immediate symptoms.

Thus, when discussing the problem of countless refugees that seek asylum in the West, for example, the two should explore and denounce the causes that induce the refugees to flee.

It should be easy to agree that immigrants will cease to migrate if they no longer want to leave their home country.

The goal should not be to settle people in foreign lands but to give priority to restoring conditions for them to live in their native lands, whether this be Syria, Venezuela, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya or Cuba, which these immigrants love and where they desire to live in peace.

Friday, May 12, 2017

DEFENDING DIGNITY

Josh McDowell on Strengthening the Church Against Pornography

“You have to start preparing you children for being exposed to pornography at age five,” said Josh McDowell at an event at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation for DC-area faith leaders.

The event was focused on equipping leaders of local churches, and other religiously affiliated organizations, with the tools to address the harms of pornography.

The presentation drew nearly fifty area leaders.

McDowell spoke about the neurological harms of pornography, giving an analogy that the chemicals reacting in the brain when someone watches pornography are akin to tattooing the images on your brain.
Attendees included Rep. Linda Smith from Shared Hope International and Donna Hughes from Enough is Enough. He told a heart-wrenching story of an eight-year-old boy who was accidently exposed to pornography at a neighbor’s house.

His mother found him several days later crying in his room. When she asked him what was wrong, the boy replied that he couldn’t get the pornographic images out of his head.

McDowell emphasized the need for parents to begin preparing their children at early ages because it is impossible for any parent to adequately protect their child from being exposed to the explicit content.

According to research conducted by Barna Group, and commissioned by Josh McDowell Ministry, roughly half of teenagers, and nearly three-quarters of young adults see pornography on at least a monthly basis.

How should churches respond?

In an interview with NCOSE’s “Sexploitation?” podcast, McDowell stated that “Every church should have a recovery group…” His advice to pastors, and individuals, regarding pornography, is “don’t go it alone.”

McDowell referenced the positive efforts put forth by the Catholic church, the LDS church, and other religious communities as well.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

SALVATION

VI. I Have Been Saved (past event)

Rom. 8:24 - for in this hope we were saved (but, again, why "hope" if salvation is a certainty?)

Eph. 2:5,8 - for by grace you have been saved through faith.

2 Tim. 1:9 - He saved us and called us through grace and not by virtue of our own works outside of His grace.

Titus 3:5 - He saved us in virtue of His own mercy, and not by our deeds.

VII. I Am Being Saved (present event)

1 Cor. 1:18 - for the word of the cross is folly to those perishing, but for to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. Salvation is not a one-time event. It is a process of perseverance through faith, hope and love.

2 Cor. 2:15 - for we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved. Salvation is a continual process.

Phil. 2:12 - we are working out our salvation through fear and trembling. Salvation is an ongoing process.

1 Peter 1:9 - you obtain the salvation of your souls as the outcome of your faith. Working out our salvation in fear and trembling is a lifelong process.

VIII. I Will Be Saved (future event)

Matt. 10:22, 24:13; Mark 13:13 - again, Jesus taught that we must endure to the very end to be saved. Salvation is a past, present and future event (not a one-time event at an altar call).

Mark 16:16 – Jesus says whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.

Acts 15:11 - we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus.

Rom. 5:9-10 - since we are justified by His blood, we shall be saved.

Rom. 13:11 - salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. How can we be only nearer to something we already have?

1 Cor. 3:15 - he will be saved, but only as through fire.

1 Cor. 5:5 - Paul commands the Church to deliver a man to satan, that he will be saved in the day of the Lord.

2 Tim. 2:11-12 - if we endure, we shall also reign with Him. This requires endurance until the end of our lives.

Heb. 9:28 - Jesus will appear a second time to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.

James 5:15 - the sacrament of the sick will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up.

IX. I Save (by participating in Christ's salvific work)

Rom. 11:13-14 - I magnify my ministry to make the Jews jealous and thus save some of them. Paul says that he is the one doing the saving, but he really means that he participates in Christ's work of salvation.

1 Cor. 7:16 - Paul indicates that a wife can save her husband and vice versa. We are lesser mediators in Christ's salvific work.

1 Cor. 9:22 - Paul says he has become all things to men that he might save some. Only God saves, but His children participate in their salvation.

1 Tim. 4:16 - you will save both yourself and your hearers. Christ is the only Savior, but He wants us to participate, for we are members of His body.

James 5:20 - whoever brings back a sinner will save his soul from death. We are saviors in the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jude 22-23 - we are instructed to save some people, by snatching them out of the fire. We participate in our salvation and in the salvation of others.

Prov. 16:6 - by love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for. We can participate in Christ's atonement through our love and faith.

Monday, April 17, 2017

WHERE TO FIND RESURRECTION

Something there is that needs a crucifixion. Everything that’s good eventually gets scapegoated and crucified. How? By that curious, perverse dictate somehow innate within human life that assures that there’s always someone or something that cannot leave well enough alone, but, for reasons of its own, must hunt down and lash out at what’s good.

What’s good, what’s of God, will always at some point be misunderstood, envied, hated, pursued, falsely accused, and eventually nailed to some cross. Every body of Christ inevitably suffers the same fate as Jesus: death through misunderstanding, ignorance, and jealousy.

But there’s a flipside as well: Resurrection always eventually trumps crucifixion. What’s good eventually triumphs. Thus, while nothing that’s of God will avoid crucifixion, no body of Christ stays in the tomb for long.

God always rolls back the stone and, soon enough, new life bursts forth and we see why that original life had to be crucified. (“Wasn’t it necessary that the Christ should so have to suffer and die?”) Resurrection invariably follows crucifixion. Every crucified body will rise again. Our hope takes its root in that.

But how does this happen? Where do we see the resurrection? How do we experience resurrection after a crucifixion? Scripture is subtle, though clear, on this. Where can we expect to experience resurrection? The gospel tell us that, on the morning of the resurrection, the women-followers of Jesus set out for the tomb of Jesus, carrying spices, expecting to anoint and embalm a dead body.

Well-intentioned but misguided, what they find is not a dead body, but an empty tomb and an angel challenging them with these words: “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? Go instead into Galilee and you will find him there!”

Go instead into Galilee. Why Galilee? What’s Galilee? And how do we get there?

In the gospels, Galilee is not simply a geographical location, a place on a map. It is first of all a place in the heart. As well, Galilee refers to the dream and to the road of discipleship that the disciples once walked with Jesus and to that place and time when their hearts most burned with hope and enthusiasm.

And now, after the crucifixion, just when they feel that the dream is dead, that their faith is only fantasy, they are told to go back to the place where it all began: “Go back to Galilee. He will meet you there!”

And they do go back to Galilee, both to the geographical location and to that special place in their hearts where once burned the dream of discipleship. And just as promised, Jesus appears to them. He doesn’t appear exactly as he was before, or as frequently as they would like him to, but he does appear as more than a ghost and a memory.

The Christ that appears to them after the resurrection is in a different modality, but he’s physical enough to eat fish in their presence, real enough to be touched as a human being, and powerful enough to change their lives forever.

Ultimately that’s what the resurrection asks us to do: To go back to Galilee, to return to the dream, hope, and discipleship that had once inflamed us but has now been lost through disillusionment.

This parallels what happens on the road to Emmaus in Luke’s gospel, where we are told that on the day of the resurrection, two disciples were walking away from Jerusalem towards Emmaus, with their faces downcast.

An entire spirituality could be unpackaged from that simple line: For Luke, Jerusalem means the dream, the hope, and the religious centre from which all is to begin and where ultimately, all is to culminate. And the disciples are “walking away” from this place, away from their d

Since their dream has been crucified, the disciples are understandably discouraged and are walking away from it, towards some human solace, despairing in their hope: “But we had hoped!”

They never get to Emmaus. Jesus appears to them on the road, reshapes their hope in the light of their disillusionment, and turns them back towards Jerusalem.

That is one of the essential messages of Easter: Whenever we are discouraged in our faith, whenever our hopes seem to be crucified, we need to go back to Galilee and Jerusalem, that is, back to the dream and the road of discipleship that we had embarked upon before things went wrong. The temptation of course, whenever the kingdom doesn’t seem to work, is to abandon discipleship for human consolation, to head off instead for Emmaus, for the consolation of Las Vegas or Monte Carlo.
But, as we know, we never quite get to Las Vegas or Monte Carlo. In one guise or another, Christ always meets us on the road to those places, burns holes in our hearts, explains our latest crucifixion to us, and sends us back – and to our abandoned discipleship. Once there, it all makes sense again.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

THE POISON OF CYNICISM

By Alice von Hildebrand

It is hardly conceivable that one, having lived in this imperfect world of ours, could say of his death bed: “In my whole life, I have never heard a remark that was either unkind or offensive.”

Alas, most of us will acknowledge that they have often been wounded by nasty and unkind words, thrown at their face, at times, for no reason at all.

It would be sheer naiveté ever to forget that we are living in a world of sinners (with the one exception of the Holy Virgin), and that inevitably people having an “unbaptized” tongue will say things that afflict others.

St. James has warned us: “If anyone thinks that he is religious and does not bridle his tongue…this man’s religion is vain.” (James 1:26)
How is one to respond to these aggravations, sometimes viciously aiming at wounding us?

Let me briefly mention the classical response given by saints – not forgetting that holiness does not make one “insensitive,” but does shield these beloved children of God from giving the “wrong” response which most of us are tempted to give: such as “tooth for tooth” which often degenerates to “teeth for tooth.” How tempting is the sweet taste of revenge!

Many are those who claim that to love the offender is not only against “nature,” but also against the elementary laws of justice. Was it not Confucius who said: “If you love your enemies, what is left for your friends?”

The saint will not only forgive the person who shot these poisonous “arrows” at him, but will “love his enemy, and pray for those who persecute him.” He will also look for excuses to decrease the culpability of the offender. One thing is certain: a saint will neither nurse a grudge nor “bite back”; moreover he will not, with God’s grace, feel “dispensed” from loving his neighbor.
Not only is it not easy to become a saint. It is plainly impossible without divine help. “Without me, you can do nothing” is something that those striving for holiness should daily meditate on.

Let us now briefly mention the responses that the “average” man (that is most of us) is likely to give. How tempting to label as “wicked” or “evil” those who wound up and declare the offender to be unworthy of either forgiveness, let alone love.

Someone betrayed by a “friend” will probably cynically redefine friendship as a bond “valid” as long as the so-called friend may use you as a tool for his personal advantage.

But once he no longer “needs” you, having squeezed the lemon, he will discard the rind. Moreover, how many people wish to be burdened with friend who is bankrupt and desperately in need of financial help?

It is tragically true that the “defeated” person is “usually” abandoned by all. This was tragically formulated by Horace. “Donec eris felix…multos numerabis amicos….Tempora si fuerunt nubile, solus eris” – Whereas a successful man has innumerable friends, most of them being sycophants, a man in distress is, alas, often a lonesome man.

A disappointed man might tell you that true friendship might be found in some pieces of literature, but never in real life. On the other hand, those of us blessed with true friends – for they do exist – ought to wake up in the morning and go to bed at night with the word “thank you” on their lips.

But those who have been disappointed or wounded are likely to fall into the temptation of assuming: “No one is worthy of love, not a single one; only simpletons can fall into the trap of trusting others. They are either near sighted or plainly stupid.” A cynic is liberated once and for all from the “burden” of admiring anyone, or looking up to anyone as a model!

Nevertheless among these “defeatists”, there is a gamut of possibilities. Some of them, acknowledging defeat, will withdraw from a world of illusion, lies and betrayals and will escape into the “desert”. This was the choice made by Moliere’s hero: Alceste in the Misanthrope.

The girl he loved having refused to join him in this seclusion, gives the final blow to his already wounded soul.

Others choose to remain in this evil world, convinced that they have the mission to open people’s eyes to its viciousness. Their favored tool is the wounding knife of cynicism. “Oh! Sweet revenge.”

What is striking about their attitude is that they definitely seem to enjoy their role as “seers,” that is, superior people blessed with a sharp eye sight, people who can smell evil from far away. In other words, they are the clever ones; they pride themselves of their talents as “detectives of evil,” and enjoy their superior intellectual vision.

They will, on principle, reject any argument or even proof that their “wisdom” is flawed and poisoned by an unhealthy self-assurance. “I am always right; I see what I see.”

Literature generously gives us priceless information on this topic. Not surprisingly, the richest field for cynical remarks are women, love, marriage, faithfulness, religion. Let us not forget, however that bad marriages often make the headlines; very happy ones “treasure” their happiness in the secrecy of their home.

Marriage is an ideal field because many enter into it assuming that, like all fairy tales, it will end with the words: “they were happy forever after.” Let us not forget, however, that some of the greatest poets (Dante comes to mind) have found admirable words to sing the praise of their “dame.” Petrarch dedicated a sublime canto to the encomium of Laura who – alone in his eyes – deserved to be called a Woman: “che sola a me par donna.”

That is, incarnating as she does, the plenitude of all female virtues, she alone is worthy to be called “lady.” But many are the writers who – disappointed in marriage – revel in opening our eyes to its false promises and its dangerous appeal. There is such a thing as “literary revenge.”

French writers are particularly talented at making cynical remarks: the sharp Latin mind is quick at detecting flaws in others.

A couple of examples will illustrate this. According to Alexis Piron marriage has only two good days: the entrance and the exit (this is not a quote – p. 172. Most of the cynical remarks that I use are taken from French Quotations by Norbert Guterman, Double Day – sometimes using my own translation).

The following one is just as cynical. A husband visits the tomb of his deceased wife, and meditates on the fact that “there she lies” reveling in her peace and in mine. (Jacques de Lorens, p. 68)

Vauvenargues’ words are loaded with cynicism. He writes: “We feel nothing more sharply than the loss of the woman we love, nor for a shorter time.” (N.G.) He is trying to convince us that “faithfulness” is nothing but an appearance soon denied by facts. How refreshing by comparison to recall the words of Kierkegaard that the test of true faithfulness is our relation to the dead.

In this light of these remarks, we can measure the harm that can be done by cynical literature; and how a young person feeding on it can enter life already “blasé” and disappointed. Yet one great true love should suffice to re-open for us the gates of hope.

Is this “light of hope” often offered in contemporary education and contemporary literature? Are we not living in a decadent society where many of us have lost what Dante beautifully calls: “la speranza dell’altezza.”

How many of our contemporaries having given up the bright light of faith, live like moles in a dark den, convinced that this earth is to be “enjoyed” in any way one pleases, and then when the game is over, gratefully greet assisted suicide.

Montaigne clearly deserves a special place in our list of famous cynics. Speaking about marriage, he compares it to an aviary: the birds inside the cage desperately wishing to get out; those outside, desperately wishing to get in. (p 50) In other words, once you have “tasted” how bitter-sweet the marriage bond is, understandably your one great wish is to regain your freedom.

As these cynical arrows being mostly shot by men, it is inevitable that they aim at flagellating the female sex. It is always tempting – starting from Genesis – to put the fault on the “other”, be it a serpent or Eve.

But if all the cynical remarks uttered by women’s tongues had been recorded, I am far from certain that they would not deserve the first prize of eloquence.

Understandably, the male sex, being physically the stronger one, is easily tempted to equate superiority with strength. This is wittily expressed by Alexander Dumas (fils) who tells us that, according to the Bible, the woman was created last. It must have been on Saturday night.

There are clear signs of fatigue. (326) But a witty tongue could remind him that “last” often means better: the final copy comes after the rough draft! The same author is also makes the venomous remark that “the chains of wedlock are so heavy to carry that one needs to be two…and often three.” (ibid)

Every gift of God – and the creation of Eve was one for Adam who gave expression to his joy upon perceiving her – if not “baptized” turns to a terrible caricature. This found its expression in the following words of Paul Valery: “God created man and finding him not sufficiently alone, gave him a female companion to make him feel doubly lonesomeness.” (382)

Alas, this is acknowledged to be a real possibility by the very talented French philosopher, Gabriel Marcel, (see his play: Le Coeur des Autres), it can and does happen that two people linked by the bonds of matrimony, have nothing to say to one another. This sheds light on many cases of matrimonial infidelity.

How tempting it is for a cynical tongue to lash at “virtues.”

“Few virtuous women do not weary of being so.” (N.G.) Once again, we owe this nasty remark to La Rochefoucault. My translation “Few are the virtuous women who do not get tired of their ‘trade.’” (p. 92) The message is clear: some women who have little appeal for the other sex, take refuge in “virtue,” but as soon as there is a flicker of hope the pride of being “virtuous” loses its appeal and collapse.

Once virtue is “vilified”, virginity is bound to follow suit. Not surprisingly we are “indebted” to Voltaire for this gem: “One of the superstitions of the human mind is to suppose that virginity could be a virtue.” (N.G. p. 187)

Should one be surprised that someone who dared write the blasphemous words: “ecrasez l’infame” which have been interpreted by some as being directed to Christ, should shed subtle ridicule one of the most sublime flowers of Christian love?

Various interpretations could be given to these diabolical words; but being given the fact that he was a radical atheist and viewed religion as an evil, it seems legitimate gives credence to this negative interpretation.

It is not difficult to detect the venom hidden in these “witty” words. Similarly it is well known that those afflicted by sexual impotency are likely to denigrate this sphere as dragging man down on a purely animal level. I heard one afflicted by this grave flaw, saying: “this is a domain where animals are man’s role model.”

It is clearly redolent of the witty fable of La Fontaine; a fox unable to reach juicy grapes, proclaimed them to be “unripe.” These words are a cover-up for poorly disguised bitterness and resentment.

Inevitably, God and religion are preferred butts of atheists. Once again Voltaire deserves a “special” place whose poisonous pen in 18th century France has done much harm not only to the Church but also to French society.

In such cases, the word “enlightenment” actually mean that having rejected the blinding light of faith, and like moles chosen to enter into a dark den, proudly lighten the candle of rationalism. The following remark looks “innocent” but is, in fact, loaded with venom. He writes; “If God did not exist, he should be invented.” (p. 180) Clearly man thrives on illusions and should not be deprived of this pleasure!

Baudelaire, however, manages to trump this nasty remark when he writes: “God is the only being who, in order to reign need not even exist.” (N.G. p. 313) Comments are unnecessary.

How very many of us forget that whatever gift God has given us – and being a talented writer is one – should be put at His service. Clearly the Evil one aims at having these gifts put at his service through by pride, ambition, and hunger for fast fame.

How often do educators tell children that whatever gift they have should be put at God’s service? This should give them food for thought.

Alice von Hildebrand is a lecturer and an author, whose works include: The Privilege of Being a Woman (2002) and The Soul of a Lion: The Life of Dietrich von Hildebrand (2000), a biography of her late husband. She was made a Dame Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of St. Gregory by Pope Francis in 2013.