On the 50th Anniversary of My First Holy Communion

How the anniversaries can sneak up on us!  Looking back on that May 12, 1963 in Corpus Christi Church in suburban Cincinnati, I remembered feeling happy for my parents as well.  Even for a first-born, it was probably odd for me as an 8-year old to be taking in the moment for what it meant to them as well.  The magnitude of the event was certainly not lost on me that day!

Much has happened in the succeeding half-century.  I have gone from being a third grader with two younger sisters to being the patriarch of the U.S. branch of the family (my Colombian father died in 1995) with three children in their twenties.  Reviewing my life as a son, then as a father to my current point in life leaves me with mixed feelings.

The same can be said for our United States.  There has been some progress in areas of social justice, but a majority of our accomplishments have been technological.  Just over six months after my big day in May of ’63, President Kennedy was killed.  Five years later, Dr. King and the President’s brother Bobby were also assassinated.  Since then our abundantly blessed nation has spiraled into the current post-Christian era where moral relativism is dominant.  Technology is the darling, wisdom the neglected child.

Fortunately for humanity, some things remain steadfast and unchangingly true.  One of these is the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

We can choose from a number of Scripture verses to confirm this in addition to the fact that this sacrament was understood by the disciples to be His Body and Blood from the moment Christ instituted it on that original Holy Thursday.1

1)  The words of Jesus at the Last Supper2,3

2)  The Bread of Life Discourse  when, for the only time, some of His followers left Him because they knew He was not speaking symbolically about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.4,5

3)   St. Paul’s warning to treat the Eucharist with the utmost respect, something not befitting a mere symbol.6

Humanity’s spiritual decline can be reversed before it leads to inevitable ruin.  My fervent wish is that all Christians may someday be reunified in the faith handed down by Christ.  What greater way to start than by understanding and appreciating one of His greatest gifts: His body and blood, available to us daily!

 

1 – (All of the quoted verses are taken from “The New Catholic Answer Bible,” Fireside Catholic Publishing, Wichita, KS, 2005 with the exception of footnote #5)  “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was handed over, took bread, and after He had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.”  (1 Corinthians 11: 23-26)  [Item #3 continues with some following verses in footnote #6]

2 – “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to His disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’  Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.’”  (Matthew 26: 26-28)

3 – “Then He took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.’”  (Luke 22:19)

4 – excerpts include:  “’I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.’  The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?’  Jesus said to them, ’Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.’”…  “Then many of His disciples who were listening said, ‘this saying is hard; who can accept it?’” …  “As a result of this, many [of] His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him.”  (John 6: 51-54, 60, 66)
Fr. Kevin Fete: “This is the only time that I can recall in the Gospel accounts when we have people walking away as a group from Jesus Christ.”  Dr. Ray Guarendi: “You’re absolutely right.  It IS the only time.”  Fr. Fete: “Now there is the story about the rich man who doesn’t want to separate himself from his things, and he walks away sadly.”  Dr. Guarendi:  “But he wasn’t a follower.”  (Episode 5 in “What Catholics Really Believe,” Nineveh’s Crossing, Novi, MI, 2010)

5 – Dr. Guarendi: “’This IS my body,’ not, ‘This represents my body.’… not, ‘This symbolizes my body.’  He didn’t say, ‘Do this in memory of me,’ because He means it’s a memorial meal.  John is saying, ‘No, no, no, no, no.  Anybody who’s got doubts about this, let me rehammer this home.” … Later in this episode, Dr. Guarendi:  “’It is the spirit that gives life, while flesh is of no avail.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.’ (John 6:63)  So some say, ‘See, He wasn’t speaking literally, He was speaking symbolically… ‘Spirit’ never means “symbol” in Scripture, does it?  When you say, ‘The words are spirit,’ there’s no place in Scripture where ‘spirit’ is ever translated as ‘symbol.’  Spirit is real.”  (Ibid.)

6 – “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.  A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.”  (1 Corinthians 11: 27-29)

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6 thoughts on “On the 50th Anniversary of My First Holy Communion

  1. I am an Evangelical Protestant. I understand your position on this issue, and naturally, I believe I am right and you are wrong. But I do not want to get into a full rebuttal. I only wish to say one thing.

    Your third point, about symbols and the amount of respect that is due them. Symbols can be respected as much as anything else, it just depends on the symbol and what it means.

    For example. In July of 1995, Ohmar Braden (20), a student at Tennessee State, accidentally shot and killed his friend and former high school football teammate Marcel Price (19), a student at Northwestern University and defensive back for the Wildcats football team.

    During the seasons of 95-96 and 96-97, the Northwestern football team wore patches on the left breast that said “Big Six” (Price’s number). They were symbolic of his memory. It can (and has) been said that his teammates carried him out onto the field with them, and they carried him next to their hearts.

    Was this a “merely” symbolic gesture? Was it “only” symbolic? Was it somehow “lacking” because Northwestern University did not see fit to appropriate some part of Marcel’s corpse for a tasteful memorial? I say no, and that is the right thing to say. You know why?

    Sometimes a symbol means a lot. Sometimes it couldn’t mean any more than it does, even if it wasn’t “just” a symbol. Sometimes, it’s actually a little inappropriate to denigrate a symbol just for being a symbol.

    I belong to a church. You might not want to recognize it as a church, but it is a church. We practice communion- open communion, more specifically. We use symbols. They are symbols, we say they are symbols, you say they are symbols, and once again, they are symbols. They mean a lot. They deserve reverence. I’m sure you have plenty of other reasons for saying that it is more appropriate to try and use something besides a symbol (and you have given some of those reasons here), but denigrating the meaning, importance, and respect that is supposedly never owed to symbols in general is not an acceptable way to go about doing this.

    That is all. I found something on the Internet that is just plain wrong, and….well, hopefully I fixed a small part of it. Have a good day.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment on subjects which mean so much to both of us. Your statements give me a chance to clarify a couple of things.

      I did not intend to suggest that symbols aren’t important for us Christians. As a Catholic, I can certainly appreciate the powerful way they have of reminding us about essential aspects of our faith (e.g. the crucifix, as in 1 Corinthians 1:23 “but we proclaim Christ crucified”).

      We agree that there are different levels of respect due to religious symbols. The point, however, is that the Eucharist transcends even the most important symbol because its essence is the Body of Christ. During the consecration the unleavened host becomes more than a symbol, it becomes Christ (“This is my Body…” from Luke 22:19). Certainly, showing disrespect to a religious symbol is morally wrong. Still, it cannot bring the same “judgment upon himself” (mortal sin) as receiving the Eucharist unworthily (1 Corinthians 11: 27-29).

      As far as recognizing the existence of other churches, I did not make any comment questioning the existence of other Christian churches. I know they exist, more than twenty thousand of them. It is often forgotten that only one of them was instituted by Jesus Himself. Certainly, the man-made churches are realities which accomplish much good, but they are nevertheless separated from the unity desired by Christ in His universal Church. That separation has caused them to disagree on critical spiritual issues.

      The Catholic Church, run by imperfect humans ever since Christ appointed Peter to be its first leader, has made some errors in living the Word over the centuries, but never in doctrinal teaching. What I did say is what any follower of Christ would want: “my fervent wish is that all Christians may someday be reunified in the faith handed down by Christ.” Or as He said, “so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” (John 18:21)

      Much was lost when disagreements started splintering Christianity almost five centuries ago. Part of that sad result was a misunderstanding and lack of appreciation for the sacraments Christ gave His Church.

      Faith is a gift from God. Therefore, I realize it takes more than rational arguments to convince anyone of these truths. As Jesus told Peter, “… Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” (Matthew 16:17). I will continue to pray for complete Christian unity.

      • It is good that you say you want unity. Regrettably, however, unity is not a real goal for you. It is a pretext.

        Now, a goal is the end toward which your effort is directed. A pretext, on the other hand, is an ostensible or professed purpose given in order to conceal the real goal.

        Again, unity is not your goal. Your goal is for the pope to realize a certain type of supreme leadership over all Christians. Your goal is for Magisterial authority to be truly universal. Your pretext is unity. Your stated position is that there is only one way for “real” or “true” unity to be reached, and any other alternative (ie., autocephalous union) is not “real” or “true.”

        But you are wrong. If unity were really your goal, that would be the end toward which your effort is directed. And if that really were the end toward which your effort is directed, you would have realized by now that Magisterial authority can never be universal in the way that the Magisterium would like, and papal supremacy will never be acknowledged by all Christians everywhere. You already know this to be true- and if unity is your goal, you will start looking to different solutions, other means, various ways that can accomplish the goal of unity. Upon exploring these other ways, you would assess which ones are most realistic and start praying for those to happen.

        Sadly, however, unity is not a goal for you but a pretext. You know very well what your goal is, and the only reason you nod and wink at unity is that you believe with all you heart that your pretext of unity can only be realized if your real goals are met.

        I hope that you can dispense with pretext at some point in the future, that your goal can really be unity, and that your means of attaining it can be more realistic while you yourself are a bit less disingenuous.

        God go with you.

      • After responding to two unfounded criticisms, I am now “disingenuous” in your opinion. Back to the drawing board.

        You wrote that my “goal is for the pope to realize a certain type of supreme leadership over all Christians and “for Magisterial authority to be truly universal.” Wow, that’s exactly what Christ initiated in the Upper Room after His Resurrection and before the Ascension!

        Somehow, I suspect that you have a plan for Christian unity different from His. You seem to be envisioning a meeting of both “sides” to work out a solution to our nearly 500-year old separation including compromise on sensitive issues. You are taking on a major challenge. Before such a gathering could occur, you would have to form a united front from the previously mentioned thousands of denominations. Your sizeable task would be complicated by the reality that these churches have disagreements on some key issues.

        As for the Catholic side of this conference, it is not my place to “assess which (different solutions) are most realistic and start praying for those to happen” as you suggested. Unlike the non-Catholic Christian groups created by man and essentially run by man1, the Church isn’t a democracy nor should it be.2 However, I will take a stab at a few issues.
        For starters, don’t get your hopes up about the Church conceding on “Sola Scriptura.” As much as she is thankful for the divine guidance in assembling the Holy Book, she will not deny the Trinity or the Ten Commandments just because they are not to be found there specifically. Nor would you, I believe.

        By retaining the Ten Commandments, the Church will not condone abortion at any stage or “assisted suicide.” The 6th Commandment prohibits human sexual activity outside of a lawful marriage between one man and one woman. I realize that the half-century of artificial contraceptive availability has deluded millions into thinking that sex, including that involving disordered behavior (homosexual), is a “right.”

        For many, the understanding of marriage has lost part of its original meaning in that the couple is “to be open to children.”3 And as inconceivable as this should be (no pun intended), we are seeing a movement which actually believes that same-sex “marriage” is an “equality Issue” or a civil right comparable to racial civil rights! The entire Christian community must re-embrace the Creator’s plan (including Natural Law) if we are to return to respect for life.4

        I cannot presume to know what issues you are thinking of in your hopes for such an historic conference. It would be helpful for you to suggest some beliefs you believe have a significant majority view from the Protestant side but which differ from Catholicism. Such an internet dialogue would be informative to both of us and to our readers!

        1 – The intervention of the Holy Spirit cannot be dismissed in Protestant churches as some of the eternal truths have been retained to some extent.
        2 – The disgraceful voting of many “Catholics” and Protestants in recent years and especially during last November’s general election is modern proof that the early Church fathers had it right.
        3 – Few concepts are as misunderstood as the Catholic Church’s adherence to one of the eternal aspects of marriage as being “open to children.” It does not mean to attempt or to helplessly allow as many children as possible. It means to work within the natural framework of human physiology so that if God’s plan includes “x” number of children or one when “not convenient,” we don’t try to slam the door on His Will. Fortunately for us Christians, Abraham and Sarah and later the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph were open to children despite serious natural apprehensions.
        4 – “Unwanted children” is just one of the embarrassing symptoms accompanying the Era of Easy Artificial Contraception begun in the 1960s. Interestingly, all major Protestant denominations were opposed to these practices as late as 1930.

  2. Wow, a lot of substance here. Great exchange with our Protestant brother. Interestingly, I just read a book titled, “Heaven is real, but so is hell,” by Vassula Ryden. Ms. Ryden is a Catholic mystic who claims to have received countless revelations from God, Jesus, and Mary. I don’t claim them as authentic, and of course the Church is very careful in weighing in on them, although she did receive an audience with then-Cardinal Ratzinger in 2004, I think. Anyway, the point of the revelations is this: God wants the Church united, because the times are dire. As a starting point, He called on the Roman and Eastern Churches to agree on the date for Easter, which they still have been unable to accomplish. Whether God is really talking to the mystic or not is beside the point. If the Roman and Eastern Church, who DO agree on practically everything, except the Pope, can’t even agree on a date, imagine the difficulty of uniting Protestants with Catholics where the differences are profound.

    By the way, I got married in Cincy, St. Savior Catholic Church in Deer Park.

    Great post, and congratulations on your anniversary.

    • Tom,
      Good point about the dim outlook for Christian unity any time soon when the scheduling of Easter is a problem between the Roman and Eastern Churches. We must keep plugging along trying to make it happen. The lack of unity thrills the Prince of Darkness and that adds to our frustration.

      I recall a radio commentary from a few years ago (probably EWTN/ Sacred Heart Radio). The speaker was discussing how Islamics maintain their relentless pursuit of world conversion to their beliefs. He mentioned two attributes which stood out. One was they have the attitude that they must do whatever they can regardless of whether it appears that victory is within reach soon, within their lifetime or even in 500 years. Second, receiving credit for the victory was not foremost in their minds, just being sure that each did his part.

      Your voice of reason continues to emanate from the finest Diner in Iowa. Meanwhile, I’ll do what I can here in the Queen City. Thanks for taking the time to write and glad to hear you have a connection to my home town! — Tony

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