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.


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.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Calvin's image is enshrined in one of these giant statues of the Reformation Wall--an odd bit of inconsistency for the iconoclast

Posted on July 5 , 2011 by Devin Rose

A few days ago I visited a Protestant blog that posts various apologetics entries arguing for (Reformed) Protestantism. I punched in a comment or two, and it wasn’t long before I was blasted by the owner and rudely insulted as “not being able to understand English.”

Another commenter at that site, who I have known for his anti-Catholic virulence, also began making comments toward me, the same guy who told my friend David–a recent Catholic convert from Reformed Protestantism - that Jesus would condemn David to hell at his judgment .

Where does this disdain come from?

Catholics believe that Protestants are Christians. We believe they can be saved, have the Holy Spirit and His gifts, and are brothers and sisters in Christ, albeit separated due to the divisions between us.

But many Protestants do not think likewise about Catholics. My friend Brent Stubbs made a blog post recently discussing three forms that anti-Catholicism takes . (Here I’m speaking of the genetic variant, though I’ll nuance it a bit.)

Focusing on Reformed Protestantism specifically–this is John Calvin’s brain-child–there is among Calvinists a strong disdain for the Catholic Church, and some adherents to this flavor of Protestantism believe all practicing Catholics are going to hell. There are three main causes for this belief:
1.They believe the Church of Rome teaches gravely evil and false things
2.Further, their beliefs entail that Romanists are predestined to damnation, and
3.They have a visceral revulsion for the Church–her saints, her relics, her liturgy, her earthiness.
To their credit, they have this hatred for the Catholic Church (or “Romanism,” as you will hear) because they believe it is leading people away from Jesus and the Gospel. And good for them! If I believed that some church or denomination was doing that, I would oppose it too–perhaps not using their same vitriol and methods – but I would not want people to follow those beliefs.

The vitriol stems largely from the second point: Under Reformed Protestantism, God has predestined the elect to salvation and the reprobate to damnation. Being a faithful Catholic therefore means, practically by definition, that you are a reprobate. And here’s the kicker: if you are one of the reprobate, many of the passages from the Gospel on forgiving your brother and helping him do not apply (at least as they interpret them). Once you cross the Tiber, you are anathema and damned.

The third point is subjective and its degree varies with every person. Realize that Calvin’s version of Protestantism led to the desecration of Catholic churches, the smashing of beautiful statues, and the whitewashing of ancient, sacred paintings and images. Given this legacy, is it any wonder that many Calvinists today have a gut reaction against the Catholic Church, with her incense and bells and stained glass and statuary? (Recall discussing three forms that anti-Catholicism takes – ”it’s the smell!”)

The Consequences of Their Beliefs

Unsurprisingly then, when a Catholic is engaging in dialogue with (this kind of) Reformed Protestant, there is no parity in the discussion. One side thinks the other is a Christian who is doing his best to follow Jesus, and the other side thinks he is talking to a wicked and damned creature.

A blindness thus arises that clouds their hearts and minds, making it incredibly difficult for them to see the Catholic Church for what she truly is, and even to objectively weigh the arguments for and against her. This is not all Protestants, but many. It becomes a case where the disdain and revulsion takes on a life of its own, and no acts of love or courage or faithfulness on the part of Catholics can overcome it. Only God can. Consider Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables where Inspector Javert cannot believe that Jean Valjean–whom he classes as one of the reprobate–could possibly have repented and become a good man:

Even when proof of heroic virtue is shown, it cannot be accepted as coming from God. It must be evil masquerading as good, because Romanism is a false religion.

The Remedy

Only God can move hearts. We must pray for our Protestant brothers and sisters, and thankfully, most do not hate the Catholic Church (or Catholics). More and more, Protestants are able to access accurate information on the Church and judge for themselves whether she is the anti-Christ that they were taught growing up. But there is still a sizable contingent of Protestants whose disgust with the Church seems implacable. They need our prayers and, if possible, our reasoned, charitable dialogue.

Let us continue to pray that Christ will unite us in the fullness of the truth!


Frank Blasi said...

Dear Blogger,
That is a very interesting post, and I thank you for sharing it.
Okay, so I could class myself as a Calvinist, and even then, I don't agree with all the points of their acronym TULIP, namely that God chooses some and leave others to perish, unable to repent.
The Bible clearly says that God commands all men everywhere to repent. Now if God commands something, that means we have a free choice either to obey or disobey. Therefore in this light, I would consider myself to be a moderate Calvinist.
As a Calvinist, I certainly don't hate or even dislike the Catholic Church. In fact, I sincerely believe that there are some Catholics who are truely saved and will go to Heaven after their deaths. Romans 10:13 says that who ever shall call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. Therefore the Bible makes it clear that anyone who turns to God for mercy, believing that Jesus Christ died on the cross to atone for them, will be saved. And it does not matter whether he belongs to a Protestant church, a Catholic church or no church at all.
Just as important, we believe that when God forgives, he forgives all, with no need for Purgatory, still taught in the Catechism. Furthermore, when God forgives a sinner, the penitant receives a new heart, a set of desires which hates sin and long for personal holiness. We call this the New Birth, or Regeneration. A forgiven person does not go out and start sinning willfully.
That is the major difference between what the Protestants believe and what the Catholics believe.
We have our differences about Mary, too. In Luke 1:47 we read about Mary rejoicing over her destiny as the Jewish mother of the coming Messiah. She cries out:
"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour..."
To call God her Saviour must mean that she was a sinner and needed forgiveness. Yes, she was full of grace, just as I am full of grace, and I hope you are too. But the grace upon Mary (and upon us) was to cleanse her from her sins (and ours too), not to cleanse other people's sins. That is something only God can do.
And when Jesus broke bread at the Last Supper, he said "This is my Body...This is my Blood...Do this in rememberance of me", we understand that these items were symbols of the body and blood of Jesus, and they are to be taken by every believer to remember his death on the cross and what the purpose of the Crucifixion was all about.
There are other things we differ on as well, but the most important is believing that once a person if forgiven, he is forgiven and there is no need for Purgatory or indulgences.
Finally, thank you for calling us "brothers" and not "heretics". I, for one, am not here to judge anybody - that's something only God can do. So instead of Catholics and Protestant bickering at each other, let us all remember that every human being will one day stand before God and give an account on everything he has done while alive.

Michael said...

To call God her Saviour must mean that she was a sinner and needed forgiveness.

Yes, she (Mary) did need a savior, and she had a savior. And she was the first to admit it: My spirit rejoices in God my Savior. She never sinned; that is true.

But that is not to say that she did not need a savior. How could she be sinless without a savior? The problem that comes up here is how everyone thinks about the salvific power of God as running along our cosmic timeline.

It doesn't. God exists outside of time, and thus, to say that Mary could be born without sin even before her Son, who made that very thing possible, was born is not nonsense.

Jesus Christ is, after all, the "Lamb of God who was slain from the foundation of the world." And by "foundation," we mean beginning, and by "world," we mean universe. Thus, Christ, being God, sacrificed himself before the universe was ever made, because with God, there is no time.

And thus, Mary can be saved by her Son's sacrifice even before she is born! Jesus is also, however, man, and thus he died on the Cross at a certain place on the earth at a certain point along our timeline.

Michael said...

In fact, I sincerely believe that there are some Catholics who are truely saved and will go to Heaven after their deaths.

I was saved, I am saved and I am being saved. Yes, but only God knows who they are.

Michael said...

...that once a person if forgiven, he is forgiven and there is no need for Purgatory...

If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (I Cor 3: 15)

Scripture teaches that God is a “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). The point St. Paul seems to make is that, as God draws us to Himself after death, there is a process of purification in the fire of God’s holy presence.

God Himself purifies us of those imperfect deeds: the wood, hay, and stubble. And those works that are performed in faithfulness and obedience to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, those of gold and silver, are purified.

This purification is necessary because, as Scripture teaches of heaven — the new Jerusalem — and the temple within it, “Nothing unclean shall enter it” (Rev. 21:27).

The biblical images of the purifying fire, through which the believer is saved while suffering loss, were now beginning to sound more and more like purgatory.

But where is the word “purgatory?” I began to see that this question revealed an ignorance on my part. The Scriptures were written in Hebrew and Greek.

“Purgatory” comes from the Latin word purgatorium. In Scripture, we do find references to an afterlife that is neither the hell of the damned nor heaven. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word sheol is used to describe this condition; in the New Testament, the Greek term is hades.

I had always thought that hades was hell, but Scripture teaches very clearly that hades is not hell; it is distinct from gehenna, or the lake of fire which is the hell of the damned.

In fact, the Book of Revelation describes how, at the end of time, death and hades are thrown into hell (gehenna). This is the second death, the lake of fire. Scripture teaches that at the end of time, there is no more death; and once the purification of all souls has taken place, there is no more need for hades. This same concept of sheol (in Hebrew), hades (in Greek), and purgatorium (in Latin) is purgatory as we have come to know it today (cf. Catechism, nos. 1030-32).

Lloyd said...

I for one Michael do not hate you or the RCC. It seems that anytime a negative response appears on your posts it makes you feel that you are hated. NOT TRUE... you are loved otherwise you would not have other believers witnessing to you. I agree with Frank... "let us all remember that every human being will one day stand before God and give an account on everything he has done while alive." My continued prayers go out to you and all members of the RCC who feel persecuted because of their faith. God bless, Lloyd

Michael said...

Thanks, Lloyd; God bless you!

Frank Blasi said...

Dear Michael,
Your response to my original comment has surprised me!
If I had read your comment correctly, then this is what I read:
"Thus Christ, being God, sacrificed himself before the universe was ever made, because with God, there is no time."
So you conclude that Mary was conceived without sin and was able to live without sin because the atonement made by Jesus Christ was made, or if I understand it to mean, extended into eternity past.
In some ways I agree with you about God being outside of time. But to apply this to Mary's salvation would, I guess, open a can of worms.
First of all, this is Calvinism. The acronym of pure or hyper-Calvinism is TULIP. The U in TULIP stands for Unconditional Election, which, I believe to mean, that Mary was chosen to be saved from eternity past, or at least before the creation of the universe. The problem with this theory is this: If God is fully able to save a person before conception (let alone birth) then why not to all of us?
Then again, if such an arguement was followed, then it would open the door of Universal Salvation, that is, everyone born would be saved, regardless of one's attitude towards God.
This is where when one reads the Bible, he comes across seemingly contradictory ideas. Yes, God did foreknow us and predestinate us to be comformed to his Son (Ephesians 1:3-14). But he also commanded us to repent, which indicates human choice. (eg, Acts 3:19, Romans 10:13). So here we have two contradictory ideas but both taught as true.
Therefore I hold to the idea that the Bible teaches both the eternal and the salvific power of God, which is outside human understanding and logic.
Which brings up another question. If God was able to save Mary to the extent that she never committed any sin during her lifetime, then why do all other believers need to spend some time in Purgatory? (Which you say is Biblical but gave no Scripture references for me to check up on).
Here lies what could be a potential danger - that the need to go into Purgatory after death indicates that the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on the cross was not sufficient enough to cleanse a person completely from his sins and made fit for Heaven immediately after death.
Yet God was fully able to do this to just one person in the whole of human history.

Michael said...

...then why do all other believers need to spend some time in Purgatory? (Which you say is Biblical but gave no Scripture references for me to check up on).

Purification After Death By Fire

Heb. 12:29 - God is a consuming fire (of love in heaven, of purgation in purgatory, or of suffering and damnation in hell).

1 Cor. 3:10-15 - works are judged after death and tested by fire. Some works are lost, but the person is still saved. Paul is referring to the state of purgation called purgatory. The venial sins (bad works) that were committed are burned up after death, but the person is still brought to salvation. This state after death cannot be heaven (no one with venial sins is present) or hell (there is no forgiveness and salvation).

1 Cor. 3:15 – “if any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” The phrase for "suffer loss" in the Greek is "zemiothesetai." The root word is "zemioo" which also refers to punishment. The construction “zemiothesetai” is used in Ex. 21:22 and Prov. 19:19 which refers to punishment (from the Hebrew “anash” meaning “punish” or “penalty”). Hence, this verse proves that there is an expiation of temporal punishment after our death, but the person is still saved. This cannot mean heaven (there is no punishment in heaven) and this cannot mean hell (the possibility of expiation no longer exists and the person is not saved).

1 Cor. 3:15 – further, Paul writes “he himself will be saved, "but only" (or “yet so”) as through fire.” “He will be saved” in the Greek is “sothesetai” (which means eternal salvation). The phrase "but only" (or “yet so”) in the Greek is "houtos" which means "in the same manner." This means that man is both eternally rewarded and eternally saved in the same manner by fire.

1 Cor. 3:13 - when Paul writes about God revealing the quality of each man's work by fire and purifying him, this purification relates to his sins (not just his good works). Protestants, in attempting to disprove the reality of purgatory, argue that Paul was only writing about rewarding good works, and not punishing sins (because punishing and purifying a man from sins would be admitting that there is a purgatory).

1 Cor. 3:17 - but this verse proves that the purgation after death deals with punishing sin. That is, destroying God's temple is a bad work, which is a mortal sin, which leads to death. 1 Cor. 3:14,15,17 - purgatory thus reveals the state of righteousness (v.14), state of venial sin (v.15) and the state of mortal sin (v.17), all of which are judged after death.

1 Peter 1:6-7 - Peter refers to this purgatorial fire to test the fruits of our faith.

Jude 1:23 - the people who are saved are being snatched out of the fire. People are already saved if they are in heaven, and there is no possibility of salvation if they are in hell. These people are being led to heaven from purgatory.

Rev. 3:18-19 - Jesus refers to this fire as what refines into gold those He loves if they repent of their sins. This is in the context of after death because Jesus, speaking from heaven, awards the white garment of salvation after the purgation of fire (both after death).

Dan 12:10 - Daniel refers to this refining by saying many shall purify themselves, make themselves white and be refined.

Wis. 3:5-6 - the dead are disciplined and tested by fire to receive their heavenly reward. This is the fire of purgatory.

Sirach 2:5 - for gold is tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.

Zech. 13:8-9 - God says 2/3 shall perish, and 1/3 shall be left alive, put into the fire, and refined like silver and tested like gold. The ones that perish go to hell, and there is no need for refinement in heaven, so those being refined are in purgatory.

Mal. 3:2-3 - also refers to God's purification of the righteous at their death.

Michael said...

If God was able to save Mary to the extent that she never committed any sin during her lifetime,

The Immaculate Conception

It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth.

Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived "by the power of the Holy Spirit," in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what "immaculate" means: without stain.

The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings.

When discussing the Immaculate Conception, an implicit reference may be found in the angel’s greeting to Mary. The angel Gabriel said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). The phrase "full of grace" is a translation of the Greek word kecharitomene. It therefore expresses a characteristic quality of Mary.

The traditional translation, "full of grace," is better than the one found in many recent versions of the New Testament, which give something along the lines of "highly favored daughter." Mary was indeed a highly favored daughter of God, but the Greek implies more than that (and it never mentions the word for "daughter").

The grace given to Mary is at once permanent and of a unique kind.Kecharitomene is a perfect passive participle of charitoo, meaning "to fill or endow with grace." Since this term is in the perfect tense, it indicates that Mary was graced in the past but with continuing effects in the present.

So, the grace Mary enjoyed was not a result of the angel’s visit. In fact, Catholics hold, it extended over the whole of her life, from conception onward. She was in a state of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence.

Michael said...

Therefore I hold to the idea...

From Christianity’s beginnings, the Church has been attacked by those introducing false teachings, or heresies.

The Bible warned us this would happen. Paul told his young protégé, Timothy, "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths" (2 Tim. 4:3–4).

What Is Heresy?

Heresy is an emotionally loaded term that is often misused. It is not the same thing as incredulity, schism, apostasy, or other sins against faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it.

Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him" (CCC 2089).

To commit heresy, one must refuse to be corrected. A person who is ready to be corrected or who is unaware that what he has been saying is against Church teaching is not a heretic.

A person must be baptized to commit heresy. This means that movements that have split off from or been influenced by Christianity, but that do not practice baptism (or do not practice valid baptism), are not heresies, but separate religions. Examples include Muslims, who do not practice baptism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who do not practice valid baptism.

Finally, the doubt or denial involved in heresy must concern a matter that has been revealed by God and solemnly defined by the Church (for example, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the sacrifice of the Mass, the pope’s infallibility, or the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary).

It is important to distinguish heresy from schism and apostasy. In schism, one separates from the Catholic Church without repudiating a defined doctrine. An example of a contemporary schism is the Society of St. Pius X—the "Lefebvrists" or followers of the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre—who separated from the Church in the late 1980s, but who have not denied Catholic doctrines. In apostasy, one totally repudiates the Christian faith and no longer even claims to be a Christian.