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.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


by Rev. Paul Walsh, CSB

The important first step with any theological position or term is to understand what question or set of questions it is a part of. Predestination has to do with questions regarding salvation. In general, it is part of answering the question: "How are we saved?"

How are we saved? This is not a simple question to answer. However, in it's most general perspective we can say we are saved by the grace of God. This grace chose us (or predestined us) from the beginning to live and reign with him in all eternity. But predestination involves more than simply God's choosing us. It also involves the movements of God's grace, which move us to seek God and to find him in faith, in baptism and in the sacramental life of the church.

This predestination also involves grace to help us to persevere until the end, providing us with the opportunities and the means to repent and return should we sin and fall away from God. So, in a nutshell, predestination is God's choosing us in love, and giving us the means to attain salvation through a life graced by faith, sacraments, the church, repentance, and perseverance.

It is important to note that salvation occurs first and foremost as God's initiative. The term predestination emphasizes this initiative at every step of our journey. Without God's initiative, we would fail. If God did not choose us, we could not be saved. If God does not draw us through grace and lead us to faith, we could not be saved. If God does not give us faith, we could never attain it on our own, and we could not be saved. If God does not cleanse us of our sins we could not be saved. If God does not bring us into the life of the church, we could not be saved. If God did not draw us back after sin, give us the grace of repentance, and give us the grace of perseverance, we could not be saved. It is even impossible, ultimately, to lead a moral life without God's assistance. Everything is grace, and without it we would fail.

However, problems arise: does God predestine all people to be saved? Catholics, I think would argue yes. In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, Pope John Paul II writes: "Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all. . . . This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation." [Section 10.1] Further, Catholics teach that "God predestines no one to go to hell" [See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 1037]. Hence, Catholics argue that salvation is made available to all and willed for all, even those who are not explicitly part of the Church; all are thus predestined for salvation.

Another problem then arises: how does it happen that some will not be saved? This is the problem with which Calvinist theology wrestles. If God, in fact, predestines all for salvation, how is it possible for anyone not to be saved? Catholics would answer this question by saying that human beings are given the freedom to choose or refuse God's offer of salvation; or to use the Pope's term above, they are free to cooperate with God's grace or not. In so doing, Catholics do not minimize the need for God's grace, which makes it possible for human beings to cooperate in the first place. However, they recognize that God's plan includes the possibility that human beings could throw away the gift they have been given.

This answer dissatisfies Calvinists. This is the reason for their dissatisfaction: It would seem, that if human beings are able to frustrate God's will and the power of God's grace in bringing all people to salvation, then God's grace and will are not all powerful. Human decisions have the power to overturn God's plans and even God's actions. Thus, human beings, would seem to be more powerful than God in this respect. They have the power to frustrate God's plan and power.

This possibility is untenable for many Calvinists. Calvinism grew out of that branch of Catholicism (Franciscan theology) which emphasized how God was all powerful, and that whatever God willed came to pass. It was impossible for any creature to resist God's will or to frustrate God's plan. Thus, for a Calvinist, if any people are not saved, it is not merely because they chose not to be saved. It is also because God willed or predestined it, that they would not be saved.

Clearly, this conclusion does not sit well with Catholics. But the objections of the Calvinists are important theological points, and not to be easily dismissed. We often call God "All Powerful" and "Almighty" ourselves. How is it possible that human beings can frustrate the designs of an all powerful God? Some may argue perhaps that ultimately those who are not saved do not frustrate God's designs because they demonstrate God's justice. This is the Calvinist answer, and it shows that those who reject God have a place in God's plan. The problem with this answer, however, is that it does not clearly establish that God does not want the sinner to die in sin; God does not will the damnation of anyone. If the sinner does not repent and return to God, then God's plan is frustrated with respect to that person. It would seem, then, that God is not all powerful.

Catholics, I think, would then argue: yes, God has freely chosen to limit the sphere of his own power and freedom. Being all powerful, he and he alone has the power to limit the sphere in which his will is effective. By his own will, God freely chooses to allow individual human beings the freedom to choose or refuse him. Thus, Catholics would argue, that in creating free will, God has chosen to limit the realm of his power, creating a being that can frustrate God's will, with respect to that particular person. However, this person cannot frustrate God's overall plan, and this is the truth Calvinists want to protect.

So this is the problem of predestination in summary. There are, as you can imagine, several other wrinkles to the mix. The interplay between grace, free will, and the role of the church and sacraments raises many, many more questions. However, as I understand it, what I have written are some of the principal parts of the difficulties between Calvinists and Catholics on this point of predestination.

Father Paul Walsh, CSB is a member of the Congregation of St. Basil (Basilian Fathers) whose Curial House is in Toronto Ontario


Anonymous said...

Here are a couple of Signs of Pre-destination:

1. If a person has had visions, locutions or other intimate contact with God, it is unlikely that person will WANT to do anything BUT be with God in Heaven. Fr Mitch Pacwa, SJ states that certain people of God's choosing are given these special graces in order to "inspire the rest of us". For example most of the saints had these special graces.

2. Praying the Rosary daily is, as the Blessed Mother said to St Dominick, a "Sign of Pre-destination". There are again, so many graces which are given through the Rosary that again, the individual who faithfully prays it daily will likely go to Heaven because will want to say "Yes" to God. And the neat thing is praying the Rosary daily is something everyone can strive to do... it not only does a lot of good for you but also for the world as it's an extremely powerful prayer.

Anonymous said...

One passage in the Bible against Calvinist pre-destination: 2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is patient with you, not wishing that ANY SHOULD PERISH, but that ALL SHOULD COME TO REPENTENCE" The fact that not all do come to repentance -- despite God's wish that they would - proves decisively that we are capable of deciding whether to accept or reject God's will. Which of course, is the essence of free will.

Anonymous said...

Augustine insists that God's grace is not merely offered to man, to be accepted or rejected at will, but that God supernaturally changes men's desires. Such action goes beyond divine assistance; all is of grace.