Hidden Grace of the Sacrament

Thomas A’ Kempis’words in My Imitation of Christ are ever new speaking to the heart. Preparations of a soul are often given little regard in the world, so let’s draw apart from the world to consider the gift, the soul and the benefits of our Faith received:

Here in the Sacrament of the altar You are wholly present, my God, the man Christ Jesus, whence is obtained the full realization of eternal salvation, as often as You are worthily and devoutly received. To this, indeed, we are not drawn by levity, or curiosity, or sensuality, but by firm faith, devout hope, and sincere love. O God, hidden Creator of the world, how wonderfully You deal with us! How sweetly and graciously You dispose of things with Your elect to whom You offer Yourself to be received in this Sacrament! This, indeed, surpasses all understanding. This in a special manner attracts the hearts of the devout and inflames their love. Your truly faithful servants, who give their whole life to amendment, often receive in Holy Communion the great grace of devotion and love of virtue. Oh, the wonderful and hidden grace of this Sacrament which only the faithful of Christ understand, which unbelievers and slaves of sin cannot experience! In it spiritual grace is conferred, lost virtue restored, and the beauty, marred by sin, repaired. At times, indeed, its grace is so great that, from the fullness of the devotion, not only the mind but also the frail body feels filled with greater strength. Nevertheless, our neglect and coldness is much to be deplored and pitied, when we are not moved to receive with greater fervor Christ in Whom is the hope and merit of all who will be saved. He is our sanctification and redemption. He is our consolation in this life and the eternal joy of the blessed in heaven. This being true, it is lamentable that many pay so little heed to the salutary Mystery which fills the heavens with joy and maintains the whole universe in being. Oh, the blindness and the hardness of the heart of man that does not show more regard for so wonderful a gift, but rather falls into carelessness from its daily use! If this most holy Sacrament were celebrated in only one place and consecrated by only one priest in the whole world, with what great desire, do you think, would men be attracted to that place, to that priest of God, in order to witness the celebration of the divine Mysteries! But now there are many priests and Mass is offered in many places, that God’s grace and love for men may appear the more clearly as the Sacred Communion is spread more widely through the world. Thanks be to You, Jesus, everlasting Good Shepherd, Who have seen fit to feed us poor exiled people with Your precious Body and Blood, and to invite us with words from Your own lips to partake of these sacred Mysteries: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.” Book 4: chapter 1

Neuhaus’ The One True Church

Richard John Neuhaus writes in a previously unpublished essay appearing now in First things of how the Church may best characterize herself in relationship with other ecclesial communities of the Body of Christ.  Neuhaus wants us to think more fully about this, saying, “We need to clarify what the Catholic Church claims for herself and what she does, and does not, acknowledge with respect to other Christian communities.”  He acknowledges that it is a tricky business. In the long search for a greater visible unity of the Body of Christ in the world,  a  miss-step, misunderstanding or misspoken phrase can produce ever greater dis-unity and contention in tribal disharmony.

Neuhaus quotes Christopher J. Molloy, writing in his essay titled “Subsistit In: Nonexclusive Identity or Full Identity?” in reflecting on the uniqueness of the Catholic Church.  Molloy states, “one can affirm both the essential fullness of the ecclesial reality of the Catholic Church and the concrete poverty and woundedness of her lived life, together with her practical need of the expressive ecclesial riches found outside her visible boundaries.”

On the Church, Lumen Gentium, the Constitution on the Church, reads:

“This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, which our Savior, after his Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which he erected for all ages as ‘the pillar and mainstay of the truth.’ This Church, constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.”

The word “subsists” in the Lumen Gentium statement is thought by some a weakening of the Church’s understanding of Herself as the One True Church.  Enter our present Pope Benedict XVI, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.  He clarifies with:

“The word subsistit derives from ancient philosophy, as it was later developed among the Scholastics. It corresponds to the Greek word hypostasis, which of course plays a key role in Christology in describing the union of divine and human natures in the one person of Christ. Subsistere is a special case of esse. It refers to existence in the form of an individual subject. . . . With the word subsistit, the Council wanted to express the singularity and non-multipliability of the Church of Christ, the Catholic Church: the Church exists as a single subject in the reality of history. But the difference between subsistit and est also embraces the drama of ecclesial division: for while the Church is only one and really exists, there is being which is from the Church’s being—there is ecclesial reality—outside the Church.”

Neuhaus writes on, including discussions arising from works of Avery Dulles as well as Molloy, finally, coming to this:

“In sum, Catholics should not fear offending our ecumenical partners by affirming what we believe the Catholic Church to be. To be sure, that affirmation has weighty implications. For instance, Lumen Gentium also says, “Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.” But that, too, should not offend non-Catholic Christians, since we can all agree that such a person would be acting against his conscience and his sure discernment of the will of God. If he continues on that course without repentance, he could not be saved. It is quite a different matter with those who do not know—i.e., do not recognize the truth—that the Catholic Church is what she claims to be. They are wrong about that, of course, but that, presumably, is one reason why they are not Catholics.

And so I think I’ll stay with my admittedly provocative title, “The One True Church.” ….  I will also continue to make the case for the proposition that “the Catholic Church is the Church of Jesus Christ most fully and rightly ordered through time.”

For those who would argue on, here is an olive branch: “All Christians can agree on the formula that there is finally only one Church because there is only one Christ and the Church is his Body.”

My Imitation of Christ

The Voice of Christ:

“COME to Me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.

The bread which I will give is My Flesh, for the life of the world.

Take you and eat: this is My Body, which shall be delivered for you. Do this for the commemoration of Me.

He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, abideth in Me, and I in him.

The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”


The Offering of Christ on the Cross; Our Offering

The Voice of Christ:

AS I offered Myself willingly to God the Father for your sins with hands outstretched and body naked on the cross, so that nothing remained in Me that had not become a complete sacrifice to appease the divine wrath, so ought you to be willing to offer yourself to Me day by day in the Mass as a pure and holy oblation, together with all your faculties and affections, with as much inward devotion as you can. What more do I ask than that you give yourself entirely to Me? I care not for anything else you may give Me, for I seek not your gift but you. Just as it would not be enough for you to have everything if you did not have Me, so whatever you give cannot please Me if you do not give yourself. Offer yourself to Me, therefore, and give yourself entirely for God — your offering will be accepted. Behold, I offered Myself wholly to the Father for you, I even gave My whole Body and Blood for food that I might be all yours, and you Mine forever. But if you rely upon self, and do not offer your free will to Mine, your offering will be incomplete and the union between us imperfect. Hence, if you desire to attain grace and freedom of heart, let the free offering of yourself into the hands of God precede your every action. This is why so few are inwardly free and enlightened — they know not how to renounce themselves entirely. My word stands:”Everyone of you that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be My disciple.” If, therefore, you wish to be My disciple, offer yourself to Me with all your heart.



Notes from the Fathers

From Epistle to Diognetus – chapter 6

To sum up all in one word–what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible.