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From the Pastor 11/25/18

A very blessed Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. We come to the end of another liturgi- cal year. Next week we will begin a new year with the First Week of Advent.

Just recently Pope Francis canonized Pope St. Paul VI. I have very fond memories of this Holy Father since he was the pope of my youth. So I thought this would be a good opportunity to learn more about this saintly pope. Of course the most important teaching he gave the Church and the world was his encyclical Humane Vitae,
in which the Holy Father clearly stated that Christians cannot separate the procreative and unitive ends of marriage, thus condemning the use of contraception for all Catholics. We know how much he was criticized at the time for this inspired teaching. We also now know how true his prediction was that contraception would destroy the marriage bond and the natural family. Today we know only too well that contraception continues to ruin marriages and family life.

Pope St. Paul VI was given the responsibility of implementing the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, which in many ways truly changed the face of the Church. The Holy Father suffered greatly from people who misunderstood and others who misrepresented the teachings of the Council. One of the ways that Pope St. Paul VI attempted to correct many abuses that were taking place during his reign was to write papal addresses and encyclicals. Even to this day Papal Pronouncements are one of the greatest tools the popes use to ensure that the doctrine of the Church remains intact and orthodox.

I would like to share with you a wonderful encyclical written by Pope St. Paul VI. On June 30, 1968, the same year he wrote Humane Vitae, our Holy Father proclaimed a Creed of the People of God. In it the Holy Father clearly explains some of the basic beliefs of Roman Catholicism. In one section of his Creed of the People of God the Pope explains the great mystery of the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ.

Our Holy Father explained five major points that are important to understand and believe in our lives as Catholic Christians concerning the Holy Eucharist. First the Pope writes, We believe that the Mass, which is celebrated by a priest acting in the person of Jesus Christ is truly the sacrifice of Calvary that is made sacramentally present on our altars. The priest truly represents the person of Christ on earth, and through the incredible grace of his vocation to the priest- hood, the sacrifice of the cross is made present on the altars of God.

This of course does not mean that Jesus dies over and over again every time the Mass is offered. But it does mean that the effects of his dying once on the cross are applied to our lives every time Holy Mass is offered. Each time we come to Mass the effects of Christ death on the cross is applied to our lives. And what are these effects? Nothing less than the grace of salvation and sanctification. Every time we come to Mass the salvation of the cross is given to us over and over again. What an awesome experience to come to Holy Mass.

Second, the Pope points out that the gifts of bread and wine offered at every Mass are truly changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. The presence of the Lord — hidden under the appearance of bread and wine is truly, really and substantially, the Body and Blood of Christ. This we call Transubstantiation.

A couple of years ago I had a little boy in the 2nd grade who was just about to make his First Holy Communion. He stopped me, looked up to me and said, “Father, I know what Transubstantiation is.” Surprised he could even say the word I asked him to define it for me. He said, “It look like bread and wine, and taste and smells like bread and wine, but it is really change into Jesus true Body and Blood.”

One of my friends just a few weeks ago was telling me of another child who was just about to make his First Holy Communion. The Godfather, making sure the little boy was well prepared, asked his godson, “Is Holy Communion really the Body and Blood of Jesus?” The little boy looked up at his Godfather and said, “No ― it’s not just his Body and Blood ― it’s his Body and Blood ― Soul and Divinity.”

Third, the Pontiff points out that this doctrine of Transubstantiation is not open to interpretation. Anyone who does not believe in the mystery of the Eucharist is not in union with what the Church believes. Communion literally means, “to be in union with.” If one is not in union with this belief then one should not receive the Eucharist. It only makes sense. So often we hear the complaint that we Catholics do not let our Protestant brothers and sisters receive Holy Communion. And that is very true. But the reality is our sisters and brothers in Christ who are not in union with Rome do not believe what we believe about the Eucharist ― with the exception of the Orthodox. Until Protestants believe in the true presence of the Eucharist, it is only proper and respectful to reserve the Blessed Sacrament to those who do believe. If we run across Protestants who do believe in Transubstantiation then by all means invite them home to the Catholic Church.

Consequently Catholics should not receive Communion in Protestant churches. This leads only to confusion. If we believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, it would be very wrong to receive what others understand as only a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ. Catholics should not receive Holy Communion in Protestant churches.

Next week I will continue with Pope St. Paul VI’s commentary on the Holy Eucharist.

A blessed week to all,

Rev. André-Joseph LaCasse, O.P., Pastor