Monday, June 27, 2011

Eucharist as "Magic"

I'm gonna "get calls" on this one! People will probably be upset at the idea of Eucharist as magic. Smells and bells and all that hocus-pocus. I'm going to make the point here that the Eucharist does resemble a good "magic" and that that is a good thing. If the word "magic" bugs you, just substitute "mystery" for the remainder of this posting.

So the priest, by imposition of the bishop's hands, receives the grace and spiritual power to change a piece of bread and a cup of wine into Our Lord's body and blood. He can do this several times a day if he says the right words and has followed all the rules properly. If he is a very holy man he can do this. If he is a total jerk he can do this. I cannot do this. In a general sense, if he says the words wrong and doesn't follow the rules the bread and wine will still be bread and wine.

There are lots of priests in this world. Many are holy guys. Some are not as holy as they should be. It's not my problem to sort it out. Thank you, God.

In the Protestant churches I attended as a child, if the pastor was uninspiring with his homily or personal holiness there wasn't much the church had to give you except maybe some fellowship. I appreciate the "magic" in the Catholic Church that transcends our human limitations.

A couple of stories from history. The Jesuits were recalled to Europe in the 1700s from the mission field here in North America. Priests here had DIED trying to bring the Catholic faith to the Native Americans. Then the enthusiastic new converts they had made here were abandoned. Many areas would not see a priest again for over 100 years.

Imagine generations of no sacramental marriages, no Eucharist, no reconciliation, no sacraments to help you prepare for death. Before and after this time in these remote areas when a priest came to town he had to spend huge amounts of time just giving basic sacraments to residents. At least the people could baptize each other when no priest was handy. But how would it even be possible to hand down the faith for maybe four generations without having any sacramental help?

I've been reading Charles Dickens' A Child's History of England. (Good book.) I'm in the middle of the 1100s and the Catholic Church is a mess. High offices in the Church were given to the king's buddies as presents. Going back a little earlier in their history, some of the priests were common criminals, even murderers! The amazing thing is that the Catholic Church even remains today. That is a huge miracle!

So maybe your priest is a jerk. Maybe he's too conservative or too liberal. Maybe he is from a foreign land and you can't understand his accent. Because the power is from God's holy "magic" and not the worthiness of the priest or (heaven help us) the worthiness of US, Eucharist still works. Thank the Lord that there is still a Catholic Church and someone anointed to bring you Our Lord's body and blood.

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