Friday, June 06, 2008

Power, intention, and words

Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm. We will offer this holy hour for the men who will be ordained transitional deacons tomorrow (including our seminarian from the summer of 2006, Dan Gallaugher).
Since my post on Tuesday, there has been an additional comment which questioned the substantial difference between Catholic and Lutheran eucharistic theology. I wish to make three main points of difference so that we’re all clear. Before that, though, please know that my comments are not intended to personally offend or disrespect any Protestants. My intention is to present the truth about where we are as a Church and how we got here. There are obvious disagreements about the truth in regards to Church doctrine and history between Catholics and Protestants which can be very intense. As a Church, we have great respect for our Protestant brethren and laud them for many things. My hope is that we continue to enter into this discussion through an objective lens, so that we may all recognize the Truth when it’s being presented.

Objectively speaking, the host and wine do not become the Body and Blood of Christ in the Lutheran (or any Protestant) service. For consecration to occur, the minister must a) have the power to consecrate, b) the intention to consecrate, and c) use the words of institution (“this is my Body…this is the cup of my Blood”).

Regarding the first point, Lutheran (and all Protestant) ministers don’t have the power to consecrate because they have not been validly given the power. In other words, they have not been validly ordained. The Apostles who had been given the power to consecrate, forgive sins, baptize, etc. by Christ passed on their power to the next priests through valid ordination. The next priests (actually bishops) passed to the next, and so forth. This unbroken line of valid ordination is part of the Apostolic Tradition. Valid ordinations, then, are traced back to the Apostles.

Unfortunately, Lutheran ministers (and their predecessors) broke from this line of valid ordinations; they left the Apostolic Tradition in starting their own tradition. Even though the first Lutheran bishops / priests were validly ordained Catholic priests (Martin Luther, e.g.), they did not validly ordain other ministers.

On the second point (about whether or not Lutheran ministers have the intention to consecrate the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ), I ask any of our Protestant bloggers to ask your pastor if he /she truly intends to consecrate the bread and wine into the real flesh and blood of Christ… corpus Christi. Will it truly become the same flesh and blood that was present on the Cross, as Jesus indicates in John 6:51 – “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”? As I’ve written before, this line teaches us that the same flesh and blood that is present on the altar is the same flesh and blood that was present on the Cross.

Paul Whitcomb, a Catholic convert from Protestantism, has written the following about when he first began to realize there was a difference between Catholic and Protestant teachings on the Eucharist. He writes about how he approached Protestant ministers with regards to their intention:

“ Some ministers do indeed call their communion bread and wine the real Body and Blood of Christ, but invariably, when I pinned them down, asking if by ‘real’ they meant corporeal, they said no. Invariably, when I asked if one receives a new influx of divine grace at their Holy Communion service, the answer was: ‘No, we believe that Holy Communion is not productive of grace but is a reflection of the grace already present in the soul through faith,’ or words to that effect. Such an answer is, of course, tantamount to rejecting the doctrine of the Real Presence, for to receive the real Christ is to receive His real grace, not a mere reflection of His grace.” (“Confession of a Roman Catholic”, p.44).

Regarding the words spoken during the Lutheran service, they might very well be the words of institution (some Protestant denominations have the exact words, some do not). But, as has been presented on here, the words of institution, ‘this is my body’, are not generally accepted by Lutherans as being the exact words of Christ at the Last Supper. Martin Luther changed the words to ‘this symbolizes my body’ even though he believed in the Real Presence on some level (he believed that Christ is spiritually present; the Church’s response has been that Christ is truly, really, and substantially present).

Finally, one last point of difference is about what happens to the host after the service. In the Catholic Church, any extra hosts that have been consecrated during the Mass are reposed in the main tabernacle and are treated with great reverence because each one is believed to be the Body of Christ. Again, to our Protestant bloggers, please ask your pastor what happens to any extra hosts that were consecrated during your service once the service has ended. I know one Lutheran who asked her pastor this question, and he told her they were put back into a bag and placed in a closet because they are just pieces of bread again.


At 6:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“No, we believe that Holy Communion is not productive of grace but is a reflection of the grace already present in the soul through faith,’

If that were the case, then why would one receive at all? If grace were already present in the human soul through faith, then why would anyone NEED the sacrament?

I know this is going to sound stupid, but I'll ask anyway-
if Christ does not remain present in the uneaten consecrated hosts, does He remain in the hosts that are consumed? I know it sounds silly, but the distinction would be becoming one with Christ and Him visiting you for a bit.

I'm reading a book written by a Catholic nun and recovering alcoholic, and the author talks about the Eucharist in some pretty powerful ways. She writes about how, when she is experiencing the "dark side of her soul" the Eucharist has the power to heal her, and when she is living on the "light side of her soul" she experiences the joy in the Eucharist. That kind of power must productive of grace. If I believed that Christ wasn't fully present in the Eucharist, it wouldn't be "enough" for me.

Okay- then this leads me to a question about another sacrament-

“The Apostles who had been given the power to consecrate, forgive sins, baptize, etc. by Christ passed on their power to the next priests through valid ordination.”

When someone converts to Catholicism from another Christian faith, Baptism is not repeated, correct? Why is it that we acknowledge “one baptism” if it isn’t performed in the same way as the other sacraments? Why aren’t they baptized again in the Catholic faith by a priest?

At 8:07 PM, Blogger fran said...

A Prayer for Deacons and Other Ministers

Heavenly Father since the time of the Apostles you have inspired the Church to commission certain memebers to assist in a special way in the pastoral mission of Christ.
Bless the deacons and all other ordained and non-ordained ministers that they may be humble and faith-inspired in their service.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

At 9:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the subject of the Catholic Church’s acceptance of other Christian baptisms when one converts to Catholicism, read the beginning of Ephesians, chapter 4. You’ll hear a general plea for unity in the churches. The Spirit fashions Christians into a single harmonious religious community (one body), distinguished by one God.

When a person is baptized, he or she is baptized into Christ and into Christ’s Body. Any person baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is a Christian. In a very fundamental sense, there is only one baptism. Catholics hold steadfast in the belief that the fullness of what God intends for the church subsists in the Catholic Church. We welcome all Christians to experience the fullness of being part of our community.

Being baptized outside the Catholic Church confers God’s grace on the person receiving Baptism if the conditions of water and the enunciation of the Triune name are met. Thus, a "second" baptism is not necessary.

At 4:20 PM, Anonymous Maryann said...

Since the Eucharist’s meaning seems to have taken the blog site into “comparative religion”, what is the difference between Catholics and Baptists?

On a totally different religious topic, why would a man choose to be a brother over becoming a priest? I do believe the education, intensity and commitment both vocations require is pretty close to equal, yet, I do believe both callings differ in what they are “allowed” to do; i.e., celebrate mass, consecrate the Eucharist, hear confession, etc.

My last question has to do with hermits and hermitages. I know very little about their lifestyle and find it intriguing. The little I have read offers a picture of a life of solitude, removed from the outside world. Their days are filled with God through prayer/chants, reflection, reading and studying scripture, solitude, manual labor for their hermitage, writing, plus many more obligations I’m sure I didn’t mentioned. I have heard that some, if not all, do not have access to telephone, internet and other forms of modern communication. I do believe they make things and sell them to the public to help provide for their basic needs, and I do believe they can accept donations for the hermitage, not for individual hermits; I don't think they own anythng.

I don’t understand how they share their knowledge, love and commitment to God with the public. How are they disciples? Through prayer and their simple lifestyle, that only they experience? My question is not meant to sound disrespectful or demeaning in any way, I simply don’t know the answer or how to phrase my question more eloquently.

At 1:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Here’s a thought on grace:

Holy Communion does not produce grace, it offers and nourishes it. God offers grace to all - we have the gift of choice - to embrace it through a life lived in friendship with God, or to reject it and live a life in friendship with our own rules and desires.

To receive communion, we must be in a state of grace. If we choose this state, we must constantly do our best at living a life in friendship with Christ, which requires self examination, admission of sins, and the true desire to live a life that pleases Him. Grace is a continual process, not a product offered one time with a lifetime guarantee. Consumption of the Eucharist reflects or shows that a person is in the state of grace, at that moment.

The goal then becomes living a life in the state of grace. None of us are worthy to receive Him; all of us are in need of Him.

Here’s a thought on Christ’s presence in uneaten consecrated hosts:

Read John 6, The Discourse on the Bread of Life and pay special attention to verse 56: “The man who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” Upon consumption of the host, Christ remains in you, but you also remain in Him. Do you become one with Christ or do you just visit Him for a bit?

At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Tom said...

Religious life and the priesthood are different vocations.

The religious brother vows a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience in order to more perfectly follow Jesus. The priest receives ordination in order to assist in the apostolic ministry of teaching, governing, and sanctifying. The difference in the vocations isn't a matter of what's "allowed," but of fundamental purpose.

The priesthood shouldn't be thought of as the fulfillment or perfection of the religious life, any more than it's the fulfillment or perfection of the lay Christian life. Becoming a priest isn't like adding a second major in college; it's not a decision made based on how much additional coursework would be required, but on discerning God's will.

At 12:59 AM, Anonymous Maryann said...

I should have chosen a better word than “allowed” when trying to express my question, but isn’t the fundamental purpose of both priests and brothers to serve God, as perfectly as they can? I took some time on the internet to gather information that helped me understand the differences between priests and brothers and concluded that, the vocation for a priest and a religious brother are the same, to serve God; however, they differ in how they go about this, thus the discernment process.

There are two types of priests: diocesan and religious. Both are ordained by a bishop and can administer the sacraments. Their differences lie in their way of life, their type of work, and the church authority to which they are responsible. Diocesan priests commit their lives to serving the people of a diocese, a church's administrative region, and generally work in parishes assigned by the bishop of their diocese. Diocesan priests make promises of celibacy and obedience.

Religious priests belong to a religious order. Religious priests are assigned duties by their superiors in their respective religious order. Some religious priests specialize in teaching, while others serve as missionaries in foreign countries, where they may live under difficult and primitive conditions. Others live a communal life in monasteries, where they devote their lives to prayer, study, and assigned work. Religious priests take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience.

Brothers are not ordained, thus, they can not administer the sacraments. They take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Poverty frees them to live simply and to be giving of themselves, totally. The vow of celibacy allows them to live in the "family" of their community and to love equally all those with whom and for whom they minister. The vow of obedience calls them to listen to the spirit in their life and to meet the needs of the church. A brother’s profession of vows, received by the church, commits them firmly to the mission of proclaiming the good news. It unites them as one family, regardless of location, in love and loyalty to their mission’s “approach” in spreading the word of the Lord.


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