Catholic Thoughts



Summary

This is my answer to why a Protestant believer ought to feel drawn to the Catholic Church. In a word, the Eucharist.


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What is the Real Presence?

The Real Presence is the belief that the whole of Christ (body, blood, soul, and divinity) is truly, really and substantially present as the bread and wine of Holy Communion.

(Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1374)

The Last Supper

Why Be Catholic?

Preface

My friend Doug has put my mental gears into (a non-offended) motion with his most recent blog post. Other occupations prevent me from writing a full reply tonight. But for now, I will say that it made me realize a habit of mine when discussing the Catholic faith. When people ask me questions I solely give them what they ask for. I focus on explaining the belief's reasonableness without conveying its appeal. I believe that Catholicism is both fully reasonable and uniquely desirable. Sunday, I hope to express why every Christian's personal response to Catholicism ought to be a loving embrace.


Why be Catholic?

What is so desirable in the Catholic faith that a Protestant believer would be drawn to it? Why should a person want to be Catholic?

"What does it matter? We all share a relationship with Christ. We each know, love, and serve Him. What difference does being Catholic make?"

These are understandable questions. Protestants and Catholic do share a common ground and a common truth. But I believe that the Catholic faith is Christianity in its fullness. I would say that everything that the Protestant believer loves is part of the Catholic faith as well. Conversion does not mean sacrificing those loves. But there is, I believe, more to love in Catholicism.

So what is this fullness? What more is there to love?

Dave Armstrong offers 150 reasons for favoring Catholicism on his valuable website Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, but I'll give just one big reason. Mine is the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, that is, in the Mass and Holy Communion.

I believe that in the Mass the whole of Christ (body, blood, soul, and divinity) becomes truly, really and substantially present as the bread and wine of Holy Communion. I was not convinced of this when I was younger, but after much research and for many good reasons, I came to embrace it as truth. As you will see, the reasons for belief in the Real Presence also represent reasons for belief in the faith of the Catholic Church.


The Evidence of Scripture

At the Last Supper, Jesus said of the bread and wine in their midst, "This is my body... This is my blood." Did he mean those words literally? Consider John 6, where Jesus insists that people must eat his flesh and drink his blood. (My personal study of John 6 revealed abundant evidence for a literal interpretation.) Look at St. Paul's words from his first letter to the Corinthians (10:14-22 and 11:23-34).

There are many additional evidences from Scripture to support the literal interpretation of Christ's words at the Last Supper (such as the significance of Jesus not drinking the fourth cup of Passover in the Upper Room), but they are too numerous and involved for me to list here. Like the Real Presence, my belief in the faith of the Catholic Church is based on my finding its consistency with Scripture.


The Constant Testimony of Christian History

From the time of the early church until the Protestant Reformation, there was virtual unanimity of belief in the Real Presence. Protestant historians agree that all who wrote about Christian beliefs in the early centuries of Christianity held to belief in the Real Presence. Prior to the 9th century, there is no record of any Christian of prominence denying this belief.

The Catholic Church, without fail, has always taught the Real Presence. The Church's structure, visibility, and consistent teaching (concerning this and all its other doctrines) in history support its claim to being the one, holy, catholic (universal), and apostolic church founded by the Apostles.


My Personal Experience

When I reflect upon my experiences, I must conclude that my closeness to the Eucharist makes me a better man. I am my best when I regularly attend Mass and receive Holy Communion.

This morning I received the consecrated bread and wine as the Son of God. This evening I spent a hour, mostly on my knees, in Eucharistic adoration, looking at the consecrated bread on display. Today I either experienced the most intimate experience and reception of Jesus Christ available to us on earth, or I committed idolotry.

Have I been an idolater all these years? I recognize my need for personal improvement, but I seem to have done far too well for the latter to be the case. I believed in the Real Presence all of my years at college. I'll let my college friends consider this question in my regard themselves. Just as with the Eucharist, I believe my experiences with other aspects of the Catholic Church (its morality, saints, devotions, etc.) have helped change me for the better as well.


In Conclusion

When I was a kid, going to Mass was a bore. But today, attending Mass is one of my favorite things to do. Even if the songs are bad, even if the sermon is weak, I can still enjoy it because He is always fully there.

But what is more, I believe that the Mass makes really present (not repeats) Christ's saving action. The Mass takes us to the foot of the cross, to witness his self-offering sacrifice, and to that first Easter Sunday, to experience his resurrection within us. The Mass bridges our distance from those events in time and space, allowing us to intimately participate in them ourselves. But we are not alone in that church. The Mass unites us with believers near and far, living and dead, in a foretaste of heaven, the marriage supper of the Lamb. Just like the Real Presence, the belief that the Mass makes present the Sacrifice of Christ is both Biblically consistent and historically established.

I do not know what more to say than to express my hope that these words will draw my Protestant brothers and sisters to experience these things too. Catholicism - There's just more to love. How's that for a motto?


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