Teaching the Real Presence Without Words


Most of the faithful are in agreement that we must do a better job teaching young Catholics about their faith. Recent studies have shown that many Catholics have already left the Church by the time they reach adulthood. What has also been discovered is that many never really understood the faith to begin with.

Nowhere may this be more evident than with the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist. Quoting the Council of Trent, the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation. (CCC 1376)

Few Catholics today would argue against the need to better catechize the young about the Real Presence. What too many fail to understand, however, is that good catechesis doesn’t always require words.

Just as the Mass itself is an action (the offering of the Holy Sacrifice on the altar) teaching the faithful about Our Eucharistic Lord is less about words, and more about actions. The picture at the top of this post demonstrates my point. What individual elements are we seeing that attest to the Real Presence?

  • The young woman is kneeling to receive Holy Communion.
  • She is veiling in the presence of the Eucharist.
  • Communion is being distributed on the tongue and from the consecrated hands of a priest.
  • The priest has his index finger and thumb pressed together on his other hand since they touched the host following consecration.
  • The altar server is holding a paten under the chin of the communicant “so as to avoid the danger of the sacred host or some fragment of it falling.” (Redemptionis Sacramentum, 93).

Everything captured in this photograph teaches us about the Real Presence; and without words. There are those in the Church today who view all of the afore mentioned elements as superfluous. Many have spent decades jettisoning them from the Catholic Liturgy. Thankfully they are all either common to, or required at, the Traditional Latin Mass.

Educators tell us that people learn through different means. While one person may be an auditory learner, another may be a visual learner, and yet a third might be a kinesthetic learner (by movement). Catholics benefit from all three.

And yet, through the removal of such traditional disciplines as those illustrated in the picture above, the liturgical minimalists have failed to fully catechize the faithful. They have also treated Our Eucharistic Lord as mere bread through their innovations and deprivations.

Indeed, the best catechesis seldom requires words.

[Photo credit: John Cosmas]

Posted on January 9, 2018, in liturgy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Franklin P. Uroda

    I was taught that Jesus God Almighty taught His disciples that unless we eat Him (“eat My Body and Drink My Blood”) that we wouldn’t have life in us, i.e., make it to heaven. He broke the bread-at the Last Supper-and passed the “cup of His Blood” saying “Do this in remembrance of Me.” His Church teaches that when a Roman Catholic priest says the words of consecration, Jesus is there present in the form for us to eat: He’s physically present. Besides this wonderful gift of Himself, Jesus God Almighty is everywhere present 24/7/365 with us, along with His Father God Almighty and The Holy Spirit God Almighty. The Blessed Trinity of Divine Persons is constantly present and with us, and has been from the instant we were conceived. We are never alone no matter where we happen to be. IMO, this reality is a cause for tremendous joy and a great help in doing the right thing and avoiding the wrong thing. Never alone.

  2. This is excellent.Or may I say “extraordinary” 😁Ive been schooled and enjoyed it.Even had to scroll  back up to picture of Isabella to check out the crumb catcher.Dont recall his title.This read  truly shines a brilliant light onThe sacredness and meaning of the Eucharist/communion.And you did so in a beautiful way.I think you were spot on about the lack of understanding/knowledge attributing to  people eventually leaving the church as the got older. The teachings you offer really show the “why’s” of it all. Tradition……There is a reason Why things are done in a particular and consistent manner. Especially when it comes to communion. This post was wonderful and i am sure it is going to be a Blessing to all who read it. You are awesome and yes as your Aunt I am allowed to say so and think so.I googled it. 💜UBambino

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

  3. I believe that many leave the Church because they don’t receive the benefits that they are told that they will receive from the Eucharist. The Eucharist does not bring us the Spirit of Christ which produces the fruit of the Spirit within us. The sacraments of the Spirit of Christ are Baptism and Confirmation. The Eucharist is not a substitute for these sacraments. We need to be in the state of sanctifying grace before we participate in the Eucharist. This means that the Spirit of Christ needs to be in us prior to our participation in the Eucharist. All of the sacraments presuppose faith.

  4. How we pray expresses what we believe. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

  5. I teach at a Catholic School where kneeling isn’t the custom. Last week when I knelt to receive communion, I couldn’t get the kids to stop asking about what I was doing and why I was doing it. I think that millennials in particular, who have no baggage from the previous era, really crave not just doing these things as a symbol, but becoming the symbol in the liturgy as this young woman pictured above. They crave the ineffable mystery .

  6. TRANSUBSTANTIATION is a step beyond the Protestant concept of “Real Presence”. Please be aware of the differences. Your headline is inaccurate.

  7. From the Code of Canon Law:

    Can. 898 “The Christian faithful are to hold the Most Holy Eucharist in *highest honor*, taking an active part in the celebration of the *most august sacrifice*, receiving this sacrament *most devoutly* and frequently, and *worshiping it* with the *highest adoration*. In explaining the doctrine about this sacrament, *pastors of souls* are to teach the faithful *diligently* about this *obligation*.”
    [Emphasis added…]
    How is this fulfilled in most of our parish churches, especially in the so-called “Ordinary Form”/casual Novus Ordo Mass?

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