Here is a link to the audio from a talk I gave a while back while I was the Director of Faith Formation at a parish. It was for the parents and their children who were about to receive Holy Communion for the first time. While preparing for this talk, I was inspired by the thought of St. Francis Xavier, preaching with crucifix in hand. In my talk, I did just that. I took the large crucifix off the wall and held it aloft at various points in the talk. (When I refer to “this” in my talk, I’m holding the crucifix.)
The text below is the handout that I gave to the audience. You can follow along as you listen.
LESSON 22: ON THE HOLY EUCHARIST
238. Q. What is the Holy Eucharist?
A. The Holy Eucharist is the Sacrament which contains the body and blood, soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine.
- See John 6: 35-59
- Do I recognize that the Eucharist is Jesus?
- We will never completely understand it.
- Do I try to understand it better?
- Parents, ask your kids: “Do I do a good job of reminding you that the Eucharist is Jesus and not just a symbol of Jesus (a piece of bread)?”
- What can I do to remind myself (and the people around me) that the Eucharist is Jesus (God) Himself?
239. Q. When did Christ institute the Holy Eucharist?
A. Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, the night before He died.
240. Q. Who were present when our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist?
A. When our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist the twelve Apostles were present.
241. Q. How did our Lord institute the Holy Eucharist?
A. Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist by taking bread, blessing, breaking, and giving to His Apostles, saying: Take this all of you and eat it. This is My body; and then by taking the cup of wine, blessing and giving it, saying to them: Take this all of you and drink it. This is My blood which shall be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of Me.
242. Q. What happened when our Lord said, This is My body; this is My blood?
A. When our Lord said, This is My body, the substance of the bread was changed into the substance of His body; when He said, This is My blood, and the substance of the wine was changed into the substance of His blood.
- When God speaks, things happen.
- “‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3)
- “This is my body”; and it is His body.
244. Q. Did anything remain of the bread and wine after their substance had been changed into the substance of the body and blood of our Lord?
A. After the substance of the bread and wine had been changed into the substance of the body and blood of our Lord there remained only the appearances of bread and wine.
- Do I struggle with this?
- If so, that’s okay.
- We all struggle at least a little bit.
- (see John 6:68) St. Peter believed because Jesus said so, not because he understood how Jesus was going to give them His flesh.
- Do I try to learn more so that I can understand it better?
- They are no longer bread and wine—it is improper to call them merely bread and wine because they are God.
- Parents, ask your kids: “As you prepare to receive Jesus in Holy Communion for the first time, is it difficult for you to understand that at Mass the bread becomes Jesus?”
- Parents, is there anything you can do to help your kids understand this better?
245. Q. What do you mean by the appearances of bread and wine?
A. By the appearances of bread and wine I mean the figure, the color, the taste, and whatever appears to the senses.
246. Q. What is this change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord called?
A. This change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord is called Transubstantiation.
243. Q. Is Jesus Christ whole and entire both under the form of bread and under the form of wine?
A. Jesus Christ is whole and entire both under the form of bread and under the form of wine.
- Every crumb is all of Jesus (not just a part of Him).
- Every drop is all of Jesus.
- Do I treat every crumb/drop as God Himself?
352. Q. How was Our Lord able to change bread and wine into His body and blood?
A. Our Lord was able to change bread and wine into His body and blood by His almighty power.
- All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matthew 28:18)
- God can do it
248. Q. Does this change of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ continue to be made in the Church?
A. This change of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ continues to be made in the Church by Jesus Christ through the ministry of His priests.
249. Q. When did Christ give His priests the power to change bread and wine into His body and blood?
A. Christ gave His priests the power to change bread and wine into His body and blood when He said to the Apostles, Do this in memory of Me.
- “Do this” = “Offer this sacrifice,” not simply “eat a meal.”
250. Q. How do the priests exercise this power of changing bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ?
A. The priests exercise this power of changing bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ through the words of consecration in the Mass, which are the words of Christ: This is My body; this is My blood.
- They say the words that Jesus taught them to say & Jesus works through them
- Happens by God’s power, not the priest’s
- Validly ordained priests are the only ones who can do this.
356. Why does Christ give us His own body and blood in the Holy Eucharist?
Christ gives us His own body and blood in the Holy Eucharist:
- to be offered as a sacrifice commemorating and renewing for all time the sacrifice of the cross;
- to be received by the faithful in Holy Communion;
- to remain ever on our altars as the proof of His love for us, and to be worshiped by us.
LESSON 24: ON THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS
262. Q. When and where are the bread and wine changed into the body and blood of Christ?
A. The bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ at the Consecration in the Mass.
- “This is my body . . . This is my blood.”
- Jesus speaks through them and makes the change happen.
263. Q. What is the Mass?
A. The Mass is the unbloody sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ.
- The Sacrifice of the Mass is offered at millions of Catholic churches around the world every day.
- “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 1:11)
358. What is a sacrifice?
A. A sacrifice is the offering of a victim by a priest to God alone, and the destruction of it in some way to acknowledge that He is the Creator of all things.
359. Who is the principal priest in every Mass?
The principal priest in every Mass is Jesus Christ, who offers to His heavenly Father, through the ministry of His ordained priest, His body and blood which were sacrificed on the cross.
265. Q. Is the Mass the same sacrifice as that of the Cross?
A. The Mass is the same sacrifice as that of the Cross.
- The cross is made present on the altar.
- We are participating in the Heavenly liturgy (the worship going on in Heaven).
- Earth and Heaven meet at every altar during Mass
- All the angels and saints are present
360. Why is the Mass the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross?
A. The Mass is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross because in the Mass the victim is the same, and the principal priest is the same, Jesus Christ.
- At Mass, I am present at Jesus’ crucifixion. Do I recognize this?
267. Q. What were the ends for which the sacrifice of the Cross was offered?
A. The ends for which the sacrifice of the Cross was offered were:
• To honor and glorify God; [as Creator & Lord – to Adore Him]
• To thank Him for all the graces bestowed on the whole world;
• To satisfy God’s justice for the sins of men;
• To obtain all graces and blessings.
- Jesus’ sacrifice is of the greatest merit–the only way to properly do any of these.
- Jesus’ sacrifice is the best thing to offer as adoration (worshipping God)
- Jesus’ sacrifice is the best thing to offer as thanksgiving
- Jesus’ sacrifice is the only thing that can pay the debt of our sins
- Jesus’ sacrifice is the greatest thing by which we can ask for graces
268. Q. Is there any difference between the sacrifice of the Cross and the sacrifice of the Mass?
A. Yes; the manner in which the sacrifice is offered is different. On the Cross Christ really shed His blood and was really slain; in the Mass there is no real shedding of blood nor real death, because Christ can die no more; but the sacrifice of the Mass, through the separate consecration of the bread and the wine, represents His death on the Cross.
269. Q. How should we assist at Mass?
A. We should assist at Mass with great interior recollection and piety and with every outward mark of respect and devotion.
- This is how we participate at Mass
- Interior recollection
- Uniting with the priest as he offers the sacrifice
- “Every outward mark of respect and devotion”
- Actions: genuflecting, bowing, making the sign of the Cross, etc.
- Postures: standing, sitting, kneeling, etc.
- Etiquette: being silent, paying attention, dressing up modestly, etc.
- When I am at Mass, do I unite with the priest as he offers the sacrifice?
- Kids, you can do this now. You don’t need to receive Communion to unite with the sacrifice.
- Parents, what can you do to help your children better understand the sacrifice both now as they prepare for 1st Communion and after as they grow and are more fully able to understand?
270. Q. What is the best manner of [participating in] Mass?
A. The best manner of [participating in] Mass is to offer it to God with the priest for the same purpose for which it is said (Q.267), to meditate on Christ’s sufferings and death, and to receive Holy Communion.
364a. How can we best unite with the priest in offering the Holy Sacrifice?
A. We can best unite with the priest in offering the Holy Sacrifice by joining in mind and heart with Christ, the principal Priest and Victim, by following the Mass in a missal, and by reciting or chanting the responses.
LESSON 23: ON THE ENDS FOR WHICH THE HOLY EUCHARIST WAS INSTITUTED
251. Q. [What are the effects of the Eucharist?]
A. The Holy Eucharist:
- Unites us to God Himself
- Nourishes our soul with God’s life
- Increases sanctifying grace and all virtues in our soul
- Decreases our evil inclinations
- Is a pledge of everlasting life
- Prepares our bodies for a glorious resurrection
- Continues the sacrifice of the Cross in His Church.
252. Q. How are we united to Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist?
A. We are united to Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist by means of Holy Communion.
366. What is Holy Communion?
A. Holy Communion is the receiving of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
- “He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me and I abide in him.” (John 6:57)
254. Q. What is necessary to make a good Communion?
A. To make a good Communion it is necessary to:
- be in the state of sanctifying grace (have no mortal sin on your soul)
- have a right intention (see Q.251)
- obey the laws of fasting. (See Q. 257.)
255. Q. Does he who receives Communion in mortal sin receive the body and blood of Christ?
A. He who receives Communion in mortal sin receives the body and blood of Christ, but does not receive His grace, and he commits a great sacrilege.
- “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:27)
256. Q. Is it enough to be free from mortal sin to receive Plentifully the graces of Holy Communion?
A. To receive plentifully the graces of Holy Communion it is not enough to be free from mortal sin, but we should be free from all affection to venial sin, and should make acts of faith, hope, and love.
257. Q. What is the fast necessary for Holy Communion?
A. The fast necessary for Holy Communion is to abstain from all food, beverages, and alcoholic drinks for one hour before Holy Communion. Water may be taken at any time. The sick may take food, non-alcoholic drinks, and any medicine up to Communion time.
258. Q. Is any one ever allowed to receive Holy Communion when not fasting?
A. Any one in danger of death is allowed to receive Holy Communion when not fasting or when it is necessary to save the Blessed Sacrament from insult or injury.
259. Q. When are we bound to receive Holy Communion?
A. We are bound to receive Holy Communion, under pain of mortal sin, during the Easter time and when in danger of death.
- Once during the 50 days of the Easter Season each year is the only time we have to receive Holy Communion
- We still have to participate in Mass every Sunday and every Holy Day of Obligation
377. Why is it well to receive Holy Communion often, even daily?
A. It is well to receive Holy Communion often, even daily, because this intimate union with Jesus Christ, the Source of all holiness and the Giver of all graces, is the greatest aid to a holy life.
- “And they continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles and in the communion of the breaking of the bread and in the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
- How am I growing in holiness?
- Frequent Communion is the greatest aid to a holy life
- Is there any way that I can reasonably make it to Mass more often while still performing the duties of my state in life?
374. What should we do after Holy Communion?
A. After Holy Communion we should spend some time adoring Our Lord, thanking Him, renewing our promises of love and of obedience to Him, and asking Him for blessings for ourselves and others.
378. How should we show our gratitude to Our Lord for remaining always on our altars in the Holy Eucharist?
A. We should show our gratitude to Our Lord for remaining always on our altars in the Holy Eucharist by visiting Him often, by reverence in church, by assisting every day at Mass when this is possible, by attending parish devotions, and by being present at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.