Catholicism Is Different?!

Posted by Kris | Wednesday, July 02, 2014 | | 0 comments »

pope benedict
Eucharistic Celebration
On one fine day after a stock investment seminar event, I did my friend a favor and fetch her friend (a total stranger) to drop to a nearby location on the way home. 

So this stranger saw my catholic catechism books (I seldom fetch people in my car, lol. So there is a lot of empty space behind and I tend to forget alot to bring my books if i bring out from my car) at the back of my car at the passenger car seat as he was sitting behind and another friend was sitting at the front passenger side. 

So I have a very interesting short discussion with him. I will try to reproduce the conversation along the lines i remember. Not exact words.

Stranger: So you are a Christian? A Catholic?

I: Yes. I am . ( I seldom ask about people's religion/belief or even denomination)

Stranger: Okey. So you go to church every-week?

I: Yes. 

Stranger: That is good. I am a Christian too, a protestant. So what is the difference between a catholic & protestant?

I: (At this point, I honestly I feel a little nervous here, as I am afraid to say something wrong.Nevertheless, I feel that I should say something the best of my knowledge. My front passenger friend, a good friend of mine was a Buddhist)

I: The major difference between Catholics & Protestants is that Catholics truly believe that the the bread and wine upon consecration is transformed to be the body and blood of Jesus Christ. It is not a mere memorial or remembrance for the Catholics. 

Here is the reason why I am writing this post. Being baptized as a adult Catholic for almost a decade, I honestly never given a lot of deep thoughts & implication into this critical foundation (super duper duper important) teachings of the Catholic church which is the most important sacrament which is the Eucharistic celebration.

Sure I know that receiving the Eucharist during mass is a serious affair as I will receive Jesus in form of bread and wine as what we been taught in the RCIA classes ( I attended as a teenager), but only lately as I believe as I get older, my mind  matures and something really hit me last few month deeply. It is as though that my mind on this matter start to get the implication of this act.

The fact that every time I partake in the Eucharist, I am consuming GOD into my body. WOw!!! Then I start to think that there is no other religious teachings where you worship GOD by consuming/eating Him. Why is that so? It because we believe in Jesus's teaching as reflected in the verse below. I don't think i have a theologian's knowledge to understand why the early Church Fathers have this understanding about the Eucharist. I only have a layman's understanding on this. :D

John 47:53

 47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." 52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"53 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

The key teachings of the Catholic Church on the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist are that, by the power of Jesus Christ represented by a validly ordained priest, when the priest consecrates bread and wine during the Mass as Jesus did during the Last Supper before His Passion, the substances of the bread and wine change into the true Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ, while the species of bread and wine remain unchanged and that, as the Flesh and Blood are of the resurrected and living Jesus and, therefore, are united with His Soul and Divinity, the Full and Real Presence of Our Lord exists in the Eucharist. The Church Doctrines clarify them further: “If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained, but says that he is in it only as in a sign or figure or by his power, let him be anathema.” [Council of Trent, DS #1651] “If anyone says that in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of bread and wine remains together with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and denies that wonderful and unique change of the whole substance of the bread into his body and of the whole substance of the wine into his blood while only the species of bread and wine remain, a change which the Catholic Church very fittingly calls transubstantiation, let him be anathema.” [Council of Trent, DS # 1652] 

Back to the conversation:

Stranger: So Catholic worship Mary right? 

I: No. We only worship Jesus. To worship Mary is a blasphemous. We only worship God. We respect Mary as the Mother of Jesus.

This is the most common question I got asked from fellow Christians from other denominations (yes, fellow Christians) and non-Christian (typical line is that Catholics are different from other Christians because they worship Mary....) I bet that most Catholics will be asked this questions from alot of curious minds at least once in her/his lifetime. lol

My understanding is this: (disclaimer: Layman's understanding)

We honor and respect Mary because of she is a model example of Christian living, besides being Jesus's mother. In our prayer, we can ask Mary and other Saints to pray on our behalf to GOD on our daily want/request. This is called intercession or intercede. The best example is asking your friend to pray to GOD in their prayers on your requests/concerns/help needed. "E.g Dear GOD, please help John in his studies, etc")

So there is nothing wrong with this as far as Catholic teaching goes. Nevertheless, for most non-Catholics, this might be perceived as worship?! And also there might be other things (shall not be covered today) that might cause this wrong perception that Catholics worship Mary by other fellow Christians.

I remember when I was a kid, I always follow my aunt to the Carmelite chapel where my aunt will give canned foods/gift to the carmelite nuns. Somehow I am always excited as I get to sit in my aunt's mini austin and get to take a joy ride in the car to the nearby chapel. 

Those familiar with the Carmelite order will know that the Carmelites dedicated their life to full solitary life to GOD, that you will never get to see and talk to them face to face (exception is 1-2 certain days in the calender year , if I remember correctly). 

So as a kid, my aunt why we put the canned food into a turnstile and then ring a bell so that they will go collect it on the other side of the wall. I only could hear their voices (Hence being a curious kid, i always try to peek thru the tiny space between the turnstile each time during our visits) as my aunt chatted briefly with them. Cannot really recalled what was being discussed, but i think my aunt will always ask them to pray for our family's well-being in their prayers. So that is an example of intercession.

It is getting late, and I want to go to sleep. In conclusion, as I get older hopefully i get wiser both spiritually and financially.And I am starting to believe as you get older, there are things that you never manage to understand before when you are young, you will start to me of my mother advice's when I was young, which I don't really believe last time.

"You will understand when you get older". 

My younger self reaction: Huh..sure or not, get older can understand....?!?! ;p

To be continued..2nd half of the conversation....