Catholic in Yanchep

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When the Ordinary becomes Extraordinary


Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham (The Slipper Chapel), with Fr Michael Collis and altar server, Joshua Clovis.

“That isn’t just any manky old boot, mate.  It’s a portkey,” say the Weasley twins in the film version of J.K. Rowling’s Goblet of Fire.  Portkeys, in case you don’t know, are ordinary, unobtrusive objects which have the ability to transport wizards from one place to another.  For example, the Weasleys use a portkey which to all intents and purposes looks like an old boot, to transport them to the Quidditch World Cup.  The reality is that the old boot, lying as if discarded on the hillside, is not just an old boot – in Aristotelian terms, it’s appearance or ‘accident’ is that of a boot, but its substance is that of a powerful magical object.

My point is that even children have no difficulty in distinguishing between ‘substance’ and ‘accident’ – or between what something really is and what it looks, smells, sounds, feels like or appears to be on a molecular level, so let us not imagine that the concept of transubstantiation is too difficult for children to understand.  That is what today’s Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is all about: that the Eucharistic elements are transformed truly and substantially into the most holy Body and Blood of Christ.  That is why St Paul is so clear about our needing to examine ourselves prior to reception of Communion.

Everyone is to examine himself and only then eat of the bread or drink from the cup; because a person who eats and drinks without recognising the body is eating and drinking his own condemnation. (1 Co. 11:28-29)

J.K. Rowling says that she was the only one of her family to attend church regularly – she herself admits that many of her themes are derived from Christian ideas.  What isn’t generally acknowledged is the Catholicity of much of her thought: think of the Patronus figures, the sacramentality of objects, the extensive use of Latinesque words, the celebration of deathdays, the belief in the power of words to effect some metaphysical transformation, the suffering hero, the immortality of personal and subsistent souls.

We Catholics have something precious many other Christians don’t have – the presence of the supernatural in our Mass.  Our churches are not just halls or gathering places.  They are physical and particular locations of Christ, supernaturally physically present in what appears to be ordinary bread and wine, either in the tabernacle or during Holy Communion.

All of our rituals are designed to bring the supernatural into our everyday life – to help our imaginations conceive of the larger reality that encompasses the physical reality accessible to our senses, in the same way that the soul is the larger reality and animating principle of the physical human body.

This calls to mind a House Blessing at which I was recently fortunate enough to be present while on holiday in England (this is why I haven’t posted for a while).  House blessings are another example of Sacramentals that bring the supernatural into the present and the ordinary.  The Blessing was of the new EWTN studios for Great Britain at Annunciation House in Walsingham, where my brother, Norman, has taken up residence as Producer.  The family live on the upper two floors, while the studio uses the ground floor and the cellar.  Walsingham is as medieval a town as you could imagine, and the destination of pilgrimages in honour of Our Lady of Walsingham, who appeared in ecstatic visions, to an English noblewoman, Richeldis de Faverches, during the 11th century.


Statue of Our Lady of Walsingham in the Basilica (Slipper Chapel).

One would imagine that a House and Studio Blessing for the largest religious media network in the world would be accompanied by pomp and ceremony – and indeed there will be an official Blessing with Michael Warsaw, the Chief Executive of EWTN, later this year.  However, this didn’t stop Monsignor John Armitage, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, from proceeding with this simple house and studio blessing – appropriately on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima during the centenary year of the Fatima apparitions.  Typically Catholic, it juxtaposed the ceremonially Sacred with the ordinary and joyful chaos of family life – indeed there were more children present than adults: all my nephews and nieces, some in their more formal church clothes, some still barefoot and dishevelled after walking the two miles to and from the Slipper Chapel (where it is said that medieval pilgrims removed their shoes on the way to the Shrine), and interrupted all through by the squeals and grunts of my newest niece, Amelie.  It was a wonderful homely scene, a reminder of the beauty of ordinariness shot through by God’s grace – and in many ways it reminded me of those homely scenes of that other chaotic but loving family, the Weasleys, with whom I started this piece. 


The EWTN (GB) Studios at Annunciation House, Walsingham, with Norman and Amy Servais and their family.


View over Friday Market, Walsingham, from my attic window.

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Corpus Christi, Year C | The Mystery of Eating Jesus

Christ With The Host Paolo de San Leocadio

Christ with the Host, Paolo de San Leocadio (1445-1520), oil and gold on wood, National Museum in Poznań (Muzeum Narodowe w Poznaniu), Poland. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

We are what we eat.  At least biologically, the molecules we ingest are assimilated and through a complex series of reactions either become part of our physical bodies, or are used for the production of energy via respiration – or are eliminated without being used.

So it is when we receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord in Holy Communion.  Jesus has left us this remarkable Sacrament, not only so that the physical molecules of the Eucharistic species can become part of our flesh and blood, but so that we can be drawn into Christ.  Though we are consuming Christ, he is in a way consuming us – it is as close as we can get in this life to a consummation of the wedding feast of the bride (the Church) and the Lamb.

Some Christians shake their heads at the thought that Catholics (and the Orthodox) think they are consuming Jesus’ actual body and blood.  But we are merely being Bible literalists in this particular case.  How many times does Jesus have to say it?

  1. I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.  Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world (John 6:51).
  2. In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (John 6:53).
  3. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink (John 6:55).
  4. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives (remains, abides) in me and I live (remain/abide) in that person  (John 6:56).
  5. As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will also draw life from me (John 5:57).
  6. This is the bread which has come down from heaven; it is not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever (John 6:58).

At the time of John’s writing of this Gospel, the Christian practice of the ‘Breaking of Bread’ was already well established.  There was no need for John to reiterate the Institution of the Eucharist which occurs in Matthew 26, Mark 14 and Luke 22.  His audience was already familiar with Jesus ‘ instructions to ‘do this in remembrance of me’.  However, the new challenge for John was the rise of false teachers.  For example, Cerinthus was a Gnostic contemporary of John who was confusing the faithful by suggesting that Jesus was not fully Divine, but that Christ ‘entered’ into Jesus at his baptism and left him before his crucifixion.  In the Gnostic view, matter was evil and the body was a prison from which the spirit needed to escape.  In all of Jesus statements above, John is emphasising that Jesus is referring to his flesh and blood in a literal sense.  Matter is the portkey (to use Harry Potter language) that God uses to help us remain (abide) in him.  Read John chapter 15 and you will see how important it is to remain in Jesus: “Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing.”  “Remain in me, as I in you.”  “As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, unless it remains part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.”  “Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love.”  Jesus doesn’t repeat himself unless it’s important!

My dear friends at the (Protestant) Bible Study I attend say that Jesus couldn’t have meant this literally because the consumption of blood is forbidden in the Old Testament.  What the OT actually says is “But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat.” (Deuteronomy 12:23).  But this is the whole point!  Jesus wants us to consume HIS blood, because he wants us to receive his life!  He wants us to remain in him!

We are such muggles when it comes to understanding Jesus, that no wonder he has to repeat himself several times for us to get the point.

From the Catechism:

It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to his Church in this unique way.  Since Christ was about to take his departure from his own in his visible form, he wanted to give us his sacramental presence … What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our Spiritual life.  Communion with the flesh of the risen Christ, a flesh ‘given life and giving life through the Holy Spirit,” preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism.  This growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death, when it will be given to us as viaticum. [1392]

Today’s readings:

Word format:Year C Body and Blood of Christ 2016

Pdf format: Year C Body and Blood of Christ 2016

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Solemnity of The Body and Blood of Christ, Year B | Why do I remain Catholic?

Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus ChristiThe recent Pew Forum’s study on America’s Changing Religious Landscape has sparked a flurry of statements from good people on why they remain Catholic, and Elizabeth Scalia at The Anchoress has asked for contributions from committed Catholics everywhere.  We are not American, but Australia suffers from the same problem as America, with the number of Christians expected to drop from 67.3% in 2010 to 47.0% in 2050.

Today’s solemnity gives us an opportunity to talk about one of the chief reasons I remain Catholic: in the Catholic church we still remain faithful and obedient to a particular instruction from the Lord about what we need to do to inherit eternal life.  Of course, there are many things that are required: following his commandments, accepting him as our Lord and Saviour, but we can’t ignore this one: eating his body and blood, which is what today’s solemnity is all about.

  • And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:19-20)
  • For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Cor. 11:23-27)
  • I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”  The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.   For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.   Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.   This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”   (John 6:51-58)

When Jesus says, “οὐκ ἔχετε ζωὴν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς” (you have no life in you), the word ζωὴν or “Zoe” refers not to physical life, but to spiritual life – the eternal life of the soul.

The early church certainly understood the Sacrament as literally Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

St Justin Martyr, First Apology 66, A.D. 151:

“We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus”

Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2-7:1, A.D. 110

“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes”

Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Philadelphians, 3:2-4:1, 110 A.D.

Take care, then who belong to God and to Jesus Christ – they are with the bishop. And those who repent and come to the unity of the Church – they too shall be of God, and will be living according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren: if anyone follow a schismatic, he will not inherit the Kingdom of God. If any man walk about with strange doctrine, he cannot lie down with the passion. Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of His Blood; one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:2, A.D. 189

“He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life—flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him?”  

Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor of Children 1:6:43:3, A.D. 191

“’Eat my flesh,’ [Jesus] says, ‘and drink my blood.’ The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutrients, he delivers over his flesh and pours out his blood, and nothing is lacking for the growth of his children”.

… and these are just a few references from the 2nd century.  Many more are found among the Church Fathers.

Anyway, I do recommend you go and read these beautiful testimonies.

Watch Fr Barron explain about eating Jesus’ flesh:

Today’s readings for Australia:

Word format: Year B Body and Blood of Christ

Pdf format: Year B Body and Blood of Christ

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Hymns for Corpus Christi

I have chosen these hymns for the Yanchep Vigil Mass

Entrance:  Gather Your People (AOV 71). The theme of this hymn reflects the second reading about our being parts of the one body which is Christ.

Offertory:  Lord Jesus, Lamb of God (AOV100).  Continuing the Corpus Christi theme, the second verse of this hymn is “Lord Jesus, Bread of Life, you feed us with yourself.”

Communion: Sweet Sacrament Divine.  An obvious choice for this solemnity.

Recessional: May God Bless and Keep You (AOV177).  God’s beautiful words to Moses revealed in Numbers 6:22-27.


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The Body and Blood of Christ – Corpus Christi – Year A

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of The Body and Blood of Christ.

Corpus Christi Icon

Corpus Christi Icon

This feast was first honoured in the 13th century in the Belgian diocese of Liege, where the Norbertine Canoness, Juliana of Liege, had for twenty years been receiving visions of Christ.

Today’s readings in Word format: Year A Corpus Christi

Today’s readings in PDF format: Year A Corpus Christi