Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Spiritual Communion, Not Just for Mass Anymore!

I have been reading 7 Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn. It is a very quick and easy read. It can give you an enhanced appreciation of the great gift God has left with the Church, the Most Blessed Sacrament. In the last chapter, Flynn explains that there are two ways to receive the Eucharist. This is based on the writings of Thomas Aquinas and other saints and doctors of the Church. We can receive Christ both Sacramentally and Spiritually. What's the difference? When we go up to the priest to receive the sacred host, we can be thinking of baseball scores, mowing the lawn, or God forbid, what the parishioner in front of me is wearing. (I always have PD go up in front of me and keep my eyes low to the ground because of the desire to receive Christ not tarnished by thoughts other than what they should be. But sometimes, we may be receiving Him sacramentally but not necessarily spiritually. Going through the motions, without our hearts attentive, pliant and open. Most of us born Catholic
will admit to experiencing this.

I was once asked by an evangelical pastor why I thought so many Catholics are not transformed by the Eucharist if it is truly Christ's real presence. Firstly, we can't judge who is experiencing Christ vs those who aren't. Secondly, when our hearts are not disposed to receiving His grace, the Communion will not be efficacious. The Host is not a Magic Wafer! Like water off the ducks back, His graces can't penetrate a heart that is not open and docile to receive Him. It's that "cooperation thing" us Catholics often emphasize. So, we still actually receive Christ, His body and blood in the Eucharistic species but our hearts may not always be "in it", so to speak. However when we cooperate with Him, opening our hearts to the Holy Spirit's work, the graces can flow.


There is a whole other aspect of communing with Jesus which our non-Catholic friends understand. When they ask Jesus into their heart, they are spiritually communing with Him. The difference of course, is that Catholics believe that we receive Jesus at every Mass, not as a one time event. When we receive the Eucharist sacramentally, we too should be focus on inviting Him in as well and uniting our hearts to Him. There is no time or place on earth that I can be closer to Jesus than in the reception of the Eucharist. So we can thus, sacramentally and spiritually commune with Him.

Most of this is preaching to the choir here since most convert/reverts do receive Him sacramentally and spiritually as well. We went so long without the Eucharist that every Mass is a pretty big deal to us on most days and we haven't begun to be mechanical about it by the grace of God!

My final note is that we can make a spiritual communion with Christ even when we can't receive the sacrament of the Eucharist physically. We can unite our hearts to His through our desire to receive the sacrament and the graces that flow from this act can be efficacious as well, though not as full as the actual reception of the Eucharist. St Faustina, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Maximilian Kolbe all understood and practiced this spiritual communion throughout the day. Permit me to make it analogous to the sacrament of marriage. We can't always be receiving the sacrament of marriage, but we can in our hearts have fond and loving thoughts towards our spouse, spiritually so to speak of course. Here is a prayer we can pray to make a spiritual communion when not receiving Christ sacramentally.

My Jesus,
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment
receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.


The Audio CD 7 Secrets of the Eucharist is available free here.
Hope it can be a blessing to you.

10 Comments:

Blogger MMajor Fan said...

My humorous reply to "I was once asked by an evangelical pastor why I thought so many Catholics are not transformed by the Eucharist if it is truly Christ's real presence" is "Well, imagine what they'd by like if they weren't receiving at all!" *gentle smile*

How true: "There is a whole other aspect of communing with Jesus which our non-Catholic friends understand. When they ask Jesus into their heart, they are spiritually communing with Him." This is one reason why some are more transformed by a period of adoration or contemplation of the Host than the act of receiving it in Mass. A period of time contemplating the displayed Host removes the mental distractions you describe during the receiving, and so is a powerful assistance in a longer period of communing with Jesus.

"The difference of course, is that Catholics believe that we receive Jesus at every Mass, not as a one time event." Yes. Another way to help non-Catholics to understand is to say, imagine if you were alive during the time of Jesus. Would you attend one of his teachings, and say, "Right, this is great, now I've got it all right" and not attend another gathering when he is back in your area? Or follow him? While the gospels do not state it, since the gospels don't "scene set," it is obvious that crowds gathered around Jesus all the time, from the small towns, and so many people attended as often as they could. Receiving Jesus at Mass is like that for Catholics; just because one "visit" may put people on the path and give them the information they personally need, does not mean that if Jesus is in town one would not see him and hear as often as possible.

"We can unite our hearts to His through our desire to receive the sacrament and the graces that flow from this act can be efficacious as well, though not as full as the actual reception of the Eucharist" is so very true, as is your analogy to marriage. This is a great reminder to people and is the foundation of a prayerful and serene mind. This generation has lost track of that ability and need.

Very nice and timely blogging, tiber.

August 31, 2007 11:27 PM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

Whatcha doing in my head, TJ? I got this book recently too. It's simple yet very profound. (I note that when Vinny Flynn was on Sunday Night Live a while back, even a holy old-timer like Fr. Groschel admitted that he got fresh new insights about the Eucharist from reading the book.)

I say it all the time and I can't say it often enough, it is an indescribable privilege to receive our Lord in the Eucharist every Sunday. The question is, as always, how to take this reality and allow it to truly transform one's life. So much easier said than done!

Great stuff with lots of things to reflect upon. Incidentally, for those who aren't aware. Vinny Flynn can be seen singing the Divine Mercy chaplet with his family during the weekday airings on EWTN.

September 01, 2007 2:33 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

MMF:
"Well, imagine what they'd by like if they weren't receiving at all!" *gentle smile*

That's what Prodigal Daughter always says!!!
Thanks for the comments!

September 01, 2007 9:33 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Nancy:
"The question is, as always, how to take this reality and allow it to truly transform one's life. So much easier said than done!"
Great point, if our lives are not being transformed by the Eucharist, then we need a little more time in the other sacrament that is freely available to us, the confessional! :)

September 01, 2007 9:35 AM  
Blogger + Alan said...

That's good stuff TJ. I have heard of this book. I saw an interview with Vinnie and Fr. Benedict Groeschel not long ago and found their conversation very helpful. It made me want to get the book. I may do that soon. Very helpful for us to remember that the efficaciousness of the Sacrament is dependent on our internal disposition of faith toward God. Like you said, it's not magic.

And for us to remember that our Union with Him is not only in the Eucharist but that He is constantly spiritually (really) present in our own spirit if we are "in Him." Some good reading of the old monastic mystics would be good for all of us in the neighborhood of Mystical Union. Peace.

September 01, 2007 12:01 PM  
Blogger Susie said...

Now I must yet purchase another book...so many books so little time. I saw Vinny on EWTN, on Bookmark and promptly forgot about it, until jumping over here to be reminded.

Tanks and APCs TJ.

*big grin*

September 02, 2007 4:34 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

the cd is pretty good and covers the book well and is basically FREE!

September 02, 2007 8:11 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Alan:
I am going to do a little reading on the imitation of Christ. Many years ago I read the "presence of God" by brother Lawrence, though not a mystic he certainly lived mystical union with Christ everyday

September 02, 2007 8:13 AM  
Blogger + Alan said...

Brother Lawrence is a good one - simple monastic stuff. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avilla are good classic stuff too. St. Bernard of Clairveaux is another one. For more contemporary stuff, don't forget Thomas Merton. Thoughts in Solitude and New Sees of Contemplation are my favorites. Peace.

September 02, 2007 5:58 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

thanks Alan, I will check them out.
Thomas Merton's 7 Story Mountain was one of the first books I read after converting. I heard Joan Baez visited him once!

September 02, 2007 8:18 PM  

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