Eucharistic Addiction

(Spoiler Alert: The Eucharist is God in the form of bread and wine.)

To hear your average Catholics – alright, let’s be honest, to hear some Catholics who actually care about the faith – speak on the Eucharist, I would sympathize with the modern eavesdropper who would leave the conversation thinking that he had overhead a couple of junkies praising a life-consuming drug. Our phrases our peppered with a fiendish, ravenous hunger, from Flannery’s “it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable” to any beautiful Catholic girl’s need for Communion. There is a certain element of desperation that is associated with the Eucharist; and sure, we say we need Mary, that we love Christ, but never with so much physical, gut-wrenching feeling as when we say we need Holy Communion. And it makes sense, in the end, that such a physical gift would have such a physical reaction. Have you noticed that? If not, read St. Thomas Aquinas, or any of the saints, really. They might be dry as bones on the value of chastity, banal and boring on the Creation of the world, but I guarantee it, the subject of the Eucharist will wring the poetry out of the driest of prose. Probably because the Eucharist is the only true Poem. But that’s another post.

So we are addicts. There’s a truth to St. Augustine’s classic line that we forget, “You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.” First, it’s no mere want for God in general; St. Augustine was no atheist. This line, from his Confessions, came from his conversion to Catholicism, and thus, the experience described is essentially Eucharistic. Secondly, the phrase isn’t what I would call happy, nor about some calm and peace found in God; if anything it’s intensely needy, agitated, something more along the lines of a heroin addict than a Saint. The Eucharist doesn’t calm Augustine, it burns him.  How important it is to realize, in an age where all that matters is that we are happy, feeling fine, that God wants to set a desire for Him in our hearts that burns, that hurts?

Have you ever been in the state of mortal sin for a prolonged amount of time, and had to avoid the Eucharist? It sucks. There is physical longing, unfulfilled desire, dark agitation that seems to have no cause; nothing is the same. I wouldn’t recommend trying it, obviously, but take this sinner’s word; life without the Eucharist isn’t life at all. But all this leads to an obvious complaint: What about the large portion of the world that doesn’t receive the Body of Christ? It’s not as if they walk around with a ravenous need, an unfulfilled void. Well, perhaps some do, and I imagine we’ve all met a few souls we’ve wanted to grab, shake and scream in their faces, “I know what you need! I have the answer! I’ve found God, I have, come follow!” but for the large part, people aren’t walking corpses. That’s not to say the world is ecstatic all the time, but surely it is a point against the reality of the Eucharist that we have billions of people who “do not eat his body and blood” yet seem to have life within them just fine.

But as any druggie will tell you, “you just ain’t tried it yet.” A man who has created a family would not go back to the life he had before, though he might have said he was fine when he was single. So it is with the Eucharist. And anyways, that’s not the point. The point is that the world’s ‘fine’ is no longer even enough. Humanity might indeed be doing fine without the Eucharist, I am not one to doubt them. But ‘fine’ does not satisfy me now, and I truly believe it does not satisfy a single human being. If it did, why the superheroes? Why the drugs, the alcohol, the sex? Why the books, the video games, the music, the sky-diving or the movies? If all we want is to be fine, why do we spend such a large part of our lives seeking to be so much more?

The beauty of Augustine lies in that truth, that man is not meant for mediocrity. That’s why the phrase “I’m fine” is the world’s most common lie; we don’t know what it means, it doesn’t fit, it is an inherently unsatisfying answer to the question “How are you?” To those who consume God, and to a world redeemed by Christ, the answer to anyone’s “I’m fine” should be, “I’m sorry! For you weren’t made for shallow contentment, you were made to be hungry, panting, searching, a lover and a priest and a prophet!” Augustine’s whole idea can be restated for the modern world as, “I was content breathing in oxygen, but you set my lungs on fire with your love, and now I can barely stand breathing anything else!  I was doing fine living, making money, eating and drinking, having sex and watching TV, but you rudely made “being fine” ridiculously banal, and now I want this very agitation, this desire, this hunger that pushes me towards you.” So yes, we’re Eucharistic addicts, not only because the Eucharist elevates us to new spiritual heights, but also because it makes life without the Eucharist unthinkable. But isn’t that just typical of the church Christ has left us? So good it makes good seem boring.

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  • Joseph K @ Defend Us In Battle

    There is a reason for the "limit" on reception of the Eucharist on any given day :) There are those that are so hooked that they would seek it without end.We can "have" it though any time, or almost – just being in HIS presence exposed or not is more than we really can handle or "need".There is a reason why Adoration and Mass have such a profound affect over people to the point of conversion!Good post Marc.

  • Brandon Vogt

    This post just fuels my addiction. Wonderful!

  • catholicunveiled

    There is a book called A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist by a man named Abbot Vonier (a contemporary of GKC, by the by). If you've not read it, please do so immediately. Seriously. Go to amazon right now and buy it. Or, if you'd rather not pay for it, wait a few days until I'm finished with it and I'll mail it to you. It's fantastic :)Also, shout out to anyone reading this who ISN'T Eucharist obsessed: you're not a failure as a Catholic! I know for me, it took years of praying for the grace of believing the truth and power of the Eucharist before I ever felt anything towards it. So hang in there, dear hearts! Seek and you will find. Promise :)

  • Marc

    Ooh, yeah mail it to me. I'm broke and I have an unhealthy passion for receiving books in the mail…

  • catholicunveiled

    You got it :) email me your address?

  • “Broadstrike” Paul #63223078-NV

    a thing that I guess is sorta semantic (not thinking I'm better, I just thought of it while reading this post)I guess, in a technical sense, we consume God in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist is more of God who consumes us as we are brought into communion with him, not him to's really tiny, but that's what I thought.Thank you for this beautiful blog! I Love hearing other Catholic's love for Love Himself!

  • Julie

    Great post! I just about died laughing when I saw the ads posted at the end though: Going Cold Turkey? Get Info on Withdrawal, Detox, and Rehab for Painkiller Addiction Addiction Recovery The Most Successful Drug & Alcohol Treatment Center. 70% Success Rate! Addiction Recovery The First 28-90 Day Addiction Rehab Program. 866-788-6033.I don't think we need to recover from this addiction. :)

  • Marc

    haha, that's great

  • Marc

    and @BroadstrikeGood point and point taken.

  • Ruth, AKA ktchnofdngr

    I just barely found your blog, and as a new convert, it was the Eucharist that brought me into the Catholic Church. It is wonderful to see someone be able to articulate the hunger I have for the Eucharist!

  • Josh Matthews

    Dude, this is some killer stuff. I'm thrilled that I found this blog. And if I may, would I be able to embed this your link within my blog on a post that I will eventually get around to? Good work though. Continue fighting the Good Fight, my friend.

  • E_clough

    I appreciate the author’s goodwill and understand his focus on the the draw of the Eucharist. But it is fundamentally inappropriate to characterize the need for the Eucharist as similar to an addiction. The root meaning of an addiction is grounded in the compelling need for something that is bad for you; or an overwhelming desire for too much of a good thing. Addiction is manifestly a perjorative connotation. The author has proven elsewhere a talent for getting at essential meaning. I gently encourage the author to think longer and more broadly about the Eucharist’s hold on communicants and revisit this blog with any newly discovered insights.

  • Lisa Marie

    I’ve read for those who hunger for the Eucharist so much that they go to mass daily will still find during the day that hunger and thus pray for spiritual communion. I’m surprised you didn’t touch on Eucharistic Adoration! I agree with having a problem with calling it an addiction, but it does get the point across. So, I’m not too hung up on it. Great blog!
    I had witnesses at my door. They were telling me how Catholics have it all wrong and that we should only have the ‘Lord’s Supper’ once a year! Of course, they don’t believe in the real presence either. I looked at them like they had three heads! I said I missed mass once, because my kid was sick and I had to stay home unexpectedly. I missed the Eucharist that one time and It was awful! I said I couldn’t imagine the horror of waiting a year!
    If I ever did have doubts that the Catholic church was the one true church, the Eucharist crushes them.

  • Skittles

    Ahhh, yes! I have had times where I would have to go weeks, sometimes months without being able to receive the Eucharist! It. Sucks….A lot….I’ve found that avoiding mortal sin altogether and going to confession, or at least having a mind set that you might go to confession at any moment, that really helps solve the problem of not being able to receive the Eucharist.