The Most Important Thing Non-Catholics Need to Know About Catholicism

The Most Important Thing Non-Catholics Need to Know About Catholicism April 29, 2015
Photo Credit: Art4TheGlryOfGod.
Photo Credit: Art4TheGlryOfGod..

For fifteen years I was an evangelical Protestant. This Easter I became a Roman Catholic.

I began thinking about the Catholic Church nearly a decade ago. I began reading. First, from other Protestants who converted to Catholicism. I had questions similar to theirs. Then, from the Early Church Fathers, those closest to Jesus and His apostles, writing just after the time of the New Testament. And then, I read what Catholics themselves had to say about the Church, and her teachings. And I was shocked.

I was shocked, and I think you might be too.

I’ve written elsewhere about some of the things that led me to become a Catholic—and that’s worth reading, too. But there’s one thing, one enormous thing, that I need to tell you, as a non-Catholic. Something I didn’t know for a long time. Something which took me a decade to come around to understanding, and it’s something that absolutely blew my mind, changed my life, and sent my faith sky-rocketing.

There is a closeness with Jesus which, as an evangelical Protestant, I could never imagine. I can physically consume Jesus. And, what’s more, He commanded us to do likewise.

The Catholic Claim for the Eucharist

Quite simply, if you’ve never heard this before, it’s important. So important.

In fact, Father Mike Schmitz, in a video recommended to me by a reader, suggests that this is the most important thing people need to know about the Catholic Church.

Father Mike asserts that if he were to die, this is the one thing he’d want people to know and remember out of all his talks, sermons, and videos.

This is important. Life-changing.

The Catholic Church believes that when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper—the Eucharist—He meant what He said.

Through a miraculous process foreshadowed immediately before hand in the Gospel of John by the multiplying of the loaves, Jesus becomes actually present in the Eucharistic elements. Jesus is not symbolically there. It’s not a representation of Jesus or merely a memorial. We’re not doing it solely to remember and reflect upon. In the Catholic tradition, Jesus becomes present in the bread and the wine, although hidden from our merely physical senses.

We are actually consuming Jesus in the Eucharist, like Jesus said we must. Jesus is really there, each and every time.

 

Is the Catholic Claim for the Eucharist Credible? 

Absolutely.

Hands down.

First of all, in the Gospel of John, when Jesus said that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood He emphasized it five times, as Father Mike reminds us. Time and again, when His followers grumbled and questioned Him He made it abundantly clear that He was speaking literally, not in a metaphor or parable. And when the crowd couldn’t take His “difficult teaching” they left—and Jesus didn’t stop them.

The crowd—Jesus’s very disciples who, Father Mike tells us, had left their families and livelihoods—took Jesus literally, and it was too much to take. They left.

The first witnesses to Jesus’s explanation of what happens in the Lord’s Supper took Him literally.

Next is the witness of the Early Church Fathers, the apostles of the apostles. Those that learned from the apostles named and numbered in the New Testament and their witness too is unanimous. Down to the very last one, those most closely linked to Jesus’s apostolic missionaries took Jesus’s words to be absolutely, unequivocally, literal.

They understood Jesus to be really present in the Eucharist.

Finally, there is the witness of the whole of Christianity for over 1,500 years. Remarkably, this goes largely ignored but the evidence is overwhelming.

For 1,500 years every Christian on earth was part of a Church that believed, without batting an eyelash, that Jesus was actually, fully present in the Eucharist. It wasn’t until the Reformation, with the widespread introduction of new teachings on the “real presence” of Jesus that Christian belief began to splinter.

 

Either Jesus is a Liar or the ‘Real Presence’ Is True

The tragedy of the Reformation is that it split the Church into a million tiny fragments; a reality that we’re so far removed from that we don’t give a second thought to our particular denomination or set of beliefs, or even ask ourselves what are we protesting against?

But, the reality is, either the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is true, or Jesus Christ is a liar.

Because Jesus was unequivocal when He said He was founding a Church and evil would not prevail over it. If He meant what He said how would it makes sense, as Father Mike reminds us, that His followers immediately after the apostles could got it so wrong.

The earliest Christians believed that Jesus was really present in the Eucharist. The whole of the Christian Church believed it for 1,500 years.

If Jesus meant what He said when He told us that evil wouldn’t prevail over His Church how is it possible that such a misunderstanding could creep in?

What Jesus a liar?

Did the Reformers, 1,500 years after the founding of Jesus’s Church  suddenly come upon something new from God? Did God finally, after 1,500 years, reveal what He really meant when He instituted Holy Communion?

And what about all those millions of believers from the very early Christians up until the 16th century who falsely believed in a doctrine which was central to their faith? That would’ve, ultimately, amounted to idolatry if they got it wrong.

What makes more sense?

 

The Eucharist is the Ultimate Closeness with God

Ultimately, it comes down to what every non-Catholic needs to know. The one thing every single Christian on earth needs to hear, and understand.

In the Eucharist you can receive the real Jesus, and experience the ultimate closeness possible while here on earth.

Bar none.

The fact that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist and it was never meant as a mere memorial or commemoration is attested to by Jesus Himself, the earliest witnesses to His testimony (in John 6), the Early Church Fathers, and the whole of the Christian Church for 1,500 years.

What’s more, either Jesus meant what He said when He told us that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood, or He was a liar. Because if He didn’t mean it literally then not even a generation after His ascension evil, false teaching became the predominant norm in the Christian Church. False teaching that wouldn’t be repaired for over 1,500 years leaving countless millions of Christians destined for an eternity apart from God.

I’m driven by a mission not to debate, dismantle or disrespect but a mission to explain—to evangelize, and I hope that’s made clear enough. I know, as an evangelical Protestant if you had told me there was a way to experience God even more closely I would’ve jumped at the chance. Well, there is, in the opinion of the Catholic Church, and I jumped.

As an evangelical Protestant logic compelled me, but it was passion—passion for the very closeness of God—which lead me into the Catholic Church. Because the Eucharist doesn’t only make sense logically, but it’s the ultimate closeness with God here on earth and what honest, earnest, devout evangelical Protestant doesn’t want that?

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • NEO

    Only a small quibble, which you may not have run across. I, as a Lutheran, and many (at least) of the Anglicans, and some others as well, believe exactly as you do.

    The lesson you draw forit, is directly on point. 🙂

    • Not exactly NEO. but close.

      • NEO

        True, but I hate splitting hairs, and it’s nearly that close. I think it may be 500 yo politics as much as anything.

    • Gina Johnson

      There is a difference, NEO,in that we believe it is only Jesus Christ, while Lutherans, according to the Lutheran website I have read, believe it is Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood, and also bread and wine. We, as Catholics, believe as Jesus said that it is transformed (transubstantiation) into the Body and Blood of Jesus, and is no longer bread and wine. But God bless you for your faith in a world where there are too many lukewarm Christians!

      • NEO

        yes, there is a real difference, and it is as you say but, you know, I wonder if it really matters to God. BTW, your explanation of that difference is the best I’ve ever read.

        In any case, thank you for your blessing and know that it is returned. For truly, there are far too few of us who will not be spit out as lukewarm, may our tribe(s) increase, with God’s help.

    • Mary Ann Chase

      Nope they don’t or they wouldn’t throw the consecrated bread and wine away.

  • I was here for this talk by Father Mike. Very similar to the one you linked to but it is in high definition and it was from the Seek 2015 conference. He starts about 20 minutes in. http://www.focusequip.org/discover/events/seek2015/the-hour-that-will-change-your-life.html

  • To Neo, the is still a difference between us Catholics and the Lutheran Anglican position. We worship the eucharist because it is Christ. Only Christ is present.

  • JoyInTheLord

    What an impassioned plea for the Eucharist! Praise the Holy Spirit for revealing to you all these things, Albert! Through your blog, may the Holy Spirit open more hearts to the fullness of Truth, and share in the Eternal Banquet.

  • Michael

    I did not know the power of the Eucharist when I was a non-Catholic but was yearning for it during my catechism days. Now I try to make it a point to go to the church as many times possible in a week. What an honor to receive the Lord. Nothing beats the Eucharist.

  • As a relatively new Catholic the truth in this article is the thing that turned my world upside down and made it impossible not to become Catholic. http://guiltybystander.ca/

  • Andrew Paul

    I have just come out of the evangelical church in October; it happened overnight. One day I was a bible believing evangelical spirit filled Christian who had almost no hang ups with my church or it’s pastor, the next day I KNOW that I have to become a Catholic solely just by the witness of the earliest Church Fathers. I believe Church history accurately presented will lead any truth seeker into the one true faith of Jesus Christ; may this happen more and more in these times. (I was baptised as a Catholic and received my first holy communion as a child so fortunately with some counsel and guidance from my parish priest I was able to receive communion just through confession.) God be praised!

    • Michelle

      Cardinal Newman said, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” – Welcome Home!! Fr Mike LOVES talking about the Eucharist. In one of his many homilies he once said “The Catholic Church does not offer a relationship with Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church offers us Intimacy with Jesus Christ”. Up close and personal, so close he becomes one with us when we receive the Eucharist. Powerful powerful stuff. You can listen to more of Fr Mike’s inspiring homilies here: http://www.bulldogcatholic.org – Listen and your faith will be transformed. Promise!!

  • When I read St. Paul’s warning to the Corinthians that who eats or drinks unworthy damns himself, I was stunned (it was the late 1970s) and when I first encountered the doctrine of transubstantiation knew it must be true.

    • Jim

      I, too consider the warning to be a major argument for the real presence. If bread is purely a symbol, it is hard to imagine someone being unworthy of bread or a symbol. Even more of a concern is why God would bring damnation upon someone he is somehow unworthy of bread/symbols. As you agree, it’s clear Jesus must be present and that we can take him at his word.

      • Ben L

        This is nonsense! “it is hard to imagine someone being unworthy of bread or a symbol?” It is a symbol of Christ! To partake of it unworthily is to take lightly the sacrifice of Christ. Furthermore as I understand the scriptures, Jesus is really present at the Eucharist, by his Spirit, not by physical transformation of bread and wine.

        • janice poulnott

          “This is my body”

          • Ben L

            And then later that night he prays “may this cup be taken from me”, when he did not have a literal cup; this cup Jesus had already spoken of when he asked his disciples if they could drink the cup he was about to drink. Jesus was no stranger to figurative speach and symbolic language as can be seen in his parables, and by insisting on taking his words literally I think we miss the clear significance of them. Remember he had previously said “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.'”

  • ” To study history , is to become Catholic.” John Cardnal henry Newman.

  • I am continually amazed that all of us Protestants who have converted to Catholicism have always seen the same things time and time again which lead us on this journey, and eventually those Church Fathers come into play. They seem to be one of the strong witnesses of our generation. For me, it was their understanding that through me headlong into the Catholic Church. For my son, it was that passage from Corinthians about eating and drinking without discerning the Body which put questions in his mind even as a child. The Church has answered those questions and so he also was received into the Church this Easter with me.

    But perhaps the greatest proof for me that the Catholic Church is exactly what she claims to be, is me! Because I am in it. Me? Catholic? HAH! It is to laugh….ha ha ha ha ha! Oh wait. I became Catholic this Easter. 😛 I literally did NOT see that one coming. God is still full of surprises. 🙂

  • Jim

    For a long time, I recognized all of these arguments as being a good case for the real presence. I assumed all Protestants believed it was just a symbol or something less than the real presence. But a few years ago, I came across consubstantiation (Jesus and bread both present) instead of transubstantiation (Jesus in substance, bread in accidentals). I realized I hadn’t considered how to argue the difference.

    But after only looking for a short time, I came across the argument that was made early in Christianity to clarify it. The issue arises in that if Jesus and bread were both present, it would be a new incarnation, similar to Jesus being both human and divine. There was no reason why Jesus would incarnate are bread/grain. He was not here to save all bread. So it makes more sense that it is Jesus with the appearance of bread, rather than being Jesus and bread in substance.

    I also noted the beliefs some people have that the real presence going away without further action. When people approach things from a Bible perspective, we see nothing about unsubstantiation. From a scientific perspective, we don’t see things changing substance when it’s use changes. It would take some action like unsubstantiation or some action to transform the substance. That seemed to cover the rest of the argument to distinguish trans- and con- substantiation. But regardless of what people believe, the points made on this page make a good case for the real presence.

  • I would just like to correct one point in this post. You say that Jesus is present in the bread and in the wine. This is not actually the case. Once the priest says the words of consecration, the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ, as is stated in paragraphs 1375-1376 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Jesus is not in the bread and wine; rather, what was bread and wine is now Jesus, under the appearances of bread and wine.

  • Constantino

    I believe the Eucharist is the only purpose of the Incarnation, why Jesus took flesh. It is all that Jesus wanted to accomplish, to give his body and blood as food and drink for the salvation of man. It is his mission, to become bread for us. GIVING his body and blood as food for Eternal Life was what he referred to when he cried out on the cross: “it is finished ” ! HE FINISHED GIVING HIS BODY AND BLOOD ON THE CROSS AS THE BREAD OF LIFE. To me, the reason for the Eucharist is that, because man’s body is corrupted by the original sin, it cannot partake of the life with God after resurrection. It is scientifically proven that we are what we eat. Our bodily health is dependent on the nourishment of the food we take. Now, since man’s body is corrupt, it needs Jesus’ body to nourish it so that Jesus’s body becomes our body, integrated in our body. When we die, God sees not our corrupt bodies but Jesus’s own flesh and blood. Many will knock on heaven’s door. God will say, I do not know you. They will say: we preached your name, drive out demons, etc.. But God replies, surely I do not know you. Why would God say that to souls who preach and drive out demons in Jesus’s name? Surely they believe in Jesus. God does not know them perhaps because God cannot see the body and blood of Jesus in them. This is the danger of the Protestants’ refusal to recognize Jesus in the Eucharist. They believe in Jesus but do not eat Jesus which, by itself, is an unbelief in the words of Jesus: THIS IS MY BODY. THIS IS MY BLOOD.

  • NEO,

    I’d like to comment on your posts, particularly your question of whether the differences between communion in the Catholic church and communion in other denominations matters to God. I hope to do so charitably, as I mean no disrespect to Protestants who receive communion in their respective churches with a good conscience.

    I’d like to provide an example of how I see communion. In this example, suppose that somebody told you that I was giving away free money at the corner of a certain intersection. Naturally, you would probably be inclined to go to that street corner to receive your free money. However, suppose that on the next block there was someone who looked like me who claimed to be me but that person was giving out counterfeit money. There might be many people who might get understandably confused and assume that this other person is me and might take the money. It wouldn’t be their fault. If they try to spend the money, they would be doing so in good conscience and I honestly wouldn’t blame them, especially since the money looked real and the person giving it away looked and sounded a bit like me. To put it another way, suppose I encountered a woman who looked and sounded like my wife but she wasn’t really my wife. It would be wrong for me to interact with her as though she and I were married since she isn’t my wife but someone who looks a great deal like her. Is it splitting hairs or playing semantic games? It is not.

    If receiving communion in the Catholic Church is truly receiving our Lord Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity and if receiving communion in a Lutheran church is receiving bread then the differences go way beyond appearances. Now, do I blame or judge non-Catholics for receiving communion in their particular church? Not at all. Not in any way. They are doing the best they can with what they know and understand to be true and I am sure that our Lord loves them for that. However, if Jesus truly intended to give himself in holy communion in the church which he founded then I could hardly believe that it doesn’t matter to him which church we attend or whether we receive him in communion or whether we receive a piece of bread.

    In John 17, verses 11 and 21 make it clear that Jesus wants us to be one. He did not intend for their to be thousands upon thousands of denominations, divisions and splits throughout Christendom. I became a Catholic for so many reasons but the one which, to me, really matters is that it is the church which Jesus Christ founded and that’s the church I want to be in.