The Catholic Defender: The Breaking of the Bread
On September 16, 2007 while deployed to Iraq, I was preparing a number of Soldiers who were going to receive their first Holy Communion. I wrote this piece:
This morning went very well, but it had a couple of twists! It begins when one of the Candidates arrives with their sponsor. Being cordial, I simply asked him how long he had been in Iraq. He responded that he had been here almost 9 months. I asked him what Mass he went to because I never seen him before.
At this point, he admitted that he had not been to Mass since he got here. I was surprised by that and asked him how he hadn't been to Mass in 9 months, what kind of missions did he do that kept him from going. He admitted he just preferred to sleep in on Sunday.
Considering we have Mass at Division at 10:30 and at Warrior chapel at 13:00 I began to challenge him. I noticed he had no wedding ring, but I asked him if he planned to get married some day. He responded yes! I asked him if he would want to kiss his wife when he got married.
He said all the time. I asked him what he would think if his wife would tell him she would kiss him once a year, on their Wedding anniversary or perhaps on another special day of the year. He looked at me like that would not fly well with him.
Then I told him he was acting like the wife to the Lord. I told him that Matthew 26:28 said "This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting Covenant, it will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven, do this in memory of me". When you go to Communion, you renew the Covenant with Him.
At this point, Father just entered and I told him he needed to go to Confession. He was very surprised, but he was glad to go with Father. He came back a few minutes later actually feeling much better and glad he went. It was a great moment as it was good for our converts to see.
The other situation occurred when I was reminding those receiving their first communion that the Priest was going to say, "The body of Christ" and they were to respond, "Amen". I then stated that in doing so, you are receiving the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. That it wasn't symbolic as John Calvin had taught, but it was real.
At this point, I was getting ready to place everyone in line for procession when the Division "Protestant" Chaplain called me into another room and told me to have a seat. As I sat down he asked me what I thought of Jack Chick? I responded to him that Jack Chick is a liar, gave him the example about his story of Alberto Rivera who claimed to be ordained a Catholic Priest in Spain to undermine Protestant churches in Brazil.
I told him that "Christianity Today", a respected Protestant magazine exposed the story as Alberto Rivera was actually in a Protestant seminary in Jamaica, married with two children. Jack Chick is a liar as there are many such examples. Plus he preaches hate towards Catholics.
I then compared it to the Chaplain telling him that if I planted falsehoods about his church carrying bombs in their basements with the purpose of attacking Washington D.C., I'd be doing his religion an injustice.
I don't think the Chaplain expected this kind of response from me. He didn't like my reference to John Calvin, but I did not speak ill of Calvin here, nor did I speak a falsehood about him. I was merely reinforcing the truth of the Gospel and giving the distinction.
I told Father about it later, he said this was the same Protestant Chaplain that was giving him a problem. He was also the same one who tried to make it difficult to pray the rosary and hold a Catholic Bible study.
I think he wants a generic Christianity that has no differences or not distinctions. I thought it was weird, especially since he did this right before Mass causing us to begin late.
In remembering this story, it reminds me of the importance of the Mass, that we must be in the state of Grace when we receive the Eucharist. Where does all this controversy begin? Some people refer to it as a 'ritual' calling it a pagan practice.
The controversy over ‘the breaking of bread’ begins with Jesus and his early followers during Christ’s ‘bread of life’ discourse. Some of his followers began to fall away (John 5:22-59). Even his own disciples murmured amongst themselves (John 6:60-70).
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (John 6:53,54).
Jesus often explained his parables to his disciples. In the case of the breaking of bread, Jesus reaffirms and clarifies his teaching (John 6:53-58). Jesus directly asks the Apostles if they too would like to leave (John 6:67).
Every Believer should respond with St. Peter as he states, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life….”(John 6:68). It was here that Judas began to break (John 6:64-71), and he broke the night it was given (John 13:21-30).
Scripture makes clear that the apostles recognized Jesus in the breaking of bread (Luke 24:35). St. Paul wrote that if you didn't recognize Jesus’ body in the breaking of bread, “you bring judgment to yourself” (I Corinthians 11:29). The other apostles were in unison with this teaching (Acts 2:42-47).
St. Ignatius of Antioch, ordained as Bishop by the Apostle Peter, urged believers to "partake of one Eucharist, for one is the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one the cup to unite us with His blood.” St. Ignatius also warned the Ephesians that if they “abstain from the Eucharistic Celebration because of their doubts, they will die in their doubts.” During the middle of the second century, St. Justin the Martyr states, “on the day which is called ‘Sunday,’ we have a common assembly….The Eucharistic elements are distributed and consumed.”
This is the teaching of the Catholic Church from the very beginning: In the Eucharist, Jesus Christ is truly present; body, blood, soul and divinity. Jesus instructed the Apostles to proclaim this fact (Matthew 28:16-20).
As the Church grew under persecution during the first three centuries, the pagans thought we were cannibals because of false rumors and misrepresentations that were spread about the Christians. The Mass was done in secret because it was against Roman law.
In the year 258 A. D., Tarcisius, a young boy became the first martyr for the Eucharist. While taking consecrated Hosts to Christians in prison, he was caught and killed by Roman soldiers. They could not open his hands which held the blessed Sacrament. Our Lord was not desecrated and clearly Tarcisius recognized Jesus in the breaking of bread.
A Eucharistic miracle occurred in early 700 A. D. A priest began to have doubts about the real presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. To show the priest the error of his ways, the Host transformed into flesh and the wine transformed into blood during the moment of consecration.
This act of God is known as ‘The Miracle of Lanciano’ and is kept in the Church of St. Francis, Italy. Millions of pilgrims have traveled to this site to view this now 1300-year old miracle. The Vatican recently ordered an investigation. A number of medical professionals from respected universities such as Turin and Florence spent two years conducting a thorough investigation.
They determined the flesh to be cardiac, i.e., from the heart. Furthermore, rigor mortis had not occurred, implying that the heart tissue was yet living. The examiners called it ‘incorrupt.’ The blood (which had coagulated into five blood clots as the centuries passed) was determined to be in a petrified state, but upon liquefaction of a particle of the blood, tests showed that protein and chemical compounds were wholly present.
The blood type is AB positive, the same type blood discovered on the shroud of Turin, the fabric that served Jesus Christ as His burial cloth. Another unique finding was that the blood revealed it held a feminine characteristic. What is interesting about that point is Jesus had no earthly Father. He got his DNA from His Mother, Mary.
I use to serve as an NCOIC of a Troop Medical Clinic, I was responsible for all the lab, including the drawing of blood for all kinds of testing. I went to our local hospital and ask what happens to the blood when exposed to air.
I found that blood begins to decompose after 15 minutes. Blood in test tubes is only good for a few hours. With refrigeration, blood is good for 30 days. The red blood cells begin to die after this period of time.
The blood and flesh of the ‘Miracle of Lanciano’ has been exposed to the elements for 1300 years, two of those years under intense biochemical observation. There is no natural explanation for ‘The Miracle of Lanciano.’
Some two hundred years after the Lanciano miracle occurred, controversy again appeared. A monk named Ratramnus, in 868 A. D. claimed that the Eucharist could not be the historical Jesus. He believed that it was symbolic rather than corporeal. His teaching was condemned at the Synod of Vercelli.
In 1079, Archdeacon Berenger of Tours favored Ratramnus position, but he later recanted, or repented, to Pope Gregory VII. Other men that would challenge church teaching on the Eucharist prior to the Protestant Reformation were Peter Waldo, founder of the Waldensian heresy, and priests such as John Huss and John Wycliffe.
The latter two were condemned at the Council of Constance in 1415 A. D. During the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation, no one challenged the church on the Eucharist like John Calvin, nor had his impact. Calvin claimed that the Eucharist was merely a memorial and cited Luke 22:19, "do this in memory of me.” His position is held yet today by most fundamental Protestant groups.
The Catholic Church maintains that “in memory” of His death and resurrection, we proclaim the “death of the Lord until He comes” again in glory (I Corinthians 11:26). In our generation, many Catholics appear to have lost faith in the real presence, thus fulfilling the word expressed in I Timothy 4:1-5.
Like the Disciples on the road to Emmaus, the Church has recognized the Lord in the ‘breaking of bread’ for almost 2000 years. It has His protection (Matthew 16:18), His promise (Matthew 28:20, and His Spirit (John 14:15-26).
The question of the Eucharist is really a question of belief. Each Christian must choose to believe God, or choose to believe man. Our Lord Jesus Christ claims His presence in the Eucharist. Whom will you believe?