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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Digesting the Truth

Whatever I said about my garden last year and what a disaster it was has been eclipsed by this year's gardening holocaust. We no longer have a garden. We have a very small vacant lot. Plants that I've managed to keep going for years? Thanks for asking. Dead sticks. Nothing but morning glory and three foot tall weeds. The morning glory pulled down the back trellis, which is our only privacy on the back wall. Cracked it in half and pulled it down. Hello, world! St. Francis fell over and broke his bird feeding bowl.

And yet.....

...buried under the morning glory, having not been watered at all, receiving no light of any kind, two little double begonias have leaves, two dwarf citrus trees have leaves. After spending 12 hours pulling weeds over a three day period, the calla lilies are poking through. Even after all of this neglect, I have been forgiven.

Ring a bell?


My mother asked me the other day what happens to the Real Presence once we consume the Host. Once we receive God, doesn't He abide in us permanently? Why, then, do we need frequent reception of Communion? I told her that it's for our sakes that we are encouraged to receive frequently because we are constantly turning away from Him with sin. She kept pressing me about what exactly happens to the Presence. I didn't have a satisfactory answer for her, but I'm guessing you would! Thanks, Sister!

Honestly, no one has ever asked me that before. It's surprising to me, now that I think about it, as it is a really logical question, unlike the grass whistle question.

I never thought about it. We are taught from the cradle to be just so tickled pick that we are actually receiving Jesus and not some sad little symbolic remembrance of a private party Jesus had two thousand years ago. Isn't that enough? Why worry about anything after that?

It turns out your mother has reason to ponder this. As I never thought about it, I had no answer. Usually when I don't know an answer, I love to make an educated guess. Then I go find out the answer and see if I was right. On EWTN there are two priests who answer questions over the internet and I like to play along, as though it's a game show. My own private Jeopardy. I like to test my educated guesses that way.

Whew! was I off on this one!

would have said that after you take the Real Presence into your stomach, you keep the Real Presence in your heart. (Not your literal heart, the organ, even though the Real Presence has gone into your literal stomach, the organ.) Anyhow, it sounds nice, doesn't it?

Of course then I'm stuck on part two of your mother's question: why go back?

And I would have said: Because you can.

Or: Booster shot.

At any rate, I decided not to take a chance on this one and flummox you or your mother any further with flowery Jesus talk, so I went to ask a priest. I figured the priest, who brings us the Real Presence each Mass as surely as Walter Cronkite delivered the news, would have the definitive answer.

Father said that the Jesus only stays as long as it takes for your stomach acid to digest the bread and wine (which isn't really bread anymore, but it is as far as your stomach is concerned) and then He leaves.

I wasn't pleased with that answer, I can tell you, because I did not like the idea of stomach acid being involved with how long the Lord stays with me. I wanted to ask Father if that was his own opinion, something he had surmised on his own, or what, but I didn't have the nerve. He didn't seem to have any doubt about this, though, so I figured it must be in the Catechism of the Catholic Church some place.

And sure enough, here it is: 1377 The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.

Which means that when the species (the bread and wine) cease to exist (on account of your stomach acid), Jesus leaves.

Who knew? The Catholic Church, Sister, you old fool. The Church has an answer for everything. Unless it's a Sacred Mystery. If it's a Sacred Mystery you can just let it go. Sacred Mystery=Catholic for "just let it go".

I think I'll go make a grass whistle.


Anonymous said...

Maybe this is why the nuns taught me not to chew the host...I know that's a whole different story and now a days people chew the host/Eucharist and some are made so that you have to chew them because they don't dissolve easily.

I still cannot chew hosts unless they are a thick texture.

Our parish will have different types of hosts and I'm not sure why. Every so often we have hosts that are like the ones that I received at my first Holy Communion, some 30+ yrs ago and others are not.


Anonymous said...

Dear Sister Mary Martha,

Please allow me to propose that we approach this not as 'Jesus is no longer present after the host disolves in our stomach acid,' but rather 'Jesus is no longer present in virtue of the Sacrament after the host disolves in our stomach acid.' This is an important distiction to make since we know that there are many ways (not equally august) whereby Jesus, who is God, is made present to his people. Just because Christ is no longer present to us in the Blessed Sacrament, does not mean that we don't enjoy his presence spiritually in grace.

Anonymous said...

Are you a real nun? I'm a doubting Thomas here. As a Catholic growing up, having spent my time in Catholic schools, I always had this impression that Catholic nuns are of the 'serious' lot. So, are you sure you are one? Y'know, it's nearly a sin to fool people! hahaha!

Soutenus said...

Great post, Sister!
Even though I do not leave a lot of comments I visit you often. Thank you for your blog . . . it is a great place to visit in cyberspace!!
God bless.


Literacy-chic said...

Is there anything mutually exclusive about the Real Presence disappearing from the physical body and having the Real Presence move to (or move) the heart? There are, of course, lasting effects of taking Communion--effects that are gradual and cumulative. Our closeness to Jesus increases with frequent reception, and if we are open to a continual conversion of heart, I believe He stays with us. I believe the Catechism is anticipating questions about human bodily processes potentially defiling the Body of Christ. Do you think the two explanations are incompatible?

I love your blog, Sister!! I'm happy to have something to contribute to the discussion!

Anonymous said...

I really don't think nuns should be writing about the Eucharist.

That's something that should be left only to priests.


Sister Mary Martha said...

Interesting point of view, Karen. For many years I did almost nothing but talk about the Eucharist, as it was my job to prepare seven year olds for their first Holy Communion.

Maybe if we had more priests....

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

Working on it, Sister, I'm WORKING ON IT!
Thanks for the info. I love Fr. Trigilio's blog http://blackbiretta.blogspot.com/ and the show is called "Web of Faith".
They are almost as hip as you.

Alison said...

So the presence of Christ is present in the whole and entire piece of bread, as well as in each of the parts, so wouldn't it follow that the presence becomes part of us. The bread alone feeds our bodies, and becomes a part of us, as all food does, helping to build us at a cellular level, giving our bodies the nutrients and energy it needs. So the presence is present (I just like saying that, say it ten times fast...) the presence stays with us until those very small parts are used up by our body. Thats how I'm reading the Catechism, not just dissolving in our stomach.

Tienne said...

Thanks for the post, Sister!

bill7tx said...

Speaking just for myself, I would be happy to be physically in the Real Presence of Christ even if only for a nanosecond, and so as it is I get to be in His Real Presence for maybe a couple of minutes. Not that He is ever very far away. The Russians have a saying, referring to close friendships, that goes, "One's shirt is not closer to one's body than the two of us are." Sort of how I like to think about the whole of the Holy Trinity always being "here." And it's true even if I haven't been behaving myself or if I haven't been to Confession in a while.

And of course, in the few seconds that Jesus is physically present with us, he removes all our venial sins (as long as we receive Communion in a fervent manner).

Does that make anyone feel better about not having Jesus physically present with us for more than a minute or two?

Anonymous said...

Sister I went to confession today and I forgot to mention a certain sin. Is it true that I'm absolved of that sin because I honestly forgot to mention it? I want to mention it next time so I can get Father's advice about how to fight this particular sin. Is talking about it next time what I should do anyway? Or is that unnecessary? I think I should maybe make a list so I don't forget stuff in the confessional. Is that a good idea or a bad one?

Sarah - Kala said...

Sarah, it's my understanding that if you HONESTLY forgot to mention it, you are absolved from the absolution the priest gave you. However, I would advise perhaps if you sin that sin again, go to confession right away. If not, you could confess you are having problems fighting this particular thing and ask for the priests prayers and help/advice.

When in doubt, go to Confession.

God love you,