Wherein Fr. Z reads, rants and prays

There is an article today at National Review which has a reaction to Pope Francis’ strange words about the Eucharist.  HERE.   Francis said that, since “there is already unity” among Christians, then we shouldn’t have to “wait for theologians to come to agreement on the Eucharist.”

Is that so?  If that is the case, then a fundamental principle we Catholics have embraced since the beginning of the Eucharist is being overthrown.  The idea is this: The reception of the Eucharist in Communion together both reflects unity and creates unity.  However, one of those has logical priority and chronological priority.  Common belief in what the Catholic Church teaches about the Eucharist is a sine qua non for its reception in common with other Catholics.  Once unity in belief is established, then reception continues to deepen the unity.  But the one must precede the other, logically and chronologically for “communion”, in its proper sense, to be authentic.   Admission of those who do not believe and who do not publicly profess what Church teaches about the Eucharist, is to cause a false appearance of communion and an abuse of the sacrament of unity.  In other words, reception of the Eucharist cannot, by itself, create communion.  Grace builds on nature, it doesn’t replace it.  Hence, what Francis said is troubling at best and disturbing at non-best.  I don’t know how to square what he is suggesting.

I’m a convert.  I was Lutheran.  No Communion for me before I converted.  Lutherans don’t believe what Catholics believe about the Eucharist. Period.  No Communion for them, or any other person who doesn’t believe what the Church teaches.  This is not rocket science and every Catholic who has even the slightest clue knows this is true.  I’m not making this up.

In these confused and confusing times, there are some days when we are able to collect a few more threads than usual in our weaving of lifelines upon the thrashing deck of the Barque of Peter.   Today seems to be one of those days.

First, there is issued a “Declaration of Truths”, which I wrote of HERE.

Then, there is a new book translated into English of essays, etc., by Roberto De Mattei.

Love for the Papacy and Filial Resistance to the Pope in the History of the Church


In the forward by Cardinal Burke, I read a key phrase:

Only by fidelity to Sacred Tradition can the Bride of Christ, amid the many challenges she faces, chart her course, in accord with the will of Christ, her Bridegroom, her Head and Shepherd at every time and in every place.

Succinct and just plain right.

These are troubled and troubling times.  However, help is showing up for the troubled in the form of sound reflection and the thoughtful, faithful writings that flow from reflection.

De Mattei, right off the bat in his book, attempts to remind the reader that the Church has had some pretty rocky times in the past, and that many of those challenges – which at times seemed existential – were caused by Popes and were handled by the faithful who resisted them with humble fidelity to what the Church has handed down in her Sacred Tradition.   He even has a startling offering entitled “The Sack of Rome (1527): A Merciful Chastisement.”   A key to the events that lead to the truly hideous rampage through Rome of Protestant led troops was the refusal of Clement VII to head his predecessor Adrian VI’s appeal for radical reform.   The shock to the Roman Church’s identity seems to have awakened her so that she initiated a counter-reformation that produced a Council of Trent and defeat of the Turks in 1571 at Lepanto.

Someone like Jordan Peterson points out that we can make huge changes in our lives through small, incremental and compounding changes.  Otherwise we can deal with change through disaster management.   The same goes for the Church.

The situation we are in right now didn’t happen overnight.  The situation we are in right now isn’t going to be fixed overnight.  We shall eventually wake up to the need to make necessary changes.  We can do so incrementally and let compound like interest to our benefit or we can wait for the chastisement which our loving Savior will permit for our correction.   It is Christ’s Church, remember.   And as De Mattei wrote his preface,

Only Jesus Christ can save the Church – no one else – because He alone is her Founder and Head.  Human beings, from the Vicar of Christ down to the last member of the faithful, can either cooperate with or resist the divine grace that comes to them through the influence of the Holy Spirit and impels them to radical fidelity to Christ and His Law.

Remember, grace builds on nature.   In our lives we get through with grace, but grace needs our elbow grease.

I write this on Monday in the Octave of Easter, which in the modern calendar is now also the Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church.  Mary, at the beginning of Christ’s public ministry said, “Do whatever He tells you.”  Oh, Lord!  Tell us what to do now! Mary, at the end of Christ’s public ministry, stood in perfectly unified resistance to evil by her silent vigil at the Cross.   Oh Lord!  Make us steadfast by your Cross.  Upon Mary the Holy Spirit poured even as it poured out on the Apostles to strengthen them at the birth of the Church on that first Pentecost.   Oh Lord! Strengthen us all in your fire-breath of grace!

Yesterday, on Pentecost, I reminded the flock of one of the effects of the outpouring of the Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation.   Confirmation also strengthens us to make the hard call and then stand firm when we are challenged in our Christian living.  We can call upon the power of this sacrament, which has imparted an indelible character, like the potter’s mark of ownership, into our souls.  Confirmation is an ongoing reality in our lives just as the Pentecost event is an ongoing reality in the Church.

The RUACH hasn’t stopped, though our ears are now deafened to Its roaring course.

As we move forward in these troubled and troubling times, make a conscious choice to call upon that mighty sacrament you received.  Activate it. 

Mind you, the sacrament will be mighty in you when you are in the state of grace.  I repeat, therefore, my perennial admonition.


Then get up off the ground, stand up, stick your chin out and say,

“Almighty God my heavenly Father, You knew me before the creation of the cosmos and You wanted me to come into existence to bring You glory.  Of all the possible universes You could have created, You created this one and You called me into it at exactly the time and place You chose for me so that I could fulfill my part in Your unfathomable plan.  You willed that I have the honor to be baptized into the Church You designed and You maintain for our well-being.  You willed that I receive the Body and Blood of Your Son and the indwelling of Your Spirit.   You willed that I should also be confirmed so that our relationship be even deeper and that I might be an even better instrument of Your will.  I now call upon that mighty Sacrament of Confirmation.  Through it make me strong to bear whatever burdens I must endure in Your service.  Make me wise to recognize accurately and then strong to resist, resolute, whatever is out of harmony with Your will as manifested especially in the beautiful Tradition You have guided in the authoritative, infallible and indefectible Church. Even if that disharmony should come from those whom you have endowed with the grace of Orders and seated even in the highest places of teaching, governing and sanctifying, make me steadfast.  With confidence in Your plan for me I ask this for myself and for the brethren through the Holy Spirit’s Gifts and in the Name of Jesus Christ Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, ever one God, world without end.  Amen.”


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. UncleBlobb says:


  2. Charivari Rob says:

    “…was Lutheran. No Communion…”

    I’m confused. I understand not believing the same things and not being in Communion, but… it sounds as if you’re also saying Lutherans don’t have the external symbol/practice , either.

    I thought Lutherans (some, anyway) had some form of receiving Communion. Not the Sacrament Eucharist as we know it, but actions of some resemblance…

  3. rayrondini says:

    Seems fairly obvious that he is talking about true communion (receiving the Eucharist) rather than disclaiming all possible intimations and imitations of the same.

  4. Spinmamma says:

    Dear Father Z,

    How grateful I am that Our God willed that you be here at this time, and that, by your elbow grease, you enlighten, teach, cajole, encourage and exhort all of your readers. Today, as has happened other times in the past, I came to your blog after some days absence dealing with yet another time consuming rough patch in my life and found encouragement and refreshment. Thank you for this prayer invoking the power of the Sacrament of Confirmation . I leave your blog greatly heartened, with another prayer to pin on my wall to say when my eyes fall upon it until it is memorized. Blessings , and peace be with your spirit.

  5. TonyO says:

    The quote from the National Review article is:
    On the plane ride back from his trip to Romania, Pope Francis told reporters that since “there is already Christian unity,” there is no need for the faithful to “wait for the theologians to come to agreement on the Eucharist.”

    You know how in truly degraded inner cities there are “drive-by shootings” by gang members? This appears to be one more in a long line of Francis’s ‘fly-by shooting his mouth off’ comments that means any of a hundred possible things, or more probably nothing at all. Francis seems to love to roil the Catholic laity, and loves to use journalists on jets to do the dirty work. It need have no further purpose than that it is troublesome to parse out, and therefore makes people uneasy. I suggest that we STOP PLAYING that game, and just call it stupid and walk away. The National Review, as well-intentioned and well-written as it is, plays into it even as it refutes the implied errors. Enough with giving Francis’s silly air-plane comments any air time.

  6. Lurker 59 says:

    Thank you Father for the above.

    As a convert, I don’t find things to be confusing as I have encountered so much of this before when I was a Protestant. If one holds to ideas that 1.) it is not possible to adhere to the moral law even by the Elect 2.) that the Father does not require the Elect to adhere to the moral law 3.) that communion can be had by those Elect who are in violation of the moral law , it is not at all a stretch for one to suggest 4.) that credal and confessional differences are as equally non-obstacles to the reception of communion as violations of the moral law.

    Within a Protestant framework of justification, soteriology, and sacramentology, all of this does logically follow and fit together and is not confusing. It also has a LONG history of condemnation by the Theologians, Fathers, and Magisterium of the Church.

    Let me also say that, as a former Protestant, you cannot quote the Fathers, the Theologians, and the Magisterium against such Protestants because such are already apriori rejected at an epistemological level. One has to re-establish epistemological and metaphysical common ground in order to have such discussions. BUT if one is saying “since ‘there is already unity’ among Christians, then we shouldn’t have to ‘wait for theologians to come to agreement on the Eucharist.’ then one has so destroyed the possibility of having a shared common ground that there is no longer any point in having a discussion. The possibility is shattered at a fundamental level. It cannot be fixed other than by the returning to the shared epistemological common ground by the one who left it.

    The Theologians, Fathers, and historical Magisterium are already in agreement about the Eucharist. Saying anything other is to place oneself outside of communion with the above. Which shouldn’t be shocking as that is what is being stated by those who have moved beyond the need to affirm, ventured into the need to contradict, and are proceeding to directly reject and teach other.

  7. Mahoneysa says:

    The “closed communion” is something that really bugs a close relative of mine–it upsets her that we cannot share the same communion. Lurker 59 is correct in that most protestants do not recognize the authority of the Church Fathers as any more authoritative than any other pastor, but even just from scripture(thinking particularly of I Corinthians), it seems clear that the Eucharist is not to be taken lightly. It is the body and blood of Jesus we are talking about, and to eat and drink while not discerning the Body of our Lord is to eat and drink condemnation. Encouraging people to receive it who do not recognize Him in the Eucharist would seem to not just demonstrate some lack of respect to Jesus, but also to the person falsely encouraged.

    Thanks, Father Z., for the prayer posted at the end. I will pray that.

  8. JabbaPapa says:

    Francis said that, since “there is already unity” among Christians, then we shouldn’t have to “wait for theologians to come to agreement on the Eucharist.”

    That is the false ecumenism denounced in Mortalium Animos, and the false irenicism denounced in Unitatis Redintegratio.

  9. Simon_GNR says:

    To plagiarise Fr Z:

    “I’m a convert. I was Anglican. No Communion for me before I converted. Anglicans don’t believe what Catholics believe about the Eucharist. Period. No Communion for them, or any other person who doesn’t believe what the Church teaches.”

    This is fundamental to the integrity of the Church and its sacraments. No Catholic sacraments before being formally received into the Catholic Church. It’s as simple as that. No bishop, not even the Bishop of Rome can change that. End of.

  10. Catholic Christians are not united! It’s ridiculous to speak about there being a current unity with other Christians. I never bought into the claim that there’s more that unites us than divides us. Just what is meant by “more”? Some of the issues that divide all humans, many Catholics included, are of such enormous magnitude that they obliterate the word “unity”.

  11. carndt says:

    This dissertation:
    The divine right of the papacy in recent ecumenical theology – J. Michael Miller

    Is an eye opener to what the German episcopate has been discussing for some time to dismantle the Papacy into a ministry run by a group. Jasper is quite prominent in this. Kasper pushed for Bergoglio. And Ratzinger just wanted the spiritual ministry of the Office of the Pope.

    As far as I’m concerned Benedict is Pope. He resigned in error by canon law and Bergoglio is in there to tear down the faithful to error.

  12. bcpsummers says:

    Went to confession and mass this morning. Thanks Fr Z for your constant advocacy for confession, it really helps when I’m struggling.

  13. richiedel says:

    How and in what manner there is unity among Christians is also a point of theology, is it not? Are we to listen to theologians on the point of unity, but not on the Eucharist?

  14. Toan says:

    I just read this from Bp Sheen’s The World’s First Love. Somehow it seems related to the mindset of “waiting for the theologians to catch up”:

    “There is an intrinsic relation between virginity and intelligence. There is no doubt that, as St. Paul says, “The flesh militates against the spirit.” The sex-mad individual is always under psychological necessity to “rationalize” his conduct, which is so obviously contrary to the dictates of conscience. But this psychic tendency to “justify oneself” by making a creed to suit one’s immoral behavior necessarily destroys reason.”

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