Many American dioceses celebrate this feast, that of the Body and Blood of Christ, on the Sunday that follows Trinity Sunday, rather than on Thursday as is traditional. So it’s worth a few more words about this celebration, and the specific doctrine that underlies it.
Corpus Christi concerns one of the Church’s most contested teachings: that of Transubstantiation: i.e., that in every consecrated Host and chalice of consecrated wine, there inheres the Real Presence of Jesus Christ. The unleavened bread is transubstantiated into His flesh; the wine is transubstantiated into His blood. Note the use of the word transubstantiated rather than “transformed.” To transform something is to change its form, not its substance. The form of the Host and the wine remain as they were before consecration; it’s their substance, normally invisible to the senses, that changes.
Therefore, at every Mass performed by an ordained priest, a miracle occurs.
That teaching was one driver of the Protestant Schism. Some of the schismatic denominations nevertheless returned to the teaching in later years. Among the teachings a catechumen is required to accept, it’s high among those that have daunted or defeated them.
Sad to say, even many who claim to be Catholics doubt the reality of Transubstantiation. Yet there have been many miracles, well confirmed by the Church’s investigators, that testify to its soundness. A highly readable book, Joan Carroll Cruz’s Eucharistic Miracles, describes the ones that have been most confidently verified. One that may have occurred recently in Connecticut is under investigation as we speak.
Skeptics often ask: Why are some who doubt afforded miracles that dispel those doubts, while God permits others to continue in their disbelief? Isn’t it more likely that these “miracles” are fraudulent? And if that’s the case, isn’t it evidence for dismissing the entire Christian story as a fraud?
I don’t claim to know God’s mind. I sorrow for those who want to believe but are too afflicted with doubt, whether of this teaching or of any other, to “make the leap.” But I believe that He gives each of us what we need, when our need is greatest. As for the miracles themselves, the last thing the Church could afford is to present fraudulent acts to the world as authentic miracles. That’s why the Church established the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to investigate all miraculous claims with the most scrupulous eyes.
I strongly recommend Joan Carroll Cruz’s little book, especially on this day that’s specifically dedicated to the Transubstantiation. If you’re already Catholic, it will exalt you and move you to praiseful prayer. If you’re not…well, you’ll just have to try it and see, won’t you?
May God bless and keep you all.