Eucharist "thought experiment"

Bad title, but I hope you’ll understand what I mean. A while back I read a Protestant text from the time of the Reformation that described how a Catholic priest had converted to Protestantism after he watched as a mouse ran across the altar and ran off with a consecrated Host. First, he was shocked and affronted that a “low class” rodent had made off with the holiest thing on earth. But then he reflected on the incongruous enormity of even the possibility of such a thing happening, and on the absurdity of it actually happening, and being witnessed by himself. Eventually, he judged that the RP doctrine simply took Eucharistic theology too far. In no sane and ordered world, overseen by God, would a mere beast feast on God’s own flesh. So he left the Church.

If we could do a thought experiment and put ourselves in non-RP Protestants’ heads, would not this example be an enduring reminder not to over-literalize Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist?

After all, the issue goes deeper than the simple fact that accidents happen, or that, of course, no blasphemy occurred, since accidental ingestion of a consecrated Host by an animal could never be a real Communion, etc. The issue, rather, is simply the idea of such a thing happening. Here Christ is really present in the elements, only to be whisked off by a mouse. It’s at once horrific and blackly comical. It could be reasoned that if God manifested the miracle of the Bread of Life actually present in the Host, but at the same time leaves the Host vulnerable to all kinds of oddball depredations, then where are God’s priorities?

Perhaps this theme of accidental, random desecration of the Host is one of the most cogent arguments against the RP in Protestant minds. After all, in these cases, it is not a matter of Communist soldiers deliberately trampling on Hosts, or of an idiotic atheist like Paul Myers encouraging unbelievers to steal and desecrate Hosts. Such cases are the result of rationally understandable, motivated, intentional actions. But to have a Host stolen by an animal? That would seem to expose the Eucharistic miracle to a little too much chance and random effect.

How would Catholics address this issue if queried by non-Eucharistic Protestants?

God allowed Christ’s physical, human body to undergo immense suffering and eventually death at the hands of his executioners.

If you take the perspective that the unleavened bread loses its “accidents” after consecration, then you (not you, but the person making the argument you proposed) misunderstand transubstantiation and make it out to be mere superstition. Just as one could become intoxicated from drinking too much of the consecrated blood, so too would a mouse desire what it perceives as simply a piece of bread. The change is in substance, not form.

Human history makes clear that terrible offenses and tragedies are “allowed” to happen which would seem to contradict the perceived order of God’s creation. Essentially, the question about the host and the mouse is related to the age old questions of evil and suffering: Why does God allow [fill-in-the-blank] to occur? In my mind, it’s not about what God does or does not “allow” but rather how we should react to God’s presence in the world. Believing in God’s goodness and the natural order of his creation, how should we act?

Thanks for your very fine reply… I think it would either satisfy our Protestant questioner, or at least give him/her pause :slight_smile:

Did not God create all animals and call them good?

That beast was sinless. A soul in mortal sin consuming the Eucharist would be worse in my opinion. Deliberate desicration would be worse in my opinion.

And the kicker: by saying God should save Himself and not allow himself to be eaten by a lesser animal is kind of like the high priests saying Jesus should come down from the cross and not allow Himself as the Son of God to be killed by lesser creatures (human beings).

Hmm…His thoughts are not our thoughts…

I recently retired from a 31 year career of primary and secondary investigation into a wide variety of alleged incidents. During the course of that career, I developed what I refer to as “Never Happens Like That” (NHLT) factors that can be applied to the investigation of a given situation. The first NHLT factor is the suspicious timing of this “report”. Others: Strange that it just happened to occur during the height of tension between churches. Strange that it happened right at the beginning of the protestant sense of competition between churches. Strange that a priest would so negligently abandon the Holy Eucharist outside of the Tabernacle - confessory sin for him. Strange that, out of the 24 hours in a day, the mouse would carry it off right under the negligent priest’s suddenly watchful gaze. Strange that the priest, who knew exactly what the Holy Eucharist smelled and tasted like (bread and wine), would be shocked that an animal might sense it as food. And, strange since the reformers also believed absolutely in the true presence of Christ (albeit through different means) in the Holy Eucharist. The already heavily sagging credibility of this legend dissolves into gossamer nothingness if there is no name of city or priest or parish, date or time.

This legend has far too many NHLT factors for it to be credible without an equally plentiful assemblage of documentary evidence behind it.

In any event, since the “accidents” of bread remain, the Holy Eucharist still tastes as unleavened bread and grape wine to communicants. It is the substance of the bread and wine that are changed, not their physical traits.

As to non-Eucharistic protestants who ask, two possibilities: 1. Answer as above, or 2. refer them to their Lutheran and Anglican brothers, who hold to the True Presence, for an explanation.

When God became man, he became vulnerable to death, even vulnerable to the most shameful death of that time. Related to this eaten by an animal is almost nothing.

Let’s not also forget the sin of negligence, by which this priest lets his church fall into such disrepair that mice boldly run across the altar in broad daylight.:smiley:

I think a mouse running off with a consecrated host is not sacriligeous, as the mouse is only doing what a mouse does. Why would God expect anything different.

I am more concerned about the lack of reverence and awe of humans toward a consecrated host, and moreover, how careless we are about attending to keeping God’s grace in our souls.

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