explaining transubstantiation

Hi all - I’m newly involved in our parish’s LifeTeen program, and our small group was charged with dispelling the myth that Catholics practice cannibalism when receiving the Eucharist. We sort of managed to do that, but the discussion revealed our students struggle with the teaching and how it isn’t cannibalism, and my own struggle with trying to explain it in a way that was semi-understandable. I also hit a wall with when it become a sin that you don’t beleive this is the Real Presence. One of the leaders helped me with that, but I’d be interested in other perspectives.

I know that faith is a big part of this teaching, but it seems that today’s teens need something a bit less esoteric. :wink:

Any help or perspective is appreciated.

The Real Presence is a mystery of the faith. We can’t completely understand it. But we believe it because Jesus said it is so: This is my Body, This is my Blood.

I like to think of it this way: When water boils, the water evaporates. A liquid I can see becomes a vapor that I can’t see. But scientists tell me that it happens and I believe that it happens, even though I, as a non-scientist, can’t really explain to you how liquid becomes vapor.

In a similar way, bread and wine that I recognize as such, at the Consecration, become the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus tells us in the Bible that it is so, and I believe that it is so, even though I can’t really explain to you how it happens. It is beyond my understanding, but I believe it. That is what faith is.

Cannibalism is eating of the dead flesh of a human person. Christ is not dead, His flesh is not dead, and He is not a human person (He is a Divine Person). Further, when a cannibal eats human flesh that flesh is gone forever. Over the centuries Catholics and Orthodox have eaten millions and millions of pounds of the Eucharist, and yet Christ surely didn’t weigh more than 150 pounds or so. How is this possible if the Eucharist is cannibalism?

The very charge of cannibalism, the eating of the dead flesh of a human person, denies the Incarnation, the Divinity of Christ and the Resurrection. Since we Catholics don’t deny any of these things, we understand that the charge of cannibalism is nonsense.

Both of you explained this well. Thank you.

Your explanation of cannibalism is good. I can use it in my CCD class if the question ever comes up. Thanks.

I explained the Real Presence the other day by asking the students why is it hard to believe His Real Presence in the bread and wine if we have no problem to believe God Almighty created the entire universe?

** “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”(Hebrews 11:1)** Even the Host still looks like bread, Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity is there.

**Also see:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=55111&highlight=cannibal**

VERY helpful, everyone. Thanks very much.

The pope did a good job of explaining it…

When a light bulb is turned on by electricity you can’t see the electricty, and the light bulb is the same light bulb, but it’s different because it gives us light.

Same with the Eucharist…when the holy spirit is sent on the bread and wine…they still look like bread and wine, but they are different because, well…they give us light.

I remember when he said that. It was a beautiful explanation to the children celebrating their First Communion.

I presume by Pope that you mean JP2? Is this from an encyclical? It’s MARVELOUS!

I am new to this forum and I am very interest in Catholic tradition. I have posted on my blog a response to this post. I apologize in advance if it appears offensive; I certainly don’t intend it to be. I look forward to interacting with you all.

I would like to invite you and others to respond to it for further clarification. I would like to invite you to do it on my blogspot as well so that my readers can hear both side of the issue.

Great answers and examples! I'm presenting transubstantiation and the Real Presence next week in my Confirmation and First Holy Communion classes and this will be useful.

The reason why bad information perpetuates is because so many people are satisfied with taking information on authority. First of all, I presume you’ve seen steam, have you not? Have you ever seen clouds? Or fog? My point isn’t that it is in fact seen and therefore can be believed, I’m simply pointing out a poor and unconvincing analogy here. The fact of the matter is that vaporization is clearly understood to those with a scientific curiosity and it is something that a third grader ought to be sophisticated enough to understand. Science doesn’t require scientists to tell you that something is true. It is a self governing system that allows anyone with any background to verify results by repeating a particular experiment and it is the only way to arrive at objective truth.

So even if you could not see the process of evaporation (I remind you that you do every day you step outside or boil a pot) there would still be concrete verifiable evidence by observation that it is taking place. It is insulting to our specie’s faculties of reason when you say that you believe it because scientists say so. If you understood half of what they were saying then you probably would not be posting in these forums whatsoever. But the credible thing about those who make claims in the tradition of science is that they will not have you simply take their side on faith. We would rather you develop the desire to be curious, and curious enough to require good reasons to believe in any claims. The beautiful thing about living in this time, post enlightenment, is that we have libraries full of books which chronicle an unimaginable amount of facts that compile a real view of this world, and yes, it happens to stand contrary to just about every claim any scripture makes of this world. And yes, the vantage from a scientific perspective is a great order of magnitude more impressive than any myth stands to offer.

Is the Eucharist an act of cannibalism? No, of course not! You may avoid the mental gymnastics and safely tell your students that this is absurd. No right minded scientific mind would ever say such a thing because that would of course necessitate the concession that the bread and blood are actually composed of human tissues. One ought to shift their attention to the legitimacy of the claim of transubstantiation instead. The question is an important one, but it is certainly curious in the wrong department.

The pope’s analogy is an incredibly lazy one because it leaves out the very important fact that it is beyond easy to verify the source of the bulb’s energy. The fact that a bulb is shining relies on the energy source that we provide it. There is no mystery there.

So I said no, the Eucharist is not an act of cannibalism, but we may not have our sigh of relief just yet. Just because it is not really cannibalism doesn’t mean that it isn’t celebrating the act of what is essentially cannibalism and human sacrifice. Think about the Mayan or Aztec traditions of plucking the beating heart from a live tribesman. Are you not horrified by this? Is it not immediately disgusting and immoral, and served to accommodate gods which you all know do not exist? Now take that clear scope and face it inwards to your own customs. You concentrate on a figure who was given as a human sacrifice (I don’t want to hear about the merits of dying for my sins, I’ll argue in a single sentence how unethical the principle of vicarious atonement actually is) but the fun doesn’t end there. To fulfill the tradition you must on a weekly basis make pretend that you are ingesting bits of his body and blood. You are not cannibalizing, you are celebrating the act of cannibalism. It’s very different, and equally sinister. It’s a strange thing to be teaching children in the first place.

Ryan

The reason why bad information perpetuates is because so many people are satisfied with taking information on authority. First of all, I presume you’ve seen steam, have you not? Have you ever seen clouds? Or fog? My point isn’t that it is in fact seen and therefore can be believed, I’m simply pointing out a poor and unconvincing analogy here. The fact of the matter is that vaporization is clearly understood to those with a scientific curiosity and it is something that a third grader ought to be sophisticated enough to understand. Science doesn’t require scientists to tell you that something is true. It is a self governing system that allows anyone with any background to verify results by repeating a particular experiment and it is the only way to arrive at objective truth.

So even if you could not see the process of evaporation (I remind you that you do every day you step outside or boil a pot) there would still be concrete verifiable evidence by observation that it is taking place. It is insulting to our specie’s faculties of reason when you say that you believe it because scientists say so. If you understood half of what they were saying then you probably would not be posting in these forums whatsoever. But the credible thing about those who make claims in the tradition of science is that they will not have you simply take their side on faith. We would rather you develop the desire to be curious, and curious enough to require good reasons to believe in any claims. The beautiful thing about living in this time, post enlightenment, is that we have libraries full of books which chronicle an unimaginable amount of facts that compile a real view of this world, and yes, it happens to stand contrary to just about every claim any scripture makes of this world. And yes, the vantage from a scientific perspective is a great order of magnitude more impressive than any myth stands to offer.

Is the Eucharist an act of cannibalism? No, of course not! You may avoid the mental gymnastics and safely tell your students that this is absurd. No right minded scientific mind would ever say such a thing because that would of course necessitate the concession that the bread and blood are actually composed of human tissues. Testing for human tissue is incredibly easy; if you watch prime time TV then you see the exploitation of this fact any time you tune into CSI or the like. Every cell of any body, plant or animal, contains its complete genetic code - DNA - right in its center in the nucleus. If the claim of transubstantiation were true, one ought to find DNA in the bread or wine. As a matter of fact, bread and wine does not contain human DNA (yes, I’ve seen that forum discussion, too. The weakest argument of any is one which is unfalsifiable. If you wish to stand by that story then you are simply not suitable for debate). One ought to shift their attention to the legitimacy of the claim of transubstantiation instead. The question is an important one, but it is certainly curious in the wrong department.

The pope’s analogy is an incredibly lazy one because it leaves out the very important fact that it is beyond easy to verify the source of the bulb’s energy. The fact that a bulb is shining relies on the energy source that we provide it. There is no mystery there.

So I said no, the Eucharist is not an act of cannibalism, but we may not have our sigh of relief just yet. Just because it is not really cannibalism doesn’t mean that it isn’t celebrating the act of what is essentially cannibalism and human sacrifice. Think about the Mayan or Aztec traditions of plucking the beating heart from a live tribesman. Are you not horrified by this? Is it not immediately disgusting and immoral, and served to appease gods which you all know do not exist? Now take that clear scope and face it inwards toward your own customs. You concentrate on a figure who was given as a human sacrifice (I don’t want to hear about the merits of dying for my sins, I’ll argue in a single sentence how unethical the principle of vicarious atonement actually is) but the fun doesn’t end there. To fulfill the tradition you must on a weekly basis make pretend that you are ingesting bits of his body and blood. You are not cannibalizing, you are celebrating the act of cannibalism. It’s very different, and equally sinister. It’s a strange thing to be teaching children in the first place.

Ryan

Please excuse the double posting. There was a necessary edit in post 14, and I would have deleted post 13 if I could. Please let me know if there is any way to delete the initial post to cut down on the clutter.

Thanks,

Ryan

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