What to do when unable to believe in the Eucharist?

The questions:
*]What should I do when I cannot believe that “what looks to be” a piece of bread is Jesus’ Body and Blood?
*] How can you tell if the consecration did not take place if you don’t speak the language used for consecration and don’t know the exact prayer to be used? (The matter used appeared to be the standard unleavened bread wafer and wine; the priest appears to be endorsed by the Archbishop in Tokyo.)
*] How are we to understand 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul talks about discerning the Lord’s body?
*] Shouldn’t we expect more healing and more illness for those receiving the Eucharist with faith and those receiving unworthily?
*] Isn’t it unreasonable to tell yourself it’s Jesus’ Body without this evidence?
*] Isn’t it true that God wouldn’t require us to actually do something unreasonable?
*] How do you know whether you’ve met the three conditions for a mortal sin, and whether you’re “just kidding yourself” in thinking that you haven’t?
This thread seems related to my previous concerning creed recitation.

For the last Sunday Mass I was praying for numerous things; in addition to miraculous healing for myself, some sign to console the parents of a ten-year-old girl who died suddenly of a heart defect two days ago, days before her tenth birthday. (Alleah Jen appears to have been her name, if you want to pray for her or her family.) I both prayed for her purification and for her intercession, thinking perhaps some miracle from her, a sign of her being in heaven, would comfort her devastated mother.


Frankly, this appears to me evidence that the Church’s doctrine of the Eucharist is not true: If it really is Jesus’ Body and Blood, then surely it’s not a guessing game – reality ought to be like what St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11, “he is eating and drinking damnation to himself if he eats and drinks unworthily, not recognizing the Lord’s body for what it is. That is why many of your number want strength and health, and not a few have died.” We ought to be seeing more healings among people receiving the Eucharist who really believe, who have faith and ask to be healed, and more sicknesses among those who are receiving while guilty of grave sin, e.g. pro-feticide politicians. Instead, it appears nothing is happening either way: No healings, no sickness. It’s like what St. Paul wrote no longer applies. Why?

This observation raises the question: What if this priest hasn’t been validly ordained? How can you tell? What if the Eucharist isn’t being validly confected? How can you tell?

[finished in next post]

[finishing the previous post]

I’ve reached the point where it seems better not to receive the Eucharist, because I cannot recognize the Lord’s body, even when I pray for faith and ask the Lord to help my unbelief. Perhaps to strengthen this concern, the Quran promises that God will cast all Christians into hell for believing Jesus to be divine. This thought combined with the above brings me to this hypothetical divine judgment, an objection which I am not able to give a satisfactory answer:
God: “Look, I had Paul warn you in 1 Corinthians 11 not to receive the Eucharist if you weren’t able to recognize it as Jesus’ Body, and I didn’t give you any sign that it was Jesus’ Body because it wasn’t His Body. Yet you proceeded to tell yourself it was, acted like it was, and told others that it was, even leading children to think so. You have eaten and drunk damnation upon yourself as Paul said. Why did you do such foolish things?”

Me: “That’s what I was told to do by others!” (The Quran says Christians will make this objection even while God casts them into hell.) “I thought it was your will to do so as a test of faith.”

God: “Test of faith? I told you to keep my commandments – including to worship only Me; look how thick your Old Testament is and how clearly I make this point, as even Jesus repeats – and to study reality to form a worldview consistent with reality, consistent with your senses. Why would I give you the senses of sight, taste, touch, and smell, and then ask you to regularly ignore them?”

Me: “Again, I thought it was a test of faith, like commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.”

God: "I never require people to actually do something unreasonable. I stopped Abraham from actually doing that unreasonable thing, and you should have noted his case was exceptional: Have I ever asked another human to sacrifice a child? I asked one person, the one from whom all others shall be blessed, to do something unreasonable and stopped him to prove a point – a point specifically to be demonstrated to his children about child sacrifice. I don’t ask everyone to do something unreasonable and then let them do it."I’m not sure whether this last response is suitable. After all, God commanded the Israelites to cut off certain structures of a healthy male body part (whether all of them or just one extraneous tip is controversial). My underlying point, though, is that it appears unreasonable to continue with the ‘Eucharist As Jesus’, receiving communion at Mass, without any evidence – doesn’t God require us to use our reason? and to listen to St. Paul?

I understand the argument, “Sometimes our senses fail us,” but the response to this is, “Under healthy circumstances, they don’t,” that we should be seeing more healing and sickness in reaction to reception of the Eucharist; “I do will it; be made clean,” Jesus says, repeatedly healing all who approached Him in faith, and St. Paul indicating illness will follow those who receive Jesus’ Body unworthily.

It is possible that God hid Himself and that I sinned by receiving the Eucharist, because I did sin in the week prior, without receiving the Sacrament of Confession. How do you know if you have met all three conditions (grave matter, full consent, full knowledge) for a mortal sin? It is never clear to me, nor whether I’m kidding myself. I regularly pray that God would let me know if I shouldn’t receive the Eucharist. I thought my sins were venial, and God didn’t clearly tell me to refrain.

You are overthinking the whole thing.

Belief is a choice. We choose to believe. Make the choice to believe what God has revealed to us through the Church.

Faith is trust. Trust God. Trust that he has established a Church and guides it by the Holy Spirit.

Forget the quaran and forget study. Go to a Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and sing the Tantum Ergo.


I’ve just finished Chapter II: Identifying Doubt of Gary Habermas’s Dealing With Doubt. Gary Habermas has a PhD in Philosophy, his 1976 dissertation being a defense of the historical Resurrection as the most reasonable interpretation of the historical record. He appears to be a Protestant pastor.

Although self-diagnosis is generally problematic, since we can convince ourselves of any personal problem, it seems to me I have several sources of doubt, mostly emotional, and a few factual. It seems to me my primary problem is that I see God as being distant, remote, and I want a personal encounter. I am hoping for responses that address this emotional doubt.

I am also hoping for responses to my factual doubt, concerning how to interpret that passage of St. Paul’s.

As you say, God does not hold us to unreasonable expectations.

If you received the Eucharist in good faith, with every reason to believe there was a valid consecration by a validly ordained priest, you are guilty of nothing, though the priest certainly would be if he were lying to everyone.

Likewise, if you received in the honest belief that your recent sins were venial, then you did not sin additionally by receiving the Eucharist. If you later determine that an earlier sin may have been mortal, just confess as normal.

As for your difficulties with the Eucharist itself, it is an unusual doctrine and likely requires the biggest leap of any Christian teaching except perhaps the Trinity. As St. Thomas said in his famous hymn, the only sense we can rely on when it comes to the Real Presence is hearing, in that we have heard the teaching of the Church and the words of Jesus telling us what is going on here, even though the reality is hidden from our other senses.

Spectacular healings and obvious, immediate punishments for sin, though they are still said to occur from time to time, do not seem as common as the reports of the early centuries make them out to be. Some Protestant denominations have an entire theology of the disappearance of miraculous gifts and signs after the Apostolic era to explain that, but we and some other Protestants insist that such gifts are still given, though more rarely.

I’m afraid I haven’t been much help on these last couple points, except to confirm that there are difficulties. On your vision of the Judgment, though, I don’t think that God would have Paul teach us not to receive without discerning the Body when the actual teaching was “there is no Body there, so don’t receive.” Paul also wrote of the bread and cup being the Body and Blood, after all, and seems to have received himself. That seems more like God trying to trick people into damnation with weaselly wording, which is not something I think our God does. God is on our side and wants us with Him in Heaven.

The difficulty you mention with seeing God as being distant and remote is in fact founded on Truth. God is indeed distant and remote from us, in the sense that we are poor creatures born in sin, and God is the absolute Good and source of all being. He is spirit, eternal and infinite and we are finite, corporeal and temporal. So take possession of this Truth rather than viewing it as somehow wrong or misguided.

However, God IS also close and personal. We see how God drew close to the Patriarchs, and later to the nation of Israel, and finally to all mankind in Jesus Christ and His Church. But keep in mind that God chooses us, and not the other way 'round (as evangelicals will have you believe.) God has chosen us, and has left us instruction in how we can be His children and heirs. The Church of Christ, the Catholic Church is that teacher.

You are already in possession of many truths, but there are yet many difficulties in your mind. As Newman used to say; a thousand difficulties do not equal a single doubt.

Is there no one in the Church, where you are, that you can speak with directly? The internet is such a last resort for this type of help. Personal encounters can be the safest and most instructive. Our prayers are with you. :slight_smile:

Ananias and Sapphira moved the goalposts regarding their monetary contributions by pretending to give more than they had to, and dropped dead. This doesn’t happen nowadays. The church had only just been instituted.

Hence, whatever is meant by the verse in I Cor 11 - and even if we are getting it wrong or don’t know what it means, people aren’t going to be dropping dead from it, because we are further from the beginning of the Church.

As for inner death, the people that worry about it aren’t likely to be the ones in whom it is most advanced!

Christians don’t happen to have the Qur’an held out to them as an authoritative source on God’s judgment of them or their attitude to Christ.

Steep yourself in Holy Scripture - on all subjects.

When your three conditions for a mortal sin apply, it will actually be clear to you (maybe not at the time, but some time after - maybe a long time), so don’t worry on this score at all!

However, it was definitely not a mortal sin to receive the other time.

There’s nothing at all wrong with sitting out of receiving the elements indefinitely, but making a spiritual communion, in my considered opinion. I don’t think any of the churches has got the hang of what communion is, and again, that’s just me. But that doesn’t mean you were in the wrong when you did receive it. If in doubt, ask one of the more trusted, or less distrusted, clergy for direction on how to receive the once yearly that is in the Church rules, then you can surely do so in good conscience?

In your hypothetical dialogue it’s para 1 with God that worries me. I think this means that the Christians weren’t discerning how to work with each other and affirm each other as apostles, evangelists, prophets, teachers and pastors (Eph 4, Rev 2-3, parables of the good soil, talents, etc). Nowadays, the “ethos” is to put us all “in our places” and hope that we don’t get a thirst for growth, for letting our lives as it were fall into the soil and produce a crop for others (especially others in the Church). Just because you can’t get the hang of the externals in the Church (and neither can I), doesn’t necessarily mean you are not somewhere on this path with God’s help already. It’s essential not to have a superficial interpretation of “discern the Body”. Are there good Protestants in your locality to fellowship with over those things they and you have in common?

It’s extremely good to study and that can help us with the factual doubt. Well done for asking!

The Habermas book looks very good. I strongly agree with his chapter on emotional doubt, sections C and D. Thank you for drawing it to our attention!

Also, the personal attitude of the clergy doesn’t impact how genuine the sacraments are. If their ceremony is blatantly seriously wrong on a regular basis it will become really obvious and the remedy is beutifully simple, just sit out in good conscience. I think any priest “fluffs” it occasionally.

First off, I think you’re in need of some emotional support and fellowship, and I think that’s part of why your doubts and questions are feeling so bitter. Do you have Catholic friends or family to hang out with? Can you go make a retreat somewhere? Do you have a favorite saint whom you can read about? There are some wonderful autobiographies and biographies out there, and reading about how a holy person dealt with his problems can help you deal with your own. (If you’ve never read St. Augustine’s autobiography, the Confessions, now might be a good time.)

For some people, having doubts and then getting over them, and then having doubts again, is part of their spiritual life. (It’s not fun or pleasant, but it’s reasonably common.) For other people, it’s common to have lots of doubts at a certain period of life, and then never to have them again. Sometimes it is part of spiritual warfare against you, but often it’s part of spiritual growth. So it’s a serious situation, but don’t be hard on yourself about it.

If there’s anything going on in your life that you feel guilty or ashamed about, you should try to resolve that. For some reason, intellectual and spiritual doubts tend to feed on situations where you’re not sure that you’re doing right. (Also, as the old saying goes, “sin makes you stupid” and tends to frame everything in one’s life in terms of one’s habitual sin.) Go to Confession, talk to a priest, fix anything moral that needs fixing. Do good things for other people, if you’ve been putting it off. Pray. All this will clear the decks for your theological problems!

Now, with all that out of the way – theological understanding is always rooted in love of God and longing for Him. The lover wants to know all about the beloved, and the friend wants to know what’s going on with his friend. Also, you need to talk to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to teach you the truth about this stuff.

After all this, maybe you’re ready to read stuff about the Sacrament. Maybe not. If you’re not really having an intellectual problem, the intellectual answer (reading) might not help. So I would talk to a priest, if I were you.

I’ve been doing that for a long time now, every time I choose to go to church, etc., and this does not solve my problem. Perhaps this is a consequence of my schooling: I don’t know how to -]believe/-] be convicted of something (i.e. have reasonable certainty) unless I can make sense of it. I can’t make sense of it unless I can see how it’s fitting, or how it’s been demonstrated, or how it has no objections, more or less. I cannot simply ‘choose to believe’ to get that peace of mind that comes from reasonable certainty.

In this case, I suppose I must have an encounter: Either with a divine person, or with an irrefutable argument. I keep searching for this divine person in church and in other people and keep coming up empty.

I do that every day I get out of bed in the morning. That hasn’t made it any easier. I’m trying to get started with medicine for depression, but I really think it’s my life that’s the problem, not a chemical imbalance. (And death or divine intervention appear the only solutions for the problem that is my life – e.g. the persecution of Christians, the destruction of the environment through routine “civilized” living, being overworked and underpaid so I can neither afford nor have time for a family, having a mutilated and broken body so I cannot be at ease throughout the day, etc. (That is, bodily pain and discomfort regularly interrupts whatever I’m thinking about.) Problems that don’t go away and can only be accepted, not solved, unless God solves them.)

That would require dropping my career, moving to a different country, and basically declaring bankruptcy in the process. You don’t realize how ethnocentric or privileged your suggestions are. (I am a poor university student in Japan, beyond the age appropriate for people to be in school.)

I don’t see how you can have all this doubt if you read the New Testament. I did a study on the Eucharist and the results are found in my blog article The Eucharist IS Scriptural and it’s pretty thorough so check it out.

Also, why are you spending your time reading the Quran. It’s irrelevant to Catholic belief and every time I’ve attempted to read it I have found it boring and totally unhelpful.

Why not read the early church fathers instead. Catholic First Information Center, Church Fathers Index because that will give you an authentic Catholic ancient teaching and probably help greatly with your doubts.

To me the Eucharist is one of the easiest and most convincing aspects of the Catholic faith to accept because of the scriptural accounts I cite in my article. I believe that is always unwise to argue with Our Blessed lord Jesus Christ.:slight_smile:

This is an excellent response. Thank you.
Also, do as Tim suggests…go sit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
He’s there. He’s waiting. Don’t let anything keep you from Him who suffered and died for you to have eternal life.
God bless.

Re: your dialogue –

Actually, the usual spiritual director rule, for somebody experiencing spiritual doubts or a feeling of spiritual “dryness” or loneliness and abandonment, is this:


If you were doing normal stuff before all this, like praying daily, you should keep doing it or start doing it again. If you had been going to Mass and receiving Communion when in a state of grace, then you should keep right on receiving. It’s not “hypocritical,” and it’s not a failure to discern the Body.

See, you’re not in a normal mental and spiritual state right this minute, but faith isn’t about an intellectual assent. It’s about choosing to follow God’s commands and teaching along the course of your life, no matter what is going on with your brain right this minute. Your earlier, normal self had faith and discerned the Body, so you should go with that.

It’s a lot like the situation of someone who has suicidal thoughts and feelings. At a particular moment or period in your life, your brain might not be trustworthy on certain subjects. You have to go with the saner self who makes better decisions, and who has faith that the sky will be blue tomorrow. You make an act of will to keep living and keep doing normal things, instead of going with the temporary weird ideas. (And it’s not hypocritical for a suicidal person to advocate going on living, and to do so! It’s wise and courageous and good!)

Having a doubt is not sinful. Doing bad things by acting on that doubt is sinful. So if you are still in a state of grace, you should continue to go to Communion, just as a suicidal person should continue to eat and sleep and go to work.

If you are not in a state of grace, go to Confession, just like a normal person would. (And talk to Father about your doubts, but confess your sins first!) And then receive Communion. You need the spiritual nourishment now, more than ever.

I understand your difficulty.
However, the real presence makes the most sense from scripture and tradition. They believed this right from the start.
Saint Ignatius of Antioch wrote about it in the first century.
Another good resource is Miracles Do Happen by Briege McKenna.
Lastly. I understand your desire for miracles, but God decides when miracles happen, not the priest.
That said, you should be able to find a healing mass if you look around

I would read what intellectual saints have to say on the subject-as Church Militant suggests.

Oh, hey, you’re in Japan! Yay! You have powerful Japanese intercessors on your side!

Reading what you’ve said to other people while I was typing the Wall O’ Text, I do think that maybe you don’t have an intellectual theological problem, or at least that it’s not all intellectual at the root. If you don’t have some sin hanging over you, and if you’re working on dealing with the depression thing, this is good.

Something that can help with the depression as well as the theology problem is doing good works. Even helping somebody carry their groceries, or bearing with somebody who is annoying, is doing something good and constructive. Doing something physical helps depression, and doing good works gets you close to God even when you can’t feel Him there. Giving alms is also a good idea, even if it’s just dropping a few yen in a donation box. Doing little things can help make you spiritually strong.

(And speaking of doubts and little things, St. Therese was a great teacher with her Little Way, but she fought with doubts at the holiest part of her life on earth! You are not alone.)

Since you are in Japan, you probably know that a lot of the Japanese martyrs died in places right in the middle of major cities, while others were killed in nice little hot spring towns and mountain resorts. Many former execution grounds have been turned into parks, and some of the places where Christians were imprisoned have been turned into residential areas. So if the weather gets reasonably good, you might like to visit one of these places as a little pilgrimage. Even if the weather is not good, you might want to read about these folks. Many of them were full of joy and determination, but many others struggled with doubts and even apostasy. So talk to them in prayer. They know what you’re going through, and they will help you and cheer you on.

I’'m sure all of us reading this thread are also praying for you and cheering you on!

We have thrown a lot of stuff at you. You certainly don’t have to do everything we’ve suggested! Make a rational plan, just like you probably do for studying for school. Pick out a few things, or at least one thing, and work on that. Stick with it. Keep going.

Doctors used to say that sometimes the best prescription is “tincture of time,” because some things just get better as time passes. Spring is a lot better than winter! See how things are going then.

Etheriality, I’ve read your “When not to recite the Creed” thread (in fact it had more than that in it).

I think it gets good after your posts 34 and 42 when you say what it actually is that worries you.

About reciting the Creed it’s best not to worry why you are or aren’t reciting, or only half reciting.

In one of those posts you’ve mentioned a number of points regarding the cosmos, that are excellent to look into. In no way do they preclude reciting the Creed while you have not finished looking into them, if you want to, nor should you beat yourself up if you get tongue tied at any portion of Mass.

While you are at adoration (even if only the occasional one - or at Mass - including at Spiritual Communion) dialogue frankly with Jesus to answer some specific queries.

Don’t expect answers to all your queries at once. But I’ll pray you begin to get some. (An Our Father said.) Maybe there will be cheap second-hand books. Maybe (because at CAF at any time we get a random sample of members responding) there will be a more fruitful response when you post to CAF. When you post, keep it specific. And don’t worry so much about the things you were told to worry about!

Here’s a thought provoker for you to take with you here and now: what was it about God’s history with you so far that made you become a Catholic in the first place?

Firstly, things have been known to appear as other things. There are stories in the Bible of angels appearing as ordinary men, such as those involving Abraham (Genesis 18) and Tobit. (Tobit 5) For this reason the author of Hebrews says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrew 13:2).

Secondly, Jesus Christ was able to change both the substance and appearance of one thing into the substance and appearance of another thing, as when changed both the substance and appearance of water into the substance and appearance of wine. (John 2)

Thirdly, Jesus was known to have conferred certain powers on his apostles. (Matthew 10:1; John 20:22)

Given all the above, how can you say it is unreasonable to believe that the successors of the apostles, the bishops and priests of the Catholic Church have the power to transubstantiate bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ as Jesus himself did at the Last Supper, i.e., the power to change the substance of bread and wine into the substance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ while the body and blood still appears as bread and wine? I think such a transubstantiation is well within the realm of possibility.

Excellent schooling!

Then challenge Him to demonstrate! Don’t forget to research whether reliable Protestants are part of the answer. I don’t know whether there are any by you.

I take the point about poverty and physical pain. (I have these too but maybe a great deal less than you, yet more than many “Christians” around me.)

In regard to the huge sufferings in the world it’s vital to not take on board the sentimentality of some “Christians”. God knew we would get to hear of these things and have our own sufferings too. Was it ever going to be otherwise?

We are not bound to believe that a certain mass is valid (i.e., that “this” is actually the real thing, that this host is actually the Eucharist, etc.). What we are bound to believe is that a validly ordained priest who says mass correctly truly confects the Eucharist.

Does this help?

Just as well, regarding the acute phenomenon of the “oh ****, I can’t believe this right now but really am trying to” sort of struggle, it is not to be normally regarded as the sin of doubt. Beliefs are usually in a passive state, and there are dispositions and obstacles that make the reduction of that passive belief to active belief extremely difficult. (It’s too much to get into here, but maybe another time.) We might say that one’s faith is stronger if this process is harder to slow down or stop, but we would not say that if a great martyr had a twinge of fear of death he (or she!) was “doubting” the promises or reality of the Lord.

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