Why is the Real Presence a necessary belief for Catholics?

Background: I grew up in various Protestant denominations and was a largely devout Christian in my youth, I then became more of an agnostic in my 20s, and now I’ve been drawn toward Catholicism for past several years (I’m now 34). I’ve started RCIA twice, but not finished, and have done much self-study into Catholicism. I’ve become involved in the “Catholic mom blog” world and already hold and practice many of the Catholic beliefs. I practically self-identify as Catholic, but I’m not actually. Yet.

And this is why: I cannot seem to accept the idea of the Real Presence.

I’ve heard the explanation that “this is my body and blood” is repeated several times in Scriptures so that it is considered that Jesus meant for this to be literal, rather than figurative. However, considering that the Magisterium decides what parts of Scripture to interpret as literal and what to interpret as symbolic - I just don’t understand why it is necessary to interpret this as literal; it seems crazy to me.

If the doctrine of the Real Presence were not such an important tenant of the Catholic faith, I probably would just go along with the conversion process and pray that I might eventually understand - but because it is such an extremely important element, I unfortunately feel unable to continue in the conversion process.

Again, I would love to be fully Catholic, I do not mean this as a challenge question. I just cannot seem to overcome this doubt.

Can someone please provide any resources that better explains to me WHY the Catholic church holds belief in the Real Presence as a necessity?

How beautiful is the Eucharist! How wonderful is it that God Himself would become flesh out of love for us! It is incomprehensible. What are we to God? And yet he saw fit to join mere humanity to infinite divinity in the Hypostatic Union, the man who is God, Our Lord Jesus. Love, as we experience it, ultimately is a desire for unity. Yes, it is willing the good for another, which is heaven, but in heaven we have the Communion of Saints. Everyone is together in perfect love, with God who is Love. And so how can Jesus express his love, but to become one with us? When you eat something, you are nourished, it becomes a part of you. So how great is it that Jesus would become our food! Think of the substance of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord nourishing our souls, giving us grace, and how this is so more profound than just a symbol! God could create the universe, could he not change the substance of the bread and wine and give us so great a gift?


I thought you might like to.read about Alexandrina. God bless you !

The proper distinction is not “necessity” but “true”. We believe it because it is true. Christ said it, Paul said it, early Church Fathers all said it. Once you establish it is true, one may question the necessity of it. And you don’t really have to stretch it. We eat his body because Jesus said those who eats his body will live forever. John 6:58. If you want to live forever, you must eat it. That becomes a necessity.

The Magisterium didn’t create this doctrine. They confirmed it, insist upon it. It was never even up for interpretation. If you don’t believe it, you can’t be Catholic. This is not optional. It is one of our sacraments. I failed to see your resistance to it. If you can disclose what is bothering you, perhaps some of us here can ease your doubt. To get a feel of how real this thing is , google for Eucharistic miracles and you will be amaze how real the Eucharist is. In fact, this is one area which some people think stratifies between us vs them. If we made a mistake in worshiping ordinary bread we will be guilty of idolatry. The Catholic Church would have crumbled instantly. If you check the history of symbolism for the Eucharist, you will discover it is a fairly recent development. But the Real Presence is a constant since day 1.

The Eucharist is mentioned in Matthew, Mark and Luke and a prelude to it in John 6. Paul says do not profane the Lord in 1 Cor 11:27. There is no room to interpret the Real Presence other than literal. Of course one can do symbolism language to convey other meanings but the primary message is the literal. This is not an insignificant one liner. We are told do it in memory of him. How can one not be convinced?

Hello Rig99A

Not much to add to what LAIRCY and ERICC have said. They’ve covered it all. Just two things I thought of:

If you read John 6:48-68 you’ll find that Jesus repeated that “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood…”

In the greek the word “eats” means literally to gnaw or chew. John chose his words carefully - he was the most spiritual of the apostles. Much is lost in translation.

Also, I find it interesting that this is the one thing that is keeping you from becoming catholic. Usually this is the one idea that brings most protestants to the catholic faith and they affirm that they always felt that something was missing and that this was it.

God bless you on your journey
We are all on a journey!


In the gospel of John 6:66 we read that many of the disciples (not apostles) withdrew and were not walking with him anymore because what he had said was so difficult to accept. Jesus then asked His apostles if they too were going to leave Him due to this difficult teaching and that’s when Peter said “To whom shall we go Lord, only you have the words of life”. Which means that Peter and the apostles accepted what he said.

God bless

You are not the only one. In US Catholic magazine it was reported that almost half of church attending Catholics do not really believe in the real presence of Christ. The more often people attend Mass the more likely they are to believe.
Just an aside, I do believe, but I do not understand.

There are SO MANY excellent books on the Eucharist that it takes my breath away that someone could be perplexed in finding one! Thomas Merton has some wonderful books on the Eucharist. Practically any Catholic writer of any magnitude has written on the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the very heart and soul of Catholicism, just as it was for the disciples at Emmaus. We recognize Jesus in the Eucharist. :wink:

There is no thing on earth more essential than food for the journey. The divine Lord Jesus said, and it is so. If I drive by a Catholic Church, my heart genuflects. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, doesn’t our hearts burn within us. The anticipation like a child on Christmas eve. Then the words come…and so Father we bring you these gifts…ecstasy. A sharing in the divinity, a sharing in the cross and in our common union. The body, blood, soul and divinity touchable in the way Our Divine Lord chose to remain with us.


Wow. What more could be said?

It brought tears to my eyes.

God bless you

While this stat appears to be true, I don’t believe it is true for most converts. True converts come into the church typically because they learn and come to believe in the truth of the Catholic faith.

Catholics who do not believe in the Real Presence are usually poorly formed in the Faith, but they attend Mass because they believe in and love The Lord. But these are also the ones who would up and leave for a Protestant Church if they get upset with their parish or like the preaching by a Protestant minister.

To the OP: Dr Scott Hahn has a number of talks on this. I would recommend starting with these four from Dr. Hahn, published by Lighthouse Catholic Media:

The Body and Blood of Christ - lighthousecatholicmedia.org/store/title/the-body-and-blood-of-christ?promoCode=104130

The Fourth Cup - lighthousecatholicmedia.org/store/title/the-fourth-cup?promoCode=104130

The Lamb’s Supper - lighthousecatholicmedia.org/store/title/the-lamb-s-supper?promoCode=104130

Understanding the Eucharist - lighthousecatholicmedia.org/store/title/understanding-the-eucharist?promoCode=104130

Additionally, I would recommend the following by Dr Brant Pitre:

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist - lighthousecatholicmedia.org/store/title/jesus-and-the-jewish-roots-of-the-eucharist?promoCode=104130

Personally, I found all of these to help me intellectually understand the Real Presence better.

God Bless

To OP: I understand your difficulty and have been working it out myself. I was listening to Dr. Hahn’s “The Body and Blood of Christ” on my way home from work yesterday and it brought me to tears because I cannot (yet) participate in the Eucharist. (Returning Catholic working on an Annulment). I have been reading William A Jurgens The Early Church Fathers, Volume 1 and it is obvious to me now that the Real Presence was true then and will always be true.

God Bless and Good Luck!!!

Because nothing about Christianity makes any sense, unless the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

  1. Jesus became incarnate so that He could be with us physically and substantially. But how is it “a new era of grace”, if that only lasted for 33 years or whatever? :shrug: If Jesus isn’t physically with us any more, then the Incarnation came to an end at the moment that Jesus ascended into Heaven. If that were so, then what would be the point of it?

  2. Jesus said, “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.” The prefigurement of this is the Passover, in which the Jews really and truly ate the lamb that was sacrificed. This was a shadow of what we do when we receive Holy Communion at Mass.

But if Holy Communion is only a symbol, then the shadow actually has more substance than the thing that is causing the shadow - which makes absolutely no sense.

  1. St. Paul said, If you eat and drink the Eucharist without discerning the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, then you eat and drink damnation unto your soul. He also demands that we examine our conscience and confess our sins before going to Holy Communion, but if it’s only a symbol, then how could the state of our soul have any effect on what we are receiving? :shrug:

If it’s only a symbol, then it would make no sense that we have to recognize it as Jesus’ Body and Blood, or that there would be any punishment in not doing so, or in receiving it while in a state of unconfessed sin.

In fact, pretending it’s something it isn’t would be dishonest, or a form of self-deception. Also, how would consuming a symbol without pretending it’s something else cause a person to be damned? :confused:

  1. If the Eucharist is only intended to be a memorial meal, or a fellowship meal, then it’s got to be the weakest excuse for a banquet I’ve ever seen. One crumb of bread and one sip of wine? Where are the steak and potatoes? Where is the chocolate fountain? :shrug:

Considering all these things, it only makes sense that the Eucharist is really and truly the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, and that He is truly incarnate among His people forever and ever. :slight_smile:

I also recommend the book above. It was so good that I’ve bought several copies just to give away.

Well, here’s the thing. The Real Presence is a revealed truth by God. While revealed truths are absolutely reasonable, and while they can be examined using the intellect, our will does not assent to revealed truths unless moved to do so supernaturally. That supernatural movement is called faith, and it is always a gift from God, infused into our souls at Baptism. We cannot reason ourselves into supernatural faith, all we can do is dispose ourselves to it, and to then cooperate with it once it arrives.

So while it’s true that you can read about the Real Presence, and while you can understand in your intellect its various ins and outs, your will is not going to assent to it unless you are given faith to do so. This is actually related to St. Thomas Aquinas stating that anyone who obstinately believes in even one heresy, does not actually have supernatural faith in the true things they hold to, but merely has an intellectual opinion. Unfortunately, Protestantism, on an objective level, does deny the Real Presence, and thus has a heretical view on this matter.

I, too, struggled with the Eucharist being the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ – the Real Presence. I had been raised part Catholic and part Methodist and I questioned whether the Protestant view of the Bread and Wine “symbol” was the correct viewpoint.

[For many years, I accepted communion in both the Catholic and the Methodist churches. I have since come to the understanding that I was wrong to do that. I have been to confession and I will never again accept communion in a Protestant church. Why? Because I cannot say, “Amen” after the Eucharist in the Catholic faith (Real Presence) and “Amen” after the Bread and Wine (merely a Symbol, merely a Remembrance) in the Methodist faith. One or the other of these “Amens” is an untruth. They cannot stand together side by side.]

What changed me and convinced me that the Eucharist truly is the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ was prayer and reading. I asked the Holy Spirit to show me the truth. How did God view the sacrament (Eucharist) and what was I to believe as a result?

I also delved into scripture and reading. Someone who has been especially influential for me is Scott Hahn (a theology professor at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio). His explanation of the New Covenant (i.e., the Eucharist) as instituted by Christ and how this related to the Old Testament, the Passover, and prophesy concerning Christ being our Passover Lamb put a number of things into context and perspective for me. Another author is Edward Sri who speaks on the Mass – an excellent book and video series.

Finally, John 6 is known as the Bread of Life discourse. Christ lost many disciples over his teaching about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. He lost so many disciples that he asked his immediate followers (the twelve) if they, too, would leave him. If Christ had meant his words to be “symbolic” or “figurative”, he had ample opportunity to correct the rumblings and the rejection of his teaching and prevent many from walking away. He did not do this; he let them leave AND he doubled down and reinforced his teaching.

This is the place I have come to. I would say with Peter: “Lord, to whom do we go, you alone have the words of eternal life.” I do not understand how it can be (i.e., how the bread and wine literally becomes Christ’s body and blood, soul and divinity). In my human understand, such a thing is not possible (i.e., it goes against all known science). But this is what Christ said/ taught. It is a mystery. And I take Christ at his word.

A beautiful example of disposing yourself to faith, and God giving that particular grace as a result.

Here is one:



Do you have any specific titles that you’d recommend?

Thank you - I will look into these.

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