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The Beatitude of Peacemaking in the Body of Christ (Part I of III)

July 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Anthony Lilles, Eucharist, Featured

A troubled reader writes…

“Although I am a convert to Catholicism, I am sad and offended that the Catholics would forget what Jesus would do with regards to breaking bread with any of his children. I too am a Eucharistic Minister and I would never turn anyone down from breaking bread with their fellow man nor make them feel less of a child of God. I was a Lutheran and to say that Juan_de_Juanes_003 (2)our wine and bread does not have the same meaning as a Catholic makes me sad. I do so much for the Church because I try to follow in Jesus’s footsteps as best that I can. Separating religions when we all believe in the same God is what will continue our wars amongst the children of God. Jesus did not invent Christianity that separates one another.”

This comment from one of our readers touches on one of the most painful situations in the Church today: Christians do not live in the communion they ought to have with one another. This comes up frequently in discussions about Holy Communion. Sometimes at a wedding or a funeral we find ourselves wishing that the differences among Christians were not there.  We want a deeper communion with one another than we actually share.  It is at exactly this moment our faith is tested.

We profess One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, but there can be moments when our confidence is shaken over whether the Roman Catholic Church is really holy or catholic. We might even be puzzled by the ecclesial discipline that excludes Christians from receiving Holy Communion when they are not in full communion with the Mystery of Christ’s Body.  It is in this moment of testing that we can make profound and painful mistakes in judgment about both what we believe and what we practice even to the point of making rash accusations regarding the Church.  Those who faithfully deal with this difficult test discover the beatitude of becoming a peacemaker in the Body of Christ.

This particular test of our faith requires prayer and penance on our part, but also a careful study of our faith.   Here, we will consider what we can study to help us think through this difficulty.    There are in fact three things we should consider.  First, we need to understand where our desire for unity comes from and how it is realized.   Second, once we see the source of our unity, we can more clearly see the source of our disunity.   Third, once we more clearly see where division comes from, what we need to do becomes self-evident.

1) Where our desires for unity come from: The holy desire for deeper solidarity with one another in the Lord comes from the Holy Spirit and burns deep in the heart of the Bride of Christ.  This is because this unity is something Christ prayed for the night before He died.   In the Gospel of John, Jesus pours out His Heart to the Father, asking that we “might be one” as He and the Father “are one” (see John 17:20-23).

The Prayer of Christ: His prayer, in fact, is infallible and this is why we profess that the Church is one even in the face of painful divisions.   Indeed, the unity we share with those who are baptized into the mystery of Christ is always greater than what divides us.   The mutual desires we share with one another for deeper solidarity and friendship in the Lord are indeed powerful signs pointing to this mystery of unity.

As followers of our Crucified Master, we believe that the Father really heard and truly accepted the prayer of His Son for all His followers.  This is why we believe the Lord really is our great High Priest  – He is the One who makes our prayer right and just.  The more we are in communion with Him, the more our prayer is made acceptable to the Father and it is only within the mystery of this communion with God that our unity with one another is restored and made perfect.

In Part II, we will continue to look at the other two sources of our desires for unity: The Prayer of the Church and Work of the Holy Spirit.  In Part III, we will consider the source of our unity and what we need to do once we more clearly see where division comes from.

PS from the Editor:  If you want to read more of Anthony’s insights on the topic of prayer, don’t miss his new book, Hidden Mountain Secret Garden. Anthony has an unusually profound understanding of mystical theology and lives a life of deep prayer.  This book is an experience like no other.  Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute.

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About Anthony Lilles

Anthony Lilles, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, completed his graduate and post-graduate studies in Rome at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas. He and his lovely wife, Agnes, are blessed with three children and live in Colorado where Dr. Lilles has worked for the Archdiocese of Denver for over twenty years directing parish religious education, R.C.I.A. and youth ministry as well as serving as the director of the Office of Liturgy for the Archdiocese and as coordinator of spiritual formation for the permanent diaconate. In 1999, he became a founding faculty member of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary where he was eventually appointed Academic Dean for nine years. Currently, he is an associate professor of theology and a Board Member for the Society of Catholic Liturgy. Dr. Lilles has provided graduate level courses on a variety of topics including the Eucharist, the Sacraments of Healing, Church History, Spiritual Theology, Spiritual Direction and on various classics of Catholic Spirituality. His expertise is in the spiritual doctrine of Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Therese of Lisieux. In 2012, Discerning Hearts published his book "Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: A Theological Contemplation on Prayer," a compilation of discussions with seminarians, students and contemplatives about the spiritual life. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute. He blogs at BeginningtoPray.blogspot.com

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  • jrbarrytx

    I would like clarification on this:

    “Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments only to Catholic members of Christ’s faithful, who equally may lawfully receive them only from Catholic ministers.” [Canon # 844.1]

    Perhaps you will address this in your third part. I will await your article before making any other comments and perhaps I misunderstood your opening statement: I would never turn anyone down from breaking bread with their fellow man nor make them feel less of a child of God

    • LizEst

      jrbarrytx – The first part of the post is actually a comment that someone on this site made. It is not Dr. Lilles’ post (that is why it is in bold). It is actually the impetus for Dr. Lilles’ post – to answer this question that so very often come up.

      • jrbarrytx

        Liz, thank you for your comments as they are always appreciated. I did not notice the “bold” print being from another person. You see, it is difficult for me to deal with this at times as I have been given so much “wrong” information over the last 2 years by well meaning clergy and lay Catholics but I chose to go with my spiritual adviser, a Catholic priest in my parish.
        As I mentioned to Mr. Lilles, I had posted an earlier apology to both of you but have not seen it yet, so I am sending each of you one as I realize how I totally missed it.

        • LizEst

          You’re quite welcome jrbarrytx. Don’t give it a second thought. I can’t tell you how many things I miss because of not paying as much attention to things as I ought. So, don’t worry about it. As to receiving communion, if you send me an email (totus2us@verizon.net) and explain your situation in the email, I will try to help sort through all the information all these different people are giving you so that you can be confident about whether or not you should or should not be presenting yourself for communion. To preserve your privacy, I would rather discuss it directly with you rather than in this public forum. If you do not wish to do so, that is fine, as well.

    • Anthony_Lilles

      Dear Jrbarrytx,
      This three part series is attempting to provide the theological reasoning for Canon #844.1. Most people know the canon – few know why we have it. By looking at the source of unity, the cause of division and what we can do, I am hoping to provide a reference point for the faithful to observe the discipline of the Church with charity and truth.

      • jrbarrytx

        And I appreciate this and look forward to your posting. I apologize for the misunderstanding. I had left a message earlier but it did not post but I do want you to know this has been a contentious topic for me as a returning Catholic marriage to a Protestant. So my radar goes up at times without looking at the bigger picture.

        • Anthony_Lilles

          Your are most welcome. It is precisely for faithful who find themselves in situations like your own that I am writing. God has blessed you with a good “radar” and I hope you will keep on asking these kinds of good questions.

  • jrbarrytx

    Thank you both for that as I have struggled as a returning Catholic with not partaking of communion with my husband, per my spiritual “priest” adviser, as he is Methodist and the conflicting well meaning Catholic church folks both clergy and lay that have told me to go with my conscience. So I appreciate you and Liz answering a very contentious topic for me personally and look forward to future postings as well. And I did not realize the “bold” was in reference to another’s comments. Sorry for that misunderstanding.

  • Salvatore Buttaci

    I agree with the Catholic Church’s teaching as shown in this canonical excerpt” “Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments only to Catholic members of Christ’s faithful, who equally may lawfully receive them only from Catholic ministers.” [Canon # 844.1]

    • Anthony_Lilles

      Thank you Salvatore — this series is my frail effort to provide a theological understanding for this canon.

  • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

    I agree with you, Salvatore. Much as our separated Christian Brethren would wish, faithful Catholics must abide by the Teachings of Mother Church with regard to the Tenets of our Doctrine, the Holy Sacraments and more specifically to the Holiest of our Sacraments – the Holy Eucharist. The CCC must be the daily Companion of anyone who wants to remain faithful and for our Brethren who want to understand why the restrictions they chaff under are absolutely necessary for the preservation of the sanctity of our Faith.

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