The Jesuit theologian Fr. John Hardon, so well-known to American Catholics, has been an indefatigable author producing work after work in exposition and defense of Catholic teaching against the major errors of the day. In this he has exemplified the best traditions of the Society of Jesus and his "Father in God", St. Ignatius of Loyola.
There is no media that he has not utilized to bring the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those starving for the salvific truths of the God-man who came to free all mankind from sin and error, and from "the world, the flesh and the devil." In his "The Blessed Sacrament", a beautiful audiocasette album of twelve fifty- minute presentations, he has focused on Catholic teaching concerning the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, "the source and summit of the Christian life". For, as the Church professes:
"In the Blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself."
No widespread error has been more catastrophic for the fortunes of the Church in our day, Fr.Hardon observes, than that which would deny or question the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. We are all too well acquainted with recent polls indicating that perhaps two out of three professed Catholics are either ignorant of the Church's teaching concerning the transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into Christ's own Body and Blood, or worse, no longer believe it. The sometimes profane and bizarre practices witnessed in parishes nation-wide with regards to the celebration of Mass provide more evidence of a massive loss of faith in revealed doctrine concerning the "Mystery of Faith" confided to the care of the successors of the Apostles.
Thirty years of post-conciliar turmoil and disturbance have had their effects on North American dioceses. The result has been the alarming decline in Mass attendance from 75 to now 20 percent in some places:
- the closing of churches and parishes;
- the shortage of priests and consecrated religious;
- the desacralization of the Liturgy reflected in widespread abuses;
- the spread of dissent and disobedience towards the Magisterium (Teaching Authority ) of Holy Mother Church.
All such phenomena our Jesuit theologian observes, are connected with the current Crisis of Faith that involves a loss of faith in the Holy Eucharist. They are the deplorable consequence of denial or doubt concerning the awesome truth that Our Blessed Savior is really, truly, and substantially present in the Eucharist under the appearance or species of bread and wine.
With eloquence combined with conciseness and admirable conviction drawn from 2,000 years of Catholic history (and the witness of Scripture, the Fathers and the Saints), Fr. Hardon explains how Jesus Christ is not only true God and true Man but is present on earth in that Blessed Sacrament of His Love. The Eucharist is Jesus Himself. In Holy Communion the Catholic receives – oh wonder of wonders! – Jesus Christ in His sacred humanity. Fr. Hardon gives a remarkable exposition of the benefits and fruits from receiving the Flesh and Blood of the Lord in sacramental Communion.
Though each of the 12 audiotapes makes for fascinating listening, two of them : "The Crisis of Faith and the Eucharist" and "How to Cope With Abuses in the Liturgy" are of especial interest as confronting directly the harm done the faith of millions of Catholics by liturgists, theologians, and catechists who uncritically swallowed the heretical errors of "transignification" and "transfinalization". Both these false formulations deny Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist as an objective reality. In both theories the elements of bread and wine are considered to undergo a change in meaning or purpose or finality, but after the priestly consecration remain bread and wine. There can be little question that recent attempts to re-define the Church itself betray the influence of those seeking to radically reformulate the meaning of Catholic liturgy and to base such on a new understanding of the Eucharist along the lines of dissenters Karl Rahner's "transignification" and Edward Schillebeeckx's "transfinalization".
Fr. Hardon's analysis of the theological and catechetical deficiencies characterizing much modern religious education found timely support in a 1997 Report issued by Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, Chairman of the NCCB's Ad Hoc Committee to Oversee the Use of the Catechism wherein was noted (among other serious defects) :
"Particularly, the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Orders evidence deficiency because the Catechetical texts do not adequately present the character and role of the ordained minister in the life and ministry of the community".
Few knowledgeable observers will doubt that two generations of Catholics attending Catholic schools and parish religious education programs have seen their faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist subverted or weakened by heterodox teaching in the catechetical texts to which they have been exposed. For example, the Sadlier 1995-1996 COMING TO FAITH series (grades K-8) carefully refrained from even mentioning "Transubstantiation" until the 7th grade. The Mass was continually referred to in terms as a "special meal", "a great celebration", but only rarely was attention given to its character as an " Offering in satisfaction and propitiation for sin ". Eucharistic teaching in these Sadlier texts for children manifested a Lutheran coloration or was redolent with ambiguity. For example, we read:
- "The first Christians... remembered that Jesus at the Last Supper, after sharing the bread and wine had said, 'Do this in memory of Me'."
- "At the last Supper, Jesus give Himself Body and Blood, in the form of bread and wine."
- "Explain that Jesus was telling his friends to gather for this special meal often-to remember Him and to share the gift of bread and wine, which is Jesus."
- "We meet Jesus in the breaking of the Bread and in every person and statement."
N.B. – To see the detailed Review of this 1995-1996 Sadlier COMING TO FAITH series that is available from Catholics United for the Faith [call toll free 1-283-MyFaith]
What must be said as providing a further serious caution in using such Sadlier and other "modern" religious texts for children and youth is the "liturgical piety void" they instill in their hapless readers. Fr. Regis Scanlon, OFM.Cap., has aptly reinforced Fr. Hardon's comments concerning the decadent pop-culture which has replaced in many parishes the solemnity, dignity, and reverence traditional to the celebration of the Roman rite. The creative, casual and relaxed liturgies favored by liturgical innovators fixated in the Silly Sixties (now prolonged into the 2000's) have created in the young a deep hostility to the very spirit of adoration which a truly Catholic understanding of Eucharistic celebration demands.
Fr. Scanlon pointed out how a piety void created by faulty catechetical instruction and poor liturgical celebration in parishes has been accelerated by the elimination of such practices as the ringing of bells at the consecration, the practice of kneeling , and use of incense in the Presence of Our Eucharistic Lord, along with the meditative and reverential silence which pervaded most Catholic churches and chapels. These symbols communicated in a practical manner, even to the unschooled and to children what words often failed to make clear to students of the " Sacred Studies." In his important commentary, Fr. Scanlon noted:
"Today, the toning down and in some cases the deletion of these symbols and signs of adoration and reverence regarding the Eucharist has resulted in a piety void in the life of a number of Catholics. The lessening or absence of concrete symbols of adoration is no doubt also retarding the transmission of the dogma of the Real Presence among Catholics in places where these concrete symbols have been diminished. The Church has been left with merely a THEORETICAL approach to teaching the doctrine of the Real Presence. Tremendous mysteries are difficult to communicate even to the scholarly by means of precise terminology and nearly impossible to the theologically uneducated and children. Phrases like the 'physical reality of Christ is bodily present' can hardly be pronounced by the age of seven and children approach the Eucharistic table today, often with little better demeanor than they have in the school lunch line. This casual and nonchalant manner with which many youngsters come to Holy Communion would seem to have its roots in a foggy grasp of the doctrine of the Real Presence. Recovery from this piety void and from youth's doctrinal haziness about the Real Presence will hopefully come about with the full and complete implementation of the Eucharistic doctrine of the Second Vatican Council. In fact, Paul VI, while reflecting upon the purpose of the Second Vatican Council's Eucharistic doctrine, stated that the Council intended that 'a new wave of Eucharistic devotion will sweep over the Church'."
(comments excerpted from EWTN Online Services)
In "Dominicae Cenae" (February 4, 1980) Pope JohnPaul II declared :
"The Church and the world have a great need of Eucharistic worship. Jesus waits for us in this Sacrament of Love. Let us be generous with our time in going to meet Him in adoration and contemplation that is full of faith and ready to make reparation for the great faults and crimes of the world. May our adoration never cease."
Fr. John Hardon, S.J.'s marvelous Audio Series "The Blessed Sacrament" which deals with the "inexhaustible richness of the Eucharist" is a superb response to the desire of our recent Successors of Peter to encourage and deepen among all the faithful Eucharistic worship both in and out of Mass.
It is the perfect antidote to counter the theological and liturgical neo-Modernism intent on destroying the spirit of adoration due Jesus Christ present in the Holy Eucharist.