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Photo: Felix Carroll
Feast of Corpus Christi, 2014
The following is an excerpt from 7 Secrets of the Eucharist (MercySong Ignatius), by Vinny Flynn, known to many as "the man who sings the Divine Mercy Chaplet on EWTN." His book, published in 2006, is intended to give readers a completely new awareness that the Eucharist is not just about receiving Communion; it's about transforming your daily life. The chapter included below is titled "Secret 1: The Eucharist is alive."
When I come to a human heart in Holy Communion, My hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul. But souls do not even pay attention to Me; they leave Me to Myself and busy themselves with other things. ... They treat Me as a dead object.
— Our Lord speaking to St. Faustina (Diary of St. Faustina, 1385)
The Eucharist is alive. That may seem obvious to you. I guess it was to me, at some intellectual level, but somehow I never really thought very deeply about what that actually meant.
The Eucharist is alive. If a stranger who knew nothing about the Eucharist were to watch the way we receive, would he know this? When you and I approach the Eucharist, does it look like we believe we are about to take into our bodies the living person, Jesus Christ, true God and true man?
How many times, Lord, have I forgotten that the Eucharist is alive! As I wait in line to receive you each day, am I thinking about how much you want to unite yourself with me? Am I seeing your hands filled with graces you want to give me? Am I filled with awe and gratitude that you love me so much as to actually want to come to me in this incredibly intimate way?
Or am I distracted, busy with other thoughts, preoccupied with myself and my agendas for the day? How many times, Jesus, have I made you sad, mindlessly receiving you into my body, into my heart, with no love and no recognition of your love? How many times have I treated you as a dead object?
The Host that we receive is not a thing! It's not a wafer! It's not bread! It's a person — and He's alive!
I'm afraid that, in many of our churches, a stranger in our midst, witnessing a typical Sunday liturgy, would not realize this, but would simply see a bunch of people get up from their seats, wait in line, receive a piece of bread, and then go back to their seats.
All too often, as Christ says to St. Faustina, that's all it is for us. We go up and get something and then go back to our seats — back to our daily routines — without any real change taking place, without any deeper union with Christ, without any new awareness of His life within us.
In contrast to this, there's another scene, one that helps me remember how we ought to approach the Eucharist.
In 1916, as a year of preparation for Our Lady's appearances at Fatima, the Angel of Peace appeared three times to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco.
The most dramatic scene is the third visit, when the angel comes with the Eucharist. Suspending the Host and the chalice in the air, he throws himself prostrate on the ground and has the children repeat the following prayer three times:
Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And, through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.
An angel prostrates himself on the ground! We stand in line with our minds filled with distractions, walk up and receive Communion, return to our pews, and go back to "business as usual," thinking about the football game, or the bills we have to pay, or what we're going to do after Mass.
But an angel, a pure spirit, who lives constantly in the intimate presence of God, prostrates himself before the Eucharist in adoration!
That's a pretty strong message. It was so strong that young Francisco spent the rest of his short life trying to console God in the Eucharist. Every moment he could, he spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament, trying to console God for the indifferent way that people respond to the Eucharist.
So there's our invitation; there's the contrast for us. We can treat God as a dead object, or we can prostrate our whole beings in front of Him, in adoration, in gratitude, in love, in reparation.
I'm not suggesting that we all run up and throw ourselves on our faces in front of the Eucharist the next time we go to receive. But interiorly we can. Whether we stand or kneel to receive, we can always, in our hearts, minds, and souls, be prostrate in adoration of the living God in the Eucharist.
As the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship explains:
The Church has always required from the faithful respect and reverence for the Eucharist at the moment of receiving it.
Inaestimabile Donum, 11
More and more people, feeling a need to express this reverence for Jesus in a concrete way as they go to receive — while also trying to avoid calling attention to themselves or disrupt the order of Communion — make a slight bow just before they receive.
For me, this has become a way to acknowledge Jesus in a personal way, with my whole being, not just my mind. And it fulfills the specific instructions given by the Church:
When the faithful communicate kneeling, no other sign of reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament is required, since kneeling is itself a sign of adoration. When they receive Communion standing, it is strongly recommended that, coming up in procession, they should make a sign of reverence before receiving the Sacrament.
Inaestimabile Donum, 11
As Pope John Paul II points out, we "need to cultivate a lively awareness of Christ's real presence," and we should take care "to show that awareness through tone of voice, gestures, posture, and bearing."
Pope Benedict XVI also discusses this issue of how to receive, emphasizing that, instead of arguing about whether it's better to receive kneeling or standing, in the hand or on the tongue, we need to focus on the spirit of reverence with which the early Fathers of the Church received Communion.
First urging priests to "exercise tolerance and to recognize the decision of each person," he goes on to ask everyone "to exercise the same tolerance and not to cast aspersions on anyone who may have opted for this or that way of doing it." What is important is reverence:
It is quite wrong to argue about this or that form of behavior. We should be concerned only to argue in favor of ... a reverence in the heart, an inner submission before the mystery of God.
I think part of the reason why this reverence is so often missing and Christ is so often treated as a dead object is that the words we use can sometimes get in our way. How many times have we heard the priest repeat over and over as he distributes Communion, "the Body of Christ ... the Body of Christ ... the Body of Christ ..."?
In our culture, the word body doesn't usually suggest fullness of life. What it always brought to my mind was the dead body of Christ, the body hanging on the cross. And, after all, doesn't the Church teach that the Mass is the sacrifice of Calvary re-presented, rendered present in our time and place?
Yes. But the cross is meaningless without the resurrection.
This is not the dead Christ locked in a moment of time on the cross. This is the complete and eternal Christ, the Christ who was born of the Virgin, who came into our midst, suffered, died, was raised from the dead, and is now fully alive in heaven, where He reigns in glory.
"The flesh of the Son of Man, given as food," explains Pope John Paul II, "is his body in its glorious state after the resurrection."
The "Credo" of the People of God states this very clearly:
We believe that as the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into His body and His blood, which were to be offered for us on the cross, likewise the bread and wine consecrated by the priest are changed into the body and blood of Christ, enthroned gloriously in heaven.
And the Catechism of the Catholic Church adds:
Under the consecrated species of bread and wine, Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner.
It is this living and glorious Christ who complains to St. Faustina:
Oh, how painful it is to Me that souls so seldom unite themselves to Me in Holy Communion. I wait for souls, and they are indifferent toward Me. I love them tenderly and sincerely, and they distrust Me. I want to lavish My graces on them, and they do not want to accept them. They treat Me as a dead object, whereas My Heart is full of love and mercy (Diary, 1447).
The Eucharist is not a thing. It is not a dead object. It is Christ, and He is fully alive. Receiving Him with this awareness, we become more fully alive, so that we can say with St. Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20).
I am the living bread. ... Whoever eats this bread will live forever. ... Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me (Jn 6: 51, 57).
My heart is drawn there where my God is hiding. ... It is my living God though a veil hides Him (Diary, 1591).
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