“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is, therefore, in God’s Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously.”
With the current crises in the Catholic Church, these words could easily be attributed to a priest’s homily, or a bishop, or a cardinal, or even Pope Francis himself. But in fact, they were spoken over 40 years ago in 1976, by then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the future Saint John Paul II, while he attended a Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia. Without a doubt, these are prophetic words. As each new day brings more revelations and allegations, and with them the departure of parishioners and their tithing, it seems as if our Church, the Church founded by Jesus Himself, is on the precipice of destruction from within. When Jesus founded the Church, He told Peter that “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” But how can this be? How can our Church survive this? News outlets are already breathless in proclaiming that this could be the end of the Catholic Church. Some days it seems like it will take a literal miracle for the Church to survive. And if it’s going to save the Church, it had better be a pretty big miracle. Something huge, something newsworthy, something that will be proclaimed by the mainstream news media with the same excitement as the current scandal, right?
On Christmas Day in 2013, in Saint John Paul II’s home country of Poland, in the parish of St. Jack in Legnica, a consecrated Host fell to the floor during the distribution of Holy Communion. As is procedure, it was picked up and placed in a water-filled container called a vasculum for proper disposal. But something extraordinary happened: stains of red color appeared. The bishop was notified and a commission was formed to observe the phenomenon. The following February a tiny red fragment was separated and placed on a corporal and the commission was tasked with securing thorough testing. The results came back and showed that the fragment was of human tissue, specifically that of cross striated muscle tissue, which is most similar to heart muscle. The tissue also contains alterations that are common when the tissue is under a great deal of distress or agony. In April of 2016, this was confirmed by the bishop in accordance with the Holy See as a Eucharistic miracle. And outside of Catholic news media, no one seemed to notice.
Every time there is a Eucharistic miracle, whether in Lanciano, Italy or Legnica, Poland, the lab results are always the same. It should come of no surprise, either, because at every Mass, we experience the same Eucharistic miracle as the twelve disciples. We participate in the same perpetual Mass and feast on the same flesh and blood as they did. And it is because of the Eucharist that the Catholic Church will endure all evils, no matter how detestable and how vile. True Catholics do not fall away from the faith no matter the sins of other people in the Catholic Church, because no mortal man makes us Catholic. We do not stop being Catholic when non-Catholics criticize the Church’s practices and demand that we change to adopt society’s ever-changing whims. Yes, it is difficult to face down the anti-Church and the anti-gospel and the antichrist. It is difficult to defend the Church when it means admitting that Satan is real, and so are his attacks on the Church established by Jesus Christ.
But together, we will face down all evil things courageously because through the miracle of the Eucharist, the world-changing miracle that happens with such regularity that no one reports it, we can have Christ within us. We will face down all evil things because at the heart of our Church beats the literal heart of our savior, and it is our true love of Him that gives us our strength. While Hallmark cards will have you believe that true love is destiny or there are some cosmic forces at work, true love is a choice, a choice to love another above everything else. To be a Catholic means to choose to love Jesus above everything else. We choose to believe that the Eucharist is His true body and true blood, just as He said it is. And in that choice to believe lies our true love of Christ.
At every Mass, Jesus gives us His heart. He does this because He loves us, because He chose to lay down His life so that we may have eternal life. And so long as we choose to love Jesus more than all other things, so long as we choose to give Him our hearts, not just at Mass but every day, so long as we choose to love Him more than temptation and sin, then His Church will “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things”, because at the heart of His Church… is true love.