'O How Pleasing to Me is Living Faith!'

By Sean Flynn

At one point in her Diary, St. Faustina describes being mystically transported to her convent chapel where she beheld the face of Jesus.

While the other sisters adored the Blessed Sacrament under the appearance of ordinary bread, she heard Jesus say to her, "What you see in reality, these souls see though faith. Oh, how pleasing to Me is their great faith! You see, although there appears to be no trace of life in Me, in reality it is present in its fullness in each and every Host. But for Me to be able to act upon a soul, the soul must have faith. O how pleasing to Me is living faith!" (1420).

In a survey released in August, Pew Research Center asked 1,835 self-identified Catholics about their personal belief regarding the bread and wine used for Communion in the Mass. Only 31 percent professed to believe in the Real Presence of Christ's Body and Blood in the Eucharist, while the remaining 69 percent believe the bread and wine are merely symbols.

Detailed results of the study can be viewed here.

Looking only at weekly Mass-goers, we see the overall numbers nearly flip, with 63 percent believing the Church's doctrine of Transubstantiation. Faith in the Real Presence also increases with both age and education. Among those age 60 and above, 38 percent believe the bread and wine become Christ's Body and Blood during Mass. Respondents aged 40-59 believe at a rate of 27 percent. A nearly identical 26 percent of Catholic adults under age 40 believe the Church's teaching on the Eucharist.

Among high school educated Catholics, 26 percent hold fast to the doctrine of Transubstantiation, while 31 percent of those with some college believe. American Catholics with a college degree believe in the Real Presence at a rate of 37 percent.

Outright intentional rejection of Church doctrine may be troubling, but it is not rampant. Only 22 percent of total respondents know the teaching on Transubstantiation and reject it. The main culprit appears to be ignorance. A huge chunk, 43 percent of the total, mistakenly believe that Church teaching agrees with their personal belief that the bread and wine are merely symbolic.

This sizable portion is fertile ground for evangelization and catechesis. They might be willing to believe what our Church teaches, but are simply not aware.

Jesus revealed to St. Faustina His great desire: to unite Himself with us. He said, "My great delight is to unite Myself with souls. Know, My daughter, that 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 any attention to Me; they leave Me to Myself and busy themselves with other things. Oh, how sad I am that souls do not recognize love! They treat me as a dead object" (Diary, 1385).

Jesus is longing for all men and women to receive Him into their hearts. But in the United States today, either by rejection or ignorance, over two thirds of His own Church look at the Lord Jesus Christ and see "a dead object" of bread. Knowing Jesus's "great delight" ought to spur the faithful to participate in St. Faustina's mission of bringing souls to Jesus Christ, the Divine Mercy Incarnate, any way they can.

Anyone can participate in St. Faustina's mission of mercy. Jesus explained three degrees of merciful acts to her, saying, "I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first - by deed, the second - by word, he third ??" by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me" (Diary, 742).

Words are especially appropriate to our current time of ignorance and unbelief. In the Sacred Scriptures, St. Paul tells us "faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ" (Rom 10:17). The statistics from the Pew survey tend to support St. Paul's inspired claim. Among those who do not really know what the Church teaches, only 6 percent believe in the Real Presence; but 56 percent of those who know what the Church teaches believe in it. So those who have heard the word of Christ, through the Scripture and Tradition of the Church, are over nine times as likely to have faith in Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist.

Reflecting on the power of the word and Jesus' great love for us, St. Faustina declared "God, You could have saved thousands of souls with one word. ... On leaving the earth, O Lord, You wanted to stay with us, and so You left us Yourself in the Sacrament of the Altar, and You opened wide Your mercy to us" (Diary, 1747).

Our words can save souls, too. Our words are loving and merciful if they can lead to wonder, encounter, faith, transformation, and eternal life. Let us declare that God remains with us in the Eucharist. If bold proclamation seems too difficult, remember that the Holy Spirit is living and active within the Church.

When a believer speaks a word of truth to an unbeliever's ears, the Holy Spirit speaks that word deep into the heart. When it comes to evangelization, it is the Spirit's job to convict and convince; it is the job of the whole Church to participate by speaking truth and mercy out loud.
 

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