WARSAW, Poland (ChurchMilitant.com) - Polish bishops are affirming the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament amid controversy and confusion both in Poland and abroad.
The Polish Episcopal Conference recently issued the declaration that "Holy Communion, received by Catholics around the world, is truly the Body of Christ. This is not a symbol, but the real presence of Christ in the form of bread."
One catalyst for the bishops' affirmation involves an Oct. 28 incident of a 13-year-old boy who received Holy Communion and then spat out and put the Host into his pocket in the church of St. Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of the Church in the town of Belchatów.
Priests, worried about the possibility of sacrilege, asked the boy to take the Host out of his pocket without success. A priest then asked the boy when he last went to confession. The boy told him he didn't remember. The priest then asked him, "Why did you receive the Holy Communion?"
Police eventually intervened, and their reaction stirred up a lot of controversy, especially among the leftist activists who condemned the priests, according to a Church Militant contact on site in Poland.
Reportedly, the boy eventually consumed the Host and was taken from the church by his parents.
Dzisiaj pierwszy czwartek miesiąca, w którym dziękujemy Bogu za Najświętszy Sakrament, za Jego stałą obecność pośród nas. pic.twitter.com/TZ3yndWHNO— EpiskopatNews (@EpiskopatNews) November 7, 2019
Spokesman for the episcopate Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik noted that, according to the Roman Missal, every person, by participating in the liturgy, undertakes to observe certain rules. "Church law says: those who receive communion consume the whole, holy Host, shortly after receiving it" (General Introduction to the Roman Missal, 161), he pointed out.
Speaking to public debates on the reality of the Holy Eucharist, Fr. Rytel-Andrianik said: "Everyone has the right to be judged, but disrespect for Holy Communion ... is harmful to believers and is at odds with respect for human rights to freedom of religion."
The spokesman added, "We, as Catholics, experience the presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament."
He also explained how the Real Presence of Christ is a matter of faith:
When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he said: "Take and eat, this is My Body," therefore, when receiving Holy Communion, we hear the words: "The Body of Christ." We answer: "Amen" which literally means in the original Hebrew "true and true." Thus, we confess the Real Presence of Christ in Holy Communion. This is not explainable by the laws of nature, but it is the faith of over a billion Catholics in the world.
Thousands of parishes in Poland provide times for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament often round the clock. "These are places where Jesus Christ present in the Host gives countless graces to people turning to Him," he said.
Komunia Święta, przyjmowana przez katolików na całym świecie, jest prawdziwie Ciałem Chrystusa. To nie symbol, ale realna obecność Chrystusa pod postacią chleba – podkreśla rzecznik Konferencji Episkopatu Polski @xrytel.— EpiskopatNews (@EpiskopatNews) November 5, 2019
The Polish Episcopate's declaration comes after the Pew Research Center released data in August showing that 69% of self-identified Catholics in the U.S. think the appearances of bread and wine in Holy Communion are merely "symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ."
In other words, less than one-third of all Catholics reported they believe "during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus."
The data also showed that half of America's "self-styled Catholics" (50%) are "either ignorant or simply mistaken" about what the Catholic Church teaches on the Eucharist.
It also showed, however, that more than 1 in 5 of these Catholics (22%) do know that the Catholic Church teaches Christ is really present in the Eucharist but reject the teaching nonetheless, in effect thinking Christ is only "symbolically present."
Six weeks after the Pew Research study some U.S. bishops across the country focused on ways to educate Catholics about this central tenet of the Catholic faith.
Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria released his 2020 annual teaching document, The Real Presence, a year early in the hopes of a renewed witness to the Real Presence. "I ... ask that this year and in coming years, at parish councils, religious houses, faculty meetings, chaplain meetings, RCIA and catechetical meetings, that our entire Local Church look for ways to reinforce our teaching and witness regarding the Blessed Sacrament," Bp. Jenky wrote Sept. 1.
Father John A. Hardon, S.J., American theologian, author and tireless defender of the Real Presence of the Holy Eucharist, pointed out that belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is the crux of Catholic faith and is what distinguishes Catholicism from Protestantism — and conversely represents one thing that unites all Protestants. "Of all the definitions that anyone could come up with for Protestantism, that one is the most accurate: those self-professed Christians who reject the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament," he said.
Hardon (1914-2000), noted for his devotion to Eucharistic adoration, spent at least three hours a day praying before the Blessed Sacrament. He once explained the mystery of faith like this:
Jesus Christ is really, truly and substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament not only during the Mass or at Communion time but all the time, as long as the sacred elements remain.
The most fundamental reason why prayer before the Blessed Sacrament is so meritorious is because it is prayer arising from faith in the cardinal mystery of Christianity which is faith in the Incarnation ...
[W]hy prayer before The Blessed Sacrament is so important is because it is an expression of faith in the divinity of Christ, that is, in the Son of Mary who is the Son of God, who is here, right here and now before me, as close and perhaps closer than were the people on the hillside near the Sea of Galilee when Jesus first predicted the Holy Eucharist.
Fr. Hardon was instrumental in establishing the Real Presence Eucharistic Adoration Association, devoted to faith in Christ and belief in the Real Presence in the Eucharist. It professes that the same Jesus who worked miracles in first-century Palestine is ready to perform miracles of conversion in our day, provided we believe that He is here with us in the Blessed Sacrament, objectives that resonate with the Polish bishops' recent declaration.