The Real Presence


By Kathy Berken

Kathy Berken

An amazing thing happened to me one morning years ago while at Mass. I was watching people come forward for Communion. “Body of Christ. Amen. Body of Christ. Amen.” I heard a mantra of faith forming and saw a river of believers gathering. I witnessed transubstantiation in real time. Right then and there, I experienced the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
But, you argue, doesn’t the bread and wine change into the body and blood of Christ at the consecration? Yes, the Council of Trent in 1551 explicitly wrote it into our Catholic doctrine. But it doesn’t end there.
Theologian Bernard Cooke was right when he said that the grace of the Eucharist is in community participation. “The sacramentally effective action of the Eucharist begins as soon as people start coming together to share this action — and not only when the ordained appears on the scene” (Sacraments and Sacramentality 98-99).
Spiritan missionary Father Vincent Donovan came to understand Real Presence in the 17 years he spent with the Maasai in Tanzania beginning in 1955. Sometimes the distraught community asked the Spirit to “change it into the Body of Christ, so that we could stay together. This — not just the bread and wine, but the whole life of the village, its work, play, joy, sorrow, the homes, the grazing fields, the flocks, the people — all this is my Body” (Christianity Rediscovered  96).

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