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Friday, May 12, 2017

Fulton Sheen: "We Live by What We Slay" - A Reflection on the Mass

Traditional Latin Rite Sacrifice of the Mass
I recently read The Ottaviani Intervention, compiled by Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, Antonio Cardinal Bacci, and A Group of Roman Theologians (who are not named). It is a Critical Study of The New Order of Mass, written shortly after the close of Vatican II.
Because I came into the Catholic Church in 1968, I barely remember attending mass at which the Novus Ordo mass was not in use. I did not realize at the time the change was made that I was witness to a great change in the Church, a change that would reverberate throughout the world causing more damage than we dare to imagine.

Two generations have passed since the institution of the Novus Ordo mass, long enough for most old Latin missals to be pitched in the waste bin of history as parents and grandparents died and their homes were dismantled, belongings distributed or thrown away. The few that have survived are mostly hidden away in some bureau drawer as a reminder not of the mass but of Grandma, or a father. Soon many of these will also go in the trash as the next generation with no memory whatsoever of the Latin mass will see these odd little crinkly paged books as just more junk their parents should have long ago purged but held onto for silly sentimental reasons.

The Ottaviani Intervention is a very brief 55 pages long. ANYONE can read it. EVERYONE should. It is available on Amazon and other used book sites. It isn't cheap, but I promise you it is worth every penny. There's no excuse now that you know about it to not get a copy. I regret only that I didn't read it years ago and that I have only now come to understand what all the hullabaloo was about and why people are so mournful still over the loss of the Latin mass. In my ignorance I could see no difference other than the fact one was Latin, which no one can read anyway, and the other is English. "WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL?", so one might think without reading this text.
Gathering Around the Supper Table
Cardinal Ottaviani said in 1969, "The innovations in the Novus Ordo and the fact that all that is of perennial value finds only a minor place--if it subsists at all--could well turn into a certainty the suspicion, already prevalent, alas, in many circles, that truths which have always been believed by the Christian people can be changed or ignored without infidelity to that sacred deposit of doctrine to which the Catholic faith is bound forever."  (emphasis added)
This new mass was first presented to the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 1967 for review. It was met with much opposition from some and serious reservations from others. A well-known periodical for bishops at the time reported: "They wanted to make a clean slate of the whole theology of the Mass. It ended up in substance quite close to the protestant theology which destroyed the sacrifice of the Mass." 

It was nevertheless published within two years, and distributed throughout the world without the national bishop's conferences approval. In fact, they were not even officially consulted.
Quoting Ottaviani:
"The Apostolic Constitution states that the old Missal which St. Pius V promulgated on 19 July 1570--its greater part, in fact, goes back to St. Gregory the Great (590-604 AD) and even remoter antiquity--was the standard for four centuries whenever priests of the Latin Rite celebrated the Holy Sacrifice."
He then explains that the people never asked for the mass to be changed. They simply wanted a better understanding of the liturgy which they hoped and expected would be preserved.

  According to the New Order of Mass, the definition of mass is: 
"The Lord's Supper or Mass is the sacred assembly or congregation of the people of God gathering together, with a priest presiding, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord. For this reason Christ's promise applies supremely to such a local gathering together of the Church: 'Where two or three come together in my name, there am I in their midst.' "
Can Anyone Believe This is the Real Body of Christ?
Ottaviani believed, and who could argue with him, that by reducing a holy sacrifice which had been in practice for centuries to a supper, or an assembly, it loses any connection to "1. The Real Presence. 2. The reality of the Sacrifice. 3. The sacramental function of the priest who consecrates. 4 The intrinsic value of the Eucharistic Sacrifice independent of the presence of the 'assembly.' " Ottaviani then adds, "Here, deliberately omitting these dogmatic values by 'going beyond them' amounts, at least in practice, to denying them."

And while they are not actually denied, nonetheless, after years and years of referring to the Body of Christ as the bread of life, the supper of the Lord, the Paschal Banquet, and our spiritual food, could there be any doubt that the faithful, especially those who grew up after these changes were made, would barely, if at all, recognize and truly believe in the presence of God in the Eucharist? Pretty soon people began to develop an attitude of "What difference does it make anyway? One name is as good as any other. It's just symbolic. Isn't it?" 

In the May 17, 2017 issue of The Wanderer, there is an article by Raymond de Souza, KM titled, The Disciples Understood Jesus' Words On The Eucharist. De Souza says:
"A simple reading of St. John chapter 6 shows ad nauseam that they understood Him perfectly well, that is, literally. Because if they had mistaken His meaning, and taken it figuratively, He would have shown them their error. .......He insisted again and again on the literal meaning, that they had not misunderstood Him. The stumbling block still stood in their path; and so, they left Him and walked with Him no more.

That was the very first time that a group of disciples of Jesus abandoned His company because of a point of doctrine. After them, many others have done the same, from Arius to Luther and Henry VIII. They wanted a 'Christian church' according to their individual preferences, not according to the Will of Christ.

But Jesus was not content with just letting them go. He wanted an act of faith in the Eucharist. So, turning to the apostles, He said, 'Will you also go away?' ...........They had to believe that, in some mysterious way, He would give them His Flesh to eat and His Blood to drink. Peter answered Him, 'Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God."
Just recently I came across a little passage in Fulton Sheen's Wartime Prayer Book that brought this all together for me. Sheen said:
"There is no communion without a Consecration. There is no receiving the bread and wine we offer, until they have been transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ. Communion is the consequence of Calvary----namely, we live by what we slay. All nature witnesses this truth; our bodies live by the slaying of the beasts of the fields and the plants of the gardens. We draw life from their crucifixion. We slay them not to destroy, but to fulfill; we immolate them for the sake of communion.
And now by the beautiful paradox of Divine Love, God makes His Cross the very means of our salvation. We have slain Him! We nailed Him there! We crucified Him! But Love in His eternal Heart willed not to be defeated.
He willed to give us the very life we slew; to give us the very Food we destroyed; to nourish us with the very Bread we buried, and the very Blood we poured forth.
He made our very crime a happy fault; He turned a Crucifixion into a Redemption; a Consecration into a Communion; a death into life everlasting."
Lamb of God, Who Takes Away the Sins of the World
And it is thus, that unless we eat of His Flesh, we have no life within us. On the night of the Passover in Egypt the Jews had been told not only must lambs be sacrificed, they had to be eaten. That there could be none left over. It must all be consumed for them to live and be spared death. So it is with us, unless we, in strict obedience to the will of God, consume the Body of Christ, the Lamb of God, we cannot have immortal life. It must be sacrificed on the altar at each mass by the priest who raises it up and then eats it. We are what we slay, nourished by Him who died for us and was resurrected. Never let this mystery be a stumbling block for you as it was to those disciples who walked away unable to accept Christ's will.


  1. What an excellent article. I am a convert, and before I became Catholic, I used to go around and around with my mother's Baptist minister over this. I could see quite easily in the Bible (the Protestant King James version by the way) that the Lord Jesus meant what he said and said what he meant about Communion being His real body and blood in an unbloody manner as the Baltimore catechism described the Holy Eucharist back then.

    I also read the writings of Justin the Martyr from a book I got from the Classic Book Club at that time, and St. Justin believed in the true presence. That book was not even published by a Catholic press, yet it supported what the Catholic Church taught about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

  2. Protestant religion has no credibility whatsoever unless they can negate the power of consecration, handed down through apostolic succession. On this alone rests the destiny of souls.

  3. Chriss Rainey, in case your post was addressed to me, I was not saying that the Protestants' Communion services were valid and contained the Real Presence, but that even the Protestant Bible and some of their historical books support the validity of the Catholic Church's belief in transubstantiation from the beginning of Christianity.