Monthly Archives: June 2018

Obedience

463px-St._Benedict_delivering_his_rule_to_the_monks_of_his_order

Some words are as old fashioned as my grandmother’s butter churn, words like clew (ball of thread), fandangle (useless or purely ornamental thing), popinjay (a parrot), and scapegrace (a rascal). A word not yet archaic but in danger of becoming so is the word “obey,” especially when used in reference to human behavior. Obedience is a good quality to have in children, employees, soldiers, and subordinates. However, it seems to cut so much against the modern, egalitarian grain that when we hear it commended, it can have the same effect as running one’s fingernails down a chalkboard. (Chalkboard is another word in danger of becoming archaic.)

The Rule of St. Benedict begins with the archaic word “hearken” in Dom McCann’s translation. It means “to listen intently to” or “to obey,” and it appears in the imperative mood: Listen! Obey Obedience is a virtue not only for children and employees but also for monks, nuns, and anyone trying to live a spiritual life. In fact, St. Benedict, at the very beginning of his rule, speaks of the “labor of obedience” and the “strong and shining weapons of obedience.” Obedience is described as both a means of returning to God and an instrument of spiritual warfare with which we fight for him. Renouncing one’s own will is one of the most difficult things to do. It’s no wonder St. Benedict refers to it as labor. The word calls to mind images of chain gangs and delivery rooms.

What makes obedience joyful, though still difficult, is the knowledge that the one we obey is a “loving father.” It is unclear whether the reference is to God or the abbot. Likely it’s both, since the abbot (from the Aramaic “abba,” meaning “father”) stands in the place of God. Loving parents make it easier for their children to obey. The same principle applies to all leaders, whether employers, teachers, military officers, abbots, or abbesses. In God’s kingdom, love and obedience go hand in hand. With love, obedience still isn’t easy but it’s less likely to become extinct.

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Is receiving the Eucharist necessary for salvation?

Virgin Adoring the Host

The Virgin Adoring the Host (1852) by J.A.D. Ingres, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Before becoming a Catholic I struggled with many questions, including this one:

Is receiving the Eucharist necessary for salvation?

The knee-jerk Protestant answer is “No! Faith alone is all that’s required for salvation.” However, the Bible and Catholic theology disagree.

Here’s what Jesus said in John’s Gospel:

“Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day (John 6:53-54).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the Eucharist “the source and summit of the Christian life” and “the sacrament of our salvation” (CCC 1324, 1359). Receiving Holy Communion at least once a year is therefore an obligatory Precept of the Church (CCC 2042).

Without receiving the Eucharist it would be difficult, if not impossible, to avoid mortal sin and remain in a state of grace. However, those who are baptized and have attained the age of reason but through no fault of their own, are unable to receive the Eucharist physically may partake of his body and blood spiritually by desire. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “One can be changed into Christ, and be incorporated into Him by mental desire, even without receiving this sacrament.” St. Thomas also explained that baptized children who have not yet attained the age of reason “desire the Eucharist through the Church’s intention, and, as a result, receive its reality.” Therefore, receiving the Eucharist is indeed necessary for salvation, but one can receive spiritually by desire as well as physically by taking Holy Communion.

It’s important to remember what the Eucharist is. It is Jesus himself. To receive the Eucharist is to receive Jesus.

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