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Faith

Christian Witness in the Aftermath of Hate

Matthias Grünewald, Crucifixion, 1515 (Colmar, Musée d'Unterlinden)

I was ordained a priest on May 23rd. My life now is bound more intensely than ever to the central Mystery of our faith, the Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. I never imagined that so soon in my priestly life would I see the Eucharist attacked so publicly.

You may have seen these stories in the press. On June 29th, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Webster Cook, a student and member of the student government at the University of Central Florida, took the Eucharist “hostage” in order to protest the use of University money to support religious organizations.

On July 8th Paul Zachary Myers, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, entitled an entry on his blog: “It’s a Frackin Cracker!” Myers is upset at the outrage against the student who stole the Host. The student claimed to receive death threats. Death threats are not a Christian response. The Pastor at UCF, Fr. Gonzalez, spoke out of the Love that comes from his own celebration of the Eucharist:

“The whole community is going to turn to prayer. We’ll ask the Lord for pardon, forgiveness, peace, not only for the whole community affected by it, but also for [Cook], we offer prayers for him as well.”

Professor Myers has no such love. He cultivates hate and went on to invite others to help him desecrate that which is most sacred to Catholics:

(Warning, the following is outrageous)

“Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There’s no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I’m sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the b——-, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart. If you can smuggle some out from under the armed guards and grim nuns hovering over your local communion ceremony, just write to me and I’ll send you my home address.”

These are the words of an enemy of the Church, for whom we are asked to pray and desire salvation.

On July 9th the Dominican order celebrated the Feast of St. John of Gorkum and his Companions. John was a Dominican parish priest in Holland who was martyred in 1572. Holland at that time was under Spanish contol and mobs of menacing anti-Spanish and protestant pirates were menacing seaport towns. In Gorkum a group of Catholic clergy sought to defend the people and were arrested. In prision this group of priests was tortured and called upon to deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They were a mixed group comprised of Franciscans, an Augustinian, a Praemonstratensian, and diocesan clergy. John the Dominican went in disguise to bring the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist to his brother priests. He was eventually arrested. All but one of this group of twenty men held tenaciously to faith and would not deny the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Two of their company, both diocesan priests, were known to like the good life and were debauched. In spite of these personal failings love for life did not deter them from death. John and his fellow priests were stripped, tortured, jeered at and hanged in a barn.

In this short space of days I have seen hate and witness regarding the Eucharist; hate disseminated in the media and witness through the liturgical memory of the Church. The opportunity now is to witness to our own belief in the Eucharistic Lord. Several years ago I was teaching Church History at a Catholic high school. I gave a lecture on the martyrs to six classes of students. The vast majority of these students said they would deny Christ with fingers crossed. Most of them had no regard for the value of public witness and probably didn’t even know about the Love Christ has for them.

I think we need to consider a threefold response.

First, in our liturgy, preaching, and catechesis our belief in the Real Presence should be made obvious. Perhaps it is time to return to receiving communion kneeling and on the tongue. This is now the norm for receiving communion from the Pope at papal liturgies. The altar railings of old, and those in use now, allow the communicants to crowd around without distinction and kneel in humility and then receive the Holy Eucharist on the tongue as a child receives food, in complete dependence on the other.

Second, we must strive to see our lives as Eucharistic like the saints have in every age. Jesus feeds us with himself, he gives his life for us. We in turn should give our lives for the life of the world. Our emphasis should be especially on the poor. As Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati said: “Jesus visits me every day in communion; I respond in the poor way I can, by visiting his poor.” Our reception then should be childlike and our response as mature service to those in need.

Third, we have the names of two enemies to pray for specifically, Webster Cook and Paul Zachary Myers. These men cannot remain for us names in a media story. They are brothers in need of Christ’s Love. Christ looked at us from the cross while addressing his Father, we who would be the enemies of God through sin, and said: “Father, forgive them they do not know what they do.”

Today is Friday July 11th; the Feast of St. Benedict and it is nearly three o’clock in the afternoon, the hour of mercy. I have not yet offered Mass, but will do so during the third hour for Webster and Paul that they will come to know the love of Jesus Christ present in the Holy Eucharist.

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(22) COMMENTS

By Kathleen Lundquist AT 07.11.08 06:54PM Not Rated

Kathleen Lundquist

Thanks for writing about this incident, Father.  Many debates have been going on at various places on the Web, and I appreciate your encouragement to focus on education and prayer.

It’s really easy to let outrage determine our words and course of action in a situation like this.  May we all seek to unite ourselves with Christ, whose own body He delivered into our hands to be crucified - and then write, pray, and speak to our friends.


By GJ Harrison AT 07.14.08 03:31PM Not Rated

GJ Harrison

Prayer for Mr.Cook and Professor Myers is a wise and appropriate suggestion. The first suggestion about changing the way we receive communion is unnecessary. The current push from the Vatican to return to Tridentine practices confuses tradition with traditionalism. The former is the living faith of the dead; the latter, the dead faith of the living.
  I wonder if Father Dyer, to whom congratulations on his ordination, has missed what may be involved here other than hate. The professor sounds a bit too angry, the student absurdly exaggerated in his protest. Could there be an implicit recognition of the power of the Sacrament going on here? Is the professor outraged at the power of what he takes as a symbol? Is Mr.Cook taking the most important
“hostage” he can find.?
  One might be inclined to say to Professor Myers, ‘wow, you must think it’s a mighty significant “cracker”; and to Mr.Cook ‘like, man,
you must think you got some “hostage” there’. Their actions may serve to remind us of the political character or our Eucharistic celebration for we give witness that we are a community gathered into unity not by worldly power, constitutions, science or violence but by the love,non-violence and presence of Jesus.


By Dave AT 07.14.08 06:09PM Not Rated

Dave

They seemed to recognize the importance of The Eucharist to Catholics. However, they don’t realize (hopefully soon the Real Presence will be made clear to that young man) that it is truly Jesus.


By chassup AT 07.15.08 11:02AM Not Rated

chassup

This is a textbook terror attack against Catholics.  They conceive of an act designed to outrage and hurt, for the sole purpose of provoking an emotional response with the hope of exposing hypocrisy.  The problem, for these terrorists, is that their strategy exists only in the temporal, they exhibit classic projection, and they completely miss the transcendent, making their attack impotent.

What they just can’t grasp, or refuse to, is that Christ is infinite, taking one “cracker” causes no loss, and only results in more clearly highlighting the attackers’ hate and rage against you and your faith, just because you believe.  Their act is simply evil, designed solely to hurt.  A sort of flag burning, spit in the face, bombing of a school bus… all the same.

If they believe that the “cracker” does embody something more than wheat, they are willfully damning themselves, and that is irrational.  My summation; the good professor is a bad man, and possibly insane.  He’s teaching young minds?!


By mikejohnson AT 07.15.08 12:33PM Not Rated

mikejohnson

Chassup, I agree with you, with one giant exception…the taking of one consecrated Host does cause loss.  As you said, Christ is infinite, and we Catholics believe that He is truly present: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.  The desecration of one Host, one thousand Hosts, or one crumb is an act of desecration against an infinite God.


By GJ Harrison AT 07.15.08 12:42PM Not Rated

GJ Harrison

Chassup obliges the two men by giving them what Chassup says they call for; “an emotiomnal response”. Ad hominem assetions do not help. Given all that has happened the term “terrorist” should be used with care. Mr. Cook is a student; perhaps he needs pedagogy not name calling. Perhaps Chassup should take Rev. Dyer’s Christian advice.


By chassup AT 07.15.08 01:47PM Not Rated

chassup

MIKEJOHNSON,
The desecration of a Host is a sin against God, an offense to me.  Ask yourself this, what would you be willing to do to stop similar desecrations?  Would you use physical force?  Deadly force?  I’d pray and continue to receive when in a proper state of Grace.  I don’t get angry or upset beyond being disappointed in my fellow citizens’ stupidity.

GJ HARRISON,
The term “terrorist” is accurate, perhaps you pour meaning into the word unnecessarily.  A schoolyard bully is a terrorist even if he doesn’t wear a turban and blow people up.  And I have no reservations in calling a bully a bully… that’s not name calling, that’s exactly what he needs to hear, to pretend is an injustice.


By luigi AT 07.15.08 08:45PM Not Rated

luigi

“The first suggestion about changing the way we receive communion is unnecessary. The current push from the Vatican to return to Tridentine practices confuses tradition with traditionalism. The former is the living faith of the dead; the latter, the dead faith of the living.”

This is an astonishing comment. While the last sentence is true, to imagine in one’s wildest fantasies that Pope Benedict XVI is engaging in traditionalism bespeaks an ignorance of his work, life, writings (especially regarding his radical advances in 20th century theology) that is, well, unspeakable! He has spent much of his life delineating - brilliantly - a “third way” between the fearful traditionalists who arose after the Council AND the “progressives” (for lask of a better term) who threw out the mother as well as the baby with the bathwater. Have you never read the journal Communio, which he founded?

Sigh. Himalayan ignorance of the Holy Father.


By GJ Harrison AT 07.16.08 12:00PM Not Rated

GJ Harrison

Luigi
  The term Vatican and not Pope Benedict XVI was used deliberately. Just how much Pope Benedict is in charge of Vatican policies is not entirely clear. The centralizing policies of the Vatican under Pope John Paul which severly weakened the sort of collegiality endorsed by the bishops at the Second Vatican Council still go on. Certainly the writings of then Fr. Joseph Ratzinger which I did find “brilliant” do not suggest he is what has come to be called a “traditionalist”. Just where he stands as Pope with regard to the “restorationist” policies of the previous Pope,however, is not clear. The signs are not encouraging. It was not very long ago that a bishop visiting Rome said, “they treat us like altar boys here”. He was hardly a person trying to ‘throw out” anything.
  I stand with what I wrote.


By faustina1 AT 07.17.08 10:39AM Not Rated

faustina1

Where are the Catholics in this man’s hometown who should be protesting the University that receives public funding?  Yes we should pray, but we should use civil protest to demand that this man be sanctioned or fired, in the mean time.


By Lazarus041607 AT 07.17.08 12:58PM Not Rated

Lazarus041607

Father Hugh, the first statement should always be a congratulatory one on your ordination.

The next is on the actions of Mr. Cook and Prof. Myers are not surprising nor those of the City and County of San Francisco; but are an external indicator of much deeper issues.  Just as a thermometer checks for a fever, the fever is an indicator of a deeper illness.  We should reexamine the nation’s soul and our own.  As Catholics we should be receiving the Real Presence of Christ in a state of Humility and Grace.  I am surprised that the works of St. Louis Montefort, or the 8th century Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano is not mentioned more often.  Especially in light of Val Thomas’ (West Virignia) N.D.E. and being brain dead for 17.5 hours.  I would love to hear her story about the other side.  After the cerebral aneurysm that I experience on April 16th, 2008 that has a 10% survival rate, is completely in-operable, and flat-lining while on the OR table; I now attempt to always receive the Lord in a state of Grace.  This may be from a prayer asking permission to enter God’s presence at the Holy Water font, a daily rosary, or reflecting on Psalms especially Psalm 132.  The best defense against the actions of Mr. Cook and Prof. Myers is to pray for them and the regular use of the Sacrament of Penance for ourselves, and the nation.


By Jacques AT 07.17.08 01:35PM Not Rated

Jacques

Sorry to say that this Pr Myers is right when he says the hosts weren’t stolen. Of course, when anybody gives you something in the hand you cannot call this a theft.
Dear Father Hugh, I much appreciated your article, but don’t you think that the best way to stop such desecrations would be to stop forever this awful distribution of Communion in the hand that IMHO is a sacrilege by itself. 
At the least, this Pr Myers says overtly what he intends to do while everyday a lot of occult desecrations of the Eucharist are performed in dark and diabolical ceremonies. Currently it is so easy to get hosts everywhere without even being noticed.


By electricdisk AT 07.17.08 02:34PM Not Rated

electricdisk

He can do whatever he wants to the Eucharist and it will not diminish one iota the glory and power that is God himself in the Eucharist. It is technically impossible to make a host “less holy”. I can’t think of any thing the professor can do to the host to desecrate it. Did spitting on Jesus on the way to Calvary make him “less than God” - No. Insulting and demeaning, yes. Make him sad? Of course. The Eucharist IS GOD.


By BishopT AT 07.18.08 01:27AM Not Rated

BishopT

I am liturgical but nonCatholic and we believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I am also an African American and I can tell you that if Prof. Myers was sitting around threatening to piss on a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X there would be a riot. But for Jesus’ Blessed Sacrament-no outcry except from the Roman Catholics. Typical. Well, I remember that Paul said that anyone who does not discern the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist will be guilty of the Body and Blood of Jesus. “And some are sick and some sleep…” because of this lack of discernment. How much more so will God judge a man who deliberately offends the Sacrament? I will ask my people to do a Holy Hour in reparation for this vicious nonsense.
Poor, foolish man!


By kevinmclarke AT 07.18.08 11:44AM Not Rated

kevinmclarke

Thank you for writing this, Father.

Where is the world’s grave concern for tolerance? Friends, this is the result of relativism. If PZ Myers “believes” it’s a “cracker” what does it matter what a billion Catholics believe?  This great evil comes via the doctrine of relativism in practice. We are seeing the true fruits of that “dictatorship,” as our present Pope so correctly named it prior to his election.

The answer for this among Catholics is a true spirit of Eucharistic worship. There have been too many irreverences and ingratitudes toward the Eucharist among Catholics themselves.  We need adoration!


By Lazarus041607 AT 07.18.08 01:19PM Not Rated

Lazarus041607

You could certainly pray that Prof. Myers would have a “blinding” revelation of all his sins and shortcomings that can only be realized while standing in full Glory and Light of the Lord.  That this revelation would lead to a true change of heart and subsequent repentance.  However that pray could only come if we ourselves pray with clean hands and heart.


By thomas a nagy AT 07.20.08 12:47PM Not Rated

thomas a nagy

Clearly, Myers is a desperate man.

After all, he has become intellectually isolated in that he assumes superiority to the Doctors of the Church and all who believe in transubstantiation.

Myers implies it is proven that a consecrated Host is “just a cracker” and nothing more, but offers no logic to support his conclusion. 

Myers may or may not be an atheist; he mirrors the image of one like a painted egg with the illusion of solidity on the shell hiding an empty core.

If Myers ever gets around to writing a logical proof of his position regarding the invalidity of transubstantiation or the non-existence of God, then we should all rejoice that he gives us something to ponder. Otherwise he remains a desperate noisemaker begging for attention.

This is not intended as an attack against the man, but a perspective through which to understand his motive.

A man free-floating in a hot-air balloon without sense of control, afraid to descend to the ground because he might plummet yet aware that he won’t stay aloft forever, he needs to find a way to become “grounded” in truth.


By Metroform AT 07.20.08 03:30PM Not Rated

Metroform

I am personally insulted by the words and proposed actions of this professor. As a retired professor, I well know that what we ‘teach’ goes well beyond academics. Many students emulate us and see us as role models in a world almost devoid of the same.

The example this man is setting speaks of his short-sighted character. He may be well-versed in his science but he lacks common sense. The University should be called to task for not removing him tenured or not. Be assured my children nor anyone’s within whom I come in contact will ever set foot on the campus. Money invested in education is much better spent by attendance at a University that in a more holistic manner ‘educates’ its charges.

Yes, we indeed need to pray for this professor and the young man (whom I understand is Catholic at least in name). If he is, someone dropped the ball in his home by not instilling virtues and character becoming a Christian and a Catholic one at that. Whether he realizes it or not, he has been de facto excommunicated which has eternal consequences if not repented of in this life. Whether he believes it or not, it is a sacrilege of the highest order to remove the Eucharist without consuming Him. He is an accessory to the professor’s sacrilege and in spiritual peril.

The continual attacks on the Catholic Church, Catholicism in general, priests and above all, the Most Blessed Sacrament is personally insulting to me and many others as well. Reflecting on the condition of many of the graduates of our educational system, I can understand why higher education in particular is producing knowledge-filled individuals but individuals who have little or no understanding of the need to effectively conduct themselves in a spirit of understanding, respect for others, good moral order, and cohesiveness. With the job market declining in the United States, competition is keen. The likes of the professor and his student-comrade of the same ilk speak to the generalized decline of the truly educated.

May God in His Divine Mercy forgive these two men and may all of us who acknowledge Jesus Christ as truly and substantially present in the Eucharist, pray for reparation to the Lord for the abuses He undergoes at the hands of those who should know better. Let us offer Him consolation through increased visits to the Blessed Sacrament, Rosaries of Reparation, extra Divine Mercy Chaplets and daily Mass if possible.

Doc


By Vico AT 07.22.08 10:05AM Not Rated

Vico

By Vico
  Metroform is rightly upset with the insulting behavior of Prof. Myers but Myes is not the problem with the contemporary university nor is the problem that religious belief, God or religious institutions are “attacked”. The majority of professors would regard Myers’ behavior as unseemly.
  The problem with the secular university is more insidious: religious belief is tolerated but it is regarded as if it is a hobby not unlike Stamp Collecting. It has little or no intellectual purchase in the contemporary university. Most professors are unruffled agnostics. Many would think Myers takes religion far too seriously. A loud-mouthed jerk like Prof. Myers is not the central issue.
  As for us let us take Rev. Dyer’s advice and pray for Prof. Myers and the adolescent Mr.Cook.


By salindger AT 07.24.08 01:12AM Not Rated

salindger

For some reason, I am not surprised that this happened in Florida.  I was told of a place in Florida that has perpetual adoration - however, the monstrance is behind some very serious security - pressure sensors and all.  Apparently there are many devil-worshippers who like to steal and desecrate Jesus in the eucharist.


By cartesian coordinates AT 07.28.08 12:53PM Not Rated

cartesian coordinates

God forbid that all of the university money shouldn’t go to athletics.

Professor Myers’ blog sounds like a hybrid Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins diatribe.


By star AT 02.21.09 02:39PM Not Rated

star

The Holy Eucharist! I truly believe in Jesus’ Presence in the Eucharist; Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity! Like when the Apostles proclaimed before they recognized Jesus after the Resurrection, ” Weren’t our hearts burning in His Presence? ” I can say that my heart was ” burning ” everytime i receive Him in the Holy Eucharist. My restless disposition transformed into joyful, loving tranquility; am strengthened again and again to face each new day at home and at work. I need not search for Him anywhere, in any discussions, belief or unbelief, for i have already found Him personally as He touched the very core of my being in the Holy Eucharist! God bless us !!!


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