A Mutual Presence

As Roman Catholics, we believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The bread and wine do not merely symbolize Christ, nor is their consecration a commemorative act. The Eucharist becomes the whole Christ, truly, really, and substantially contained under the appearances of bread and wine. We take literally the words of Matthew’s Gospel (26:26-28), “Take, eat; this is my body....this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Along with devotion to Mary and loyalty to the pope, belief in the real presence is one of the defining marks of Catholic identity. Despite that, we seldom think about it; even less do we permit ourselves the human proclivity to doubt it. We sometimes subscribe to our doctrines the way we do to magazines: spread across the coffee table, they lie there, tokens of allegiance, but unread and inert.

I am a cradle Catholic. My first forty years of church membership were a renewed subscription to the creeds and rituals of my parents’ faith. Now I attend the little church where I brought my children to be baptized and confirmed, and serve on the pastoral council and in music ministry. What I notice at Mass may come as no surprise. The impulse to attend begins as the tug of obligation, the desire to satisfy a Sunday routine. The hour passes quickly as I study the bulletin, corral my kids, take informal attendance, or mentally leaf...

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About the Author

David Loxterkamp is a family physician who practices in Belfast, Maine. He is the author of A Measure of My Days: The Journal of a Country Doctor (University Press of New England).