"The Real Presence" By: Alvaro Calabia

November 16, 2019


Friends, peace be to you.


“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51).

The crowds had grown skeptical, grumbling and murmuring amongst themselves because Jesus of Nazareth was claiming that He had come from Heaven and now He had said they had to EAT HIS FLESH?! Enraged, some began to shout, others fought. “Blasphemy!” the Jews cried out. “Yesterday He fed five thousand in the desert from five loaves of bread and two fish, we are all witnesses!” someone declared, their voice filled with astonishment. “How can this man give us flesh to eat” (John 6:52). “How can we drink blood? It is an abomination!” There was turmoil and conflict among the Jews and many of His disciples.


Jesus had clearly foreseen their reaction, His impeccable prudence always considering all potential consequences. Still, He decided it was time to proclaim perhaps the most controversial of His teachings. People surely expected Him to clarify the things He had been saying––they did not have to eat His literal flesh and drink His actual blood… right?? 

He spoke again in an austere tone, “Amen, Amen I say to you…” He wanted to make clear that He was willing to put His Life on the line for what followed, “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (Jn 6:53). He ensued, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (Jn 6:54). His voice resounded among the crowds. “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (Jn 6:55). He reiterated, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:56). Once again, referring to His Body, Jesus said “This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:57).

Thousands of people, Jews and disciples alike, left Jesus that day because this saying was too hard for them to understand. Jesus then turned to the twelve apostles. He did not further explain the teaching; instead he asked “Do you also want to leave?” (Jn 6:68). But Peter answered, saying they had nowhere to go. They had been living with him for three years and had come to believe He was the Christ, the Son of the Ever Living God. 

This was arguably the hardest teaching Jesus ever gave and quite possibly the most overlooked. 

If the masses had misunderstood His teaching, would He not have simply corrected their misinterpretation? If He were speaking symbolically why would He allow them to walk away having interpreted the teaching literally? 

The Catholic Church teaches that our Lord did not simplify the teaching because He was indeed speaking literally. Jesus clarified Himself in a way contrary to what everyone had expected, He continued to add salt. Not only did He refrain from giving an analogy, but He continued to state this teaching as absolute truth and that it MUST be adhered to in order to attain eternal life.

The doctrine of the Real Presence according to the Council of Trent states “the whole Christ, is truly, really, and substantially contained in the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist.” (Session 13, can.1).  

“The whole Christ,” His divinity and humanity in its entirety, every part of Him that is God and every part of Him that is man, is contained in the Eucharist. Christ, being “truly” contained, is not only symbolized in the Eucharist, but is indeed present within. When Christ spoke to the crowds about His Body being food and His Blood being drink, He was not speaking in parables or giving an analogy. This doctrine teaches that what Christ meant was literal, namely He is “really” existent in the Most Blessed Sacrament on the altar. Furthermore, He is “substantially” contained in the consecrated Host. This means that He is physically present within us when we consume Him, and not just divinely, as He is when we are in a state of grace. This also means Jesus is fully present before us, His entire being that is, when we visit Him in Eucharistic Adoration.

If Jesus were merely speaking symbolically, why would He allow His Church, over which “the gates of Hell shall not prevail,” spread this erroneous teaching of His Real Presence, virtually unopposed for almost 1500 years until the Protestant Reformation?

Looking back at the early church fathers, we find, they would gather “On the first day of the week…” (Acts 20:7). As per the Gregorian calendar, this falls on Sunday. Moreover, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). This not only implies, but confirms, what the apostles taught us: Mass is to be held at least every Sunday and Holy Communion is to be incorporated.

Even with these biblical realities and insights, some might claim that the doctrine of the Real Presence ultimately does not matter. Contemplate the following instances of miracles attributed to the Eucharist: cases where the Host transfigured into real Flesh and real Blood in 2013 in Legnica, Poland, three separate occasions throughout the 90s in Buenos Aires, as well as 1230 and 1595 in Florence, Italy, among numerous others. Take to heart occurrences like the Eucharistic Miracle of St. Clare of Assisi, who on raising the consecrated Host, drove away the Saracen invaders from Assisi. Furthermore, consider the Franciscan penitents of Avignon, who witnessed their church flooded, yet, miraculously the waters divided to the left and right of the Host that was exposed for perpetual adoration. Another intriguing phenomenon took place in Turin, Italy, mid 17th century, when a French soldier broke open a tabernacle and was burned by the fires that erupted out from within. 

These examples and many others can be found on www.miracolieucaristici.org, which lists Church approved miracles associated with the Blessed Sacrament over the course of the Church’s 2000 year history. Undoubtedly, God finds it worthwhile to demonstrate His Real Presence in the Eucharist, and even work miracles through it. We can infer that calling the Eucharist symbolic blows way past an understatement; and with great confidence, ascertain that the Eucharist is indeed our Blessed Lord, totally and completely!

Okay, great! The Eucharist is Jesus! So where do we go from here? How do I implement this into my daily life?

One: The Holy Hour is on the rise! An increasing number of young men and women are picking up the habit of frequenting Eucharistic Adoration. 

The Venerable (soon to be Blessed) Fulton Sheen relayed a story of a little girl in Northern China, who truly believed in the Real Presence. Communist soldiers had taken over a small Catholic village and vandalized the church. The consecrated contents in the tabernacle were scattered across the floor and, dare I say, stomped upon. Her father was taken away and likely killed for refusing to deny the Hosts as his God. Each night the little girl slipped past the guards, to silently pray before her desecrated Lord for an hour. She then proceeded to receive holy communion, with her mouth pressed to the floor. This, she repeated every night for the next 31 nights. On the 32nd night there was the last host on the floor. She did as she had done every night prior but after an hour of kneeling in adoration, as she got up she bumped something and it fell with a bang that resounded through the church. The guard standing post at the front burst through the doors and shot her in the back. With all the strengths she could muster, she crawled across the sanctuary floor, and with her final breath, and her mouth to the floor, she received her Eucharist one last time. The priest, watching from his cell, was a witness to all that had happened. The innocent little girl risked her life to do something most of us take for granted, something we have the freedom to do. She went to adoration daily and she received the death penalty.

This account motivated Archbishop Sheen to schedule a Holy Hour every day. He highly encourages every Catholic to do the same, especially those discerning a call to or who are already living a religious vocation, in order to receive every grace they need to fulfill God’s will. For those of you who are aware of Fulton Sheen’s teachings and writings and the influence that he has had throughout the world; when speaking a propos the source of his power, he said “there…that is where I got it.” He claimed this devotion changed his life and promised it would do the same for anyone who would practice it. It must be one continuous hour, daily, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Only the mass can break the continuity of this hour, however the hour must be continued immediately afterward. This holy hour, he explains, is necessary in order to free our minds of distraction (the world), to intercede (pray) for the world, and above all because our Blessed Lord Himself asks for it. "Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?" (Mt 26:40).

When the Eucharist, the Most Blessed Sacrament, is exposed, go and pray for an hour, uninterrupted. Jesus is waiting for you. Come prepared if possible, if not, come anyway! When St. John Mary Vianney, the Curé of Ars, was in Adoration in the presence of the exposed Blessed Sacrament, he was asked "What are you doing all day with this?" he answered, "Nothing. I just look at Him and He looks at me."

Two: Receive the Eucharist on the tongue, if possible. Regardless of your stance on who is worthy of administering or touching the Sacred Host with their hands, it is a very pious practice.

(Note: Some masses, like the Neocatechumenal Way, may not have this option.)

Minuscule pieces of the Eucharist often stick to the hand and eventually fall to the ground, only to be trampled underfoot. Before you say “Oh relax, God doesn’t mind a couple crumbs falling to the floor,” remember, the Eucharist is not a symbolic wafer; it is “truly, really, and substantially” Jesus Christ, as stated above. Additionally, kneeling is a very humbling way to receive our Blessed Lord. Kneeling before your King as He bestows upon you the boundless gift of eternal life! This approach shows piety, devotion, and a deep reverence for our Lord. This will undoubtedly peak the curiosity of children and adults alike, perhaps even leading them to believe in the Real Presence through your example!

The little girl in China did not simply wander into the sanctuary, pick up her daily host, pop it into her mouth and scurry away. No… day after day, she risked her life to quietly sneak into the sanctuary, as if it were a crime punishable by death. She humbly knelt before our Lord for an hour and then would proceed to press her mouth to the Blessed Sacrament on the ground as if she were getting down to kiss the very feet of Christ. In the same manner she received her desecrated Lord day after day. Her example is one that truly shows a particular love and understanding that can only be undertaken by someone who fully believes in the doctrine of the Real Presence.


Three: When participating in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, give your all to Him who gave His all for you. What does this mean? The liturgy of the Eucharist is the second principle rite of the mass. It begins with the offering of the bread and wine and ends with the consumption of the consecrated elements; the Body and Blood of Christ. 

When attending the Mass, one should not think to themselves “What have I to gain?” Rather, one should prepare to offer themselves so totally and completely to Him so as to ask “What have I to give?” Every thought, every pain, every tear we’ve shed, every blessing and grace we have received, we should offer all of this and everything to Him while we anticipate receiving our Blessed Lord in the Eucharist. As the priest prays the words of consecration, “This Is My Body/This Is the chalice of My Blood,” adore the raised Body and Blood of Christ with the silent phrase, “My Lord and My God.” This is the moment when the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, a transfiguration of sorts.

When we say “Amen” at the Mass we are saying that we believe this is truly Your Body, Your Blood, and I long for intimacy with You my God! Let me not simply open my mouth to receive you, but may I open my heart, my soul, my whole being to receive you entirely, Body Blood, Soul and Divinity, My Lord Jesus Christ!

It must be stressed that being in a state of grace is an absolute MUST in order to receive communion (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). Therefore, go to confession beforehand! 

A wise priest once said, “When the priest places our Lord into the tabernacle of your souls, ask Him at that moment, that He make you a great saint, that He consecrate all your family and friends to Him. With the love that the immaculate heart of Mary has and all the saints, let us ask Him to take everything that we have, and everything that we are to be, and convert it to Him who came and died for Love of us.”

As declared by Saint Pope JPII, “may our adoration never cease.”

God Love you.

Special thanks to Fr. Jared Cooke for his diligent proofreading of this article, as well as my friends Dan and Emely for their insight and counsel.

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