Summary of today’s show: Continuing their conversation from a few weeks, Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor discuss the next Sacrament of Initiation: First Communion: What is the Eucharist? How is it the source and summit of the Christian life? Why do we have so many names for it? What is transubstantiation? Why does the way we come to receive communion matters so much? But first, Scot, Fr. Chris, and Fr. Wayne Belschner discuss the very funny story of Fr. Chris’s disastrous dinner Saturday night that left the rectory kitchen a smoking ruin and called out six Boston Fire Department trucks.
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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor
Today’s topics: The Sacraments of Initiation, Part II: Eucharist
1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed Fr. Chris O’Connor to the show and asked him about his weekend. Fr. Chris told Scot the story about cooking dinner at Sacred Heart Parish in East Boston for 15 seminarians. He and Fr. Scorzello from St. John Seminary were cooking pasta and prime rib. They had a little fire in the stove and they ignored it. Ten minutes later they had a blazing inferno in the stove. They opened the stove and it blazed like a dragon. They called the fire department which sent not one, but 6 fire engines. As the firefighters approached they saw the seminarians hanging out the third floor window and smoke billowing from the house so they started to run up the ladders. The prime rib was a loss, but Fr. Scorzello’s arrabiatta sauce was saved. Fr. Chris said he maintains it was the dirty oven, while Fr. Wayne Belschner, the pastor, says the aluminum pans had a hole in the pan.
Scot said Fr. Wayne has a very different spin to the story, but Fr. Chris said a jury of his peers would never convict him.
Fr. Chris said there was another event this past weekend. He said the Cheverus Cup, the softball trophy up for grabs between St. John Seminary and Blessed John XXIII seminary, has come back to St. John’s after two years. He said they play one game per year in April. St. John’s had a great victory over Blessed John seminarians, men who are older and have a second vocation, who call their team the Relics. Fr. Chris said his team is called Victory, singular like Miami Heat. He reveled in the huge hollow role in the trophy case over at Blessed John XXIII seminary today. He said his own role is to stand on the sidelines and make sarcastic comments. They play at the softball field at Regis College. He said what the Ring is to Gollum in the Lord of the Rings, the trophy is to Fr. Chris.
Fr. Wayne joined on the phone to give his side of the story, speaking from the charred remains of his rectory kitchen. He said cooking a prime rib at 500 degrees has been said to be a bad idea and then doing that in a tin foil pan that has had a hole punched in it. Fr. Chris said you use 500 degrees to sear the meat. Fr. Wayne agreed that the meat is certainly seared now. Fr. Chris said the deacon’s wife gave him the recipe and Fr. Wayne said the last time she cooked meat for them she burned it so why would you follow her recipe. He then said he had video of Fr. Chris running for his life. Fr. Chris said Fr. Wayne keeps a dirty house and Fr. Wayne said he’s glad he said that on air for the housekeeper to hear it.
He noted that when the housekeeper, who knew Fr. Chris from a previous rectory, heard Fr. Chris was cooking she said it was a bad idea. Fr. Chris then admitted that when he was 14 years old, he accidentally lit the kitchen at St. Margaret’s in Dorchester on fire. He burned all the hair off his head. Fr. Wayne added that Fr. Chris’s sister also won’t let him cook at her house.
Fr. Wayne then related Fr. Chris’s previous cooking disasters. Fr. Chris kept returning to his defense that the oven was filthy. The moral of the story is Fr. Wayne has no oven or microwave and is left eating beans from a can. Happily there was no structural damage to the rectory. Fr. Chris said on Sunday the kitchen was covered in yellow caution tape and Fr. Wayne said he didn’t want to let him near the kitchen again.
Nevertheless, they eventually sat down to a delicious dinner of pasta arrabiatta and chicken parm from a nearby restaurant. Fr. Wayne pointed out that the next day they discovered the bottle of wine and bottles of beer that had been put in the freezer to chill before the fire and had subsequently exploded.
Fr. Wayne did say that the story entered into his homily on Sunday in which he gave thanks for Fr. Chris’s priesthood because he never would have made it as a chef.
2nd segment: Scot said today we’re continuing the conversation started a few weeks ago on the sacraments of initiation, moving on the sacrament of the Eucharist. Fr. Chris said in May typically we have many First Communions as part of the Easter season. Scot said the Catechism says it completes initiation even though it comes before confirmation. Fr. Chris said when an adult comes into the Church, they receive baptism, confirmation and then communion. He said it’s typically the age of reason, about 7 or 8, that the young person can recognize the beauty and dignity of what they’re receiving. Many adults have lost their imagination, but the children can accept so many images that show the reality.
He said he starts with the multiplication of loaves and fishes. The image reminds us that at the Eucharist every single person is invited to come, believe in him, and be nourished. As he thinks about the need for wicker baskets to collect the extra, it’s a reminder of the overabundance of God’s love. As the Lamb of God, the sinless one becomes an offering for our sins and we can offer him our lives.
Fr. Chris said as the Lamb of God, Christ was taking the place of the lambs sacrificed in the temple. Christ becomes atonement for our sins. No longer is the Eucharist is a bloody sacrifice for us. We recall the great sacrifice of the Crucifixion and it is made present for us.
Scot asked why God required a sacrifice of animals. Fr. Chris said it is justice that something needs to be restored. When we sin, there has to be restoration. When someone commits a crime, there has to be restitution and punishment. Sin goes against divine justice. Christ became both the justice and mercy in order that we might be saved.
Scot said we hear that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. He asked what it means. Fr. Chris said we can talk about the source by referring to the Vietnamese cardinal Van Thuan who talked about his Communist guard who smuggled in bread and a drop of wine so he could celebrate Mass in the palm of his hand in his cell. He received the living God in that pice of bread and drop of wine. He said that lights run on electricity. Cars run on gasoline. The Christian runs on the Eucharist. In encountering the Eucharist, we encounter Jesus Christ. Mass comes from the word Missa, meaning “sent”. Having receive the Eucharist we are sent into the world. There isn’t dallying when we receive Communion in Mass. The Eucharist is the source of our life. Pope Benedict said the most important word coming out of Vatican II was Communion. We commune with God and we commune with our brothers and sisters.
As a summit, we think of the mountain. The Eucharist is the apex of our prayer. It is God’s abiding presence in the world. Fr. Chris said after Communion, a priest he knows says, “We have received. We have been received.” God takes us into his life and into relationship.
Scot asked about all the names we have for the sacrament. Fr. Chris said we have the names because of the mystery of the Eucharist and we can never fully describe it or comprehend it. The different names for the Eucharist mean there’s such a great mystery that we can’t capture fully what’s going on.
Eucharist means thanksgiving and reminds us that when we come to Mass, it is important to take a moment to reflect on how God has blessed us and how we are thankful. When someone loves you, the only choice is to return that love and be thankful for it. When we come to the Mass, we see how great God’s love is for us. Scot said sometimes we forget to thank God for some of the biggest things God gives us to us: our life, our faith, our Church. Fr. Chris said if we are up and taking nourishment, thank God. God redeemed us and offers to us the gift of heaven.
Scot asked how every Mass is the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of the Cross, the same event happening in front of us. Fr. Chris it is because Christ willed it to be so.
Scot said those dealing with the greatest physical sufferings are often those who are most thankful when coming to church. He said one of the great mysteries is how a good and loving God can permit suffering. He said often suffering helps people to turn to God in prayer. Fr. Chris said when we see evil in the world we come to the recognition that we’re never fully complete on our own. At the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit comes down and transform bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Scot asked about the word transubstantiation. Fr. Chris said the substance changes. While it appears to be bread and wife, there is a change in substance or what it really is. This is why we do certain things, like look toward the tabernacle and the votive lamp to genuflect in reverence. When we receive the Eucharist, we give a bow to the Body and Blood. In the sacraments, all of them, it is God acting, even if he uses a minister. There is nothing magical about the sacraments. This is the gift of Christ himself sending the Holy Spirit, his Body, his Blood offered up for us. We need to have eyes of faith to see Jesus Christ, whether in the poor or in bread and wine.
Scot said in Scripture, Jesus tells us we are to gnaw on his flesh to have eternal life. Through his mercy he gives us what appears to be bread and wine. The substance if God, but the accidents—what we see, hear, feel, smell—appears to be regular food. God uses what normal in our lives to show us something supernatural, holy, and divine. Bread and wine is in the poorest of homes throughout the world in both rich and poor homes. Something so basic, yet so profound. At the same time, God is transforming us into the Body of Christ as well.
The priest is in persona Christi when celebrating the Eucharist. Scot asked what that means. Fr. Chris said it never gets boring. When you pray the prayers, wherever you are in your prayer life, something hits you as the priest. He said Missionaries of Charity have a sign in their chapel telling priests to celebrate as if it was their first Mass, their last Mass, their only Mass. Fr. Chris remembers one time praying the Eucharistic Prayer and one phrase so caught him and captured him that he needed to be prodded to continue. It was a profound moment of being reminded of what a great gift this is.
Priesthood and Eucharist go hand in hand. You don’t have one without the other. when the priest speaks Christ’s words “this is my body” and “this is my blood” it’s also a reminder to the priest that he too needs to make an offering of himself to the Church.
Speaking of First Communions, Scot said they are special moments, but every time we go to communion, we should come with the same fervor and passion. If it’s not there, then ask God to put it there. He said he also believes that the lack of understanding of the Eucharist among most Catholics comes from the way we go up to Communion. He often sees people going through the motions. One of his children once said to him that the people in the Communion line didn’t look like or act as if they were going to receive Jesus. How we receive Communion influences how others believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ.
Fr. Chris said it’s a great reminder to us. When we give thanks, there should be joy. There is nothing greater than receiving the living God. We also receive him in the Word of God and we should prepare for that as well by reading the readings beforehand.
Fr. Chris said it’s a joy to see the First Communion children come up with joy and pride, purity and innocence to receive Jesus Christ. We need to instill in them that this is not their only communion, but they should come every week.
Scot said we should also instill in them the need to come forward in the right manner with the right posture and attitude to receive.