Diocese ignites bold new initiative to re-engage young adults in the Church

By David Cooley.

It’s called the Frassati Project and it is an ambitious program being implemented in the Diocese of Covington by Brad Torline, the new young adult ministry coordinator in the Office of Catechesis and Faith Formation. Mr. Torline has been working as a member of that office since August.

“The Frassati Project is a new major undertaking in our diocese to re-engage young adults in the life and mission of the Church, but, most especially, the life and mission of the local parishes,” Mr. Torline said.

According to Mr. Torline, the project is structured to build a close-knit community of young Catholic men and women in Northern Kentucky and revitalize Catholic culture in their lives, ultimately leading to an authentic sacramental way of life.

“It is all about building a community among young adults, identifying leaders and making sure those leaders from across the diocese are connected and supporting each other on the diocesan level,” Mr. Torline said. “We will empower those leaders to start and sustain their own young adult groups at their respective parishes.”

The Frassati Project gets its name from Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, a Catholic man who lived in the early 20th century and died at the age of 24. He is known for how he put his pious beliefs into action, his amiable character and his devotion to the Catholic faith. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 20, 1990, and dubbed the “Man of the Eight Beatitudes.”

The Frassati Project is organized as a three-tiered structure of events and Mr. Torline plans to follow this “Win,” “Build,” “Send” model through the events the Office of Catechesis and Faith Formation will host throughout the year.

“The idea is to win young adults over through cultural and social events, build them up through formational and sacramental events; and, finally, send them out with the tools they need to evangelize and strengthen parish life, through retreats and small parish groups,” he said.

In a society that appears to be growing more and more hostile toward religion and the continuously rising number of young people who don’t associate themselves with any particular belief system (known as “the nones”), Mr. Torline acknowledged that there is a lot of work to be done and winning people over is sometimes a process that doesn’t happen over night.

“When trying to engage young adults and millennials, we cannot deny that there has been intellectual attacks on the Church. Many people don’t think it is rational to have faith anymore. Most young adults, when surveyed after leaving the Church, give an intellectual reason. I think there are also people out there who want to believe but just don’t think that it is intellectually viable anymore. We have to address those issues on some level, and in a systematic, thorough young adult ministry.”

The cultural and social events that the Office is planning to host tend to put the richness and beauty of Catholic culture on full display.

“The Catholic Church has always been big on feasts and celebrating life,” he said, “and so we are planning socials around the Church’s liturgical calendar.”

Mr. Torline said that once the young adults have had that cultural experience that draws them in through fellowship and beauty (something that wins them over), they’ll be given opportunities to take a step deeper in that second tier — build.

“The second phase is basically engaging them on the level of the mind and heart. We’ll host events where we can discuss life’s most important questions, where we can begin to address some of the intellectual issues and help young people grow in confidence in the Church’s intellectual tradition and the rationality of believing,” said Mr. Torline. “And as they get more comfortable with their faith they will be more open to that sacramental experience of Christ.”

Each year in the spring and fall there will be a series of “win” and “build” events; in the summer and winter there will be what Mr. Torline calls “Frassati retreats.”

“The social events are designed to get people more interested. They will start meeting other people and having serious conversations about the faith and become more open to it and eventually attend a Frassati retreat in the winter or summer,” he said.

“The hope is that, once they reach this final tier — ‘send’ — they will start a small group at the parish and invite a couple people that are open to the Church and take them through the whole cycle. The idea is to keep everything going and growing.”

Isaak A. Isaak, director of the Office of Catechesis and Faith Formation, said that his office is striving to follow the vision Bishop Roger Foys, as well as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has laid out for young adult ministry.

“As the director of Catechesis I always look to the bishops, especially our bishop, as resources. As an office, we have to ask ourselves how we can be keepers of the bishop’s vision,” Mr. Isaak said. “In 1996 the USCCB published a document called ‘In Sons and Daughters of the Light: A Pastoral Plan for Ministry with Young Adults’ where they offered three invitations to young adults: holiness, community and service.”

Mr. Isaak said that a young adult minister is called to show young adults the many opportunities the Church offers that can lead young adults to holiness.

“The bishops are aware that young adults seek community, they seek companionship in terms of their faith journey. They want to connect with each other and are searching for identity among their peers. There are many ways to get involved with the community, through both spiritual and social events,” Mr. Isaak said.

“And service is important, too. The Catholic Church is known by its service, and young people are good resources for serving the community and being engaged in the community.”

Mr. Isaak said that “In Sons and Daughters of the Light” also outlined three goals for young adult ministry: connecting young adults with Jesus Christ, with the Church, with the mission of the Church in the world and with their peer community.

“For me, that question of how to connect with Jesus is crucial; it goes back to the question of how to be holy,” Mr. Isaak said. “The other thing is connection to the Church. We must connect young adults to their own parish communities and help them recognize that it is like a family, where there is so much available to them.”

Mr. Isaak said that he is very excited about where young adult ministry is headed in the diocese.

“It can be very difficult to bring young adults to ministry, but it is important. It reminds me of what Pope John Paul II said at World Youth Day in 1995: the Church must be a traveling companion to young people. We can’t wait for young adults to come to our church, we have to meet them where they are and reach out to them.”

The Office of Catechesis and Formation is working to build a core team of representatives from every parish in the diocese to help launch and continue The Frassati Project. Anyone interested (even if you are over 39) is encouraged to contact Mr. Torline at (859) 392-1590 or btorline@covdio.org.

Messenger Series on the Eucharist #5 (part 2) – The Eucharist in its relationship with the Church

By Father Michael Hennigen.

The Messenger continues it’s series on the Eucharist with Father Michael Hennigen offering a 2-part reflection on how the Eucharist answers our longing for God (part 1) and unites us all in the Mystical Body of Christ (part 2).

Everlasting life is to be in “common union” with God, to be one with him. We are one with him by receiving his body and blood, just as he taught us in: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.”(John 6:54)

God calls each of us to perfect and everlasting communion with him. He gives the time of earthly life to us as an opportunity to either cooperate with him in achieving this goal or to reject his offer of salvation. In the “Eu-charis-t,” the word “charis,” in Greek, means “grace.” It is by God’s grace that participation in his divine life is possible and we are saved.

The Eucharist is food for the journey; the strength and nourishment we need as we journey to our heavenly home. In the Eucharist we are in communion — union — with God and each other. It is the Eucharist that makes the Church one with Christ. The Eucharist unifies the Church — the Mystical Body of Christ.

In the Eucharist the members of his Mystical Body are joined to Christ, the head. The Sacrament makes the Church. Every offering of the Eucharist is simultaneously the sacrifice of those participating at that time, all those united to the Church and all those who have entered heavenly glory.

The nature of the Church as the Mystical Body is communion with God. By the gift of the Blessed Sacrament, the Church gives what she is — Christ’s Body — and becomes what she is more fully, the Body of Christ. We become what we receive; we become “another Christ,” Jesus to others, his hands and his feet.

The Eucharist commits us to others. Jesus sacrificed himself for us. We are to lay down our lives for others as he laid down his life for us. We pray that he make of us a sacrifice, a holy offering, to God and to others.

The Eucharist commits us to the poor — how could we withhold material goods from those with whom we share all spiritual goods?

God created the world for communion with his divine life. Through the sacraments, he unites us to himself and makes us temples of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the world. The Church — the Body of the Christ — in union with Christ the Head, continues his incarnate presence on earth. We grow in sacramental living as Christ lives in us and through us. We are to let God’s love flow through us. We are conduits of his love, sharing it through our humanity, letting it flow like a mountain stream.

Father Michael Hennigen is parochial vicar at St. Pius X Parish, Edgewood.

Messenger series on the Eucharist #5 (part 1) — Our longing for God

By Father Michael Hennigen.

The Messenger continues it’s series on the Eucharist with Father Michael Hennigen offering a 2-part reflection on how the Eucharist answers our longing for God (part 1) and unites us all in the Mystical Body of Christ (part 2).

One of my favorite places to go ever since I was young is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. My family and I would always stay in Gatlinburg, and we still go down as a family every year in the summer.

Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains is spiritually uplifting, a kind of retreat for me. Every morning we go to Mass at St. Mary’s in town and then spend the day out in nature. Nature is God’s “first word” to us, showing us that he created us, he loves us and he sustains us. In the Gospels it is mentioned many times that Jesus would go off alone to pray, to be with his Father, out in the wilderness, up on the mountain alone to pray. Mountains in Scripture are often the place of encounter with God. Psalm 144:5 says, “Lord, incline your heavens and come down; touch the mountains and make them smoke.”

It was about 10 years ago on one of our family trips to the “Smokies” we decided to buy huge inner tubes called River Rats at the Walmart in Pigeon Forge. We went tubing in the Greenbriar and Elkmont areas of the park. We fell in love with this activity and now do it every year. I notice the beautiful mountain streams — the cool, clear, crystal water — and how they keep flowing, they never dry up. The water is refreshing to see, to listen to, and to get in to. It always reminds me of the verse in Scripture, “As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.” (Psalm 42:1)

We long for God, we thirst for God, we are made for God. We long for his life — eternal life — to be one with him. As St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Our Lord thirsts for us. Jesus’ words on the cross, “I thirst,” demonstrate that he wants to share his life with us. Only in God is our soul — our thirst — quenched, so that we will never run dry.

In the book of Ezekiel, chapter 47, the prophet speaks of water flowing from the temple giving life to the earth. Jesus is the “New Temple,” as he speaks of himself, his body as the Temple — God with us — and from his side came forth blood and water, the sacramental life of the Church. Water and blood are signs of life.

From the side of Christ came forth his bride, the Church, just as from the side of Adam came forth Eve. He gave us his divine life, his body and blood, the Eucharist. The word Eucharist means “thanksgiving,” and we are thankful for the gift of his divine life, which is everlasting life, salvation from sin and death. We long for salvation like a deer longing for flowing streams; our souls thirsts for God.

Father Michael Hennigen is parochial vicar at St. Pius X Parish, Edgewood.

Thomas More earns university status

The Thomas More College Board of Trustees announced Sept. 28 that the college would officially become Thomas More University effective Oct. 1. Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education formally granted university status to the college in July. While full implementation of Thomas More’s name change will take place over the coming 2018-2019 academic year, the college rolled out its new identity at the end of last week, wrapping up a weeklong series of events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Crestview Hills campus dedication.

The new university designation celebrates the evolution and success of the college, and it positions Thomas More to leverage its expanding academic offerings, including new graduate programs in ethical leadership studies and athletic training, as well as an array of online programs. The transition to university will necessitate a new organizational structure by creating three distinct colleges and one new institute: College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, College of Education and Health Sciences, and Institute for Ethical Leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies.

The college’s breadth of academic programs has been enriched by recent growth in its physical facilities. This fall, Thomas More will open a new residence hall on its campus, a new STEM Outreach Center at its Biology Field Station on the Ohio River, and it will further expand its campus footprint with the new Center for Health Sciences (in partnership with St. Elizabeth Healthcare) and a Performing Arts Laboratory, both located in Edgewood within walking distance of the campus core. The college has also witnessed significant growth in its endowment, donor contributions, co-curricular programs and enrollment — welcoming the largest incoming class in the school’s history this fall.

“This is a landmark event, and we believe it is the right time in our history to assume the university moniker,” said Kathleen Jagger, acting president of Thomas More. “In 2021, we will mark our centennial anniversary, and this transition to university is the first in a series of strategic moves we are making to position Thomas More for its next century of work.”

Dr. Jagger noted that the new designation will enhance the school’s expansion, marketing and branding efforts as it seeks to position itself, its students and its faculty on the global stage. Dr. Jagger explained that the term “college” in many places around the world actually refers to high schools. “Our new identity as Thomas More University should translate into greater credibility on the international stage for both our students and for those students from other countries who might want to choose an education here.”

“The Board of Trustees is proud to share this momentous announcement with our community,” said Marc Neltner, chairman of the Thomas More College Board of Trustees. “As Thomas More continues to innovate, our commitment to our students remains steadfast. Thomas More University will continue to provide the exceptional, values-based education that has given us our reputable status as a Catholic institution grounded in the liberal arts, while offering new, expanded professional and integrative academic programs.”

Bishop Foys’ statement on current sex abuse crisis

My dear Friends in Christ,

A Pennsylvania Grand Jury released, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, a report detailing the names of 301 priests who sexually abused over 1,000 minors over a 70-year period in that State. This report, coupled with the recent revelations regarding the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and seminaries in Boston, Mass., and Lincoln, Neb., has shocked and angered God’s people, including myself.

These revelations call to mind for me, as I am sure it does for many of you, 16 years ago when we, in the Diocese of Covington, faced a similar crisis. It was an extremely difficult time for us as a Diocese — for our people, for our priests, for me and most especially for the victims of sexual abuse.

Meeting individually with over 200 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse by priests changed my life. I have seen the pain in their eyes and in many instances shared their tears from their experiences. Their pain lives in my heart and impacts every decision I make in my quest to protect children and vulnerable adults. I will carry their pain with me to the Bishops’ Conference in November as we again discuss the concrete changes that need to occur within the governance of the Church to better address the sin of sexual abuse within the Church.

Pope Francis, in his Aug. 20 statement concerning the findings of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, said, “Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening.”

I assure you that in our Diocese we will continue to do everything we can to address this issue. I commit myself to acknowledging and working together, with our priests and people, toward this important task, that “no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening.”

Let us begin by placing ourselves in Christ’s hands. Please join me in praying for the victims of child sexual abuse by clergy, that they may find peace and healing in the arms of Christ. Pray also for the good and faithful priests who, with me, are humiliated and disheartened by the sins of their brother priests, that they may continue to live faithful lives in the example of Christ.

Christ, alone, suffered death on the Cross to redeem us from our sins. Now, Jesus, we place our trust in You.

Yours devotedly in the Lord,

Most Rev. Roger J. Foys, D.D.

Bishop of Covington

Series on the Eucharist #4 – The Bread of Life discourse

By Father Michael Comer.

“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you will not have life within you.” Jesus spoke these words to a group of his disciples — those who had already begun to follow him, and who had at least the beginnings of faith in him. But these words shocked them to the core. The very idea of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus was totally repulsive to them. In fact, they were, as Jews, forbidden to have any contact with blood at all. It made them ritually unclean. And so, they turned away from him. We are told that they returned to their former ways of life. They abandoned him, and refused to have any more to do with him. This was just too much.

We read this account in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John — what is called the Bread of Life discourse. It is a dialogue between Jesus and his followers, who have experienced the miracle of the multiplication of the bread and fishes, and want him to continue to provide for their physical sustenance. Jesus explains that they have missed the point. God wishes to feed them with bread from heaven that will give them eternal life. “Give us this bread always,” they respond.

Jesus then begins to explain to them that he himself is the Bread from Heaven. He is the only one who can satisfy the deepest hungers of the human heart. Only he can give them eternal life. If they eat this bread they will never be hungry again. They will never thirst again. They are shocked, because they have never heard this kind of talk from a rabbi before. Each of them taught about God and how God would satisfy their deepest longings. But Jesus is saying that he himself will fulfill their deepest longings. This is scandalous at best, and blatant heresy at worst. Who does he think he is? Who, indeed!

At this point in the discourse, Jesus changes the metaphors. He no longer speaks of bread from heaven, but of his own flesh and blood. “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” This is even more shocking. “How can he give us his flesh to eat? What can this possibly mean?” And now Jesus becomes even more shocking in his statements.

“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you will have no life in you.” Now he is not only talking about eating his flesh, but drinking his blood. How repulsive! How disgusting! How offensive! Jesus keeps pushing the issue, not softening his words in any way. In fact, he doubles down, beginning to use a new word for “eat”, which is typically used to refer to a dog gnawing on a bone. “My flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh (whoever gnaws on my flesh like a dog gnawing on a bone) and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”

It is at this moment that the line had been crossed. Jesus had gone too far. It is one thing to say that God will provide for his children. It is something else for Jesus to identify himself with God and tell them that he would provide for them. If Jesus had said that God had sent him to provide for his people that would have been somewhat acceptable. But when Jesus essentially made himself equal to God that was too much. And when he said that we must eat his body and drink his blood, that was really too much. But now, he has become even more graphic, even more literal, telling us that we must actually gnaw or chew on his flesh and drink his blood — this is a bridge too far.

I am certain that Jesus must have felt a great sadness as he watched these followers of his turn away, and reject not only this teaching but also him. He loved them. He had come in order to redeem them, and to be the food that would satisfy them, and make them into the children of God. It must have broken his heart. Couldn’t he have tried a little harder to hold on to them, and not let them leave? Couldn’t he have softened his teaching just a little bit, so that it would have been less shocking and upsetting to them? But he didn’t. He let them walk away. If they could not accept this teaching, they could not be his disciples. This was that important.

We then see Jesus look with sadness to the Twelve. His words are filled with hurt and disappointment and fear. “Are you going to leave me, too?” My guess is that the Apostles were just as shocked and confused by this teaching as were those in the crowd. They too were repulsed and repelled by the idea of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood. They were shaken to the core. And yet Peter responds, for all of them, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe that you are the Holy One of God.” In other words, “We don’t get this either. It makes no sense to us. But we know and believe in you, and so we are staying. We trust you.”

Some studies state that on any given Sunday, only about 20 percent of those who identify as Catholic attend Mass. And only about half attend with any regularity at all. There are many reasons for this, but I believe that one of the main reasons is that in their heart, many Catholics do not believe what Jesus tells us in this Bread of Life discourse. “I am the Bread that has come down from heaven. … I am the Bread of Life. … Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. If you eat this bread, you will live forever. … This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. … Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you will not have life within you. … My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. … Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”

If we truly believe the words of Jesus and what he is promising to those who eat his flesh and drink his blood, how could we possibly absent ourselves from the Mass?

Let us pray for a rediscovery, by the Catholic people, of the remarkable gift of the Eucharist, the Bread from Heaven, and the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ himself.

Father Michael Comer is the pastor of Mother of God Parish, Covington.

Series on the Eucharist #3 – Feeding the five thousand

By Father Ryan Stenger.

The only one of the miracles of Jesus that is included in all four of the Gospel accounts is his feeding of the crowd of 5,000 with miraculously multiplied bread and fish. Obviously this event greatly affected the first Christians and was influential in forming their understanding of the Lord’s identity and mission.

In the Gospel according to John, the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 is reported at the beginning of the sixth chapter and is followed by the Lord’s famous Bread of Life discourse, in which Christ explains to the crowd his teaching on the Eucharist, thus drawing a strong connection between the miraculous feeding of the crowd and the sacrament of his Body and Blood that he would institute at the Last Supper. The evangelist also emphasizes this connection in his description of the time and place of the miracle. St. John writes, “Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples” (John 6:3). So often throughout the Bible the mountaintop is where God and man come together most profoundly. Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, the prophet Elijah spoke to God in the silent whisper on Mt. Horeb, Christ himself was transfigured in glory on Mt. Tabor, and crucified on Calvary. According to the ancient imagination, the mountain was the place where heaven and earth meet, the symbol of God reaching down to us as we reach up to him.

And St. John also writes, “The Jewish feast of Passover was near” (John 6:4). It was on Passover that the sacrificial lambs were put to death in remembrance of God’s liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. Of course, Christ would die on the Cross at Passover time, as the true Lamb of God whose sacrifice saves us from death and liberates us from slavery to sin. And so, with these details, St. John is showing that the miracle that Christ performed in feeding this massive crowd was not simply a matter of providing ordinary food, but that it was symbolic of something much more, that the bread he gave them prefigured the Bread of Life about which he would go on to teach them, the Eucharist — the place where heaven and earth meet, the unbloody re-presentation of the sacrifice of the Cross, the Lord’s sacred Body offered up and his precious Blood poured out.

It’s easy to imagine that enormous crowd of five thousand following the Lord across the Sea of Galilee and up the mountain. They surely must have been hungry and weary and maybe even lost and confused. How many times throughout their lives had they sought for a way to satisfy their hunger, for a place to find rest, for a source of guidance and direction, but been left unfulfilled in the end? But now they have come to Christ. And after they have been fed by him, St. John tells us that they “had their fill” and still there were twelve baskets of bread left over (John 6:12). That crowd stands for all of mankind, because we all have a profound spiritual hunger, a longing for more than what the world can give. Our hearts reach out towards the infinite, the transcendent, the divine, because God has made us for himself. Only in him are we able to have our fill, so to speak.

And it is in the Eucharist that he gives himself to us as food to sustain us on our journey towards him, as the only food that is able to satisfy that most fundamental longing of our hearts. If it were merely a symbol, it would not be enough, but the Lord gives himself to us truly in the Eucharist — his Body and Blood, his soul and divinity. And he gives himself to us not simply in a momentary way during the liturgy, but he remains with us always in the Tabernacle. His presence abides in our midst; he lives within his Church, so that we always have access to him, so that we’re always able to find our sustenance in communion with him.

The Second Vatican Council taught that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the whole Christian life (“Lumen Gentium,” n. 11). It is in the Eucharist that God lives among us — from him do our lives come and to him are our lives directed. He must indeed be the source and summit of our lives, as a Church, as a diocese, as parishes, as families, as individuals. But sometimes we lose sight of that. It seems so common to hear the Church spoken of as a sort of social service agency, which exists to run hospitals, and schools, and soup kitchens, but then for it to be forgotten that her primary purpose, the reason for all of her activity, is the worship of God. A parish, for example, can do all sorts of great things, but if it doesn’t draw its people closer to Christ in the Eucharist, then it has completely failed in its mission. And it is the same way in our individual lives. We can become so consumed with activity and busy-ness, even good and important and necessary things, that we lose sight of God living in our midst, that we sometimes even tell ourselves that we don’t have time to spend with him and worship him. Sometimes we look for our sustenance and satisfaction in other places; sometimes we direct our lives to other ends.

But the Lord’s miraculous feeding of the five thousand reminds us that only he can truly feed us, only he can satisfy the restlessness of our hearts. May we never look for our happiness apart from him who lives with us always in the Eucharist, so that we might live at all times with him as the source and summit of all that we do.

Father Ryan Stenger, J.C.L., is pastor, St. Joseph Parish, Camp Springs; judge, Diocesan Tribunal Office; and chaplain, Covington Latin School.

Messenger series on the Eucharist #2 (part 2) – From Exodus to the second Exodus

By Alma Burnette.

This week Dr. Alma Burnette continues her exploration of some of the ways the Eucharist is prefigured in the Old Testament.

Moses is a type of Christ. Both were born at a time when oppressors were killing Hebrew babies. Both had unusual first cribs. Both of them were raised by a man who was not their natural father. Both were God’s appointed delivers. Both were intercessors. Both offered their own lives to save the people. Both fasted 40 days and nights. Both gave up great riches to serve. Both, at their first appearance, were rejected by their own people. Both proclaimed commandments. Both provided food and drink. The list could go on and on.

Now for the Eucharist connections:

Moses’ first public miracle was changing water to blood. Jesus’ first public miracle was changing water to wine, a forerunner of the greater miracle of changing wine to his own blood. Moses was the first priest to represent all the people. In this new position, he proclaims the Torah to the people. Jesus, the High Priest, proclaims and also fulfilled the Torah during his three-year ministry — the same number of years it takes to read through the Torah reading cycle in synagogues. After proclaiming the Torah, Moses threw the blood of the sacrifice on the people saying, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made for you.” The priest during the Mass lifts the consecrated host and wine and says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world … ”

Moses publicly consecrates Aaron, which began the priesthood (Kohanim succession) that continues to this day. All Kohens must trace their authority back to Aaron’s consecration. Only these men and the other Levites were permitted to offer sacrifices and other priestly duties for the people. This is what Jesus did with the institution of the Twelve for apostolic succession. Only they and those they ordain have the authority to offer the Mass, announce forgiveness, etc.

The Levitical men, while serving as priests, though most were married, had to be celibate for the weeks they served as priests (five non-consecutive weeks per year, see I Samuel 21:1-5; Leviticus 15:18, 22:4). Priests ordained in the New Testament serve year-round. Peter, a married Jew, probably abstained (I Corinthians 7:5-7) before offering the sacrifice of the Mass. The lay priesthood does not have to be celibate because they are the receivers of the sacrifice, not the ones who offer.

The manna in the wilderness is explained in John 6. The manna is related to the unleavened “Bread of the Presence,” also translated the “Bread of the Faces” (plural), which was commanded to be on a table in the Holy Place in the Tabernacle (and the future Temple) perpetually. It foreshadowed Christ’s presence as the bread, the visible yet invisible face of God (Exodus 25:23-30; Leviticus 24:5-7; Numbers 4:7; John 14:9).

The Passover feast is a monumental foreshadowing of the Eucharist. In this article, I will only touch on details normally not covered elsewhere. For instance, the way the blood of the lamb was strategically smeared on the doors: they poured the blood, not in a basin as translated, but in a dugout hole in the threshold of the door. They dipped the hyssop into the blood, applied it to the two side posts and on the lintel (top) of each door. By observation, one could see the result of the smearing as an upright version of the Paleo Hebrew letter TAV. This letter means: the finish, the covenant, the mark, the sign and the signature (Exodus 12:13). The Hebrew letter looks like two crossed sticks — a cross, a cross with blood on it in the same location as the blood on Jesus’ cross.

The Last Supper Jesus had with his disciple was probably not the Passover meal itself. The reason: the Passover lambs had not yet been sacrificed; Jesus had to die with the Passover lambs to fulfill the typology, which began with his birth (all Passover lambs during the second temple period had to be born in Bethlehem). The meal celebrated the evening before the Passover lambs were sacrificed was probably the Todah sacrificial meal (Leviticus 7:12-15, 22). “Todah” in Hebrew means “thanksgiving”; in Greek the word is “Eucharistia.” It could be any time of the year as often as desired and was often eaten on the evenings surrounding the actual Passover night. The Todah meal was to give thanks for individual or family deliverance from peril or death. The Passover meal was a collective Todah meal designated for all Israel to eat together on one specific night, once a year, to celebrate a national deliverance.

The Todah meals had lamb, unleavened bread, cups of wine, prayers and hymns (the Hallel psalms are Todah psalms). The Todah sacrifice is considered the greatest of the animal sacrifices because it added suffering of one’s own life (see Psalm 69:30). The Todah is a subcategory of the peace offerings (Leviticus 7:12-15), the only sacrifice non-priests are permitted to share in its sacrificial meal. The Todah offering was listed in the passage about the seventy-four being called to go up the mountain with Moses (Exodus 24:1-11). While there, they beheld God as they ate and drank. So too, on the night before the official Passover, the Twelve Apostles were called to go up with Jesus to an upper room. There they beheld God (Jesus) as they ate and drank. From that night on his body, blood, soul and divinity sacrifice would be called the Eucharist — Todah in Hebrew.

If the Lord’s Supper was the Todah meal and not the yearly Passover meal, we have an explanation as to why the first Christians, who were Jews, immediately began celebrating this sacrificial meal weekly, and sometimes daily, instead of once a year. The ancient rabbis believed that after the Messiah comes all sacrifices except the Todah would cease. They were correct! Today, at the end of the Mass, the congregation exclaims, “Thanks be to God” — in Hebrew, “Todah laEl.”

Dr. Alma Burnette is a parishioner at St. Paul Parish, Florence. She has a master’s degree in theology and a Ph.D. in Biblical studies. She is a writer, speaker, teacher and graphic designer. She is currently the president of Word Truths Ministries and a media assistant at Holmes High School.

Messenger series on the Eucharist #2 (part 1) – In the Beginning …

By Alma Burnette.

This second article in the Messenger’s series on the Eucharist features Dr. Alma Burnette exploring some of the ways the Eucharist is prefigured in the Old Testament. It will be published in three parts in three consecutive issues.

“In beginning created Elohim (…) the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1”

In the center of this verse, in Hebrew, is an untranslatable word, which is two Hebrew letters — the “aleph” and the “tav” — the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In Greek the letters are the Alpha and the Omega. It serves the grammatical purpose of being the direct object pointer. These two letters form a concept rather than an actual word. They represent all the words of God by which all things were spoken into existence, including Eucharist. These two letters are peppered throughout the Old Testament, seasoning its meaning. The rabbis teach:

When Messiah comes he will explain the meaning of the aleph and the tav … AND HE DID! He said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Rev. 22:12) The same concept is in John 1:1.

When God made man, he made him out of the earth’s pre-created dust and breathed life into the lifeless form, bringing man into being by his previously spoken words, “Let us make man in our image.”

During the Mass the priest says, “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life. … Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.”

The priest is exercising his ordained authority to bring life to the lifeless bread and wine, previously made by human hands, fulfilling Christ’s previous words, “This is my body. … This is my blood.”

Just as the lifeless form of the first Adam, became a living soul so the lifeless form of the bread and wine become the body, blood, soul and divinity of the last Adam, Christ.

In Genesis 2 God causes a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and from his side comes forth Eve. Adam exclaims, “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” God allowed Christ to die, a deep sleep for his body, and his side, too, was opened (pierced) for the Church to come forth. St. Paul writes, “Because we are members of his body we are of his flesh and of his bone.” (Eph 5:30) How so? By the Eucharist being consumed at the Mass, the marriage supper of the Lamb.

In Genesis 2 and 3 the two trees planted in the middle of the garden foreshadow the Eucharist. During a heated debate with an Orthodox Jew, I was asked, “Do you know what the fruit on the two trees in the garden were?” Taken aback, I replied, “No one knows for sure.”

“AHA!!!” He shouts in victory, “It was manna. The tree of life had unleavened manna and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had leavened manna, both heavenly bread.” I was shocked and demanded, “Your words are not sufficient, present your evidence.” And he did. Genesis 3:19: “In the sweat of your face shalt thou eat bread … ”

He continued, the word “fruit” means more than apples, oranges or figs. It means “the product of,” like “fruit of the womb.” Adam and Eve never prepared food before disobeying God. The couple only ate from the trees, not from anything that grew from the ground, such as grain. Now, after the disobedience, Adam would work to obtain bread, and since, it did not require work before, it had to be a product of a tree — the tree of life.

I suddenly recalled, in the Middle Ages, during the feast of Adam and Eve, the churches held Paradise plays and decorated the tree of life with wafers symbolizing the Eucharistic host.

Now John 6:5 became even more real and Romans 5 more clear on how death came into the world by the first Adam eating outside of the will of God, from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (the Law) and how life comes into the world by eating according to the will of God, Christ’s flesh and blood — the Eucharist, the fruit of the tree of life we call the Cross. Both are heavenly bread. The Jews refer to the wooden rollers the scrolls are attached to as “atzei chaim,” trees of life (the scrolls are the Word of God, written on kosher animal skin sewed together by the thread of its veins).

My debater continued, “When Messiah comes he will elevate the meaning of the manna. Now we meditate on it and celebrate it by eating it during the eight days of the Passover season.”

I responded, “The Messiah has come and did elevate it as being his body. We too celebrate by eating at a meal called the Mass. We too meditate; we call it ‘Adoration.’”

He was stunned and said, “You are a teacher.” I responded, “Without you and your people I would have nothing to teach, Jesus, after all, is a Jew.”

Now, the rest of Genesis: the blood of Able “cries out” … fulfilled in Hebrews 12:24 where Jesus’s blood speaks; Noah planting a vineyard and grain after the flood and being permitted to eat clean animals … animals originally only for sacrifice now allowed by eating to become bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh; Abraham receiving from Melchizedek bread and wine; Jacob clothes himself in Esau’s clothes (Incarnation) and receiving the inheritance which included grain for bread and plenty of wine, that Esau, the first son (Adam) sold; Joseph depending on Pharaoh’s bread maker and cupbearer for deliverance. One died, one lived — death and resurrection in the Eucharist. Later Joseph reveals himself to his brothers after placing a cup into the grain. This led to their confession, reconciliation and the salvation of the world through grain for bread distribution.

Next comes Exodus.

Dr. Alma Burnette is a parishioner at St. Paul Parish, Florence. She has a master’s degree in theology and a Ph.D. in Biblical studies. She is a writer, speaker, teacher and graphic designer. She is currently the president of Word Truths Ministries and a media assistant at Holmes High School.

Messenger series on the Eucharist #1 — Real Presence of Christ

By Msgr. William Neuhaus.

I enjoyed watching recently an interesting and even somewhat charming British documentary in which Queen Elizabeth II (who even managed a rare joke) handled, examined and talked about the St. Edward Crown, with which she was crowned 65 years ago and which she apparently has not seen since (I suppose she doesn’t keep these things in a dresser drawer), and the newer Imperial State Crown, which she dons on a regular basis to open the British Parliament. She spoke with some knowledge of the history of the great Cullinan “Star of Africa” diamond which adorns the latter crown, and the program featured commentary on the circumstances of its discovery, cutting and placement in the crown (the priceless gem was sent years ago from South Africa to London by regular mail!), as well as a lengthy discussion on the stone’s characteristics, colors, flaws and so forth, which was all news to me and rather beyond anything I know (which is more or less nothing) about diamonds

In teaching about the Eucharist, I have all the same often found myself mentioning diamonds: They are proverbial for being (pun intended) multi-faceted, a term which comes to mind when one reads this beautiful quote on the Eucharist from the Second Vatican Council, to be found (n. 1323) in the wonderfully comprehensible and accessible “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” which should have a place in the home of every committed Catholic:

At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet “in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.”

Sacrifice, memorial, sacrament, bond, banquet … how wonderfully bright is this shining “source and summit,” as the Council calls it, of the Christian life.

The Catechism with great clarity references the centuries of Scriptural and Church teaching on the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, including that “summary” which was presented in the 16th century by the Council of Trent:

Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God … that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation. (n. 1376)

It sometimes happens that faithful Catholics encounter people objecting to what we believe about the Real Presence by claiming that the Church’s use of that medieval, philosophical term, “transubstantiation,” as well as the development over the centuries of how the Church has sought to honor that Presence, means that what we believe about the Real Presence is some kind of a medieval innovation or exaggeration remote from what the early Church believed about how Christ is present in the Eucharist.

In 1968, in his beautiful yet relatively brief “Credo of the People of God,” and like his successors in many subsequent papal teaching documents, Blessed Paul VI tried to address that and other modern errors concerning the Eucharist, and perhaps especially concerning adoration of the Eucharist, by describing the use of “transubstantiation” as appropriate while, at the same time, emphasizing that whatever kind of language we may use in describing the change which occurs on the altar, we must always understand that in the reality itself, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the Consecration, so that it is the adorable body and blood of the Lord Jesus that from then on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine, as the Lord willed it, in order to give Himself to us as food and to associate us with the unity of His Mystical Body. … And this existence remains present, after the sacrifice, in the Blessed Sacrament, which is, in the tabernacle, the living heart of each of our churches. And it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore in the blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word whom they cannot see, and who, without leaving heaven, is made present before us.

“Our very sweet duty.” Pope Paul appreciated and loved the Catholic impulse quietly and reverently to express our wonder and gratitude for what happens before us at Mass, and for what — for whom — we receive in holy Communion. And so we have, among many other hopeful things in the life of the Church, and shiningly standing out in a troubled and confused world, the phenomenon of parish programs of Eucharistic adoration, including here in our own diocese. It’s always a great and often a moving pleasure, and a reaffirming one, to see how such expressions of our belief in the Real Presence strike converts to our faith.

Msgr. Ronald Knox (preacher, apologist, Bible translator and mystery writer) was a 20th-century English convert, and in a powerful Corpus Christi homily recalled the epitaph of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, the great 19th-century convert (himself very frequently cited in the Catechism), “Out of Shadows and Appearances into the Truth”:

When death brings us into another world, the experience will not be that of one who falls asleep and dreams, but that of one who wakes from a dream into the full light of day. Here, we are so surrounded by the things of sense that we take them for the full reality. Only sometimes we have a glimpse which corrects that wrong perspective. And above all when we see the Blessed Sacrament enthroned we should look up towards that white disc which shines in the monstrance as towards a [crack] through which, just for a moment, the light of the other world shines through. (“Pastoral and Occasional Sermons,” 304)

Msgr. William Neuhaus is a retired priest of the Diocese of Covington.