Why our work is tailored for us
Although I am currently recovering, in 2009 I was a full-fledged news junkie. So I consider it remarkable that I did not hear of any particular news from two presidential administrations two years ago. Thanks to the internet trend to reuse old stories, this 12-year-old article came to light. And with “Eucharistic coherence” entering the vernacular, this “old” story is again new and as relevant as the day it was first reported.
In 2009, during a visit to Mexico City, the then US Secretary of State visited the basilica that houses the Tilma of Saint Juan Diego, which bears the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Noticing her beauty, the Secretary of State asked the Monsignor who was leading the tour the name of the artist who created the image.
We should certainly give the secretary a little slack, since she was not a Catholic. Then again, this is a person who was educated at some of the most elite higher education institutions the world has to offer. The degrees of these schools are attached to those in power all the time as further proof that they have what it takes to engage in politics, commerce and the arts at the highest levels. Scrolls declaring graduation from these esteemed institutions are placed on office walls in much the same way a knight of old might hang his shield with the family crest on it.
If someone with this education can ignore such a vital part of Catholic tradition, what about people without Ivy League degrees? Popular culture is full of examples. Take, for example, an episode of the reality show “Pawn Stars”, in which people try to sell goods but first have to wait for a valuation of what they have. In this case, someone tried to sell a Catholic relic, which was treated with all the respect one would expect it to get from a pawnshop.
Fortunately, the relic was not purchased, but it was still relegated to the moral equivalent of a rabbit’s foot. And if the misinterpretations and misunderstandings about the Immaculate Conception on late night comedy shows and television in general were loaves and fish, multitudes would eat.
Devout Catholics are not required to believe in the miracle of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Mexico, or in Fátima, or elsewhere for that matter. The Church in her wisdom leaves us certain elements of our journey of faith to discover for ourselves. Perhaps one day science will explain how the Saint Juan Diego tilma still exists almost 500 years after it was made from organic material that should have decayed in 20 to 60 years.
However, there are some things the Church insists her family members believe. We must believe the “Amen” we say when a priest holds the Eucharist before us and unequivocally declares: “The body of Christ”.
A recent study by Pew Research found that an uncomfortably high percentage of self-identified Catholics do not believe in the actual presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. I think it’s safe to assume that we have our work cut out for us (and I’m not just talking about the bishops). We all must not only believe in the body, blood, soul, and divinity that reside in a sanctified host, but we can share that belief with others, even with other Catholics.
In 2009, the Bishop of the Basilica used the question of the Secretary of State as a teaching moment. The Monsignor, who must have been a bit caught off guard by the question, caught it in stride and offered the Secretary of State an answer that we too could use if someone asked us what is. a sanctified guest: “God”, he said with a smile.