A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist by Abbot Vonier
Since it’s the year of the Eucharist here in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, I’ve been rereading a book that we were assigned in seminary when we studied the theology of the Eucharist, A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist by Dom Anscar Vonier, published in 1925. He was a Benedictine monk, and latter abbot, at the Monastery of St. Mary at Buckfast in Devon, England. In the book, Abbot Vonier sets out to answer a question about the faith, salvation, and grace, and in the process writes one of the very few great spiritual classics that were originally written in the English language. That question is, in his own words:
“Catholic doctrine says that Christ’s sacrifice, besides being an atonement, was also a salvation,--in other words, a buying back into spiritual liberty of the human race which had become a slave of Evil. But even this aspect of Christ’s divine act, though a perfectly human aspect, is still a universal aspect; salvation is primarily for mankind as a species; the entry of the individual into the redemptive plan remains still to be effected. How am I to be linked up effectively with that great mystery of Christ’s death? When shall I know that Christ is not only Redeemer, but also my Redeemer?”
He starts off by looking more closely at faith itself, then focuses in on the sacraments for several chapters, and dives in to the mystery of the Eucharist itself, speaking of the Mass, the Cross, Transubstantiation, the “Eucharistic Banquet,” and more. This is not a work for beginners, or for those who want a book that you can read through quickly one time and get the idea. This book requires slow reading, re-reading of difficult passages, pondering the depth of the Mystery of Faith, and an investment of time and attention. It is well worth the investment.
Abbot Vonier gives the beginning of his answer to that question later in the very first chapter, and then he proceeds to expand upon that answer. So, how are we effectively linked up with the mystery of Christ’s death? As Abbot Vonier writes, “The sacraments are essentially sacraments of the faith, sacramenta fidei, as St. Thomas invariably calls them; both faith and sacraments have that power of divine instrumentality which will open to man the treasure-house of Christ’s redemption.”
I recently watched the 1988 movie Bernadette on Formed.org, and I highly recommend it. I’d never heard of this version before I saw it on Formed, which isn’t surprising because it had very limited distribution in the US, but apparently this is the telling of the story of Our Lady of Lourdes that is actually shown at the shrine at Lourdes, France (the French version, anyway).
As our parish is dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Bernadette and her visions of the Blessed Mother are very important for our parish. Our Lady entrusted the message of God’s mercy and love to St. Bernadette, and that message has continued to reach new generations through the shrine at Lourdes, France, and the miraculous healings, both physical and spiritual, which take place there.
The movie appears to be very historically accurate, as far as I can tell, and the few reviews that I’ve checked agree. The director, Jean Delannoy, takes the story very seriously and begins with a promise that everything in the movie is based on the historical record and nothing is added to it. My one small complaint is that some scenes are a bit overly dramatic for my taste. It takes the teachings of the Church and Catholic spirituality very seriously and presents a Catholic family and community that that would be at home in the Church today, even though these events happened over 160 years ago.
The actors and actresses do a very good job. The portrayal of the two parish priests was very good, even down to their conversations with each other. They really sounded and acted like priests. The child actors and actresses were very good, as were St. Bernadette’s parents, but the actress who played Bernadette herself, Sydney Penny, stole the show. It’s not easy to portray a saint, especially a child saint, and show the genuine holiness of the saint while also showing that they’re a real person that any of us could know.
Remember that Our Lady of Lourdes Church has our own subscription to Formed.org, and it’s free for any parishioner to use. We pay for the subscription out of our Religious Education Fund, which is reserved to be used only for Religious Education for kids and adults. If you want to help pay for our subscription you can do it through our online giving on our website or by putting “Rel Ed” in the memo area of a check. It can be accessed on your computer, smartphone, or tablet, or on a smart TV, Roku, or Firestick. Just download that app for your device and follow the directions below. Once you’re logged in, just search for “Bernadette.”
To Sign-up for Formed.org
The novena is an ancient Catholic tradition of prayer by which we dedicate nine days (either consecutively or the same day of nine weeks or months) to prayer. A novena can be prayed either for the living or the dead. There are novenas of mourning, or preparation, and of petition. There are novenas directly to the Lord and novenas through the intercession of the Blessed Mother and the angels and saints. Some novenas have a special place in Catholic devotion, such as the Novena of Masses offered on the death of the Holy Father for the repose of his soul and the novenas in preparation for Christmas, Pentecost, and Divine Mercy Sunday. However, there are hundreds of other novenas for dealing with different things in life or through many different saints.
The main Biblical reference for novenas comes from our Lord and the apostles. After His Passion and Resurrection, the Lord Ascended to heaven on the 40th day. The Gospel of Luke records that He told the apostles to stay in Jerusalem until they receive “the Promise of my Father” and are “clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49). St. Luke also wrote, “And when the days of Pentecost were completed, they were all together in the same place. And suddenly, there came a sound from heaven, like that of a wind approaching violently, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them separate tongues, as if of fire, which settled upon each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:1-4). There are 9 days in between the Ascension and Pentecost, and on the 10thday, Pentecost, they received the Holy Spirit. Whatever else we’re praying for, in every novena and in every prayer we’re asking the Lord to send us the same Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to pray novenas, even if most of them are fairly short. The biggest challenge I have with praying novenas is actually remembering to pray it every day for nine days. I almost always forget to pray the novena prayers at least one day. Sometimes I’ll get discouraged and quit and sometimes I’ll go on to finish the novena, but if I’m trying to finish by a certain date it can be really annoying. That’s where this app comes in. It has the prayers for hundreds of different novenas, and you can set it to automatically remind you at whatever time you want every day by setting a notification on your phone or tablet. It’s available for both iOS and Android devices, and it’s free, although there is a way to donate to the developer. You can get the app by searching for “Pray Catholic Novenas” in the App store or visiting www.catholicnovenaapp.com.
Novenas, because they’re short, are great for families to pray together, and it gives you a reason to get the family together. You can do the novena prayer before a meal every day for nine days or for nine Sundays in a row (if you have a family dinner on Sunday or some other day).
The Rosary Novena begins Monday, September 28, in preparation for the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on Wednesday, October 6. You do the novena simply by praying the Rosary for those nine days. I’ll offer this novena and I invite all of you to offer it with me. If you want to do this with your family but don’t have time for the whole Rosary, pray one decade of the Rosary each day. We’ll offer it for those in our families who are most in need of the graces.
Lectio: Mary with Dr. Brant Pitre on Formed.org
Throughout my eight years in seminary I had a number of classes on the Sacred Scriptures taught by different professors. Most of these professors certainly knew their subject and knew the Bible, but they way they presented the information seemed to suck all of the life out of it. They mainly focused on the facts and on the intentions of the human authors of the Bible, sometimes to the point of neglecting the fact that God is the primary author of the Bible and there is also a spiritual meaning to every passage of Scripture. As St. Augustine put it, “In every page of these Scriptures, while I pursue my search as a son of Adam in the sweat of my brow, Christ either openly or covertly meets and refreshes me” (Contra Faustum 12.27). That is, since the entire Bible is the Word of God, Jesus Christ is present in the entire Bible, not just the New Testament.
At Notre Dame Seminary I had one class with Dr. Brant Pitre, Pentateuch. If you’ve read any of his books or listened to any of his talks, then you know that Dr. Pitre loves to show the unity of the Bible by showing how to read the Old Testament in light of the New and how the New Testament opens up the Old. That is exactly what you’ll get in the Lectio Bible Study on the Blessed Virgin Mary that Dr. Pitre did for Formed.org. In this Bible study Dr. Pitre talks about Mary as the New Eve, the New Ark, the Mother of the Messiah, the Queen Mother, the Perpetual Virgin, the Mother of Sorrows, and the New Rachel. In each 30-40 minute talk he shows the continuity of the Old and New Testaments and how the Church’s teaching on Mary is foreshadowed in the Old Testament, fleshed out in the New Testament, and present in the ancient Tradition of the Church.
If you’ve had trouble answering questions from non-Catholics about the Church’s teachings on the Mother of God, or if you simply want to dig into the Scriptural roots of those teachings, then you need to watch this series. It can be found on Formed.org, in the Bible Studies section. If you are a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, then you can use our subscription for free.
To Sign-up for Formed.org
1. Go to the Formed.org website or download the app.
2. Click Sign Up.
3. Click “I Belong to a Parish or Organization.”
4. Put in the Zip Code of Church: 70092
5. Put in your email address.
Every once in a while I like to recommend a book, website, app, or movie, because there’s so much out there now that it can be hard to separate the good from the bad. Today, I want to recommend that you look at the works of Dr. Peter Kreeft. He’s a professor of philosophy at Boston College, has published 95 books, and has given many talks, speeches, and lectures on philosophy, theology, and Catholic spirituality.
I first encountered Dr. Kreeft when he book, The Summa of the Summa, was assigned in one of my classes in seminary. That’s probably his most well-known book, but he’s also written, Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Christianity for Modern Pagans, Fundamentals of the Faith, and Forty Reasons I am a Catholic. His books are good, but I really want to recommend his website, which has sections on Featured Writing and Featured Audio, including payed and free recordings of talks that he’s given at various conferences and events.
Most of all, I want to recommend his talk on “Pro-Life Philosophy” in which he gives the philosophical case against abortion. It’s a very good talk which can help us to defend our pro-life position in a rational way against the arguments of the pro-choice movement. The talk is free on Dr. Kreeft’s website under Featured Audio – More.
Fr. Bryan Recommends
Signs of Life by Scott Hahn
Dr. Scott Hahn is a Bible scholar and convert from Protestantism who writes books and gives talks and conferences helping us to understand the Bible in a way that is accessible but not dumbed down. His talks and books, along with others like Dr. Brant Pitre, Dr. Michael Barber, and Dr. John Bergsma, have helped me to understand the God Word in the Holy Bible in a deeper way and, I hope, helped me to become a better preacher and teacher of the word of God.
I’ve recently started reading Signs of Life and I already know that I want to recommend it to you. In it Dr. Hahn covers 40 different Catholic customs, their roots in the Bible, how they can help us in our spiritual lives, and answers common questions and misconceptions. He covers things like holy water, the sacraments, the liturgical year, incense, relics, devotion to the saints, preparation for death, and more.
Everything we do in Church and in our spiritual lives has a meaning and a purpose, because it comes from God, and knowing the origin and meaning of them can make them more beneficial. For example, the Rosary is basically a very easy prayer but it’s also a very difficult prayer to pray well. If we just recite the prayers while thinking about what we need to do latter in the day, just so we can get it done, then it’s still does a little good, but not nearly as much as it could do. When we know that the Rosary is rooted in the Bible, is meant as a way to meditate on the life of Christ, and that it was developed as a way to teach people the truths of the faith, then we can get much more out of it. It becomes one of the most beneficial prayers in the Church and a powerful weapon against Satan. This book can help us to better understand things we do every day and give us more ways to grow in devotion to God.
The internet is one of the most revolutionizing inventions of the past 100 years. It’s like a mirror reflecting all that is good and bad about humanity back to us. It reflects back our desire to build communities through social media, our desire to learn through educational materials, and our creativity in countless ways. It also reflects our negative and unhealthy desires back to us as well, in the form of human trafficking, violence, and distorted forms of human sexuality. The pornography industry in the US makes between 6 and 15 billion dollars a year; for comparison, all of Hollywood makes about 11 billion dollars a year. In the past pornography was rare and difficult to get, but now it’s as easy as taking our smart phone out of our pocket.
Pornography addiction is an increasingly big issue, especially considering that most children have the first exposure to it between 8 and 11 years old. Exposure to these sorts of things leaves mental, emotional, and spiritual wounds. The Lord wants to heal these wounds in our hearts. He wants to free us from addictions and compulsions. He wants to bathe us in His grace and mercy.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans is offering you a resource to get information and help: CleanHeartNOLA.com. The website has information men and women struggling with pornography addiction or a spouse struggling with this issue. It also has suggestions for parents to get the tools they need to teach their children about these issues.
Know that you are not alone, and you don’t need to bear this burden alone. Whether you’re struggling with this yourself or a parent wondering how to talk to your children about it, you’re welcome to come see me in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or make an appointment for a more in depth conversation. In Psalm 51 we pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Ps 51:10). Let us all pray that the Lord me give us all clean hearts and renewed spirits, so that we may live in the presence of God.
Fr. Bryan Recommends
The iPieta app
Not too long ago the average Catholic would have had a family bible in their home, possibly a copy of the Baltimore Catechism, and maybe a book on the lives of the saints, the life of Christ, or a similar spiritual topic, and many people would not have even had that. If you wanted to study the faith in more depths, you had to rely on your priest or what few resources you could get your hands on. Today, with the advent of the internet, we all have access to Catholic writings, videos, and materials at every level, from beginner to doctorate, but how do we know what to trust or where to look?
One of the very best Catholic resources available is the iPieta app for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, and it’s completely free (although it does take up quite a bit of space). The app has four sections, Bible, Calendar, Prayer, and Veritas.
The Bible section has the entire Bible in English, Latin, Spanish, French, German, and more. The English translation is the Douay-Rheims Version, which is the traditional English version of the Bible. The language is a bit old fashioned, since the last version was from the 1800s, but it’s a very accurate translation, and it’s very nice to have the entire Bible on your phone or tablet.
The Calendar section has the liturgical calendar on it. If you’re wondering if today is the feast of a particular saint, or what weekday Christmas will fall on this year, you can find it in the calendar all the way out to 2050! It also has the readings for the day, which is very good if you want to pray with the readings for next Sunday ahead of time to prepare spiritually for Mass. Just remember, even though it’s the same readings, it’s not the same translation that we use in Mass.
The Prayer section has literally hundreds of prayers for all kinds of different circumstances. It has prayers to Jesus, prayers to the Holy Spirit, prayers for consecration, for the Blessed Virgin, the angels, and the saints, prayers to ask for blessings, and prayers for the Eucharist. It has the Mysteries and prayers of the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, other novenas, and more.
The Veritas Section is perhaps the most impressive of all, because it contains an entire Catholic library. It has the entire 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, the Baltimore Catechism, Butler’s Lives of the Saints, hundreds of official writings of the Popes and Church councils, Bible commentaries, writings of the Fathers of the Church, like St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and St. John Chrysostom, and dozens of spiritual books by saints and spiritual masters.
When I downloaded it about 10 years ago, I thought paying $2.99 was a pretty darn good deal for all of that, but, now you can download it for free. If you have a smart phone it’d be silly not to get it.
Catholic Community Radio
WGNO 690 AM
As you may or may not be aware, a few years ago Catholic Community Radio out of Baton Rouge expanded to New Orleans and opened a radio station here, 690 AM. They have local programming, like The Church in the Homeand Lagniappe Theology, and programming from EWTN radio, like Catholic Answers Liveand Kresta in the Afternoon. They also broadcast the Mass from St. Louis Cathedral at 11:00 AM on Sundays and noon Monday through Friday. The weekday Mass is followed by the Rosary.
I just recently learned that they also have an app for iPhone and Android. You can listen to the live radio broadcast through the app, but you can also watch videos that they’ve uploaded of their broadcasts. It also has a news section, a section for the readings for the daily Mass, the broadcasting schedule, and an alarm clock function so you can wake up to Catholic radio. It’s well designed, attractive, and easy to use.
Someone shared with me that they had recently started paying attention to the lyrics of their favorite songs and found that many of them were about terrible things or encouraging immoral behavior. I know another person who used to be a big Billy Joel fan until she realized what the lines about Catholic girls in Only the Good Die Youngis about. A least with Catholic Community Radio you can be pretty sure that what you’re listening to is helping to build you up as a person and as a follower of Christ.
Fr. Bryan Recommends
Daughter Zion by Pope Benedict XVI
Before he was elected Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Munich in Germany in 1951. In 1977 he would become the Cardinal Archbishop of that diocese, but he would only stay in that post for four years. In 1981, Pope St. John Paul II appointed Cardinal Ratzinger as head, or Prefect, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome. His job as Prefect of the CDF was to promote and defend the teaching of the Catholic Church on faith and morals. As Prefect, he would work closely with Pope St. John Paul II on numerous projects, such as putting together the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Cardinal Ratzinger retired from this post on April 2, 2005, only to be elected Pope himself 17 days later. He took the name Benedict XVI.
As a renowned theologian and biblical scholar, he wrote many books and articles. One of my favorites, however, is Daughter Zion, which is about Mary, the Mother of God, and the Church’s teachings about the Blessed Virgin. He explains how Mary is both Virgin and Mother, how she was kept free from original sin, and how she was assumed bodily into heaven using passages from the Bible and the great teachers in the history of the Church, and he does it in a way that is easy to follow but will give everyone who reads it something to think about.
It may be a good time to read up on Mary, since we’re getting close to the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15.
Next Week: To be decided.
Fr. Bryan became pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes on July 3, 2017. Read his bio here.