Sunday, April 6, 2014

Catholicism Blog Tour: Chapter 7 "Word Made Flesh, True Bread from Heaven"

In celebration of the paperback release of Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith, I am happy to participate in the Image Books Blog Tour.  I was allowed to pick my favorite chapter in the book, which for me was chapter 7: "Word Make Flesh, True Bread from Heaven: The Mystery of the Church's Sacrament and Worship."  I should say upfront that I am very familiar with the Catholicism Film Series, which I use regularly in my high school classes.  The visuals in the series are often stunning, and I have always appreciated the fact that Fr. Barron took the effort to film at various locations throughout the world.  I know growing up in medium-sized suburban parish outside Detroit, I never really grasped the "catholicity" of the Church until I had an opportunity to study abroad in Rome in 2000.  In many ways, the experience of seeing people from all throughout the world on pilgrimage in Rome during that great Jubilee Year marked a profound moment of conversion in my life.  In hopes of kindling that same inspiration in my students is one of the main reasons why I show the series in my classes.

Now, any one who has seen the series and read the book knows that they share quite a bit in common. However, I have found that slowly reading through the book has helped me grasp some elements that I had missed while watching the series.  I hope to be able to share a couple of those elements in this post.  It goes without saying that I think this book is wonderful, even if you haven't seen the series.  Along with the wonderful insight from Fr. Barron, there are numerous photos and full color pages that help to illuminate the beauty of our Catholic heritage.  When one reads through this book, one feels a healthy pride in being Catholic and a desire to serve this Church established by Christ.  

Chapter 7 was particularly helpful because it coincided with the implementation of the New Roman Missal back in 2011.  Being a high school teacher, this provided a great opportunity to re-catechize my students on the importance of the Mass, along with, of course, the new responses that were to be said at Mass.  This chapter, as well as the episode in the series, provided some wonderful insights into the importance of the Mass.  It is organized in a deliberate movement, from beginning to end, through the Mass, which Fr. Barron refers to as "this supremely serious form of play" in reference to the liturgical theologian Romano Guardini. Fr. Barron guides you along the main parts of the Mass providing both theological and liturgical background to what Vatican II called the "source and summit of the Christian life."  

Fr. Barron has an amazing gift in finding the best quote to use at the right moment.  When speaking about the penitential rite, he quotes Chesterton who says: "There are saints in my religion, but that just means men who know they are sinners (176)."  That is why when we begin Mass, after making the Sign of the Cross, by acknowledging our sins before Almighty God.  I know from my own experience that I have sometimes not taken the time to prepare myself for that important moment in Mass.  Perhaps I am too quickly oriented towards hearing the readings proclaimed.  While there are various forms of the penitential rite, I do appreciate when we say the confiteor at Mass because it forces me to focus on the areas of my life where I have failed the Lord, but always within the understanding that He is merciful.  This is so very important in today's society, where as Fr. Barron observes, we are all to willing to tell ourselves that "I'm okay, you're okay (176)."  Yet, we need to remind ourselves that its not about being "okay," it's about recognizing that we are sinners before a God who is so willing to embrace us and forgive us our sins.  As Fr. Barron puts it: "He wants to forgive, but it is imperative that we realize that there is something in us that needs forgiving (176)."  Going back to the Chesterton quote reminds me, at least, that that is the proper disposition of a saint, one who knows himself and appeals to an all-loving Father who earnestly desires our reconciliation with Him.

My other favorite part of chapter 7 is his "Excursus on the Real Presence" which provides an important apologetic on the Eucharist.  Fr. Barron begins this excursus by examining John 6 and its important Eucharistic themes.  He points out that all important change in Greek verbs from phagein, which can simply mean  "eat," to trogein, which "is customarily employed to describe an animal's manner of eating, something along the lines of 'gnaw' or 'munch.'"  Of course, this is often lost in most Bible translations, particularly English ones.  Here, Fr. Barron shows that instead of backing down from the objections of the crowd, many of whom would leave him after this discourse, Jesus "actually emphasizes the very physicality to which the crowd was objecting (187)."  His whole examination of John 6 is quite marvelous, and I use it often in my classes.

Yet, my favorite part of this excursus is not his section on John 6, but rather his concluding story about Catholic author Flannery O'Connor. I am embarrassed to say that I know very little about her, outside of what I have read about her in online articles or the occasional reference to her when discussing Catholic literature.  Yet, I found the story of her encounter at a dinner of New York intellectuals to be very much to the point of the entire chapter.  One of those at dinner, a former Catholic, pointed out how the Eucharist was a "powerful symbol."  Barron then quotes O'Connor who replies: "Well, if it's only a symbol, I say to hell with it (192)."  There are many reasons why I am Catholic, but there is no question that the main reason is the Eucharist.  In my mind, if the Eucharist is only a symbol, why be Catholic?  There are thousands of other churches out there that indeed have a lot of good to offer, but in the end nothing can compare to adoring and receiving the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord.  The Eucharist is the answer to the question: "Why be Catholic?"

Fr. Barron concludes with an exhortation to go forth from the Mass as a renewed people.  I cannot help but connect this to the call of the New Evangelization.  We are not meant to keep what we receive to ourselves, but rather to go out and share it with the world around us.  We need to allow ourselves to be transformed by this great "play" in order to become instruments of change in the world.  Fr. Barron is right when he says: "Those who participate in it (the Mass) never leave unchanged; they never go back the same way the came (194)."

So, in conclusion, I would say that if you haven't read this book before, I highly recommend it.  Now that it is in paperback, consider purchasing it for a friend.  I think this is an excellent book for someone who is contemplating coming into the Church or perhaps even for a relative who might need motivating!  We all have plenty of them in our families.  For more on the book, you can follow the links below.  Thanks again to Katie from Image Books for including me in this blog tour.

Also, make sure to check out the amazing sweepstakes contest that the fine folks at Image Catholic are running, where the grand prize is a trip to Paris and Rome.  The sweepstakes runs through May 2nd.  

Catholicism Blog Tour

March 31 – Chapter 1: Stuart’s Study
April 1 – Chapter 2: Seasons of Grace
April 2 – Chapter 3: A Good Measure
April 3 – Chapter 4: Snoring Scholar
April 4 – Chapter 5: The Catholic Book Blogger
April 5 – Chapter 6: Prints of Grace
April 6 – Chapter 7: Catholic Bibles
April 7 – Chapter 8: Team Whitaker
April 8 – Chapter 9: Single Catholic Girl
April 9 – Chapter 10: The Curt Jester

1 comment:

rolf said...

Timothy, I also use the 10 part Catholicism series for my RCIA and Bible study classes throughout the year. This series along with the Truth and Life audio New Testament CDs are my two most important audio-visual tools!