I finally read Bishop Barron's new book, "This Is My Body: A Call To Eucharistic Revival."
Firstly, I believe in giving credit where credit is due - theologically this book dives deep into the True Presence and the Reality of Jesus in the Eucharist. Barron quotes the Church Fathers, the Bible, St. Thomas Aquinas etc. He is very adamant about the truth that Christ is truly Present in the Holy Eucharist and that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. He goes deeply into how it is NOT just a "mere symbol," and one can see that the author had the best of intentions with this book.
But I do have a few thoughts...
I will write my concerns and then finish this review with some quotes from the book that I have found are very edifying to try to keep a balanced, but honest review.
Let's start with the three big issues I had with this book.
1. I EXPECTED "JESUS OUR EUCHARISTIC LOVE"
"69% of Catholics do not believe the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ... This book can help."
Considering that this book is being sold by the thousands, specifically to fix the problem of crisis of belief in the True Presence among Mass-attending Catholics today, I expected more clear warnings and instructions on how to receive Christ worthily in the Blessed Sacrament. I expected more information on how to show Him proper reverence in the Blessed Sacrament. Yes, we can hardly revere what we do not know, but the Church has always believed "Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi" (As we Worship, So we Believe). Let us not only learn about the God who comes down to the Altar at the call of the priest to be eaten by His people. But let us also learn how we can truly show reverence to Him!
Writing this book is an honorable, and essential assignment that the Bishop has taken on. However, this book, in my opinion, is not for us "regular-Joe-in-the-pew" Catholics. Theologically it is somewhat dense and wordy (not in a grammatical sense but in a "Catholic Intellectual-ish" sort of sense.) I have found most Catholics (yes, even those who regularly attend Mass) are clueless about even the basic Catechism let alone the depth that the Bishop is diving into in this book. If, perhaps, this book was truly written for the "regular-Joe-in-the-pew" Catholics perhaps it would have been better if it was written more simply and to the point (like the Baltimore Catechism, Msgr. Ronald Knox's "The Mass in Slow Motion," or "Jesus Our Eucharistic Love" by Stefano M. Manelli) I would have liked to have seen mention of various Eucharistic miracles that have occurred over time, perhaps snippets of stories of different Saints who gave their lives for the Eucharist (such as the young boy St. Tarcisius, or little Imelda Lambertini or Nellie of God.) Then perhaps some a clear, short study / explanation of how we act at parts of the Mass; Many Catholic's do not know that we are not supposed to talk loudly or laugh in Church, out of respect for God in the Tabernacle. Many do not even know to make a proper genuflection while passing the Tabernacle or to check their palms after receiving Jesus on the hand for any particles left over (or better yet, to receive God on the tongue as is still the widely forgotten liturgical norm in the Church today.) There is so much the good Bishop could have covered in a short while that I personally found was lacking.
I believe the author is indeed, probably only writing for the 69% of MASS GOING Catholics who do not believe in the Real Presence, which is probably why he delved so deeply into the biblical history, the themes of the "Sacred Meal," and so on. However, I still do not think that this book is something that the majority of us lay Catholics would feel interested in picking up never mind finishing. And I don't really mean all of this as a criticism, because the book is obviously great for those who are into deep reading and diving into the beautiful details of Aquinas and Aristotle, biblical themes, etc... but I felt I needed to point this out.
2. WHY SO LITTLE TALK OF SACRILEGIOUS COMMUNIONS?
Another, pretty serious concern that I have is, since so many Catholics do not understand (or do not want to understand) the basic truths of our Faith and, when they attend Mass, whether weekly, sporadically or only on Easter and Christmas, many are still receiving the Eucharist. Which is fine, unless they are in a state of mortal sin. Then they need to go to Confession, confess their mortal sins and then "come to the table." No one is exempt either. No one. Regardless, it is rare for lay Catholics to hear of this from the pulpit, rather, they are hearing the opposite from clergy who have removed themselves from the Teachings of the Faith. This is so dangerous and cannot be excused.
Considering that the Church has always taught that this grave sin of sacrilege is one of the worst sins that a soul can commit (receiving Jesus while in the state of Mortal Sin) I believe this should be tackled head on when re-catechizing the masses on the Mass and the Eucharist! The Catechism of the Council of Trent (De Euch., v.i) declares: “As of all the sacred mysteries… none can compare with the … Eucharist, so likewise for no crime is there heavier punishment to be feared from God than for the unholy or irreligious use by the faithful of that which … contains the very Author and Source of holiness.”
Unfortunately, in Bishop Barron's book, the Church's teaching on "eating and drinking" our own "judgment" as St. Paul writes, is spoken of in one large paragraph on page 99. That's pretty much it. Barron reiterates St. Thomas Aquinas on how a soul that is dead (in mortal sin) wouldn't be "helped" by receiving the Eucharist because its "like giving medicine to a dead body" (page 99) and then the Bishop adds St. Pauls letter to the Corinthians, (1 Cor. 11:29). Great! But he does not go into more detail.
On page 15 I was hoping for more clarification concerning the need to be in the state of grace (and an explanation on what this is exactly) when Barron wrote, "...we can see that the inclusion of sinners is the very heart and raison d'être of the meal he (Jesus) hosts." When we start talking about the Eucharist as a "sacred meal as medicine for the sin-sick soul," (page 15) we should explain the whole "mortal sin = no Communion" thing very clearly so that no mistake (or excuse, rather) is made on the part of the reader.
On page 28 Bishop Barron again writes, "And so we sinners (once we accept that we are indeed sinners) are forgiven and welcomed into easy intimacy with Christ at the liturgy." Beautiful! But still not clear enough as to the state of the soul and the sacrament of Confession. Page 68 is a bit clearer, "Only in the measure that we are transformed through sacrifice, only when our sin and suffering have been dealt with, can we sit down in the fellowship of the sacred banquet." There are a few more sprinkled throughout the book but, to my knowledge, page 99 is the only place that really speaks about mortal sin and the state of the soul. Again, considering the massive number of Catholics who are unaware of what a mortal sin is, this needs to be very, very clear. It should have been earlier in the book and way more fleshed out.
3. QUOTING PROBLEMATIC MEN
The author quotes Teilhard, Karl Rahner and Feuerbach. Teilhard and Rahner are controversial in their approach to aspects of Catholicism, they are wrong on many issues. And Feuerbach advocated atheism and anthropological materialism and, apparently was often recognized as a bridge between Hegel and Marx.
I know that the "modern church today" doesn't seem to believe that it is necessary to mention if someone they are quoting is actually a Catholic in good standing or not. Yes, there have been saints that have quoted from secular sources, however, it is important, especially today with all the confusion and mish-mashing of religions and beliefs to clarify whether the source they are using is totally on the same page as the Church or not.
Perhaps I am being too stingy here but, I think it would have been better to write something like, "as the atheist Feuerbach said..." and then make a note of how Feuerbach's point make sense in light of the Catholic Faith. I know this sounds like splitting hairs but the age we are living in (as I mentioned above) is so wrought with smushing religions and ideologies together and calling it "Catholicism," it is just better to explain things in light of the One True Faith.
Concerning Rahner and Teilhard, I highly recommend Peter Kwasniewski's article on Karl Rahner, "Karl Rahner and the Unspoken Framework of (Much of) Modern Theology" published on One Peter Five.com. He charitably explains the issues in Rahner's theology.
For excellent information on Teilhard and his dangerous theology and views, I recommend reading "Teilhardism And The New Religion " by Dr. Wolfgang Smith, and the short article "What's the Story on Pierre Tielhard de Chardin?" by Susan Brinkmann on Woman of Grace.com.
I am aware of how popular and almost sacrosanct Teilhard has become these last 60 years, but it is important to look at his writings WITHIN the lenses of Catholicism to judge whether it is in line with the Faith. For example, did you know that for many years, Teilhard's writings were consistently condemned by the Catholic Church?? Reading some of his writings you can see why; "Rome does not want me to return to my professorship. They do not seem to have taken a dislike to me, far from it; but they want to save Religion ... I would take enormous delight in breaking all ties." (Letter, Feb. 14, 1927) "Christ saves. But must we not hasten to add that Christ, too, is saved by Evolution?" (Le Christique, 1955) "According to my own principles, I cannot fight against Christianity; I can only work inside it by trying to transform and convert it. A revolutionary attitude would be much easier, and much more pleasant, but it would be suicidal. So I must go step by step, tenaciously." (Letter, Mar. 21, 1941)
Here are a few other issues I have with "This is My Body: A Call To Eucharistic Revival" that are more personal than theological.
4. RESPECTING CHRIST IN GRAMMAR?
The author does not capitalize when he is speaking of Jesus. For example, "Jesus was not a prophet among many, he was the incarnate Word of God." A beautiful, true statement, but should we not continue the Tradition that the Church always had in place to give God more respect grammatically?
5. WHERE DID YOU GET THAT QUOTE?
There are no footnotes. This isn't the end of the world. This isn't even an issue at all, but a mere personal preference.
6. I HAD HOPED FOR A SIMPLE PRIMER
I had some hopes for this book when I read in the preface, "...under the prescript of the beautiful, we would draw attention to the liturgical and devotional practices that surround the Eucharist." I was hoping this meant that he was going to touch on *actual*, boots-on-the-ground ways we can begin to show more reverence to the Eucharist. But I didn't really see any of that in the book. As mentioned above, I would have liked to have seen short, clear and traditional explanations of what, why, and how when it comes to the Eucharist and the Mass.
7. A LITTLE CONFUSING AND BLAND
The quote "It is in this mission to feed a hungry world that we see the real point and purpose of the sacred meal," (page 33) confused me. The Four Ends of the Holy Mass are, "Adoration," "Thanksgiving," "Atonement," and "Petition." Perhaps that can be boiled down to "feeding a hungry world" spiritually but... its not quite as clear or beautiful is it?
The entire book is hardly without merit. I have many highlighted quotes that I hope to return to later and remember. Here are a few.
"The Battle of Hastings cannot be re-presented, except in the most superficial sense, since it belongs irretrievably to the past, but the sacrifice of Jesus can." (page 63)
"(H)ere and now, at the Eucharistic assembly, Christ makes present both the past and the future." (page 64)
"Suffering, once joined to the cross of Jesus, can become a vehicle for the reformation of the sinful self, the turning of the soul in the direction of love." (page 67)
"(T)he Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus, and any attempt to say otherwise, no matter how cleverly formulated or deftly articulated, is insufficient." (page 70)
"(T)he dense reality of Christ's Eucharistic presence is fitting due to the intensity of Jesus' love." (page 92)
"Jesus was not one prophet among many; he was the incarnate Word of God." (page 105)
"This is why I tell people to be very careful when they approach the Eucharist. Were the elements simply symbols - inventions of our own spiritual creativity and desire - they would pose no particular threat. But since they are the power and presence of God, they will change the one who consumes them. When the communicant says "Amen" and receives the proffered host and chalice, he'd better be prepared to live an eternal life." (page 110)
Finally, in conclusion.
While I was hoping for a book that was more like "The Mass in Slow Motion" for the Ordinary Form of the Mass, or a "Jesus Our Eucharistic Love" sort of Primer on the Eucharist, what we have instead is a sort of heavy, albeit short, book that feels sort of unaware, or unconscious to just how spiritually ignorant and starving we "regular-Joe-in-the-pew" Catholics really are.
While I do appreciate Bishop Barron's hard work and energy in trying to reach the masses, I am obliged to recommend other various works (as well as Bishop Barron's book of course) on the same subject that, I find, are excellent and do fantastic work in the area of "Eucharistic Revival."
Any video by Gabriel Castillo on the Eucharist. Seriously, his talks and videos are out of this world! He is very clear, down-to-earth, yet spot on theologically and at the same time reaches deep into the aching heart of everyone, young and old, and calls us to a greater love and devotion to the Holy Eucharist.
"The Eucharist is REALLY Jesus"
"The Power of the Eucharist"
"Emphasize the Eucharist: 5 Ways!"
"The Eucharist: A Clear and Complete Teaching"
"The Eucharist: A Reverence Revolution"
Blessed Carlo Acutis' website on Eucharistic Miracles
"Jesus Our Eucharistic Love" by Fr. Stefano Manelli 1996 (You can read this free online. I cannot recommend it enough!)
"The Mass in Slow Motion" Msgr. Ronald Knox, 1948, while this was written about the Latin Mass before the Ordinary Form was created, it is an excellent, short book that stirs the soul. It is a compilation of sermons that Knox gave to young school girls, so it is straightforward, yet profound. Poetic and childlike.
"Coram Sanctissimo: Before the Most Holy" Mother Mary Loyola.
"Patron Saint of First Communicants: The Story of Blessed Imelda Lambertini" Mary Fabyan Windeatt
"Manners in God's House: First Prayers and First Missal for Little Catholics" Tan Books
"Little Nellie of Holy God" Tan Books
"The Purity of Soul Necessary for Holy Communion" Father Stefano Manelli