There was a post on the New Liturgical Movement yesterday, drawing attention to the propers for the Office of (the soon-to-be) Blessed John Henry Newman : and I read the propers with interest, not least to see what had been chosen for the Office of Readings.
Rather to my delight it was one of my favourite passages from the Apologia Pro Vita Sua; one which I have always rather liked because of something which Newman says in it : ‘People say that the doctrine of Transubstantiation is difficult to believe; I did not believe the doctrine till I was a Catholic.’
I have to say that I rather enjoy that passage because I know how very greatly Newman’s intellect, and faith, exceed mine; and yet I can truthfully say that from the very first time it was explained to me – as it happens, solely as a theological concept, by a Methodist – it has seemed to me to be almost the easiest of doctrines to believe . . . far more so, certainly, than many of the complexities of the Blessed Trinity, or Limbo, or things like that.
Indeed, I think it would be truthful to say that it was the doctrine of Transubstantiation which drew me to the Catholic Faith; and if it did so initially via the Church of England, well c’est la vie; but I came home in the end, and in the meantime was, perhaps, spared some of the liturgical nonsenses which many other Catholics have had to endure in England in the last forty years.
To me Transubstantiation is the defining doctrine of the Catholic Faith; because almost everything else in it is believed by at least some, if not many, other Christians : the Real Presence of Our Blessed Lord, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, on our altars, in our tabernacles, and greatest of all, in Holy Communion, is one of the two unique gifts of Catholicism . . . the other is what Newman identified as his way to believing in Transubstantiation : ‘that the Catholic Roman Church was the oracle of God.’
One of the problems nowadays, as I see it as a newcomer, is that many Catholics seem to have lost touch with these two fundamental truths of the Faith. Let us pray that, especially with the Holy Father visiting Great Britain later this year, we may all be brought to a clearer realization of them, and a deeper faith in, them.