Why do Catholics believe their Holy Communion is the actual Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ? Why don’t they believe as Protestants do that Christ is only present symbolically, or spiritually, in the consecrated bread and wine?

Catholics believe that their Holy Communion, the Blessed Eucharist, is the actual Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ, because that is what Christ said It was: “This is my body . . . This is my blood” (Matt. 26:26-28; see also Luke 22:19-20 and Mark 14:22-24); because that is what Christ said they must receive in order to have eternal life: “… Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you . . .” (John 6:48-52; 54-56); and because that is what the Apostles believed: “The chalice of benediction, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord?” (1 Cor. 10:16). “Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:27-29). Also, Catholics believe that Holy Communion is the actual Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ because that is what all Christians believed until the advent of Protestantism in the 16th century.

Wrote Justin Martyr, illustrious Church Father of the second century: “This food is known among us as the Eucharist… We do not receive these things as common bread and common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior, being made flesh by the Word of God.” Wrote St. Cyril of Jerusalem, venerable Church Father of the fourth century: “Since then Christ has declared and said of the bread, ‘This is my Body,’ who after that will venture to doubt? And seeing that He has affirmed and said, ‘This is my Blood,’ who will raise a question and say it is not His Blood?” In addition to the witness of Sacred Scripture and Christian tradition, Catholics have the witness of the Holy Eucharist itself: On numerous occasions great and awesome miracles have attended its display, and seldom has its reception by the Catholic faithful failed to produce in them a feeling of joyful union with their Lord and Saviour. In the face of all this evidence, Catholics could hardly be expected to adopt the Protestant position.

Author: Paul Whitcomb
Nihil Obstat: Rev. Edmund J. Bradley Censor Deputatus
Imprimatur: Timothy Manning, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, Vicar General
April 13, 1961