Recent studies suggest that many Catholics do not believe that the Eucharist is the Body of Christ.
But there is someone who has no doubt about it—Satan.
He knows that what looks like bread on Catholic altars and in tabernacles is really the Body of his Crucified and Risen Vanquisher, Jesus Christ. He knows that in this sacrament, Christ unites his faithful to himself. He knows the Eucharist is food for our journey to heaven. He knows that the Body of Christ binds the Church in love, making her triumph over the gates of hell. And he hates it.
So Satan battles against the Eucharist with all the foolish might with which he fought God’s angels when he first rebelled. He persecutes the Eucharist with the envy and anger with which he went after Christ in the temptations and the Passion.
The Enemy usually does battle by spreading lies about the Eucharist—“It’s just a symbol”; “Anyone can receive Communion any which way”; “Missed Mass? No big deal . . . God understands”; “It’s useless to sit and pray an hour before a piece of bread.” The devil is thrilled by our doubts, our disbelief, our irreverence, and our negligence toward the Eucharist. He loves to deprive us of the riches of the sacrament.
But Satan sees Christ patiently waiting for us to worship and receive his Body. He sees Jesus quietly turning hearts back toward him, bringing Catholics back to Confession and Communion, adding believers to the Church. He sees the Church—her saints and her sinners—offering Holy Mass daily, praying by tabernacles, adoring her Eucharistic Lord. He sees that the Real Presence extends the victory of the Cross.
This infuriates him and sometimes he lashes out violently. Up and down the history of the Church and even today, the devil inspires some wretched sinners to do violence to the Blessed Sacrament. These horrible acts display in human hearts Satan’s hatred for God and for God’s Church.
An anecdote from Catherine Doherty brought these truths home to me. In the late 1930s, Catherine was sent to Europe as a journalist for a Catholic paper, assigned to report on the state of the Church. One of her stops was Spain, then in the midst of its fratricidal civil war. She and an Irish-American correspondent visited a town the Falangists had just recaptured from the communists. Catherine writes:
In Brunette I encountered absolute horror. In the first church we entered, we saw a large ciborium on the altar in which consecrated hosts were inserted in feces. My friend exploded! With his handkerchief he removed the hard feces and put the ciborium back into the tabernacle. He was a Catholic, and he wept like a baby beside the desecrated altar. His face was just covered with tears. I couldn’t cry because I was beyond crying. (Fragments of my Life, 123)
Upon leaving the church, Catherine and her companion saw two other horrors. They first came to a cemetery where the corpses of deceased Carmelite friars and nuns were disinterred and desecrated in unspeakable ways. Then they visited a hospital where they saw a young Carmelite nun dying after having been horribly violated by communist soldiers. Catherine’s descriptions of these scenes are too graphic to include in this piece. But one sentence captures her experiences: “It was a kind of surrealistic hell, and it remains etched forever in my mind” (Fragments of my Life, 123).
Catherine and her friend encountered Satan’s wicked anger toward Christ in the Eucharist and toward those consecrated to adore and serve him. Overwhelmed by sorrow, they prayed for those sinners who had been the devil’s pawns in these blasphemous attacks. These events stayed with Catherine as an image of the devil’s war on the true Body of Christ in the Eucharist and his Mystical Body, the Church.
Reflecting on the devil’s hatred for the Body of Christ, we should pray for a deeper faith in it. If Satan hates this sacrament so much, God must work great good through it. We should sorrow, pray, and do penance for those who don’t know Christ’s presence in this Sacrament, who ignore or ridicule or even attack it. Above all, we should let ourselves be drawn to the love of the Crucified and risen Christ present in the Eucharist. For no matter what the devil thinks he can do against Christ’s Body, nothing will separate us from the love of Christ.
This article was written by Br. Josemaría Guzmán-Domínguez, O.P.