Something To Think About…

I would like to share today an anecdote that I came across a little while back, in a talk given by Dr. Peter Kreeft that I had watched online. I remember being struck by the story when I heard it, but had not thought about it for a long time, until now, and so decided to look it up. Thankfully I found that someone had copied the anecdote in question out and uploaded it. I shall not try and describe the essence of what Kreeft is getting across here (though I may, in a future post, try and address the details of what it is that we believe regarding this topic), as it would only undermine the impact that the story has itself.

All I will say is that the truth this story reveals is one that is extremely important, and, as it is something that I am sure we all need to be reminded about from time to time, to have an outsider’s perspective on acts as a highly effective means of recalling us from any state of complacency or over-familiarity that we may have fallen into. Here is the story in question:

 

My friend John, a very intelligent and faithful Catholic, told me the following story when he was one of my students at Boston College. John’s friend, Isa—a very intelligent and faithful Muslim—expressed an interest in understanding the Catholic faith (not out of any doubt of his own) and asked John to take him to Mass. After Mass, John asked Isa what he had thought of it. Isa said, very slowly and thoughtfully, “Do Catholics really believe that thing, that piece of bread, is not bread at all but Jesus Christ (blessed be his name)?” (Christ is a revered prophet to Muslims, though not the Son of God.)

“We do”, said John.

“Your Church teaches that he is really present there, yes? That what’s there is the man who was God?”

“Yes. The formula is ‘Body and blood, soul and divinity.’”

“And you believe that?”

 “Yes.”

Isa made as if to say something, but stifled it. John assured him he would not be offended. Finally, reluctantly, Isa said, “I don’t understand.”

“I understand how you feel. It sounds very shocking.”

“No, you don’t understand. That’s not what I mean. You will take it as an insult, but I don’t mean it to be.”

“I promise I won’t take it as an insult. But I really want to know what’s on your mind”

“Well then…I don’t think you really do believe that. I don’t mean to say you’re dishonest, but…”

“I think I know what you mean. You can’t empathize with anyone who believes something so shocking. You don’t see how you could ever get down on your knees before that altar.”

“No, I don’t see how I could ever get up. If I believed that thing that looks like a little round piece of bread was really Allah Himself, I think I would just faint. I would fall at His feet like a dead man.”

John looked carefully at my reaction as he reported Isa’s words. My eyes opened, and he smiled. “What did you say to him?” I asked.

“Nothing. Then, after a while, just ‘Yes.’”

 John is a wise man.

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6 thoughts on “Something To Think About…

  1. Yes, I heard this same story some time ago! Thanks for the reminder of this lovely tale.

    The Muslim is right of course, raising a very perceptive truth. If we REALLY understood the amazing truth of the Holy Eucharist – God in the form of a little white host – we would surely “just faint” at such an overwhelming treasure, and then “fall at His feet like a dead man” out of awe, love and gratitude.

    (I’m back on line again now, as you can see. Yipee! 🙂 )

    • Hooray – I am glad your router situation has now been sorted out! CP&S wasn’t the same without you, and neither was ‘JTE’ (though I’m not sure my blog is established enough to warrant an acronym yet!) 🙂

      Yes, I think the reality of transubstantiation is one of the things least appreciated, even amongst those of us who fully accept the doctrine. This is in some sense understandable, as, apart from the miraculous nature of the consecration, it is such an awesome thing to believe that God would humble Himself so. Nevertheless, the Church is full of awesome things, and the proper response is as the Muslim chap said. One of the things that is admirable about Islam in my opinion, is their absolute submission to the will of God – what they believe His will to be is wrong on many points yes, but their devotion is something to learn from nonetheless.

      Anyway, good to see you back in action! 🙂

      • Thank you Michael – that is a very flattering and kind thing to say!
        I may have sorted out the router problem, but not the problem of lots of lively, demanding family visitors to look after! 😉

        Re the reality of transubstantiation – it is such an awesome mystery, it is obviously something that has to be understood gradually by the convinced Catholic, accompanied by a prayerful, contemplative and humble heart. It can take a lifetime to even touch the perimeter of its true meaning; I certainly feel I’m still only just starting to travel the first lap of this beautiful journey.
        It is encouraging to see the example of some of the great saints, e.g. St. John Vianney, St. Padre Pio, etc., whose holiness drew them in and then steeped them profoundly into this deep mystery.

        • It really is an awesome mystery isn’t it, and as you rightly say, something that takes time, prayer, and humility (especially humility!) to enter into. It is one of those things that I don’t think I will ever really fully comprehend, but as you also point out, we have the example of many holy and wise saints who had the humility and purity of heart to really be drawn into the mystery. Thank God for His saints! 🙂

          Hope that the looking after of family is going okay – sounds like you will need a well deserved rest soon!

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