On Essence and the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist: Finding Identity, Community and Mission in a Meaningless World

Norm GrondinSymbolic World Icon
November 7, 2023

For Mémé Darling and your life of real assent. Your “grain of wheat” continues to bear much fruit.

Ours is an acedic age, one of distraction, where we wander about like chimeras, fragmented beings hungry for meaning.1 This is evident not only through the popularity of Jordan Peterson’s books and lectures, but also with John Vervaeke’s Awakening from the Meaning Crisis YouTube series.2 Of course, we can call it whatever we want, but the real struggle, as it has been from the beginning, is a struggle to commune with God and return to our origin — to return from exile. We sought to “become like God without God”, to shortcut our way to communion with the divine.3 Call it meaning, call it God, but the struggle to belong, to feel at peace, to find our place and our purpose, remains humanity’s struggle.

The story of the Bible tries to rectify this problem. In its dénouement, God seeks, through His son, Jesus Christ, to replace our bad meal in the Garden of Eden with a good meal in accordance with right praise.4 The challenge for us, though, as modern people, is that Nietzsche’s pronouncement of God’s death was all too prophetically successful. Churches in the West are emptying and many who remain, as Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen pointed out, are praying to a God they don’t really believe in.5 Or one that is compartmentalized, that does not live in and through all things, which amounts to the same end.6 For all intents and purposes, most of us are atheists in our day-to-day lives, failing to live out the beliefs we claim to hold.

Consequently, this right meal, this claim of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist as the “source and summit of the Christian life”, instead of bolstering faith, acts as a major stumbling block to it.7 Indeed, 70% of Catholics no longer believe this mystery.8 We no longer believe our own story and in turn, are unable to live our faith experientially, unable to become the body of what we worship. Our failure to believe in the Real Presence as the apex of cosmic meaning yields disastrous results downstream in daily life, leaving us in a sort of stupor; guided not by God but by the whims of culture and the passions. We are caught in Guy Debord’s world where it isn’t just the economy but everything that has become “a concrete manufacture of alienation.”9

The Eucharist, as communion with the Word made flesh and the point where heaven and earth meet most direclty, is the missing piece to reunion with God. But in light of modernity, our ability to accept the truth of the Real Presence has reached an impasse, impossible to reconcile with a scientific materialist mind. The goal then of this article, as with William James’ pragmatism, is “to widen the field for the search for God.”10 It is to reconnect reality with the symbol, to make present the real mystery; to elucidate how we might retell the story — our story — and approach the Real Presence with new eyes.11 It seeks to examine how worship is inevitable, how its truths manifest themselves through story in our lives, and finally how the Eucharist is the cosmic symbol of the hidden essence in all things, pointing in turn to our own essence, acting as an inoculation against nihilism.

IDENTITY: On Becoming the Bodies of Our Worship12

Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal. (John 6:27)

The laundry list making up identity is nearly inexhaustible. We can look exclusively at physical characteristics, but the Ship of Theseus thought experiment shows that identity is composed of more than the material.13 Father Stephen De Young presses this point, noting, “. . . in a materialist way, due to the change of atoms, I am not who I was years ago, but I am still me, so identity cannot be just a material notion. What then makes something what it is, is its aim, its function, its use, its goal in any particular situation.”14 This teleological view indicates that matter worships in picking a point of focus. This is necessary to form a cohesive whole, as how any assemblage of parts comes to be recognized as one thing requires an identity from above, from an essence outside itself.15 Worship dictates this focus, requiring sacrifice in turn, as the prioritization of any value necessitates ignoring or abandoning others. In positive terms, sacrifice is more clearly defined as hospitality, as the offering of something pleasing, such as joy, communion and/or fellowship to someone else.16

This is really the core of the Real Presence: making room for something above to descend and imbue a body (or matter) with meaning. For example, in finding his identity in hockey, look how an individual is consumed by his team who is in turn consumed by the league, all under the aegis of trying to win the Stanley Cup.17 And what is the hockey player’s identity without that Cup? This is clearly something outside the person, but remains a crucial aspect of defining who he is. In turn, he cannot claim this identity of hockey player if he doesn’t keep his body hospitable to it, maintaining peak physical shape, and continuing to hone his skills. This is as true at the individual level as the communal. I am as much what I consume as I feed identities above, being identified in turn, such as through the NHL, the Church, an employer or nation.18 Identity unites me with others in the commonalities we share, and separates me through the idiosyncrasies that make me distinct. In its simplest form, identification allows categorization, which as a means to rank order value, is a necessary precondition to action.

However, the challenge with identification as our point of worship, is how do we know our sacrifices and efforts will bear the fruit we desire? Hospitality isn’t theoretical, we have to hedge our bets on a live hypothesis in real time.19 In order for worship to be able to forge our identities, it requires our agency and salience. Worship then isn’t a feeling or an idea so much as an action requiring physical and interior space in one’s life. The biblical story points this out repeatedly, firstly through Creation (i.e. God drawing forth categories of Being from chaos and Adam naming the animals in the Book of Genesis), but also in all attempts to make covenants with Israel, to mark them as apart from others through acts of devotion and worship.20 By failing to be able to host, to digest the knowledge of Good and Evil, humanity fell not only out of communion with God, but into fragmentation.21 The Bible is trying to point the way to proper hospitality and its fruits through identity.

Yet having fallen we remain, as the Venerable Fulton Sheen wrote, “. . . like a flattened Japanese lantern, a riot of colors without pattern or purpose.”22 How often do we engage in actions that seem foreign to us, that leave us asking: who was the person who just did that? We lie to ourselves, trying to justify all sorts of distorted behaviours and passions. We can be kind one moment and vicious the next. Jonathan Pageau notes: “The work of the spiritual life and the work of living in Christ and of the Church is to be able to reconcile these fragmented pieces of us into one unified person in the image of Christ.”23 It puts faith in the promise and submits to an identity above so “. . . all our intentions and our exterior forms line up to become a crown of glory.”24

Falling before God in prayer and before the Eucharist in Adoration are means to achieve this. But do you want to make the sacrifices necessary to be a hospitable tabernacle, an acceptable dwelling place for God? This requires intentionally preparing and clearing a path for the Lord to land in our hearts.25 While this appears on the surface to be a simple description of life goals, acting upon its demands is not, for it requires complete transformation in imitation of Christ. Flannery O’Connor knew this when she wrote: “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”26 In our point of worship, then, who or what we host and by whom or what we are hosted is serious business. But this faith and fiat isn’t passive, as grace is not forced upon us, but is a freely chosen dance.27 And further, relationship is a necessary component to love and faith. We need to be part of a shared story because, as St. Catherine of Siena noted, “You can’t love what you don’t know.”28

COMMUNITY: Tell the Story

And if you be unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

As worship is inevitable, so too is searching for and finding meaning in our lives.29 In its most digestible form, meaning manifests itself through story, through nested narrative patterns at all levels of reality.30 While much has been made of the Hero’s Journey and its steps in story-telling, in its simplest form, a story, as Jeff Cavins has pointed out about the Bible, is one of exile and return.31 As true as this is from the Fall in Genesis to the return in Revelation, there are mini-stories following the same pattern throughout the biblical narrative.32 Of course, this finds its apex in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This echoes our own lives, and their intertwining stories as the sum of who we are. From the simple act of breathing in and out, menstruation cycles, leaving our homes, going to work and returning, leaving friends and family and being reunited, even sleep and wake cycles, our lives unfold as a series of exiles and returns.33 This is true of the actual stories that make us up as it is of our internal patterns, our emotional states, rhythmic patterns of joy and suffering, and our ability to hold onto meaning in our lives – there is an ebb and flow, like a wave akin to C.S. Lewis’ Law of Undulation.34

The Bible presents this same pattern of exile and return on a cosmic level, of a story within a story, of meaning nested in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.35 As with every mystery of the faith, it takes a truth lived out at every level of reality: individually, communally, and inter-communally, but turns it up to a higher pitch.36 The transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is the substance around which the Catholic Mass orbits. Despite this ritual reenactment of Christ’s sacrifice and the sharing of this covenant meal every week, it clearly remains a stumbling block today as much as in the time of Jesus, where after the Bread of Life discourse many of His disciples abandoned him.37

Part of the impossibility of believing is that for all too many Christians, the story of the Eucharist lacks context. In the same way that watching a good film allows you to suspend disbelief, so come the climax of it you can remain completely engaged and buy into its more fantastic elements, knowing the story in which the Eucharist is embedded is essential to believing it. Perhaps a result of too much emphasis placed on forming a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in the wake of Vatican II, at the level of experience; Catholics don’t know the Bible like we should.38 Gone are the days when a teaching could be accepted without really considering its challenge to faith, believing in it as part of the Catholic Package but not deciding if you believe it, let alone its personal implications if you do.39

We don’t know our story, yet we try to talk about the climax of the film, begging to buy into it, but most of us walked into the theatre an hour and a half late! Even worse, we think we know the story since we’ve heard it so many times, but we never actually read it. Many today have been “sacramentalized, but never truly evangelized. Having never quite experienced that cognitive moment of encounter with Christ, they do not know what they do not know, or why any of it matters.”40 This is crucial to remember as “Christianity is not an idea, it is not an ethos, it is an experience. It’s an encounter with a person, Jesus Christ.”41 Call this a failure of catechesis or Vatican II if you want, but as lay people, we have not taken the mantle to be responsible for our own faith formation.

In the Gospels, about 85% of the way through the Bible, when Christ delivers his Bread of Life discourse, we don’t know Israel’s heart or the depth of motivation and longing on the part of Christ or his disciples found in the preceding pages.42 Distracted by the absence of context provided in the previous pages, questions pile upon themselves and people simply check out, shaking their heads in disbelief.43 Maybe this was okay in the past, but people today are more acutely aware that when they leave the show, there are “no coats and no homes” waiting for them, so the costs are higher.44 Ironically, this lack of understanding may be compounded by access to the Bible. This impact, outside the context of Mass, combined with poor catechesis, has a profound impact on interpretation. As a result, we fall too easily into foolish readings of the text through a scientific materialist lens, and shoot ourselves in the foot through a reduction of it via Cartesian dualism or a Kantian view of Christianity reduced to ethics.45

If we stand any hope of belief, this Mystery must be meditated upon in the context of the Mass, the surrounding Gospel accounts, and their biblical footnotes.46 As much as we need to nest our own lives within story, so does the Eucharist only make sense embedded in the Mass. Alexander Schmemann makes this point, writing:

The Eucharist has so often been explained with reference to the gifts alone: what “happens” to bread and wine, and why, and when it happens! But we must understand that what “happens” to bread and wine happens because something has, first of all, happened to us, to the Church. It is because we have “constituted” the Church, and this means we have followed Christ in His ascension; because He has accepted us at His table in His Kingdom; because, in terms of theology, we have entered the Eschaton, and are now standing beyond time and space; it is because all this has first happened to us that something will happen to bread and wine.47

As this is true of the Mass, so we too are not isolated stories but their sum, stories embedded within stories of the culture at large. We are self-contained, yes, but also porous; for we do not enter this world ex nihilo. Bishop Barron notes, “You were born into a story that you didn’t start. You’re not telling it, you’re trying to find your role in it.”48 The small narratives of our lives are nested within a larger story as an echo of the same pattern of exile and return. Given this, the more we are able to nest ours in a larger story the more can be drawn from them, the more purpose and meaning our own lives have. These connections and layers render depth.49

For good or ill, we enter the world with the camera rolling. How we are cared for and with whom we interact are contingent upon the stories of those into whose homes we are born. From the set design to the costumes, the props and cast of characters, we enter a story already unravelling. Before we are aware of it, we already mean something to those around us, and they mean something to us. We transform their lives as much as they shape ours.

This can seem confining, to enter a story already written, but as with our point of worship, this need not be the case. Rules frame the game of chess into nearly infinite combinations and possibilities, while a lack of rules makes for a boring and confusing mess. Just play chess with a toddler, where you might stack pieces, move or knock them down on a whim. While fun for toddlers to explore this way, for the adult, a lack of rules to frame the game becomes tiresome rather quickly. The foundation of nesting our lives into a larger narrative allows us freedom to explore our purpose, rather than being pulled in every direction, falling prey to whatever new temptation or whim happens to befall us. Being embedded in this way allows us to act, for complete freedom is impractical in reality. It’s akin to being in a boat on open seas – you can go in any direction you want, but without purpose, you don’t know where to go. In the end, total freedom is not only paralyzing, but paradoxically confining.50

This isn’t to say that we are spectators of our own stories. We can assent or deny the role(s) we are called to play in this theo-drama.51 It is up to us to discern our place in this story, but it is made easier in being guided by those who make up its prologue. It is only supreme arrogance or ignorance to suggest that we are its apogee, that we could scrap the whole narrative leading up to our entrance on the stage, offering a plot twist to negate or render pointless all that came before. Our unwillingness or inability to nest our story within larger ones not only creates problems for us, but is incredibly isolating as our story tries in vain to paddle upstream against the reality of others’ unfolding.

Another spiritual problem, is the inability to nest our longing and experience in story. It prevents suspending disbelief to see what this mystery of the Eucharist might do to radically alter our lives and experience of the Mass – let alone our tangible day-to-day ability of finding meaning in our lives and its supposedly trivial or mundane aspects.52

As mentioned, one aspect of the Eucharist and how it fits into our stories, is through the lens of a meal, as we gather, like the disciples, in communion during the Mass. Gathering once a week to be in the presence of God orients the rhythms of our whole week. Every Friday as a day of fasting commemorates Jesus’s Crucifixion and every Sunday as a celebration of the Resurrection frames our week, while the Liturgical calendar does this on a larger scale. As biblical covenants were sealed with a meal, the Mass is a re-enactment of this new and eternal covenant with God through Jesus Christ.53 It is participatory, marking everyone present with God’s seal.54

The meanings of our identities are revealed in layers of stories. I can tell one of going to the store, but it becomes significantly more meaningful if I am going to get medicine for my child, who is living out his own exile and return (from sickness to health). This is then nested in my story as father and husband, spilling over into motivations for work, how I spend my time and where I put my attention. Meaning snowballs from there as that story is nested inter-communally in ways that I can never fully see. Or, consider why I keep my desk clean at work so that I can be organized and efficient. I can then be a better employee and spend more time with my family. This is important so I can contribute to my community and be a good father. I desire these things to be a good person, and in turn, desire this to be worthy of my gifts in the eyes of God, to draw closer to Him. Ideally, everything leads back to my point of worship, to my ultimate concern.55

This is really what being “a biblical people” is all about.56 To be immersed in the stories of the Bible so that the stories of our lives are seen through its lens, as cycles of exiles and returns. So we can see their stories reflected in our own, and ours in them. There is transformation in communion, should we allow ourselves to be open to it; should we admit the fantastic, the wonderful, and indeed the mysterious into our narrative worldview.

To know your story, your telos, it is necessary to nest it in the surrounding narrative. We can understand a chapter, but how much more depth and understanding can we find when we have read the rest of the book? Connecting this analogy, Jonathan Pageau notes: “The idea of knowledge in the Christian world is participative knowledge. When you know something, you have to join with it to a certain extent.”57 We have to not only read the whole book, but we have to live in it! Vervaeke describes this participatory meaning as the felt connection between self and other, between me and the world around me. It is the tangible connections to humans, things and places that I have and knowing where I fit within them.58

When you think of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, think of the promise of this story and let the power of the possibility of this mystery wash over you, transforming your story and experience of the world. Let it enchant the world with meaning as you attune yourself to the reality of the hidden essence in everything around you. It is the physical manifestation of the hidden essence of the Church. It is bread, sustenance and life, it is the story that orients our lives. Hidden within lies its unseen purpose as a cosmic map, a pattern of the world that allows things to exist.59 The thread remains invisible, but nonetheless binds us. So let us be gathered into this epic story, guided by this hidden essence rippling out, imbuing all things with meaning.60

MISSION: The Poetics of a Hidden Essence

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)

Our search for meaning in life is the metric guiding our attention and how we engage the world.61 Despite not being able to see it unfold before us, we act as if it’s there, often noticing it only in retrospect.62 While problematic in deciding what to do with our lives, we need to act before our beliefs and a felt sense of meaning are fully fleshed out. Belief in the Real Presence is like this. While it might seem crass, like hedging our bets with Pascal’s Wager, relying on probability rather than fact, we can minimize the risk if we consistently reassess our beliefs in light of experience. Additionally, if carefully considered, it seems clear we do this all the time. Barron notes that, “. . . we rarely if ever settle a matter on the basis of clinching and utterly convincing formal argumentation. Much more commonly, we come to our real beliefs through the process . . . of assessing probable arguments, hunches, and experiences that point in the same direction.”63 While perhaps not ideal as it leaves room for error, the alternative, paralysis through relativism positing a view from nowhere, is not only worse, but impossible.64

This isn’t an either/or proposition, but how the world and belief work. We can’t account for everything, the world is just too big; even the Garden has a snake in it.65 Just think of any habit that you want to form or break, such as quitting smoking, exercising or eating better. There are countless proofs of their effectiveness and possibility, but you have no proof to support your belief they will work for you. However, you begin in the hope of transformation. You start getting up early to run, you start eating better, you clip the ends of cigarettes to make them shorter. You go through hell. Nothing seems to be happening. Until it does, but only if you remain faithful to the promise, to the hope. Exercising or eating one good meal here and there isn’t enough. Neither is skipping one cigarette break. The meaning begins with a promise, but comes to drive desire as it is confirmed through positive results. Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silber Storey build on this, noting:

what begins as a rational judgment about the importance of health becomes a tangible desire for
the good of exercise as the realization of the body’s capacities for action. That we can acquire this new desire by acting for a time as if we already possessed it marks our success not in deceiving ourselves but in transforming ourselves.66

If we are to experience the fruits on offer, this suspension of disbelief is necessary. This is true of our habits and material existence as it is of our spiritual needs. John Kaag explains, “The belief itself, according to James, can change a believer’s world such that the belief is validated over time. When one believes in God, even in the absence of exhaustive proof (because after all, how many of us can really attest to having exhaustive proof?), his or her reality lends itself more readily to religious experience.”67

This undoubtedly seems repugnant to a scientific sensibility, but the germ of science operates as much on hunches and intuitions as does belief; using experiments (i.e. experience) as metrics to prove initial hypotheses. In turn, we would be wise to acknowledge its limits, that science can describe matter but not what matters.68 Consequently, that there isn’t a scientific explanation able to substantiate the claim of the Real Presence is a non-issue, for it is beyond the purview of science to not only identify but dissect meaning.69 Rather, the Real Presence requires faith, akin to Newman’s famous example of the belief that England is an island, despite our being unable to prove it as fact.70 Just as a scientific hypothesis eventually needs a proof, Newman’s notional assent, while useful as seeds to feed intellectual curiosities, must eventually fruit into real assent or die. In lacking body, notional assent inevitably meets its stumbling blocks in contemplating this great mystery because faith isn’t an idea, but a lived experience.71

Real assent requires desire and faith working in tandem to soften the heart to the possibility of belief and to allowing yourself to be transformed by it. To explore this chicken and egg nature of meaning, and its relationship to the Real Presence, let’s turn to the composition of a poem.

Any piece of art exemplifies the reality of a hidden essence. There is the way it presents itself to the world, its meaning as a concrete object, or appearance for Thomas Aquinas, and the hidden meaning, or substance for Aquinas.72 There is my intention in writing it, largely unknown to me while in the throes of composition, and others’ interpretation, and re-interpretation of it over time. Essence is tricky to pin down, but all the more so after realizing it is constantly changing as it shapes and is shaped by the contours of its form. The Eucharist is a means of putting the form and shape of the Real Presence of Christ into our daily lives.

This same essence is embedded in the creative act. For example, its absence manifests itself in the painting of chimpanzees, who:

typically do not know when to stop. If the experimenter does not take the canvas away, a mere blob of color will be the result. We, on the other hand, know when to stop. How? As we have seen, we have an idea of the work that precedes the execution. This idea has a certain wholeness and completeness to it, which we also find in the finished work.73

This seems clear enough, as to even begin a creative act, we need a sense of essence, otherwise we don’t even know what materials are needed, canvas or paper? Essence reveals itself more fully through process, but eventually, we stop when we know we’ve attained a satisfactory exploration of meaning — which isn’t the same as saying we always succeed in the attempt.

Mary Oliver wrote that, “The poem is a confession of faith.”74 To write poetry, as with any creative endeavour, is to navigate your way toward epektasis, toward a “. . . straining forward toward mystery, toward a luminous darkness, toward an unsatiated desire for a meaning beyond meaning.”75 It can equally be thought of as an exercise in metanoia, a change of mind through the heart.76 To compose a poem is to trust the exploration could bear meaningful fruit. Creative exploration is a desire to explain, to point out, to identify, to move from confusion (i.e. exile) to understanding (i.e. return).77

Seeking the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and wine is this profession of faith in action. Whether the belief or the search comes first doesn’t really matter. As William James reminds us: “The desire for a certain kind of truth here brings about that special truth’s existence . . . [how his] faith acts on the powers above him as a claim, and creates its own verification.”78

Thus far, this is all on the individual level of impact, but who could predict the impact of a poem across time and space? There are countless examples of a poem saving people’s lives: from the recitation of Invictus in Mandela’s prison cell to the use of Psalm 23 in the Hanoi Hilton, the composition of poetry in Guantanamo Bay, Auschwitz, or the Russian Gulag.79 There are countless examples of the power of well-ordered words saving the world. But where is the logic in this power of the poem, or in people risking their lives to compose or share them?80 While words on the page can convince and persuade, as in the realm of apologetics, there is depth to writing and poetry perhaps most specifically, in reaching further, into the realm of soul. There is no formula to follow to know why or how this is done, only that it’s true. As Newman wrote: “The heart is commonly reached, not through reason, but through the imagination, by means of direct impressions, by the testimony of facts and events, by history, by description.”81

Belief in the Real Presence, like in the initial exploration phases of a poem, can seem fruitless, but through the germ of faith, through experience and participation, we can build trust.82 In the same way we do not trust a stranger as we do a friend, first we observe and learn facts about them, but eventually, as Barron notes, “I will accept what she has told me about herself because I’ve come to trust her. I will never be able fully to verify what she has revealed, but in accepting it (because I accept her), I come to a knowledge and appreciation of her that I could never have achieved any other way.”83

In turn, sticking with a poem, trusting in the process, is like time spent with the Bible and the Eucharist in Adoration. They are ways to build trust. It is attention; putting in the work for the friendship to blossom and bear fruit. So with our lives as the poem, it may end up altogether transformed from its initial inspirations, taking on a life, a body, of its own if I am willing to listen. You get what you put in. Equally, poems are not produced in a vacuum, but germinate from rich poetic soil. Knowing this enriches the experience of the reader as much as it proves instructive for the author.84 Just look at the weaving together of threads from the Church Fathers, the saints and the Bible in elucidating a richly layered description of the Catholic faith through the Catechism of the Catholic Church for a clear example of this.

On Theosis

The Real Presence shows there is meaning imbued in everything around us – but now what? Meaning exists, but what is the meaning of our lives? As Christians, we live our lives knowing that “The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature””85 There is no greater adventure, no greater goal to attain. In light of this we have two choices – again the beauty of a simplified life nested within a narrative structure where we are marked, sealed, and contained by God – we can become more like Him or follow demons.86 While this seems simplistic or even extreme, it isn’t, insofar as our actions can either drive us further from or closer to God. It isn’t that things outside us are in of themselves bad per se, but that the evil is in how we relate to those things. For even our passions can remind us of our need for God, as every temptation is a question of how we are going to act, how we choose to respond. But the question is, in the end: do we fall further away or turn back to Him?87

If we worship money, we chase after money. If we worship women, we chase after women. Self-improvement births self-improvement – worshipping a god of our own design.88 If we worship God, we chase after God. Theosis is nothing but when we become God’s body:

When we are imaging God in the created order we are serving as a body, we are serving as an image in the world for God . . . if a body is the powers and/or potentialities, that means when God’s works are being done, when a human being is doing God’s work, then they are being the body of God, the body of Christ. They are serving as an instrument in that way. When you do the works of a spiritual being, you function as the body of that being.89

Living like this is not easy, presenting daily challenges, both spiritually and materially, but what do we expect when we are called to become saints?90 To embrace this is to embrace proper worship, proper hospitality, making “. . . a space so that the Son of God can be born within you.”91 It is transformative in the highest sense, offering the possibility of redemption and transcendence, but due to that needed space, it requires that you not place yourself at the centre of your life, that your life no longer be about you.92 There is no telling in what ways this shift will transform us, in what ways it will transform the world. This may seem esoteric and intangible, but we have the light of the world in Jesus Christ as the incarnate model, both as a beacon to imitate and also as the fruits that “dying to yourself” bear. This mode of being as the path to holiness isn’t arbitrary, either. Alexander Schmemann notes: “Man is a sacrificial being, because he finds his life in love, and love is sacrificial: it puts the value, the very meaning of life in the other and gives life to the other, and in this giving, in this sacrifice, finds the meaning and joy of life.93

This pattern of love plays out in simple examples of making a meal, tending your yard, going to work, being kind to someone at the grocery store, or when composing a poem. The essence of these actions, their meaning and purpose, are the driving force moving you forward. And as with the Eucharist, they remain largely hidden from view, intuitive, a felt rather than explicit value or necessity. For instance, the motivational mystery surrounding why you make dinner for your family may seem obvious, however there is more to this utilitarian task than meets the eye. The ripple effects of uniting for a family meal is not trivial, as it is a point of unity, of communion with the people closest to us. It is worth treating the family meal with the reverence owed to its proper sacramental place.94 Oppositely, the promise of the Eucharist is as opaque as it is immense in its mystery. Being transformed by it is contingent upon our ability to suspend disbelief long enough to allow or admit that transformation to reveal itself.

Pascal wrote that most people seek distraction from the deepest questions of life.95 But our inability or ostrich-like examination of our inner-lives doesn’t negate their existence, nor alleviate the problems stemming from their root. Father Stephen De Young argues that since we too often deny the spirit, we are unable to heal since we fail to address the root of our malaise.96 We are indeed caught in the middle of a spiritual war, but so long as we fail to acknowledge its existence, we are destined to lose.97 However, faith “. . . and pious living through prayer, fasting and almsgiving are weapons to protect the soul” and can lead us on the path to freedom.98

While taking the Eucharist is to accept the sacrifice of Christ on offer, it is also to accept trying to live it. That the bread and wine are revealed to be the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ remains fantastic, yet it behooves us not so much to fully unlock this mystery, but to explore its contours, offering real assent, acting on the promise made. But if it’s true, as evidenced both through experience and in cognitive science, that we live in stories, and if what we worship provides us with meaning and a narrative structure to frame those stories, then the absence of a super-substantial meaning at a cosmic level can do nothing but shake the very foundations of this frame, leaving a deep void as it crumbles from the top down.99

On Nihilism

The fallout of this void manifests itself as meaning’s opposite. As pews empty, so too do the souls of those gone; with nihilism growing as the framing narrative of too many today. Yet, the lack of embeddedness in a story, despite initial appearances, is still the existence of a story. It is just bleak, solipsistic and ill-informed in the sense of one that either goes unrecognized, is meaningless (i.e. aimless), or thinks of itself as disconnected or independent of any other. A story caught in a void.

Nihilism only exists in theory, we can’t operate from meaninglessness.100 Jordan Peterson makes this point, writing: “The idea of a value-free choice is a contradiction in terms. Value judgments are a precondition for action.”101 From the simplest reason to get out of bed to eat, to the reasons for going headlong into a battlefield, we need stories to frame our reasons for being. The bigger the story or the deeper we can nest our own within others’, the greater the meaning our lives take, multiplying the impact of our choices and actions. Think about this after having children, how the value of your actions and the sacrifice willingly adopted, grows in meaning. Even in nihilism, we can’t avoid meaning as we still operate with it in mind: acting in consequence of its absence, in longing for its return.

All ways of knowing can prove useful, fuelling each other, but when disembodied they lead to nihilism, a falling out of love with reality, with Being.102 Like the study of perfect geometrical patterns, when we need to build them in the real world we must rely on approximations to the perfection of the abstract forms.103 Otherwise, they are dead and useless, a step removed from life and soul. We need, Vervaeke notes, participatory meaning, that “existential meaning . . . that makes life bearable . . . the connectedness, the dynamic affordance that allows us to optimally grip the world and thereby affords the cultivation of wisdom.”104 Participatory knowing is where the meat of our lives’ rests. As embodied meaning, it is what keeps us alive, what makes the world mean something rather than nothing.

The Eucharist begs a question: do you assent to being made a worthy tabernacle in which Christ may dwell? It is an opportunity to enter into the most intimate of participatory meanings. But to do this, you have to want to be transformed, you have to be ready to be burnt; for:

If we are serious about [drawing closer to Christ], we have to do it and not just talk about it. That means we have got to give up some things that come quick and easy and make us feel better when we don’t want to deal with the tougher things of life. It isn’t just drugs and alcohol that are the easy ways out, but the spectacle lets us escape. What we allow into our mind transforms and changes us, and that is the dire situation that we must awaken to in our current culture.105

The Power of the Eucharist in Action: A Case Study

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24)

To end this article, it seems fitting to share an experience of how the power of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has not only been lived, but proven contagious and transformative.

It was discovered recently that my grand-mother-in-law, Rita Boileau (Mémé Darling), had terminal cancer (she passed away Sept. 25, 2021 at the age of 89). She exemplified a deep faith and self-sacrificing love not only for her family, but toward anyone who had the good fortune to cross her path. Equally on display was a profound expression of gratitude.

Throughout her battle with the cancer that eventually took her life, she maintained a deep commitment to faith. In turn, as she was unable to attend Mass, it was a real honour to be able to bring her the Eucharist when we could. This act became an anchor to frame our visits, as our weekends needed to be coordinated with our Mass attendance (either Saturday or Sunday).106 Before administering it, we would pray with any family present. This marked the first time we prayed together since I became a part of this family over 12 years ago. What to make of this? We have gathered for meals countless times in the past, but never did we pray together. So what we brought; was it just bread?

When receiving the Eucharist over the weeks of her illness, Mémé, at various times, entered into spontaneous prayer: “Thank you, God.” or “I love you, Jesus.” Again, was it just bread she ate? This is a woman who had been receiving the Eucharist for some 80 years. This wasn’t a single piece of bread eaten, but one embedded within the story of her life. This narrative structure, following the rhythms of the Mass and the liturgical year, embodying repeated exiles and returns, year in and year out, through the Incarnation, Crucifixion and the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, supported her struggle and experience with cancer.

Witnessing these prayers as a testimony to faith and longing for Christ have proven incredibly impactful to my own faith. Surely they remain transformative for all who were present. It really brings immediacy to Jesus’ words: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”107 Her outpouring of gifts, her life lived in sacrifice guided by love, and its fruits were on display every day as many put their lives on hold to care for her every need until the end. Seeing the care and devotion shown by those who stayed close to her over these past months has left me hoping that one day I may be able to offer that same quality of care in turn.

We live in overlapping stories and there is no telling the impact these actions have on those around us. In always putting her family first, Mémé Darling showed a wonderful example of gratitude, devotion, faith, and love. As all who knew her seek not just to remember her in their hearts, but to imitate her example in their actions; she remains with us. When we embody the best parts of her, the parts that imaged God in this world, we show our faith in her spirit through action.108 In so doing, we not only bring Heaven closer to Earth, we keep Mémé Darling here with us; continuing to bear those aforementioned fruits into the world, one lovingly selfless act at a time.

It was this same mode of being that allowed Maximilian Kolbe to take the place of a stranger to the certainty of his death in Auschwitz or Christians to defy the machinations of the Russian Gulag, maintaining dignity and virtue despite the greater challenges and suffering incurred. The embodiment of the sacrifice of the Eucharist as lived narrative has real-world transformative power. It is perhaps the clearest example of how Christianity grew in the face of violent opposition, from “a tiny outpost in a corner of the Roman Empire” to fill up every corner of the globe.109

I share this one personal example to highlight how the hidden essence of the Eucharist can gather us together, and how belief can grow through trust and direct experience. Just as the bush burned but was not consumed, we gathered together, becoming unified as much spiritually as we physically orbited Mémé and her home over these past months. It is exemplary of how this fantastic mystery is made manifest in daily life. How an idea can be wholly transformative when it finds a dwelling place in a body.

As thanksgiving, the Eucharist enables us to properly nest our story within the larger hierarchy of stories. As a default mode of being grateful, it changes us, improving our quality of life.110 It removes notions of entitlement, promotes humility and a positive outlook, even amidst the suffering inherent in life. Mémé maintained this to the very end, expressing constant gratitude for the love and care shown to her. This was so evident as her default mode of being, that shirts reading “Fantastically Wonderful” on the front, and “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You” in the form of a heart on the back were made to commemorate her two most frequent sayings. This outlook ran so deep, that three days before her passing, before she lost the power of speech, her final words to me were, “You are wonderful. You are, you are.”

This expression of gratitude is a living example that we are not self-created, a recognition instead that everything we have is a gift.111 Humility, gratitude and the importance of self-giving in service to others, to God, is how the world works. This is an example of Bishop Barron’s frequent reference to Pope John Paul II’s “law of the gift.”112 It is a refutation of the culture of self-invention. This begs the question then about belief and its relation to how we act in the world: if I act as though the Eucharist is really the Body of Christ, is he made manifest and truly present in it, and in turn, in me?

Mémé is a case study of grace. Her outpouring of gifts, her sacrifices, were paid back in spades, multiplied like the loaves and fishes, as the antidote to death — to an absence of meaning — as victory over it. In the final days of her life, she was surrounded and cared for by those who loved her. While death could be scary, painful and lonely, here instead, it has been defeated in the very imitation of Christ on his Cross, by a life led in complete surrender and imitation of Him. A life of sacrifice guided by love for others. Death is surely an act of division, as we are separated from a loved one, through this return of her self-sacrifice, her passing instead, through the grace of God, became a gathering force.



Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal. (John 6:27)

Unholy wounds worming
twisting my essence
to existent desires
fingers to bone
exiled chasing
Sisyphus toiling
addiction distilled
my life hit
to hit
hollowed body bearing
too many marks
insufferable elements
         bleed out
dissipate my Being
into passions chasing
an unknown seal

tabernacle starving
in the vault of my chest
groping to be held
but without a what for
what’s it for
feeding flesh or
spirit unsealed
passions unpeeled
ravenous revealed
existence          essence
who feeds whom

embodied promise broken
open preceding
a safe faith cracked
doubt gleaming
the hidden essence
of the Real Presence
       I Am sutured
found            fed
bleeding stemmed
cauterized       contained
anchored amidst
a sea of empty vaults.


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  1. Pageau, Jonathan. “March Q&A 2021,” at 1:42:15. YouTube, March, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3W_PRlG8yrw.
  2. See Peterson’s Biblical Series I: Introduction to the Idea of God that has over 8.5 million views. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-wWBGo6a2w. Vervaeke’s first episode is nearing 300 000 views. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54l8_ewcOlY.
  3. Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd ed., at No. 398. Double Day, 1995. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/398.htm.
  4. Bishop Robert Barron, Robert Mixa and Rozann Lee (eds.), Eucharist Study Guide, at 12. https://bookstore.wordonfire.org/products/eucharist-study-guide-1.
  5. Barron, Bishop Robert. “WOF 295,” at 56:00. Word on Fire Show, August, 2021. https://www.wordonfireshow.com/episode295/.
  6. See Father Stephen Freeman’s Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, at 7. https://www.amazon.ca/Everywhere-Present-Christianity-One-Storey-Universe/dp/1936270102. Or see Father Stephen De Young on the “problem of bracketing religion, accepting all these non-material beliefs for our faith, but then being an atheist everywhere else.” “The Biblical Problem of Orthodox Christianity in America, pt. 2,” on the Orthodox Engagement podcast, at 46:40. Ancient Faith, February, 2021. https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/orthodoxengagement/biblical_problem_part_2.
  7. Catholic Church, “Catechism”, at No. 1324. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/1324.htm.
  8. No name. “In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace,” Pew Research Center, October, 2019. https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace/.
  9. Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle, at 32. Black & Red, 1983. https://www.amazon.ca/Society-Spectacle-Guy-Debord/dp/0934868077/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=the+society+of+the+spectacle&qid=1632818972&s=books&sr=1-2.
  10. Barron, Bishop Robert. “WOF 295,” at 39:25. Word on Fire Show, August, 2021. https://www.wordonfireshow.com/episode295/.
  11. Schmemann, Alexander. For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy, at 128-129. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1973. https://www.amazon.ca/Life-World-Sacraments-Orthodoxy/dp/0881416177/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=for+the+life+of+the+world&qid=1633512771&sr=8-1
  12. My division of the sections that follow come from Father Blake Britton, who noted that video games can be distilled into three basic categories: those focused on connectivity and community building, identity development, and mission and purpose. “Video Game Culture and the Millennial Soul,” Evangelization and Culture: The Journal of the Word on Fire Institute, No. 3, at 48. Word on Fire, 2020. https://wordonfire.institute/journal/.
  13. See The Ship of Theseus. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus.
  14. Lord of Spirits, “The Mountain of God and the Boat of Theseus,” at 44:00. Ancient Faith, March, 2021. https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/lordofspirits/the_mountain_of_god_and_the_boat_of_theseus.
  15. Pageau, Jonathan. “How the Lord’s Prayer Contains all of Creation,” at 9:40. YouTube, no date. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEvMa4b4BLQ. See also “Symbolism in the Book of Genesis with Matthieu Pageau,” at 00:04. YouTube, no date. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1-vG-bLDwE.
  16. De Young, Father Stephen. “The Biblical Problem of Orthodox Christianity in America, part 3,” on the Orthodox Engagement podcast, at 27:20. Ancient Faith, March, 2021. https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/orthodoxengagement/biblical_problem_part_3.
  17. Pageau, Jonathan. “Christianity is Not Revolutionary: Parables of the Vinedressers and the Wedding Feast,” at 13:30. YouTube, no date. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Frh_f-wgxZE.
  18. Pageau, Jonathan and Marceau, J.P. “La vie symbolique : Les zombies et l’Eucharistie,” at 44:20. YouTube, March, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrNIzaMsEj8.
  19. James, William. The Will to Believe, at 15. https://orbit.texthelp.com/?file=http://krypton.mnsu.edu/~jp6372me/THE%20WILL%20TO%20BELIEVE%20.pdf.
  20. Pageau, Jonathan. “The Key to How I Interpret Scripture,” at 22:56. YouTube, no date. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MedVllu0R2Y.
  21. Pageau, Matthieu. “Symbolism in the Book of Genesis,” at 27:58 and 32:10. YouTube, no date. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1-vG-bLDwE.
  22. Hardon, John A., SJ, editor. “Preface to Religion: Faith,” The Treasury of Catholic Wisdom, at 683. Ignatius Press, 1995. https://www.amazon.ca/Treasury-Catholic-Wisdom-John-Hardon/dp/0898705398.
  23. Pageau, Jonathan. “Old Word vs New World,” at 14:30. YouTube, no date. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa_7QIEMJPg.
  24. Pageau, Jonathan. “The Mark of Cain,” at 44:49. YouTube, no date. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gh9BC-wONBs.
  25. Barron, Bishop Robert. “Clear a Path homily,” at 4:58. Word on Fire, December, 2020. https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/homily/clear-a-path/21668/.
  26. Ference, Reverend Damian. “Letters of a Hillbilly Thomist: A Review of Flannery O’Connor’s The Habit of Being,” Evangelization and Culture: The Journal of the Word on Fire Institute, No. 1, at 19. Word on Fire, 2019. https://wordonfire.institute/journal/.
  27. Scalia, Elizabeth. “Swallows of Grace,” “Evangelization, No. 1,” at 67. https://wordonfire.institute/journal/.
  28. St. Catherine of Siena, from Scalia, Elizabeth. The Mass Study Guide, at 46. https://bookstore.wordonfire.org/products/the-mass-study-guide-pre-order.
  29. Pageau, Jonathan. “August 2021 Q&A,” at 2:08:45. YouTube, August, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hctOvHGJSfM&t=7809s. Wallace, David Foster. “This is Water,” fs, no date. https://fs.blog/2012/04/david-foster-wallace-this-is-water/.
  30. Pageau, Jonathan. “Emergence and Narrative, Vervaeke, Vanderklay, Pageau,” at 47:26. YouTube, no date. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5enaol6dGWU.
  31. See Hero’s Journey (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero%27s_journey#:~:text=In%20narratology%20and%20comparative%20mythology,comes%20home%20changed%20or%20transformed.&text=Campbell%20used%20the%20monomyth%20to%20deconstruct%20and%20compare%20religions.) and Cavins, Jeff. “Introduction to the Exile” at 13:46. YouTube, June, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiZXS1o7zbE.
  32. Exodus being the most well-known, but there is also the fall of Jerusalem, the divided Kingdom, Jonah and the parable of the Prodigal Son and the persecution of the early Church. Jeff Cavins points out: “It’s a pattern in the Old Testament, but also a pattern in our own lives.” “Introduction to the Return” at 3:00. YouTube, September, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_t9OMgEHg9M. See also Alastair Roberts’ Echoes of Exodus: Tracing Themes of Redemption Through Scripture (https://www.amazon.ca/Echoes-Exodus-Tracing-Redemption-Scripture/dp/1433557983/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=echoes+of+exodus&qid=1630747688&sr=8-1) and his interview with Jonathan Pageau. YouTube, no date. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXlVUZeZKVo.
  33. Pageau, “Emergence,” at 54:47. YouTube, no date. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5enaol6dGWU.
  34. Worner, Tod. “Midnight Oil: Musings Since We Last Met,” Evangelization, No. 3,” at 9. https://wordonfire.institute/journal/.
  35. Pageau, Jonathan. “The Perfect Mode of Being – Jonathan Pageau,” on the Jordan B. Peterson podcast, season 4, episode 8, at 1:09:10. YouTube, February, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rAqVmZwqZM.
  36. See Bishop Robert Barron’s “Revisiting the Spiritual Warfare,” for the use of “higher pitch.” https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/article/revisiting-the-spiritual-warfare/448/. Pageau, Matthieu. The Language of Creation: Cosmic Symbolism in the Book of Genesis, A Commentary, at 72. Self-Published, 2018. https://www.amazon.ca/Language-Creation-Cosmic-Symbolism-Genesis-ebook/dp/B07D738HD8.
  37. See John 6:66 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%206%3A66&version=NIV) and Catholic Church. “Catechism,” at No. 1336. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/1336.htm.
  38. Levering, Dr. Matthew. “Robert Barron’s The Priority of Christ: An Introduction.” Evangelization and Culture: The Journal of the Word on Fire Institute, No. 7, at 81. Word on Fire, 2021. https://wordonfire.institute/journal/.
  39. In conversation with Father Dwayne Adam in June 2021. He said that, as Catholics, we receive a ready-made set of beliefs but not always an adequate justification for them.
  40. Scalia, “The Mass,” 38-9. https://bookstore.wordonfire.org/products/the-mass-study-guide-pre-order.
  41. Pope Benedict XVI as quoted in Scalia, Elizabeth. “How Did We Get Here?” The Real Presence: A Mini-Summit on the Eucharist, at 4:40. Word on Fire Institute, no date. https://wordonfire.institute/bonus/eucharist/scalia/.
  42. Schmitz, Father Mike. “Day 280: The People of the Covenant,” The Bible in a Year podcast, at 21:00. YouTube, October, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJRZsJ873F0.
  43. Additionally, forget even the preceding 85%, we can just point to the multiplication of the loaves and fish, immediately preceding the Bread of Life discourse, as a hermeneutic key to understanding what follows. (Barron, Mixa and Lee, “Eucharist,” at 11) https://bookstore.wordonfire.org/products/eucharist-study-guide-1. But if our understanding of the Gospel is chopped up by chapter and verse, this is easy to miss.
  44. The whole quote reads: “The show is over. The audience get up to leave their seats. Time to collect their coats and go home. They turn around. No more coats and no more home.” Vaneigem, Raoul. The Revolution of Everyday Life, at 154. PM Press, 2012. https://www.amazon.ca/Revolution-Everyday-Life-Raoul-Vaneigem/dp/1604866780/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+revolution+of+everyday+life&qid=1632999164&sr=8-1.
  45. Vervaeke, John. “A Conversation so Intense, It Might as Well Be Psychedelic,” on the Jordan B. Peterson podcast, season 4, episode 34, at 1:47. YouTube, June, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLg2Q0daphE.
  46. See The First Hyperlinked Text. https://philosophadam.wordpress.com/2018/05/16/the-first-hyperlinked-text-the-bible-and-its-63779-cross-references/.
  47. Schmemann, “For the Life,” at 37. https://www.amazon.ca/Life-World-Sacraments-Orthodoxy/dp/0881416177/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=for+the+life+of+the+world&qid=1633512771&sr=8-1.
  48. Barron, Bishop Robert, “WOF 294,” at 22:00. Word on Fire Show, July, 2021. https://www.wordonfireshow.com/episode294/.
  49. Pageau, Jonathan. “The Symbolic Definition of Community.” YouTube, November, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWNLGlcRgYE.
  50. See, G.K. Chesterton, who “described a group of children playing on an island with steep sides. He noted that if the children were left on their own, they would likely move toward the center and only play in a small circle, afraid of falling over the edge. But suppose you erected a high fence around the entire island. The children would then be free to run around and play on every inch of its surface.” Vogt, Brandon. Return: How to Draw Your Child Back to the Church, at 149. Word on Fire, 2021. https://www.wordonfire.org/return/.
  51. Barron, Bishop Robert. Centered: The Spirituality of Word on Fire, at 91. Word on Fire, 2020. https://bookstore.wordonfire.org/products/centered-the-spirituality-of-word-on-fire.
  52. Peterson, Jordan. “Fix the Things You Repeat Everyday,” at 1:31. YouTube, November, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEnVtrWS6do.
  53. Cavins, Jeff. “The Covenants of Salvation History,” The Great Adventure Bible, at 10. Ascension Press, 2018. https://ascensionpress.com/products/the-great-adventure-catholic-bible.
  54. See John 6:27. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+6%3A27&version=NRSV.
  55. Williams, Vincent. “Paul Tillich on the Nature of Faith,” Curating Theology, July, 2019. https://curatingtheology.org/blog//paul-tillich-on-the-nature-of-faith.
  56. Hahn, Dr. Scott. “Bishop Barron on the Bible: Making Plain the Inner Logic of Sacred Scripture,” Evangelization, No. 7,” at 102. https://wordonfire.institute/journal/.
  57. Pageau, Jonathan. “September 2021 Q&A,” at 36:49. YouTube, September, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83EYS82PsjI&t=7988s.
  58. Vervaeke, “A Conversation,” at 1:59:24. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLg2Q0daphE.
  59. Pageau, Jonathan. “Introduction au symbolisme Chrétien,” at 43:50. YouTube, May, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTNSOUTtoiE&t=3211s.
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  61. Peterson, Jordan B. Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, at 1. Routledge, 1999. https://www.amazon.ca/Maps-Meaning-Architecture-Jordan-Peterson/dp/0415922224.
  62. Pageau, “Emergence,” at 1:39:03. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5enaol6dGWU.
  63. Barron, Bishop Robert. “St. John Henry Newman & the New Evangelization,” Evangelization, No. 7,” at 132. https://wordonfire.institute/journal/.
  64. Father Stephen De Young quoting Thomas Nagel on Pageau, Jonathan. “Hope for the Future and the Religion of the Apostles,” at 6:52. YouTube, no date. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsuxgepcNwQ.
  65. Peterson, Jordan. “Even God Could Not Make a Place So Safe That It Did Not Have a Snake In It.” YouTube, August, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FljKNSYHDHU.
  66. Storey, Benjamin and Silber Storey, Jenna. Why We Are Restless: On the Modern Quest for Contentment, at 87. Princeton University Press, April, 2021. https://www.amazon.ca/Why-We-Are-Restless-Contentment/dp/0691211124#:~:text=Drawing%20on%20the%20insights%20of,it%20like%20a%20lengthening%20shadow.&text=Rousseau%20later%20tried%20and%20failed%20to%20rescue%20Montaigne’s%20worldliness%20from%20Pascal’s%20attack.
  67. Kaag, John. Sick Souls, Healthy Minds: How William James Can Save Your Life, at 59. Princeton University Press, March, 2020. https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=john+kaag&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss.
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  70. Barron, “St. John Henry Newman & the New Evangelization,” Evangelization, No. 7,” at 132-3. https://wordonfire.institute/journal/.
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  72. Barron, Mixa, and Lee, “Eucharist,” at 35. https://bookstore.wordonfire.org/products/eucharist-study-guide-1.
  73. Ramelow, Father Anselm, OP. “Can Computers Create?” Evangelization, No. 1, at 45. https://wordonfire.institute/journal/.
  74. Oliver, Mary. A Poetry Handbook, at 122. Mariner Books, February, 2001. https://www.amazon.ca/Poetry-Handbook-Mary-Oliver/dp/0156724006.
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  76. No name. “Metanoia,” Wikipedia, no date. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metanoia_(theology).
  77. Peterson, Jordan. “The Role of Artists,” at 00:12. YouTube, September, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b56xdYB_8Wk.
  78. James, “The Will,” at 13. https://orbit.texthelp.com/?file=http://krypton.mnsu.edu/~jp6372me/THE%20WILL%20TO%20BELIEVE%20.pdf.
  79. See Invictus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invictus_(film), Jocko Podcast 76 with Charlie Plumb: 6 Years a POW at the Hanoi Hilton (https://jockopodcast.com/2017/05/24/76-knowing-darkness-6-years-a-pow-at-the-hanoi-hilton-to-see-the-light-and-good-in-life-with-capt-charlie-plumb/), Poems from Guantanamo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poems_from_Guant%C3%A1namo). There is also Viktor Frankl and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who both found the will to push through their death camp experiences in order to write about them.
  80. Padel, Ruth. 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem, at 25-6. Vintage, February, 2004. https://www.amazon.ca/52-Ways-Looking-At-Poem/dp/0099429152/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=ruth+padel&qid=1630830740&sr=8-2.
  81. Barron, “St. John Henry Newman & the New Evangelization,” Evangelization, No. 7, at 128. https://wordonfire.institute/journal/.
  82. Pageau, “The Perfect Mode,” at 1:11:40. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rAqVmZwqZM.
  83. Barron, Bishop Robert. Arguing Religion: A Bishop Speaks at Facebook and Google, at 8-9. Word on Fire, December, 2018. https://www.amazon.ca/Arguing-Religion-Bishop-Speaks-Facebook/dp/1943243379.
  84. See, for example, the limitations in understanding T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land without notes. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47311/the-waste-land.
  85. Catholic Church, “Catechism,” at No. 460. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/460.htm.
  86. De Young, “The Biblical Problem, part 2,” at 50:20. https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/orthodoxengagement/biblical_problem_part_2.
  87. Pageau, Jonathan. “July 2020 Q&A,” at 49:50. YouTube, July, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtYs5Zm0qWM.
  88. See Barron’s idea of the “culture of self-invention,” Knocking Holes in the Buffered Self, at 12:00. YouTube, October, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvvDcII_2bM. Or, see the phenomenon of Sheilaism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheilaism#:~:text=Sheilaism%20is%20a%20shorthand%20term,usually%20without%20much%20theological%20consideration.&text=in%20their%20book%20Habits%20of,faith%20she%20calls%20%22Sheilaism%22.
  89. Lord of Spirits, “Can These Bones Live?,” at 59:00. Ancient Faith, August, 2021. https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/lordofspirits/can_these_bones_live.
  90. Barron, Bishop Robert. To Light a Fire On the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age, at 71. Image, October, 2017. https://www.amazon.ca/Light-Fire-Earth-Proclaiming-Secular/dp/1524759503.
  91. Vervaeke, “A Conversation,” at 45:06. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLg2Q0daphE.
  92. Barron, “Centered,” at 90. https://bookstore.wordonfire.org/products/centered-the-spirituality-of-word-on-fire. Also, see St. Paul: “. . . it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” Galatians 2:20. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians+2%3A20&version=NRSV.
  93. Schmemann, “For the Life,” at 35. https://www.amazon.ca/Life-World-Sacraments-Orthodoxy/dp/0881416177/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=for+the+life+of+the+world&qid=1633512771&sr=8-1.
  94. Lord of Spirits, From Ur of the Chaldeans, at 48:13. Ancient Faith, September, 2021. https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/lordofspirits/from_ur_of_the_chaldeans.
  95. Barron, Bishop Robert. “WOF 301,” at 16:31. Word on Fire Show, September, 2021. https://www.wordonfireshow.com/episode301/.
  96. De Young, “The Biblical Problem, part 2,” at 52:30. https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/orthodoxengagement/biblical_problem_part_2.
  97. De Young, “The Biblical Problem, part 2,” at 52:30.
  98. Schmitz, Father Mike and Cavins, Jeff. “Messianic Checkpoint: Gospel of Matthew” on The Bible in a Year podcast, at 20:00. YouTube, September, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ts-xSOn_CwQ.
  99. See Jordan Peterson on how you inhabit a story. YouTube, February, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O96HDiAEEfs.
  100. Pageau, Jonathan. “There Are No True Nihilists.” YouTube, October, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cK9TFtLDB0.
  101. Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, at 87. Random House Canada, January, 2018. https://www.amazon.ca/12-Rules-Life-Antidote-Chaos/dp/0345816021.
  102. Vervaeke, “A Conversation,” at 1:02:25. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLg2Q0daphE.
  103. Barron, Bishop Robert. “God, The Father Almighty,” from The Creed series, at 45:25. Word on Fire, no date. https://bookstore.wordonfire.org/collections/dvd-blu-ray-cd/products/the-creed-light-from-light-bundle.
  104. Vervaeke, “A Conversation,” at 2:14:10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLg2Q0daphE.
  105. Lord of Spirits, “But We Have the Mind of Christ,” after 2:14:36. Ancient Faith, July, 2021. https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/lordofspirits/but_we_have_the_mind_of_christ.
  106. This spilled out all the more as we began to bring the Eucharist to another set of grandparents. Meaning more in turn since we had been more or less estranged from both sets for months through COVID-19 restrictions.
  107. See John 12:24. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+12%3A24&version=NRSV.
  108. See James 2:14-26. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+2%3A14-26&version=NRSV.
  109. Barron, Bishop Robert. Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith, at 14, Word on Fire, 2011. https://www.amazon.ca/Catholicism-Robert-Barron-Abraham-Skorka/dp/0307720527.
  110. Emmons, Dr. Robert A. The Little Book of Gratitude: Create a Life of Happiness and Wellbeing by Giving Thanks, at 20-21. Gaia, September, 2016. https://www.amazon.ca/Little-Book-Gratitude-happiness-wellbeing/dp/1856753654.
  111. See 1 Corinthians 4:7. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+4%3A7&version=NRSV.
  112. Barron, Bishop Robert. “The Law of the Gift homily,” at 13:06. Word on Fire, March, 2003. https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/homily/the-law-of-the-gift/576/. He also uses the term “spiritual physics.”

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