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Dear Brothers and Sisters of Saint Patrick,
Transubstantiation. Do you remember when you learned this word? I do. I was in 7th Grade and my
Religion Teacher, Mrs. Liela Gay, though(ully presented this ponderous term to us. Knowing our limitations as 12 and 13 year olds, Liela methodically broke down each part of that big word
to describe what occurs at the consecration during Mass. Trans means “change” and substantia means “substance.” She went on to explain a bit of philosophy to us adolescents by pointing to an unconsecrated communion wafer and a chalice. She pointed out that, as with any physical object, accidental proper es belong to the bread and wine used at Mass. Before and after consecration the
externals appear the same. The unleavened piece of bread doesn’t outwardly appear to be different, nor the wine. They look, feel, and smell exactly the same before and after consecration.

Transubstantiation, she explained, is what happens to the substance of the bread and wine. This is how the bread and wine become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. The substance changes even though, again, the externals of bread and wine (the accidentals) appear to be the same. This, she emphacally declared, is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit at the hands of the ordained priest.

This woman, with her knowledge and firm belief, unlocked an eternal mystery for me. In that moment, I got it! At the end of that lesson, I left my childish but understandable questions behind. No more wondering whether we’re “eating Jesus’ flesh” as in a cannibalisc manner. No more doubt because my eyes failed to see any difference. I obtained a mature understanding of how the Body and Blood of Christ becomes available to us.

Later, in graduate school, a professor in the seminary once suggested that we shouldn’t burden young people with technical explanations. “They are incapable of grasping things like, for example, transubstantiation. They should learn this when they get to college.” I passionately (but politely) objected as I explained how a Junior High teacher literally transformed my world once upon a time.

The true and real presence of Jesus. Knowing how it comes to be fortified my belief. I grew in reverence of the Blessed Sacrament. I began connecting other teachings to this central Catholic belief. As a teenager, I took up the challenge to be well disposed to receive Holy Communion since this is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ my Lord and my God. My liturgical observance strengthened my resolve to spend time in our Eucharistic chapel (this teen decided that 11pm every Friday night was the perfect hour for me to sign up for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament). I know this commitment kept me accountable and even protected me from possible mischief that I would otherwise get into with buddies on a weekend night. Christ and I would visit most every Friday night for the rest of my high school career. The silent encounter spoke volumes to my young adult heart that was seeking a
place to find solace and rest. All of this was made possible because my 7th Grade teacher was confident that we could handle this eternal Truth and come to embrace this sacred mystery.

You can understand why she remains one of my all time favorite teachers. “Thanks Liela! I am indebted to you for all eternity!”

In Christ Our Divine Teacher,
Fr. Gurnick