Receiving the Eucharist with the Proper Disposition

Father Michael Schmitz has one of the most effective campus ministries in the country at the University of Minnesota.  He tells a story about back when he was in the seminary in the late 1970s.  Though we wouldn’t do it today, back then his particular seminary used regular loaves of bread for Holy Communion. During the distribution of the Eucharist the priest would break off pieces and give them to the people when they came up to the altar.  Though they tried their best, there were always crumbs that would fall to the floor.  One of the seminarians would stay in the chapel after Mass every day and quietly and reverently kneel down and eat all the crumbs off of the floor.  One day Schmitz asked him why he did that, and the answer was something that he would never forget.

real presenceThe seminarian had spent a year in China as a missionary.  He heard a true story about the days when the Communists first took over, and how they would go into churches and ransack everything.  One day they attacked a Catholic Church.  They took down all the statues and broke them to into pieces.  They smashed out all of the stain glass windows, and toppled the altar.  Then they took the tabernacle and through it out the back door.  The priest watched in horror as it hit the ground and all of the consecrated hosts were scattered.  There was nothing he could do.  The soldiers had arrested him and locked him in a tool shed in back of the church.  The priest was in there for days, as three young Chinese soldiers stood guard with rifles.  He kept an eye out for the scattered hosts as he prayed, asking that God would somehow send deliverance.

That evening, once it was dark, he saw a little girl, about 10 years old, outside.  She hid behind the trees and bushes so that the guards wouldn’t see her.  Then she kneeled down and picked up one of the sacred hosts with her mouth.  She slowly and reverently consumed the host and left.  The children were taught that they could never touch the Blessed Sacrament, and they could only receive once a day.  So she returned each evening.  Darting in and out between the shadows.  And each night she would kneel down and consume one of the hosts.

The priest knew how many hosts had been in the tabernacle.  And he watch as the girl returned every night until there was only one host left.  The priest kept an eye on that host from the window of the shed, and he also kept an eye on the guards.  That night he saw the little girl again.  She was quiet, fast and very careful not to be noticed by the soldiers.  She knelt down and consumed the very last host, and as she got up, she tripped and fell.  The guards heard her and rushed over.  Then they beat the poor little girl to death with the butts of their rifles.  With tears in his eyes, the seminarian said, “That’s why I do it.  That’s why I eat the crumbs off the floor every day.  I never forgot that story, and ever since then, there’s nothing more precious to me than the Blessed Sacrament.”

In the sixth chapter of John’s gospel, in what is known as the Bread of Life Discourse, are some of the most profound words in all of scripture. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  Jesus told the Jews that he is the living bread that came down from heaven, and that whoever eats this bread will live forever.  And the bread that He will give is his flesh for the life of the world.

The Jews understood this very literally, and that’s why most of them left and went back to their families and former ways of living.  They said, “This is a hard saying, who can accept it?”  Jesus didn’t try to explain that he was just speaking symbolically.  No, he meant exactly what he said.  The Church has understood from the beginning that the Bread of Life refers to the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  The New Testament scriptures make this clear, and so does the history and testimony of the early church.

Saint Justin, around the year 145, explained what the Church believes about the Eucharist: “We call this food Eucharist, and no one is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration, and is hereby living as Christ has enjoined.  For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught by his apostles, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic Prayer set down by him, is both the flesh and blood of that incarnated Jesus.” The Eucharist is indeed the “Bread of Life,” and by it we are nourished for all eternity.

At Mass, the King of the universe comes down from heaven, onto the altar and into you and me.  When we receive the Bread of Life with the proper disposition, we are changed forever.  Disposition is an attitude of mind and heart.  Let me share with you an example of someone who had the proper disposition.  One Saturday morning, I was at Mass sitting in a pew beside a young boy in the second grade who was receiving his first Holy Communion that day.  He had missed receiving his first Holy Communion with his class.  His father was sitting on the other side of him……When the time came, the young boy went up to receive Communion.  He bowed reverently, received in his hands and consumed the sacred host.  When he returned to his pew, he knelt and prayed.  I knelt down next to him.  After several minutes his father turned to him and asked, “Son, do you feel any different now that you have received your first Holy Communion?”  The boy turned and looked his father in the eye and said, “Yes, Dad, I do feel different.  I feel very different.  I feel God inside.”

That young man received Communion with the proper disposition, the attitude of mind and heart that leads to eternal life.  Saint Cyril, in the 4th century, said that the Christian who consumes the Bread of Life becomes a “Christbearer,” one body and blood with him and the covenant is sealed.  Then we are sent out of the church to be what we are called to be – a sacrament, a visible sign of God’s invisible grace for the whole world to see, and know and draw closer to him.  This is the proper disposition.  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  This is why we do it.

Deacon Greg Ollick is a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Atlanta and teaches in the Catholic Catechesis Certificate Program for Saint Joseph’s College.


















15 thoughts on “Receiving the Eucharist with the Proper Disposition

  1. This is beautiful, although with one glaring truth…..if the host is truly Our Lord, why is Communion in the hand allowed? Why do we stand for Communion? Much like the Communist soldiers did, who ripped out the altar rails in the 1960’s and placed the tabernacle off the main altar and removed the statues and why? Who replaced our beautiful language and hymns with vapid show tune like songs? Why this new degree of familiarity, casualness and outright disrespect? This irreverence is without precedent in the history of the Church. Two generations have now passed who have been robbed of the Faith. An enemy hath done this. Wake up Catholics and question what has happened to our Faith! It is unrecognizable.

    • The Holy Mass can be found unchanged at any SSPV or SSPX Catholic church or Chapel. Do a Google search for maps and places. Society of Saint Pious V. The real Mass is still available.

      • Caveat lector! The Society of St. Pius V (SSPV) is sedevacantist, I e. they do not recognize Pope Francis nor is he mentioned in the Canon of the Mass.

        However, the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is NOT sedevacantist. All SSPX priests & bishops pray for Pope Francis at every Mass and publicly pray for him at Benediction (Oremus pro Pontifice Francisco…).

        Also, one can fulfill their Sunday obligation at a SSPX chapel as per then-Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI).
        Google “Hawaii Six” for more information.

  2. So if you stop taking it, you stop living forever? When have you had enough? Do we eat it forever? And eating body and blood is the source of salvation instead mere belief in His grace? And if I have no priest, I go without?

    • Hello Peter! I am going to try my best at responding to your questions, but I must give you the disclaimer that I am neither a priest, theologian, or any kind of biblical scholar or authority. Just a fellow believer. Here goes: the Eucharistic body and blood of Christ truly IS Christ. It isn’t just a symbol. So if you stop receiving Christ into your heart, you don’t live now or even forever. When will we ever have “enough” Christ? Never. Do we “eat” or receive him forever? Yes! Christ said himself that receiving Him in this way was necessary for salvation. Nowhere does He say that mere belief alone saves us. We must lay down our lives out of true love for Him. Anything else is a lie, or just love of ourselves. If there is no priest, then I suppose we go without until we can receive Eucharist. We aren’t REQUIRED to receive the body and blood every day, or even every Sunday, but we should certainly WANT to, since wouldn’t you want to receive Christ as often as you could if He is offering Himslf to you out of His great love and mercy?

  3. Awesome story, but with a correction. I’m pretty sure it was NOT in the seminary that the guy ate the crumbs, but at a church, sometime BEFORE Fr. Schmitz entered seminary. I wouldn’t want the seminary to get a bad rap. 🙂 Somebody correct ME if I’m wrong.

  4. Yes this is so true and I believe this with my whole heart and mind . What a wonderful story especially just after Easter. Thank you

  5. Could have made your point without burning such a horrific picture of the sacared. Please be kind to your reader!

  6. Beautiful. Would love to use it on my radio program, ‘Stories From the Heart’, on Ave Maria Radio and EWTN radio.

  7. Felt like a wake-up call. Not sure but at a difficult time in my life right now and this message made me feel that I do need to get back to my original thoughts and beliefs. Have drifted away from my religious practices mainly due to so many changes that have been made over the years, Many things that were so wrong (not all, but many) are now okay or allowed (i.e. you can’t eat meat on Friday – then you could ) These are man-made changes and are quite confusing insofar as – who is making all these changes and why? Also, now the Church can take your offering directly from your bank account. Why? Again, Church attire went from proper clothes (dress, suit and tie, hat, etc.) to ” barely there” clothes (shorts, tank tops) and don’t forget receiving Communion and leaving Church immediately instead of returning to the pew ! If I sound confused, you’re right! This may be the best post that I have received that actually made me stop and think and I truly am grateful to the person who sent it.

  8. Beautiful story, but I don’t think Fr. Michael Schmitz was in the seminary in the late 70’s. He’s not that old. Maybe late 80’s or early 90’s.

  9. Indeed, your observations are correct. What we wear at Holy Mass also says much about our spiritual disposition. I prefer to attend Holy Mass in greatest finery including zucchetto and cope amidst a company of acolytes which I have trained, robed in white albs, who are holding in their hands tapers which shine as golden stars.
    And when the time comes for Holy Communion, I have them lead me forward, one sprinkling rose petals before my poulaines, another ringing a small bell and yet another repeating the phrase in my right ear “Omnis Gloria fluxa” and nearing the minister of the Sacrament I fain to be ill, overcome by the moment, and appear to almost faint on my path as I cried out in an agony and with much contumely: “Wretched man that I am! I die in my sins except for God’s great mercy!” Many who hear me often respond “Amen!” or “Thanks be to God!” For they have become accustomed to my ways.
    Then, as I receive the Holy Sacrament with utmost humility I then go with my acolytes directly before the high altar and prostrate myself in fervent prayer, two acolytes spreading a black pall over me and the others genuflecting in my direction as to reverence the deity within me, now at that moment, seeking desperately to commune with my very soul. And all the time an odor of sanctity rises pleasantly up from me, having anointed the crown of my head and hands with Holy Chrism prior to Holy Mass.

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