Ask Father Hardon
Vol. 3 - #6, Nov / Dec 1997
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Q. Does Satan have power to put thoughts in our minds? How can we discern the influence of the evil one in our lives? D.M., South Carolina
A. Yes, Satan can put thoughts in our minds. Strictly speaking,
the devil can have direct and immediate contact only with what is corporeal,
that is, the human body and its organs and functions. This means that the
devil is able to act on our external and internal senses and on any organ
of the human body. Consequently, Satan has a deep influence on our faculties
of intellect and will, not directly, but indirectly through some bodily sense
or faculty. Since we acquire thoughts through our senses, the devil has constant
influence over our thoughts through his influence on our bodily senses.
The most elaborate explanation of this discernment of spirits is in my commentary
on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. The book is called All My
Liberty. Put more concisely, discernment of spirits is the ability to
distinguish whether a given idea or impulse in the soul comes from the good
spirit or from the evil spirit. It may be an act of the virtue of prudence,
or a special gift of supernatural grace, or both. In persons who are seriously
intent on doing Gods will, the good spirit is recognized by the peace of
mind and readiness for sacrifice that a given thought or desire produces in
the soul. The evil spirit produces disturbance of mind and a tendency to
self-indulgence. An opposite effect is produced by both spirits toward sinners.
Q. What is meant by the Real Presence? A.O., Nebraska
A. On the definition of the Real Presence, depends whether a person
believes in the Roman Catholic Church or not. No single mystery of Christianity
more clearly distinguishes authentic Catholicism than the Real Presence.
By now, not just volumes, but whole libraries have been written about the
Real Presence. According to our Catholic faith, the Real Presence identifies
the manner of Christs presence in the Holy Eucharist. In its definition
on the subject, the Council of Trent in 1551 declared that in the sacrament
of the most holy Holy Eucharist is contained truly, really, and substantially
the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus
Christ, and consequently the whole Christ (Denzinger 1636, 1640). Hence
Christ is present truly and actually and not only symbolically. He is present
really, that is objectively, in the Eucharist and not only subjectively in
the mind of the believer. And He is present substantially, that is, with
all that makes Christ Christ and not only spiritually in imparting blessings
on those who receive the sacrament. The one who is present is the whole Christ
(totus Christus), with all the attributes of His divinity and all the
physical parts and properties of His humanity.
Q. What is meant by transubstantiation? E.D., Ohio
A. Transubstantiation is the term used by the Catholic Church to identify
how the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist takes place.
It will be useful to first define transubstantiation. Then we shall give
a definition of the two terms, transfinalization and transignification. These
latter were coined by Catholic theologians who deny transubstantiation.
Transubstantiation is the complete change of the substance of bread
and wine into the substance of Christs body and blood by a validly ordained
priest during the consecration at Mass, so that only the accidents of bread
and wine remain. While the faith behind the term was already believed in
Apostolic times, the term itself was a later development. With the Eastern
Fathers before the sixth century, the favored expression was meta-ousiosis,
change of being; the Latin tradition coined the word transubstantiatio,
change of substance, which was incorporated into the creed of the Fourth
Lateran Council in 1215. The Council of Trent, in defining the wonderful
and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body,
and the whole substance of the wine into the blood of Christ, added which
conversion the Catholic Church calls transubstantiation (Denzinger 1652).
After transubstantiation, the accidents of bread and wine do not inhere in
any subject or substance whatever. Yet they are not make-believe; they are
sustained in existence by divine power.
Transfinalization is the view of Christs presence in the Eucharist
that the purpose or finality of the bread and wine is changed by the words
of consecration. They are said to serve a new function, as sacred elements
that arouse the faith of the people in the mystery of Christs redemptive
love. This theory was condemned by Pope Paul VI in the encyclical Mysterium
Fidei (1965), if transfinalization is taken to deny the substantial change
of bread and wine into the body and blood Christ.
Transignification is the theory of Christs presence in the Eucharist
which holds that the meaning or significance of the bread and wine is changed
by the words of consecration. The consecrated elements are said to signify
all that Christians associate with the Last Supper; they have a higher value
than merely food for the body. Like transfinalization, the theory of transignification
was condemned by Pope Paul VI in the encyclical Mysterium Fidei (1965),
if it is understood as denying transubstantiation.
Vol. 3 - #6, Nov / Dec 1997
Copyright © 1997 by Inter Mirifica
No reproductions shall be made without prior written permission