We are all deputized to be protectors of God hiding in the form of bread.
I saved a Host once, too — less heroically.
It is important to know how valuable the Eucharist is, because it is under attack as never before.
Earlier this year a Scottish church was vandalized and the Hosts desecrated. Terrorists did the same last year in the Philippines and France. A Spanish vandal who created “art” by spelling “pederasty” on the ground with stolen consecrated Hosts was later acquitted by a judge.
Why do people want to attack the Host? Many reasons. Ten years ago, a Minnesota professor became notorious for soliciting consecrated Hosts on his popular blog to desecrate in order to demonstrate that religious beliefs deserve no respect. But usually, desecrations are carried out by those who do have a form of respect for the Host: Satanists who attack the Host deliberately because of what it is, often in black Masses.
Satanists see what Catholics too often forget: The Host is incalculably precious.
After Jesus Christ rose from the dead and before he ascended into heaven, he said he would remain with us always. He also graphically showed how. When two disciples met him on the road they asked him to “stay with us.” He did — in the Eucharist.
The Church has always believed the Eucharistic Host is no longer bread, but is Jesus Christ really present. That means it is God himself with us, said St. Thomas Aquinas, who waxed poetic about this great gift.
The lives of the saints include several heroes of the Eucharist who offered their lives for the Host. The cost of my friend’s heroism was a little less.
St. Tarcisius was a 12-year-old altar boy who was taking the Eucharist to prisoners when a gang of boys tried to take it away from him, and beat him so badly he died. St. Hyacinth was a Polish saint who braved an attack on his monastery to save the Host in a monstrance and a statue of Mary. A little Chinese girl’s Eucharistic matrydom inspired Fulton Sheen to do a daily Holy Hour.
My friend Phil’s story began with him at a Saturday Vigil Mass noticing two guys who looked out of place a few pews behind him. They weren’t acting like Massgoers, but were chatting, snorting and scoffing loudly. His row went to communion before theirs, so he was back in his pew in time to watch them receive.
He noticed one of the two took the host and slipped it into his breast pocket. Then, instead of returning to his pew, he headed toward the door, down the main aisle, through the communicants.
Phil ran ahead of him up the side aisle and confronted him in the church vestibule. “Give it to me!” he said. “You can’t stop me,” said the thief in a dark voice. Phil took off his jacket, clenched his fists and demanded again: “Give it to me!”
The thief threw the host on the floor, stepped on it, and fled. “Our Lord was asking me to fight for him,” Phil says.
When something is that valuable, you go out of your way to protect it. So does God.
I’m not a saint, and it wasn’t heroic, but I still remember the morning years ago that I felt mysteriously maneuvered into saving the Host.
It was a Saturday morning. I have never had a habit of going to Mass on Saturday mornings, but I did that morning. We lived in an apartment complex that was literally across the street from a Catholic church where we always went to Mass. But that morning, for no apparent reason, I decided to drive 10 minutes to a different church.
It was a church-in-the-round style building, and everyone sat in the center section in front of the altar. But not me. I didn’t know why, but I wanted to sit way off to the left.
After Communion, an altar boy was returning the ciborium full of Hosts to the tabernacle. He tripped on a step and, as the congregation gasped, spilled the consecrated Hosts on the ground in front of him. There they sat in a little pile. Except one.
One Host rolled off to the side, under a chair, out of the view of every person there — except for me. The odd place I chose to sit gave me the only view of it.
The priest and servers picked up the Hosts — except mine. I faced it during the final prayers of the Mass and then brought it to the priest as soon as Mass was over.
Be on the lookout! We are all deputized to protect the Host.
Each one is God himself in hiding with us. It is a gravely wrong for the Host to be desecrated — and it is heroic to save it.