The Manger and the Miracle of the Body of Christ


At morning Mass, the image of the infant Jesus repeatedly flashes through my mind as I ponder the innocent body of Christ in the manger while simultaneously beholding his broken, glorified Body among the people in church. As I think of his humble baby body—and his beautiful Mystical Body—it is as though I can hear his words ringing through time: “This is my body, given up for you.”

Having heard the stories of many of the daily communicants in church over the years, I can only marvel at the broken splendor of Christ’s Body; this Body on its knees in hunger and thirst, this Body famished for the Bread that alone can satisfy, bring divine comfort, give eternal hope.

I look around the church to see the humiliated woman whose husband left her for another lover, and the praying man whose mother died during his adolescence with a Vodka bottle pursed to her lips. Before me is the mystic father whose young adult daughter is fighting for her life against deadly cancer, and across the aisle, the holy grandmother who buried her husband and two young grandsons after the same devastating accident. And I hear his words:

This is my body, given up for you.

To my left is the devout teenager who recently became Catholic after her father opted out of their family, as well as the woman of God who holds the painful secret of a child given up for adoption while she was only a teenager. There’s the man ever on his knees praying to God for a wife dying of lupus—the wife he couldn’t get along with before the lupus struck—the same wife which he now sees, and every last day spent with her, as immeasurable grace and gift.

There beside the altar is the Christmas manger, but do we even begin to digest its meaning? Jesus, born in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread,” offering his innocent lamb-body as “the bread that came down from heaven”…the bread that he will give as flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51). Not coincidentally, Bethlehem currently bears the modern name of Beit-Lahm, which literally means "house of flesh”. The city of Jesus’ birth now unwittingly proclaims Christ-Bread as flesh indeed: true food, true drink—flesh for the healing of the world.

This is my body, given up for you.

One by one we process forward to “manger”—which means “to eat” in French—the blessed, broken Body of Christ craving the one Body that can make our brokenness blessed. We believe that it is his Body alone that can gather our poverty, mourning, hunger, and persecution into blessedness; the one true panacea that can provide the comfort, satisfaction, peace and belonging that we seek.

To my right is the smiling woman whose grandbaby is racked by an incurable disease, and the wise man whose daughter died of an overdose on Christmas Eve. I thank God for Christ’s Body, given for us as bread, as life, resplendently proclaiming the life, death and resurrection of the Lord until he comes again.

The Bread of Life, already present in all-holy omnipotence in the manger, is what enables us to see God in all things, including our wounded selves and stories. His Body empowers us to trust that we, too, can be taken, blessed, and broken—that we, too, may become hallowed flesh given as gift for other hungry souls.

Author’s Note: I have amalgamated the stories of the people in church to protect their identities and privacy.

This article was previously published at Aleteia.

Where Does That Leave Me?

With all of the Bread of Life readings this month, I thought a repeat of this blog would be timely.  I'm in beautiful Wyoming this weekend for a retreat.  Please pray for me!   Happy Feast of the Queenship of Mary!   Blessings and grace,     Judy


Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (John 6: 53). The readings about the Eucharist over the past weeks have jolted forward a memory of a conversation I had more than fifteen years ago. It was with my friend Cecil, who was an evangelical Protestant at the time. We were deeply engaged in a dialogue about whether the Catholic faith was “true” when the subject of the Eucharist came up.

“Christ’s teaching about receiving His flesh and blood was meant to be symbolic,” Cecil maintained. “He said ‘unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you,’” she went on. “If that was literal, where does that leave me and the rest of Christians who don’t receive the Eucharist?”

“That’s a good question,” I offered back. “Where does that leave you?”

I can still see the look of consternation on Cecil’s face, and I could tell that she was pondering the question seriously. So seriously that she went back and reread everything the Bible has to say about the subject. Particularly compelling during that review was the fact that “many of his disciples” parted ways with Jesus over His insistence that they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Plus the fact that He didn’t chase after them saying: “I was speaking in parables, guys! Come back!” Instead, He upped the ante for the ones who remained, saying: “Do you also want to leave?” (John 6:67).

The shock of Christ’s teaching on the Eucharist would prove to be a hinge that turned Cecil toward the Catholic Church—a hinge that ultimately led her to enter the Church in the year 2000, where she received Holy Communion for the very first time. It was impossible to deny that Jesus meant what He said about His flesh and blood literally, or that that’s the way His disciples and the early Church understood it.

I am convinced that one of Satan’s most ingenious strategies ever was to disengage half of the Body of Christ from “the Body of Christ.” The “source and summit of the Christian life,”* the Eucharist intimately unites us to Jesus Christ, preserving, increasing and renewing the life of grace in us.* Moreover, the Eucharist strengthens us in God’s love and roots us deeply in Jesus Christ, so that when the storms of life come—and come they will—we remain steadfast in our faith. Buffeted, maybe. Shaken loose from the foundation, no.

I experienced this reality personally when my life imploded in 2008. And I saw it again recently in living color in the life of my friend Connie, whose sudden separation and impending divorce sent her whirling physically, emotionally and spiritually. I offered to go spend the weekend with her to lend support, and I was honestly fretting over what to say in the face of so much pain. It was when she asked, “How did you survive all of the things you’ve been through?” that the one and only thing that needed to be said flowed seamlessly from my lips.

“I’d be dead without the Eucharist,” I stated pointedly. And I meant it. I firmly believe that what sustained me during that intense period of crisis was the fact that I had spent twenty-five years as a daily communicant. “Make the Eucharist your life, Connie,” I advised. “Make the Eucharist your life.”

A light came on in that reminder to my friend who was trying to regain her footing, and Connie’s hardly missed a day at Mass or Adoration since. The change in her has been dramatic and noticeable, and it’s apparent that her feet are back on solid ground as she moves into an unknown future.

“Where does that leave me?” so many of us have asked in moments of great trial like death, divorce and other life shattering events. It leaves us utterly dependent on His provision for us, standing squarely on the promise that in and through the Eucharist, He remains in us, and we in Him (John 6:56).

The Eucharist is no mere symbol—it is not just “empty calories” in the smorgasbord of the spiritual life. It is life itself, Christ Himself, waiting and wanting to feed us. The Eucharist is creation, redemption and sanctification all rolled into one. It is a lifeline to the eternal which effects communion with Christ that holds us together until we, at last, are held by Him.

* Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1324

* Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1391-1392

Why I Remain Catholic


No, this isn't the Feast of Corpus Christi, but I’d like to chime in on a discussion. I want to respond to Elizabeth Scalia’s (The Anchoress, challenge to present a cyberspace cloud of witnesses all answering one question: Why do I remain Catholic?

So here it is: Why do I remain Catholic?

The short answer is simple: the Eucharist. The long answer is connected to the short answer: because there’s nowhere else to go and nothing else in this life that I desire more.

Though raised Catholic, I came to a personal relationship with Christ in an evangelical Christian church in New Orleans when I was twenty-three years old. The invitation and subsequent decision to give my life to Christ was a total game-changer for me—one that radically altered the trajectory of my life. I am exceedingly grateful for the clear, concise call to conversion I received in that little evangelical church. I still maintain that we Catholics could learn a lot from our separated brethren about pure-D evangelization.

However…and there is a “however”… two church splits and an ego-showdown between pastors left me wandering around looking for a “church home.” Though I won’t tell the whole story now, suffice it to say that Our Lady grabbed hold of me and led me back to the Catholic Church, back to the family table. By the grace of God, I believed and was convinced that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist,  and there was only one thing left to do. To walk headlong with mouth and heart open to receive bread from heaven—real, living bread—His flesh for my life and the life of the world.

As an evangelical Christian, I had hung on each word that came forth from the mouth of my pastor as though my life depended on it. His sermons were my sustenance, and I gathered like a bird to its mother, wanting to feed right from its mouth. A good sermon? I’d been “fed,” and I’d come back for another. But as the division in our little church increased, the sermons withered, and I was hungry for something more.

I returned to the Catholic Church, no longer lost, but famished, thirsty, wounded. Christ nourished me with His flesh, slaked my thirst with living blood, and gave Himself over to me. Asking no money, no tithes, no payment, He came inside me, closer than I am to myself. For twenty-six years, I’ve consumed Him lavishly and freely, and I still can’t contain the awe.

I don’t pretend to understand the mystery of the Eucharist; I can hardly scratch its sublime surface. But this much I know: I’ve tasted real food and real drink, flesh and blood poured into me right from the Cross, and there is no turning back.  I’ve departed the cult of the sermon and arrived at the heavenly feast. It’s a feast to which, while dim shadows exist, there is no counterpart on earth.

Christ feeds me, feeds us,  His body formed and extended in time and space. His flesh is true food, His blood true drink; it is the life of the world.