There's No Grace Like Home
A mock sign on our office bulletin board advises, "Weltanschauung: Get One." In a sense the advice is superfluous. A Weltanschauung, which my dictionary defines as "a comprehensive world view, especially from a specified standpoint," is something everybody automatically has. Everybody possesses a particular perspective from which he regards reality. The question isn't, "Do I have a world view?", but "Do I have the correct one?"
Christianity teaches that when one gazes outward on reality, one ought to see the cosmos as a visible sign of the invisible. One ought to see life as a parable of immense proportions, life's activities as a pantomime of paradise--lost and restored. But how does one acquire (or, if one has already acquired, deepen) such a sacramental outlook, in which every feature, every fold of the Earth, every event of the day, eloquently preaches the presence of God and the principles of his grace?
One way, surely, is to don the spectacles of Scripture; they support this view and catechize us in it. The psalms are the first flying buttresses to this catechetical cathedral: In the seas are seen the profundity of God's power, in the mountains the unshakeableness of his steadfast love, in the stars the radiant glory of his heavenly court.
The parables of Jesus provide further peepholes. He teaches us, for example, to see in the agricultural cycle the pattern of redemptive history: plowing, sowing, watering, weeding, growing, reaping, threshing, milling--all are analogous to the stages of the experience of the people of God, both individually and collectively.
Not only our agricultural activities, but all the rituals of our daily routine--rising, washing, dressing, grooming, eating, drinking, walking, sitting, sleeping--are fraught with a symbolic significance that often escapes us because we fall frequently into that spiritual astigmatism which sees the world as opaque rather than translucent, as a solid brick wall rather than as a stained-glass window through which streams the light of a loftier and lovelier world.
Other writers than the biblical ones effectively impart such a vision. Thomas Aquinas notably comes to mind. But many are daunted by the prospect of wrestling with the Summa Theologiae's three thousand pages (double-columned fine print) of closely-constructed scholastic syllogisms. What if you don't feel you possess the philosophical physique of a Summa wrestler? What then?
Fortunately another Thomas can come to our aid--a later one, but (in my opinion) just as luminous a one. Perhaps you've heard of the little boy who was heard to pray, "Our Father, who art in heaven, Howard be thy name." Coincidentally, concerning this other Thomas, Howard be his name, and Hallowed Be This House be the name of his book.
Thomas Howard is a recent (1985) Anglican convert to Catholicism. His book Evangelical Is Not Enough sells here at Catholic Answers like tall glasses of ice water at a Sahara concession stand. Hallowed Be This House, originally brought out by Evangelical publisher Harold Shaw in 1976 as Splendour in the Ordinary and again in 1979 with the present title, now has been reissued by Ignatius Press and promises to be just as sought-after.
Howard's thesis could be most simply stated, I suppose, as "Charity (of God and man) begins at home." That is to say, one's primary classroom in the curriculum of learning to love God and our neighbor as ourself is the place, be it bungalow or mansion, where we live out our daily lives en famille.
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home for teaching us how to see the supernatural in the natural, the divine incarnate (and often incognito) in the human, the spiritual imbedded in the material--in short, "splendour in the ordinary."
Gracious guide that he is, Howard walks us through our homes, softly suggesting the symbolic significance of doors, walls, halls, living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, even (in his authorial audacity) the bathroom.
In every room Howard's passion is to get us to glimpse God, to absorb the analogies to our spiritual life, and to learn the lesson of charity, courtesy, selfless sacrifice--"my life for yours," as he loves to put it.
And all this is given with an elegance unmatched by any other English writer in the field. I couldn't begin to quote the book (except en masse), for it would be impossible to pick out a passage which stands out from the rest; the style is superb from cover to cover, and the substance is all of a piece, a seamless garment, sublime yet simple. Thomas Howard is the Prince Charming of contemporary religious prose, and the undeniable proof is on every page, in every carefully-crafted clause.
If you liked Evangelical Is Not Enough, you'll love Hallowed Be This House, a book of deep devotional insight that is also a delight to read. In the world of Weltanschauung-shaping, Howard is a master we would all do well to be discipled by.
-- Gerry Matatics
Hallowed Be This Home
By Thomas Howard
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989 
Builds Strong Souls Twelve Ways
Frank Sheed once mused on a "really frightening test of how much value we attach to Christ. Do we feel it as unbearable that [non-Catholics] should not have the gifts of light and nourishment that he has given us? If not, we should ask ourselves how much those same gifts do actually mean to ourselves. If there were a famine and people lacked bread, we should work hard to relieve it. But if they lack the Bread of Life and it causes not the faintest stirring in us even of care much less of desire to aid their destitution--we have to ask ourselves what that tells us about ourselves. How much does their starvation matter to us? Do we even think of it as starvation?"
We are surrounded by a famished humanity. Modern man's frenzied search for supernatural "experiences," evidenced by the recent dramatic upsurge of pagan spiritualities such as the New Age crystal mania, Wicca, and shamanism, is symptomatic of a world gone mad with hunger.
Like the first disciples we ask, "Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?" (Matt. 15:33). The answer is the Eucharist, the Bread of Life.
But to be effective in persuading others to join us at the Eucharistic banquet, we ourselves must first appreciate this great gift and do our best to understand its awesome reality. The best place to start is the Bible. For forty verses in the sixth chapter of John's Gospel Jesus gently yet emphatically revealed the doctrine of his Real Presence in the Eucharist.
His words are clear: "...the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world....For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him" (John 6:51, 55).
This teaching repels some ("This saying is hard, who can accept it?" [John 6:60]) and attracts others ("Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" [John 6:68]).
These remain the two basic reactions non-Catholics have when the Eucharist is explained to them. Protestants in particular have an almost Pavlovian impulse to reject the Eucharist, mainly because it's identified as peculiarly Roman Catholic. Without giving it serious study, the majority of Protestants turn their noses up at the Eucharist because, to their minds, it graphically represents the propensity of Catholics to worship creatures instead of the Creator.
They regard practices such as benediction, genuflection, and the elevation of the Host at the consecration as proof that Catholics badly misunderstand Christ's words at the Last Supper and have deviated dramatically from "historic Christian orthodoxy" by superimposing the invented doctrine of transubstantiation. The Protestant aversion to the Eucharist is rooted almost entirely in a faulty understanding of Scripture and an ignorance of Church history.
But misapprehensions can be overcome by prayer, careful study of the Bible's Eucharistic passages (Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; John 6:22-71; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; and 1 Cor. 11:23-29), and an honest examination of the development of the doctrine of the Eucharist in Church history. This last area, history, is especially powerful.
Where can one find a comprehensive yet readable account of the Church's teaching on the Eucharist, from the New Testament era forward? The answer is Fr. James T. O'Connor's Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist. Besides being solidly orthodox in his presentation, O'Connor is unafraid to examine arguments against the Eucharist advanced by the some of the most brilliant minds of the Reformation. In doing so he brings to light a historical fact that will have a profound impact on Protestant readers. Prior to John Wyclif in the thirteenth century (except for a brief appearance by Berengarius of Tours, dissident theologian of the eleventh century), there was no dissent from the Catholic teaching on the Real Presence. The absence of controversy over the meaning of John 6 prior to the Middle Ages deals a strong blow to the Protestant assertion that the Catholic Church "invented" the doctrine of the Real Presence.
With a keen eye for beauty, O'Connor treats the reader to sumptuous fare culled from the Eucharistic writings of Ignatius, Clement, Irenaeus, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Augustie, Aquinas, and Pius X. Savor this exquisite passage from Pope Urban IV's thirteenth-century bull Transiturus: "O singular and admirable liberality, when the Giver comes as the gift and is himself completely given with the gift! What great--even prodigal--generosity when anyone gives himself. Therefore [Jesus] gave himself as nourishment so that, since man had fallen through death, he might be lifted to life through food.
"Man fell by means of food of the death-giving tree; man is raised up by means of the food of the life-giving tree. On the former hung the food of death, on the latter the nourishment of life. Eating the former earned a wound; the taste of this latter restored health. Eating wounded us, and eating healed us.
"See how the cure has come forth whence the wound arose and life has come forth whence death entered in. Indeed about that eating it was said: 'On whatever day you eat it, you shall die'; about this eating [the Eucharist] he has spoken: 'If anyone eats this bread, he shall live forever.'"
The Hidden Manna doesn't dwell exclusively on history. The book ranges widely on the various theologies developed to better explain what happens at the moment of consecration.
From simple yet penetrating explanations of terms such as "substance" and "accident" to an understandable analysis of impanation, consubstantiation, and transubstantiation, O'Connor deals with virtually all.aspects pertinent to this doctrine, with special emphasis given to the writings of Augustine and Aquinas.
The Eucharist is a rhapsody of union with Christ, "a pledge and foretaste of heaven." But nowadays reverence and love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament are weakening. Even among priests there has arisen a nonchalant attitude toward the Eucharist.
O'Connor remarks on this unsettling trend: "For a Catholic it is both sad and instructive to note that most of the leaders of those who dissented from Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist belonged to the Catholic clergy in all ranks. Berengarius was a deacon, Wyclif and Zwingli priests, Luther a monk, Cranmer a bishop.
"Those who by vocation were the closest to the Lord in the sacrament of his Body and Blood, those who would appear most likely to appreciate and defend the sacrament, those best trained to understand the mystery entrusted to the Church, were chief among those who found the teaching of the Eucharist a 'hard saying' and were or became unwilling or unable to listen to it....
We're reminded that "every account of the Eucharist given in the New Testament contains the theme of betrayal." Read the passages and notice that Judas began his betrayal when he rejected the Eucharist (John 6:64).
-- Patrick Madrid
The Hidden Manna
By James T. O'Connor
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988