It is thus that on this memorable day [Feast of Corpus Christi] faith triumphs, hope is enhanced, charity shines, piety exults, our temples re-echo with hymns of exultation, pure souls tremble with holy joy, the faith of the lukewarm is awakened, whilst infidelity and heresy are confounded. It cannot be doubted, therefore, that the institution of this solemn Feast of Corpus Christi has ever since its first celebration been a most powerful means of awakening the faith in the Real Presence.
However, in spite of the efficacy of this means, it has not always produced the desired effect upon all the faithful. In the sixteenth century especially, many grew lukewarm and indifferent, even toward Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. They treated their Good Shepherd in this divine mystery as a stranger. It is the lukewarm and indifferent Catholics who have always done the most harm in the Church; for they have lost all relish for God; they are deprived of all consolation; they wander more and more from the ways of Providence; they sin without remorse or fear; they fly from Confession and Communion; they are sick, but unconscious of their ailing; wicked, but blind to their vices; they are slaves and believe themselves free; they abuse all remedies, reject every inspiration, are impervious to the impressions of grace. Hence it comes that the lukewarm dishonor virtue, cry down devotion, scandalize their neighbors, and become a burden to the Church. They offend against the Holy Ghost, afflict the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and by their own stubbornness and sin, compel Him, in a manner, to spurn them, after which they hardly ever return, as that which has been vomited forth is not again eaten.
To rid Him of these sheep and to prevent their communicating their contagion to others; or, to rouse them from their fatal state of lethargy, and make them become better Christians, our divine Shepherd had recourse, as it were, to amputation. If one member of the body endangers the others, the physician, if he may, amputates it in order to save the whole. Jesus Christ, our divine physician, often acts thus. Especially was this the case in the sixteenth century. He permitted Protestantism, one of the greatest evils in the world, to arise. But as the Lord is Infinite Wisdom itself, He knows how to draw good from evil. One good, fervent Catholic is dearer to His Heart than a thousand who are lukewarm and indifferent. Protestantism was the instrument of amputation to separate the lukewarm and dead of the mystic body of Christ from the living members. The former followed Luther, the apostate-monk and great heresiarch of the sixteenth century. Protestantism has ever been a most bitter antagonist of the Church. It has denied and combatted her most vital doctrines, especially that of the Real Presence. There must be scandals, a fatal, though divine warning! There must be storms in nature to purify the air from dangerous elements. In like manner God permits storms—heresies—to arise in His Church on earth, that the erroneous and impious doctrines of heretics may, by way of contrast, set forth in clearer light the true and holy doctrines of that Church. As is light in the midst of darkness, gold contrasted with lead, the sun among the planets, the wise among the foolish, so is the Catholic Church among non-Catholics. If two things of different natures, says the wise man, are brought into opposition, the eye perceives their difference at once. “Good is set against evil, and life against death; so also is the sinner against a just man. And so look upon all the works of the most High. Two and two, and one against another.” Christ then permits the storms of heresies to burst upon His Church to bring forth into clearer light His divine doctrine and to remove dangerous elements from His mystic body. In fighting heresies, the Church defines her own doctrines in clear terms, and sets forth solid arguments in confirmation. It is certain that the doctrine on the Real Presence was never so fiercely attacked by any heretic as by Luther and his companions. The consequence was that ever since that time, the priests of the Catholic Church have been obliged to defend this holy doctrine and uphold it by most convincing and undeniable arguments. It is thus that they increase their own faith in this mystery of love as well as that of the flock of Jesus Christ, and thus has Our Lord drawn good from evil, thus has salvation come to His Church—from the very enemies of our religion.
This article is taken from a chapter in The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Fr. Michael Mueller, which is available from TAN Books.