Mark Pickup


October 26, 2015

During the Great Depression my grandfather was, among other things, a travelling Presbyterian preacher throughout southern Alberta.

I have stacks of his meticulous sermon notes, some handwritten on cardboard, most typed with his ancient Corona typewriter on scraps of paper yellowed with age now after so many decades.

I got a hint of the poverty of the 1930s by noticing he had to make his own binder out of a discarded advertising board for Hersey chocolate. (He made do with materials he could find.)

I can imagine Clarence Pickup rattling down dusty country roads in the back of somebody's rusting jalopy to deliver a rousing fire and brimstone sermon at some little church for various farming or mining communities.

It was a time when most Protestants believed Catholics were unsaved and Catholics felt the same way about Protestants. I should acknowledge though that my grandfather was kind and respectful to the Catholic Church.


Recently I was reading through his sermon notes and came across his comments about our Lord's words: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (John 6.54)."

Catholics understand the reality of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice. But keep in mind my grandfather was a Protestant from a long line of Protestants.

The doctrine of transubstantiation was foreign to his upbringing, training and mindset, yet he struggled with it.

At one point he wrote, "The great God of heaven should come and visit earth, and himself be the great sacrifice. And I am convinced, that even with all the teaching we have had concerning this sacrifice, many have failed to recognize its value, and to appropriate it to ourselves. To eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ is salvation."

Well said grandpa.

He went on to speak about the body and blood of Christ becoming a part of who we are from which we derive "all future strength and life."

It seems that my Protestant travelling preacher grandfather was on to something. He knew there was something of monumental spiritual significance in Holy Communion that was being missed by Protestant Christianity.


If he had only followed his line of thinking further, he would have found himself at the door of the Roman Catholic Church. Sadly he did not. Perhaps that was what he feared. Eighty years later, I can personally attest to the joy he missed. The Eucharist presents the sacrifice of the cross.

The Catechism teaches us that at the Last Supper our Lord gave "his spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish, once for all, on the cross would be re-presented, it's memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit." (No. 1366)

Christ said "This is my body" not this represents my body.

It is "Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present and true, real, and substantial manner: his body and his blood, with soul and his divinity." (No. 1413.)

This reality has been my incomprehensible joy since converting from Protestantism to Catholicism in 2004. It is the central Christian Sacrament. It is the "the source and summit of the Christian life."

My ongoing encounters with Jesus Christ and my journey of faith through the fire of more than 30 years of chronic illness are irrevocably and intimately tied to the Eucharist and its adoration.

The hours I have spent before the Blessed Sacrament are some of my sweetest times. The Blessed Sacrament has given me consolation during my darkest hours. Christ assures me I am not alone and that he abides with me through the Eucharist.

The Blessed Sacrament has taught me deeper dimensions of Christ's divine love. Words fail me. Through the Eucharist, Christ is present, albeit veiled. Nonetheless, we await the glorious Second Coming of Christ. He is the hope of the Church.


Francis Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria is Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He said "The Holy Eucharist is the greatest treasure that the Church has on earth: It is Christ himself."

I don't think it is possible to be truly Catholic, or plumb the richness of our blessed faith, until the profound truth of the cardinal's comment is understood and truly internalized.