March 9, 2013

Understanding the Real Presence — in One Vision

William Markoe was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1820. He came from a prominent American family. His grandfather, Abraham Markoe, was the founder and captain of the Philadelphia Light Horse, a contingent of cavalry organized in 1774 to prepare for possible war with England. He designed a flag of thirteen stripes for it, considered by many to have been the precursor of the first flag used for the Thirteen Colonies.

William thought himself called to a religious life. He attended an Episcopalian seminary and became a minister of that church. In 1855, married and then a father of two, he and his family entered the Catholic Church. He attributed the change to a gift he had received years before, prior even to his entry into the seminary, when he received something symbolic of, but not actually, the Real Presence.

He states that: “One morning, after receiving Communion – it was no sacrament, but God’s mercy, I solemnly believe, sent a special grace with it – a light like a flash from Heaven, burst upon my poor soul. It was like the sun suddenly beaming through a rift in the dark storm cloud. It was no miracle, but it was a distinctive grace. It could have been nothing else. Instantly, the whole doctrine of the Incarnation in all its offices and functions bearing upon a man’s fall and his redemption and sanctification opened to my perception. The absolute necessity, in the scheme of salvation, for the literal interpretation of our Lord’s words in the sixth chapter of St. John (regarding Christ as the “living bread”) seemed irrefutable to me, and justified beyond cavil the doctrine of the Catholic Church as to transubstantiation.

… Catholic doctrine ranged itself before me as one coherent, perfect, glorious whole. It always appeared to my mental vision like a picture. There was the bright central sun, the Incarnation. The beautiful beams of light which, without separation from the main body, continuously, naturally and necessarily streamed from it, were the seven Sacraments and the whole round of Catholic doctrines. I seemed, without any adequate study, to have almost mastered, at least in its general features, the sum and substance of Catholic theology.”

As is often the case with such a grace, it was not easy for Markoe to accept it fully enough. For nine more years, he remained an Episcopalian. He clung to his beliefs as to the Incarnation while in seminary but found few who shared his views. He hoped for change in the Episcopalian faith, but finally gave way to the realization that his home was with the doctrine he once felt interiorly, in an instant, through a special grace given to him from above.

We may again ask whether we can believe him. His encounter, while in some ways more dramatic, shares some similarities with original accounts given by others on this website. Such accounts of time spent with the Real Presence include an interior understanding, in a flash, of the timelessness of His Passion and a perceived assistance in the composition of poems.

They all speak to the same thing: His Real Presence in the Eucharist. This Lent, let us trust in that Presence here among us, let us know that graces abound for all of us, whether they be in ways we can immediately notice or ways in which we cannot, and let us all give thanks to the One who so yearns for us to come closer.

(Quotes taken from Roads to Rome, edited by John A. O’Brien (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1954), p. 217-218.)


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