'There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.' These words of Albert Einstein come to mind when considering Catholic belief in the Eucharist. The phrase hocus pocus mimics the Latin words of consecration, 'Hoc est enim corpus meum', likening them to a conjuring trick. But the greater miracle of the Mass is not merely that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ but that the whole world, ourselves included, is the Body of Christ. Corpus Christi knows no boundaries. That's the real miracle.
It was when studying in the seminary that Father John Gaine – our philosophy professor, who retired only recently as parish priest at St Teresa's, Southport – introduced me to the work of the French Jesuit philosopher and palaeontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (pictured). I became a Teilhard fan and still treasure copies of his writings.
On a scientific expedition Teilhard found himself unable to celebrate Mass. He said: 'Since I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar I will raise myself beyond these symbols ... I will make the whole earth my altar and on it offer all the labours and sufferings of the world.'
He continued: 'When through the mouth of the priest he says, "This is my body", these words extend beyond the morsel of bread over which they are said: they give birth to the whole mystical body of Christ. The effect of the priestly act extends beyond the consecrated host to the cosmos itself ... the entire realm of matter is slowly but irresistibly affected by this great act of consecration.'
(The Mass on the World, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J.)