The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church begins its chapter on the Sacrament of the Eucharist with the question, "What is the Eucharist?", and answers, "The Eucharist is the very sacrifice of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus which he instituted to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until his return in glory ..." (271).
When questioned on the doctrine of the Eucharist taught at school, we were given this explanation by our children's teacher: "I believe that Christ is present under the form of the consecrated bread and wine. I believe that Christ is also present in the Word, in the priest and in the gathered community." All the same "presence" presumably.
However, it was a paper given to us on the Eucharist used in an adult education program in 1997 that really spelt out the "new" theology for us. It said, "We were taught about this before we could really understand it and we were taught by pious teachers who themselves had developed some strange beliefs about the bread and Christ's presence and how all this worked. It's understandable that strange things would emerge, this belief is so central to our faith. We got this all mixed up. The Mass, we were made to understand, was the unbloody re-enactment of Christ's bloody sacrifice on the cross and this came from a too literal interpretation of what Jesus meant when he said, 'This is my body'." There was more in a similar vein.
We received numerous answers to our inquiries on this paper, including this one: "I have carefully read the pages you sent, and because there is so much of real value in what the author is saying, I am surprised that you seem to overlook all that and notice instead only the point that seems to alarm you." Alarmed indeed.
And another, briefly: "I must instead put before you the possibility that the intentions of the writers are positive rather than negative."
It seems, the problem was with us: we had "developed some strange beliefs" so we needed to "reflect on the fact that those who came to Jesus only to find fault never became his disciples." In the final analysis we will not be judged on what "they" taught, but whether we have faithfully transmitted to our children what the Church has always taught.
So we gathered all the papers together and sent them to John Paul II for his information because, "To those who believe, no explanation is necessary, to those who don't, none is possible."
Taranaki, New Zealand