As some of you already know, earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend a mission trip to San Lucas Toliman in Guatemala. Most of our number were from Northern California, but we were privileged to be joined by renowned Catholic author and speaker Vinny Flynn, his wife Donna, and two of their teenaged grandkids.
Apart from these folks being the closest thing that laypeople can get to “Catholic Celebrities” (perhaps you’ve seen Vinny and his family reciting the Divine Mercy Chaplet on EWTN, or maybe even attended one of Vinny’s popular talks), what struck me most about them is their earnest devotion.
This family is the real deal, and Vinny and Donna head it as patriarch and matriarch. And it’s generational, which calls to mind that by one’s fruits we will know the work of the Holy Spirit; one only need look to their legacies for living proof of Christian discipleship. But in addition to raising an awesome family (and I use this word with great care), the Flynns have been blessed to benefit the greater Catholic community, inspiring others with their music CDs, books and audiobooks, and lectures on Catholic topics.
Shortly after my return home from Guatemala, I received a shipment from MercySong, the Flynn’s media company, containing a sampling of their books and CDs (Vinny records his own audiobooks with the assistance of his family), including the first of his “7 Secrets” series — 7 Secrets of the Eucharist.
Vinny makes clear that these are not “secrets” in the conventional sense, but rather aspects of teaching on the Eucharist that many everyday Catholics have not been taught in catechism. Each of the “secrets” are aimed at deepening the understanding of the reader, in a clear and conversational style, so that one can be guided a bit deeper into the mysteries of the Eucharist.
Vinny draws from a number of primary sources to support his points. I particularly liked his references to the writings of Pope St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. He also quotes the diary of St. Faustina to connect the Eucharist with Divine Mercy.
Incidentally, I had the opportunity to sit next to Vinny on the plane ride returning to the U.S., and we talked a bit about Divine Mercy and our shared view that God’s mercy knows no limits. I think his connection between the Eucharist and Divine Mercy is powerful and important teaching.
Without ever delving into a lecture or finger-wagging, in “Secret 6: Every Reception is Different”, Vinny discusses the Church’s teaching on “worthy reception” of the Sacrament. He points out that “The more I am able to enter into communion, uniting myself with Jesus, the more fruitful my reception will be.” I take this as the “positive approach” to teaching on mortal sin and the things that separate us from God.
He cites St. Thomas Aquinas: “In a false person, the sacrament does not produce any effect.” Though not directly cited in Vinny’s book, there is similar teaching on plenary indulgences, for example: the soul can receive the graces it is disposed to receive; a very holy soul in close communion to God is disposed to receiving even more of what God has to pour out. This is logical, and true, but it does not affect the reality of what the sacrament actually is:
[Quoting Aquinas:] We are false when the inmost self does not correspond to what is expressed externally. The sacrament of the Eucharist is an external sign that Christ is incorporated into the one who receives him and he into Christ. One is false if in his heart he does not desire this union and does not even try to remove every obstacle to it. Christ therefore does not remain in him, neither does he in Christ.”
This secret, along with the others, encourages the reader to “draw close” to Communion in the Eucharist, and provides the underlying theological bases. 7 Secrets of the Eucharist is an excellent primer on what’s actually going on “behind the veil,” presented with citations that clearly encapsulate and help the reader to understand these teachings on deep mystery. Whether you are a trained theologian or just a “regular pew-sitter”, there is something in this book that will illuminate your approach to the Lord.
My advice is to purchase two copies, because as soon as you read it, you’ll want to give it to someone else.