The Reason for the Decline of the Catholic Church in the Western World Today
By Jim J. McCrea
Many reasons have been given for the decline of the Catholic Church in the Western world today - that is, a decline in Her influence, Her numbers, faithfulness to Her teachings by Her members, and vocations to the priesthood.
But I believe that there is one over-arching reason for that. And that reason has been a marginalization of the Eucharist in the Church after Vatican II - as I define the Eucharist as the True Presence of Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the appearances of bread and wine in the Consecrated Species.
Although the Trinity is central to our Faith in an objective sense, the Eucharist must be central to our Faith in an experiential sense - that is, it must be central to the consciousness of the faithful believer. It is the center - that is the glue - that holds everything else in the Faith together. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. Without that center - without that glue - everything in the Faith is simply a disparate collection of notions and actions and everything falls apart.
That is what we have seen happen in the Church in the Western world in recent years.
The Eucharist has been marginalized in subtle ways, by putting Jesus in the Tabernacle off to the side, by removing Altar rails, receiving Jesus in Communion standing and in the hand as the norm, and as the norm the priest facing the people rather than God when confecting the Sacred Mysteries.
This has a subtle but definite effect of downgrading the importance of the Eucharistic Jesus in people's minds, so that the difference is narrowed between a Catholic Mass and a Protestant worship service. This being the case, many people easily leave the Catholic Church for a Protestant sect if they receive greater emotional satisfaction there.
This is combined with weak or non-existent preaching on the Eucharist from many pulpits.
As the sun illuminates everything in the physical world, the Eucharistic Jesus illuminates everything in the Catholic Church. For the Church to be revived, that must shine again. Not only must many of the old liturgical practices and symbolisms be restored, but Eucharistic preaching must be made front and center, and it must be preached how everything in the Faith radiates from it.
Transubstantiation must once again be made front and center of Eucharistic preaching. It must be preached that the Eucharist that one receives in Holy Communion has the look, the taste, and the feel of bread - that is, all the sense qualities of bread - but that no reality of bread is present - that the reality of Jesus Christ is present instead, so that in Communion one literally and physically receives Jesus. It must be instilled in the minds of the faithful that Transubstantiation is a supernatural mystery of the highest order.
The nature of the priesthood must be preached, as the priest is the instrument of the Holy Spirit who changes bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus at Mass to make the Eucharist present. If the Eucharistic reality were strongly instilled in people's minds, with that connection to the priesthood, we would see a dramatic increase in vocations to the priesthood.
Apostolic succession must be preached, so that the cause of the priesthood is grounded in the historical action of Jesus. Bishops make priests, and bishops are made by previous bishops - a line that goes back to the Apostles, who were the first bishops, who were given the power of Holy Orders by Jesus Himself at the Last Supper.
It then must be preached how the Eucharist is related to all the other aspects of the Faith.
The Eucharist, first of all, connects us to the Trinity. The Eucharist, in substance, is one and the same as Jesus Christ Himself, the second person of the Trinity, who has taken on human flesh and walked among us. The Son is eternally begotten by the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
The Eucharist is connected to the Passion of our Lord. For at Mass there is a double consecration. Bread is changed into the Body of Christ, and then wine is changed into His Blood, to bring the Eucharist into existence. The separate consecrations of bread into Body and wine into Blood, symbolize the separation of Jesus' Body and Blood on the Cross, and is mystically united to it, making the Mass the same Sacrifice of Calvary (I have never heard that preached from the pulpit in my life).
The Eucharist is directly related to the Resurrection, for it is the Resurrected Christ who is present in the Eucharist, and since the Body and Blood of Jesus are now forever united, where His Blood is so is His Body, and where His Body is so is His Blood. As a result, in the species of bread there is His Blood, and in the species of wine there is His Body. In either of the species of bread or wine is the full Christ - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
The Eucharist is related to Baptism, for in Baptism we are initiated into the Life of God, and become a supernaturally alive organism in Him which allows us to receive the supernatural food of the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is related to the sacrament of Confession. For it is confession that makes us fit to receive the Eucharistic Jesus if we have fallen into mortal sin, or makes us perfectly clean so that we are most open to Him if we were guilty of only venial sin.
In the practical dimension of life, both fervent Communion and Eucharistic Adoration give us the graces to practice chastity in our state of life and love God and our neighbor as Christ commands.
All other teachings of the Catholic Church can be related to the Eucharist in some manner, and the reader can come up with many other suggestions.
The Catholic Church will be revived if the Eucharist is once again made central in preaching, symbolism, and liturgical practice, for it has been the strategy of Satan to marginalize the Eucharist in an attempt to bring down the Catholic Church.
This trend must be reversed. When the Eucharistic Jesus is once again made the Sun of the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church will come brilliantly alive again.