Father John W. Scannell, whose war time exploits I have written about today in a companion post, here, was a priest with a great love of the Eucharist and a clear understanding of what ails the Church. Here is an excerpt from one of his sermons:
My dear friends and believers in our Lord’s Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
It is my personal belief – in fact, conviction – that most of the troubles in the Church today are caused by a loss of Faith in Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. How could any priest, religious, or lay person ever leave the Church if they really believed in Our Lord’s Real Presence in this Sacrament? Yet, statistics indicate that millions of Catholic people have abandoned the practice of the Faith in the United States.
I dare say that there is not a single person in this congregation who has not had a relative or several relatives and friends who have fallen away. What are we to do? There is one thing that we should not do: nag at them or pester them. We can especially influence the Lord and touch His Sacred Heart by prayer, fasting and almsgiving. That is one powerful weapon that we have at our command.
To give you an example of how powerful prayer is, let us take an incident form the life of St. Thomas More, the man for all seasons. He had four children, three girls and one boy. The oldest child was Margaret, whom he affectionately called, “Met”, and who was his pet. Yes, he had a pet, though he gave his fatherly affection to the other three. (Even Our Lord had a pet among the twelve Apostles, St. John, still He loved the other Apostles with an infinite love). Meg grew up and fell in love with an attorney, William Roper, and married him.
The new ideas of religion were being disseminated from the mainland of Europe, the ideas of Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. They influenced Roper to such an extent that he became Lutheran. This was a shock to Thomas More and to the whole household. Poor Moore, in desperation, he betook himself to prayer. “Meg”, he said, “I have borne a long time with your husband; I have reasoned with him and argued with him in those points of religion, and given him family counsel; but I see that none of all this has called him home. Therefore, Meg, I will no longer argue or dispute with him.” Moore’s prayers were successful. After a few years, Roper came back to the Faith and remained an exemplary Catholic for the rest of his life.
Some of you may be in a parish where the Holy Eucharist is given under both forms. Here that is not our custom and I am glad, because it is so easy to spill the Precious Blood. You may feel that you are being cheated, but you are not. The Whole Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity are received under either form. How do we know this? I’ll give you two examples. During the first three centuries of the Church’s existence there were ten great persecutions. Many Catholic men and women were thrown into prisons for their Faith. Their friends, who were still free, would attend Mass in some secret place or even in the catacombs, and at the end of the Mass would receive a host of Hosts that were necessary. They would then visit their friends or relatives in prison and bring them Holy Communion. They received the Host alone. They knew that they were receiving the Whole Christ, Body, Soul and Divinity.
My second proof. At the elevation of the Sacred Host during the Mass, we look in adoration at the Host, strike our breasts and say, “MY LORD AND MY GOD”. (An indulgence prayer, by the way). Now, if the Whole Christ were not present, we would be worshipping a dead Christ. The same is true when we adore the Precious Blood in the chalice. If the Whole Christ were not present in the Precious Blood, we would be worshipping a dead Christ.
Father Scannell’s faith never waivered, as indicated by this sermon that he preached on Christmas 1995 when he was 88:
I hope that you won’t feel insulted when I say to you that everybody here is a hobo. A tramp! Why do I say that? Because we are all bums here, our true home is in heaven. We were created for eternity. Our souls are going to live forever. Never forget that. We are just starting out, we have an eternity ahead of us and we owe all of this to the Babe of Bethlehem. We have no future whatsoever apart from Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the one that tells us through his Church what we have to do to obtain eternal life.
Priests like Father Scannell are why the Church has endured for 2000 years against all the odds.