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by Ramon Mescallado

The Real Presence of Jesus Christ

The Eucharist is the heart and summit of the Church's life, for in it Christ associates His Church and all her members with His sacrifice and thanksgiving offered once for all on the cross to His Father; by this sacrifice He pours out the graces of salvation on His Body which is the Church.

The Mass or the Eucharist is the principal sacramental celebration of the Catholic Church, established by Jesus at the Last Supper, in which the mystery of our salvation through participation in the sacrificial death and glorious Resurrection of Christ is renewed and accomplished.

The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the work of salvation accomplished His Life, Death, and Resurrection. This work is being made present by the liturgical* action of the Holy Mass. ( *Liturgy defined as "public work" or service done in name or on behalf of the people.)

In the Sacred Scriptures, Jesus said: "I am the Living Bread that came down from heaven ; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; ... he who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life and ... abides in Me, and I in him" (John 6: 51, ff)

By the Consecration at Holy Mass, the Transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ takes place. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Jesus Christ Himself, living and glorious, Is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: His Body and His Blood, with His Soul and His Divinity. (cf Council of Trent)

Because Christ Himself is present in the sacrament of the altar, He is to be honored with the worship of adoration. (cf Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Proper Liturgical Celebration

"The great challenge of our generation is not just to ensure correct and dignified liturgical celebration according to the approved forms, but to be open in a spirit of prayer to the great mysteries of our Redemption in Christ that the liturgy makes present anew. Only by this authentic assimilation of the mystery will we become truly Christian and so achieve the salvation that Christ lives in our midst ..." (cf Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of Sacraments)

The Church makes careful provision for the adaptation of the Roman Missal by Conferences of Bishops in order that the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy "may correspond all the more fully to the norms and the spirit of the sacred Liturgy ..." (General Instructions of the Roman Missal, 386) ... active participation is to be made by the assembled faithful in every form of the Mass so that the action of the whole community may be clearly expressed and fostered. (Vatican II - Constitution on Sacred Liturgy, 30)

Only validly ordained priests can preside at the Eucharist and consecrate the bread and the wine so that they become the Body and Blood of the Lord. (cf Catechism)

Decreasing Priestly Vocations

In 1965, there was 1 priest for every 770 Catholics in the United States. In 2013, the priest to Catholics ratio more than doubled to 1 priest for 1,680 Catholics. In 1965, there were 550 US parishes without a resident priest; in 2013, parishes without resident priests rose sevenfold to 3,550.

In the 1950s, 75% of Catholics in the United States regularly attended Sunday Mass. In 1965, this ratio fell to 24%. Latest figures in 2013: 20% attended Sunday Mass. (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Georgetown University)

It is not far-fetched, therefore, that in a Catholic household of five (5), four (4) do not attend Mass on a given Sunday.

Increasing Need for Laity Ministry

The above numbers yield three observations:

First, 8 out of every 10 Catholics do not appreciate the significance of the Holy Mass as the "heart and summit of their life --- being the principal sacramental celebration of the mystery of our salvation. We anticipate with great excitement, spend thousands of dollars, travel hundreds of miles, party for days, brave the elements, cheer ourselves hoarse for several hours at a sporting event. We lounge around on a Sunday morning, are rendered catatonic by a nippy weather, drag our feet to the church across town, and find the hour it takes the celebration as boring and that we did not get anything out of it.

Second, this same 80%, at least, (probably, more,) neither realize the Real Presence of Jesus Christ at Mass nor accede to the practical benefits of Holy Communion with the actual Body and Blood of Our Lord and God. We observe all the nuances of protocol at a reception for a political leader. Hang on to every word of a motivational celebrity and purchase books and tapes to make sure that we practice every advice and tip we just heard at the auditorium. We are hard pressed to tell whether we are going to a barbeque cookout or to a liturgical celebration by our attire, attitude, and demeanor. No sooner have we waken up on Monday than we concede that we are "back to the real world".

Third, the remnant has the opportunity of witness, catechesis, and evangelization of the majority. With the dire dearth of ordained ministers in the Catholic Church, the responsibility of lay ministry within the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ becomes more pronounced and practically prominent.

The laity individually and collectively witness to the Eucharist as the heart and summit of their Life through their faithful attendance and active participation in the Liturgical Celebration. Prayerful and meditative responses and singing are sincere and confident proclamation of faith. Congregational consensus catechism. The Priest blesses the Congregation of the Children of God, and sends them forth, "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord." Individually and collectively, we "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by our life." Ite missa est.