Summary of How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization by Dr. Jared Staudt

Here are 10 of my favourite quotes from this great book, with some additional notes:

1. “Christian culture is essentially the Mass” (John Senior).

  • Christendom, what secularists call Western Civilization, is the Mass and the paraphernalia which protect and facilitate it. All architecture, art, political and social forms, economics, the way people live and feel and think, music, literature—all these things when they are right, are ways of fostering and protecting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Mass plainly and simply provided the great stimulant that grew the culture of Christendom and led to great achievements in learning, the arts, and the general cultivation needed to support the Christian life. 191
  • The Catholic faith could be defined, more than anything else, by the Mass. It is the heart of the Christian life because it provides us access to Jesus Himself through His continuing presence among us. 115

2. “All of Christian civilization is born from the altar as from its source. … The altar is the heart of our cities. Literally, our towns are built around the altar, huddled around the church that protects them. The loss of the sense of God’s grandeur is a dreadful regression toward savagery. The sense of the sacred is indeed the heart of all human civilization” (Cardinal Robert Sarah, The Day is Now Far Spent, 44).

  • The Church has always understood that the way we pray is bound up with what we believe and how we live. As the Catechism explains, “the Church believes as she prays.” Likewise, how we pray and what we believe shapes the way in which we live. Traditionally, the interlocking nature of prayer, belief, and life has been expressed as “lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi,” that the law of prayer leads to the law of belief and the law of life. 186
  • The first thing needed to participate properly in the Mass is to see what occurs there with the eyes of faith. If we look at the Mass with normal eyes, we would not necessarily see very much—a gathering of people that might seem somewhat mundane or perhaps even boring. To recognize the deeper reality there, we need a sacramental vision that sees the physical acts and material elements as the means of entering into spiritual realities. 134

3. “Sine dominico non possumus (We cannot live without Sunday).” – North African Martyrs, 303

  • Whereas our current culture is, in the words of Maria von Trapp, a “land without a Sunday,” early Christians were willing to die for celebrating the Lord’s Day. Early martyrs from North Africa, in about the year 303, were interrogated by a proconsul, who asked them, “Why have you received Christians in your home, transgressing the imperial dispositions?” A man named Emeritus answered, “Sine dominico non possumus (We cannot live without Sunday).”
  • Although celebrating Sunday may no longer cost one’s life, it remains a battle against a secular and utilitarian culture. Stopping the normal course of time and business witnesses to the true meaning of life that surpasses these mundane things. The Lord’s Day calls us to focus on the most important things of life, putting everything else in context. 221
  • As the most important event of the week and of our lives, we ought to prioritize Sunday Mass above everything. First, it is important to remember that we attend Mass primarily to honour God and to give Him glory. Mass should be God-centered rather than self-centered. The Mass is not about us, to make us feel good or provide entertainment. We could approach Mass as a consumer, seeking only what serves one’s own sensibilities and comfort rather than moving out of oneself in receptivity and obedience to God. The Mass is about God and His glory, not our own self-satisfaction. 154
  • Without real reasons to celebrate, our culture falls into fake festivals dominated by consumerism that offer only passing distractions. Partying has no purpose, and its pleasures fade quickly into regrets. For Christians who live with a clear purpose, the Lord’s Day and the great feasts of the year manifest the glory of God giving them a reason to stop work: genuine celebration points to the unending feast of heaven. 202

4. “If Christ is culture, let the sidewalks be lit with fire on Easter Eve, let traffic stop for a column of Christians waving palm branches on a spring morning, let streets be blocked off as the faithful gather for a Corpus Christi procession. Then will others know that there is another city in their midst, another commonwealth, one that has its face, like the faces of angels, turned toward the face of God.” – Robert Louis Wilken

  • Abandoned in the 1960s by many parishes, Corpus Christi processions have made a comeback. In some traditionally Catholic places of Europe like Valencia, Spain, they continue to express their once central role in Catholic culture. Hence Robert Lewis Wilken challenges us to reinvigorate processions and other public demonstrations of faith to revitalize Christian culture: “If Christ is culture, let the sidewalks be lit with fire on Easter Eve, let traffic stop for a column of Christians waving palm branches on a spring morning, let streets be blocked off as the faithful gather for a Corpus Christi procession. Then will others know that there is another city in their midst, another commonwealth, one that has its face, like the faces of angels, turned toward the face of God.” Such practices help form culture by uniting people in public expressions of faith, reinforcing one’s own beliefs and providing a sign to others of a higher reality present even in our secular culture. Above all, these processions remind our world that God is literally with us, and that He is truly the King of heaven and earth, for His Kingship will never end (cf. Dn 7:14; Lk 1:33). 238

5. “The ‘re-enchantment’ of the Catholic Liturgy is the single most urgent ecclesial need of our time.” – Fr. Aidan Nichols

  • Father Aidan Nichols explains, “The ‘re-enchantment’ of the Catholic Liturgy is the single most urgent ecclesial need of our time.” If the Eucharist is the heart of the world, it pulsates from the liturgy, supplying it with a spiritual lifeblood of Christ’s divine presence. Yet, the spiritual anemia of Catholics stems ultimately from a horizontal and mundane worship that is more focused on the worshipper and one’s own feelings than a transcendent encounter with God. It is from this source that Catholics themselves become agents of renewal, as Nichols once again explains, “The primary offering we make is not self-sacrifice but the offering of Christ in the Mass. There can be no offering of ourselves, our souls and bodies, except with that. … The Eucharist empowers us to die daily to self, to offer ourselves to the Father.” Living united to Christ’s offering makes our daily lives supernatural, suffusing the ordinary with God’s divine life. All that contradicts the sacredness of the Mass needs to be driven out of the Church like Christ did with the money changers at His temple: regular Eucharistic abuses, ugliness in song and decoration, sacrilegious communions (including by public sinners such as politicians), and the human centered approach to worship. 270
  • Christians live in two worlds, seeking to shape this life through faith while looking ultimately to the next. The liturgy bridges the gap between these two worlds and grounds the shared way of life of Christians, giving them the supernatural power to transform the natural world. A Christian culture, therefore, exists as a way of life that draws its source in the Eucharist and finds its fulfillment in a life transformed by a holiness that shapes everything. Bringing the Eucharist into the world gives shape to a liturgy of life that makes every act in the world an offering to God, seeking to give Him honor and glory. Putting God first in one’s life enables the right ordering of everything else. 193

6. “The Eucharist is the heart of the Church, and the Church is the heart of the world” (266).

  • The Eucharist is the summit in our ongoing encounter with Christ at the Mass and the heart of the Christian life that emerges from this encounter. Jesus comes within our souls to transform us so that we in turn may shape the world with the grace He gives us. 30
  • The Eucharist, therefore, represents the pinnacle of creation, pointing to the very purpose of the world and human life: to glorify God and to embody His presence. 298
  • From the Mass, we then seek to abide with His Eucharistic presence at all times… The Christian life flows from communion with Christ, which intends to shape our whole life, inspiring the practices that make up a Christian culture. 299
  • The goal of the Eucharist is not a new civilization but communion with God. 285
  • Just as grace builds upon and perfects nature, so the Eucharist draws upon the elements of human culture and transforms them into a means of His divine presence. Bread and wine, two of the most fundamental works of culture, do not arise naturally out of the earth but from human intelligence, which forms them from the fruits of the earth. 19
  • Only the Eucharist, Christ Himself, can save us and serve as our compass, pointing us to the need for presence above devices, logical thinking (rooted in the Logos) to counter ideology, and a gift of self rather than distraction. 281
  • Father Jacques Philippe raises this challenging question from another perspective, asking “why, for instance, are so many people who receive Communion frequently not more holy?” The problem is not on the side of the Eucharist, surely, so we need to think about how we can receive its grace and to live in it more fully. Our lives certainly cannot contradict Jesus’s presence and truth. Receiving Communion, rather, must accompany a life turned toward God in prayer and one turned away from sin. Living a life centered on Jesus and His Eucharistic presence in prayer, virtue, and charity removes obstacles and unlocks its power in our lives—keeping the door of our hearts open to Him to act. Jesus will begin to sort things out in our life, conforming us to Himself more and more, if we take time for prayer and do our best to remove those things that lead us away from Him. The Eucharist truly is the greatest source of grace to transform our lives. 172

7. “The Mass is our plan of renewal” (292).

  • The Mass is our plan of renewal. The Eucharist initiates a spiritual revolution that should spill out into the world if we allow it. For the Eucharist to change the world, however, it first has to change us. 114
  • The word “Mass” (Missa in Latin) comes from the sending forth with which it concludes. Ite missa est means, “Go, it [the assembly] has been dismissed,” or, more spiritually interpreted, “Go, it has been sent.” It is somewhat surprising that the Church names its worship not from the Eucharist itself but from this sending forth. The name “Mass,” therefore, implies that the worship and communion of the Church entails a mission to extend this experience of God into the world and the life of the believer. 118

8. “The Eucharist can save civilization because the sacramental Presence of Christ is the very heart of civilization itself. It is the conforming of the heart of humanity to the Heart of Christ, even if, as was the case with pre-Christian cultures, the unknown Christ was present in goodness, truth, and beauty and not in His Incarnate Presence. All other definitions of civilization are not only wrong but ultimately uncivilized” (12).

  • In the Eucharist, a great sacrament of love, Jesus draws together God’s family in the foundation of a supernatural culture. 157
  • The Mass invites us to join the prayer of Christ. Sacrifice, once again, makes holy, and the Mass opens a channel of grace to make our lives and culture to become holy. In fact, it is the greatest source of transformation and strength available to us, although many of us may not avail ourselves of it. The invitation of the Mass is to make our lives a sacrifice in union with Jesus’s. 143
  • The Eucharist is the source through which God comes into this world and ONLY God can save civilization.

9. “The Eucharist itself teaches us how to live. It focuses us on the importance of presence and sacrifice for others. If our bodies are meant to be gifts to be received and then given, if we are to receive the gift of the presence of others, then we have to accept our own limits, be inconvenienced, and learn to depend on others. In our anti-culture, we have given into the supremacy of ease and distraction, constantly saturated by technology, which creates a buffer through which we view others (or not) and which filters our experience of reality. The concrete experience of the Eucharist, Jesus’s own physical presence, reminds us of the need to be present, to gaze directly at reality, and to give of ourselves in tangible ways” (280).

  • The Eucharist is the summit of the Christian life because it is the highest good on earth, the true presence of the Son of God with us and in us. In this exploration of the Eucharistic renewal of our civilization, it is necessary to dwell at length upon the Mass as the means by which Jesus enters into our life to shape it from within. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Mass is Christian culture, its source and summit, giving rise to and perfecting the Christian life on earth. The other elements of Christian civilization translate and express the graces we receive at Mass into the rest of our lives. 112
  • Our secular and consumerist culture distorts the body’s proper role with its fascination on exterior things—the flashy and immediately gratifying. William Cavanaugh relates the Eucharist to the problem of consumerism, which tempts us to find our identity in a never-ending process of purchasing, discarding, and repeating. It is an empty process that literally leaves us empty, ever grasping but never finding satisfaction. The Eucharist, however, turns “the act of consumption … inside out: instead of simply consuming the body of Christ, we are consumed by it.” When Christ consumes us, we change from passive consumers to sharers of a gift, “for becoming the body of Christ also entails that we must become food for others.” Christians do not have the same restless search, because their hearts have found rest in the food that truly satisfies. They should be able to resist the allure of the newest product—the newest, largest, and fastest—and the constant distraction of media, because they can find in their heart the source of true peace. 251

10. The Eucharist, as the true heart of the world, gives the greatest meaning to everything, not just to things in the Church. What has more power to renew politics, economics, education, leisure, and the family than the Lord’s sacramental presence in the world? As the most powerful force in the universe, it has the spiritual energy needed to rebuild that can actually address the problem that is causing civilization to crumble. 267

  • The Eucharist forms the Church as the body of Christ, for by consuming Christ, we become one with Him and all those joined to Him, creating a bond more profound than any nation or ethnicity. 82
  • The solutions to our problems—personal, ecclesial, and societal—are hidden in the Blessed Sacrament. 166
  • Entire social programs flow from the Eucharist simply by applying its logic and grace to the challenges and opportunities at hand in society. Gift and sacrifice—these Eucharistic principles provide the Christian agenda—literally, what must be done. First of all, we need Christian culture to take root in the family, a sanctuary of the Christian life, with the domestic church making Christ present in the home. Pope Saint John Paul II saw the family as closely linked to the Eucharist, even as “the very source of Christian marriage. … In the Eucharistic gift of charity, the Christian family finds the foundation and soul of its ‘communion’ and its ‘mission.’” 261
  • The Eucharist can teach us about the nature of marriage, sexuality, and family life, not as self-serving ends that meet one’s own needs but as profound gifts of self. Only in complete gift of self for the good of the other do we see fruitfulness and joy. There is nothing more needful for the health of society and the Church then strong family life, which provides the first and longest lasting formation in how to live. In communion with others, virtue is more easily perfected and vice is more readily overcome. The family is truly the domestic church that prepares Catholics to receive the Eucharist and to live in it faithfully. 279

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