Who is to blame for the culture of death? Not atheists or progressives or democrats or republicans or pro-choice advocates. No, according to Dr. John Cuddeback in his talk, Spiritual Warfare: The Battle for Life in a Culture of Death, we Christians have no one to blame but ourselves. For we have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten to put on the mind of Christ. We have forgotten how to pray. We have forgotten that prayer is necessary to the life of the Christian. We have forgotten that the Eucharist, the highest form of prayer, is absolutely necessary to the life of the Christian. Prayer and reception of divine grace in the sacraments is not optional, not something extraneous to the Christian way of life but is absolutely central to it.
We read in the Acts of the Martyrs, that Saturninus and his companions were killed in the year 305 AD during the persecutions of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. They are the first martyrs of the Eucharist. Their words and their example are a strong reminder and a hint for an examination of conscience for us, modern Christians. To the Roman judge who accused them of having broken the order of the emperor of not having meetings and to hand over the Bibles, one after another the martyrs said: “We cannot omit the celebration of the Divine Mysteries. The Christian cannot live without the Eucharist and the Eucharist without the Christian. Don’t you know that the Christian exists for the Eucharist and the Eucharist for the Christian? Yes, I participated with the brothers in the meeting, I celebrated the mysteries of the Lord and I have here with me, written in my heart, Divine Scripture. The Eucharist is the hope and the salvation of Christians”. (From a pastoral letter of Bishop Ballin of Kuwait.)
For refusing to abandon the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist, Saturninus and his friends were executed after horrific torture. Tell me: do you think they were willing to die like that because they thought the Eucharist was a mere symbol? A mere sign? Were their deaths a silly and absurd waste? The Church answers, No.
And what happens to us when we abandon the Eucharist? We might save ourselves from physical death if faced with the prospect of martyrdom like Saturninus and company. But we face the very real prospect of the loss of our faith and even spiritual death.
Think about it: The Christian cannot live without the Eucharist or the Eucharist without the Christian.
No Christian, no Eucharist. No Eucharist, no Christian.
Sobering words for those who reject or neglect or forget the Eucharist and even the assembly of the faithful on Sundays. No surprise that we are spiritually starved. Who would go to battle in this starved condition, without preparation, without food, without weapons, without armor? And battle is what we must do. Spiritual combat against the principalities and the powers and the ruler of this present darkness. (See Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, especially Chapter 6.)
The culture of death—Pope John Paul II writes of this in his encyclical, The Gospel of Life. And what is the culture of death? A very good definition of it comes from Dr. John Cuddeback’s talk:
The culture of death is a complex way of living that encourages spiritual death.
Since we have forgotten who we are, since we have forsaken Christ and His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, is it any surprise that spiritual death has so overtaken us that this death permeates our culture?
But there is hope. If forgetting who we are is what got us where we are today, if saying No to Christ and His grace in the sacraments is how we brought this death upon ourselves, then remembering who we are is the way to bring life into our world. Remembering that we are called to union with Christ, called to be Christs to the world, to be light in the darkness—this is the way that God call fill our emptiness again and renew the face of the earth.
All we have to do is our part: Show up. Pray. Receive His words, His light, His grace, His forgiveness, His love, His Body and Blood. And remember so we won’t ever forget again!
Spiritual Warfare: The Battle for Life in a Culture of Death, by Dr. John Cuddeback.
Online versions of texts referenced in Dr. Cuddeback’s talk:
Progress Through Mental Prayer, by Fr. Edward Leen.
Ephesians, Chapter 6, by Saint Paul.
Commentary on Ephesians by St Thomas Aquinas.
Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life), by Pope John Paul II
Commentaries and study guides.