Father Scannell: What Causes Most of the Trouble in the Church?

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Father John Scannell

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.


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  1. The Real Presence proclaims the Hypostatic Union, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, that Jesus Christ is true God and true man. Jesus is man in His Body, Blood and Soul; Jesus is true God in His Divinity. When we receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist what sin could remain in us? What sin could remain in the Real Presence of Perfect Innocence? Total Love? Eternal Sacrifice? The Evil One releases his grasp on our immortal souls and human bodies to flee away from the TRUTH, the LIFE, and the WAY. The devil goes to hell to hide from the burning love in Jesus Christ’s Sacred Heart in whom all men are contained. Are you lonely? Do you miss a special person? Are you bereft of a loved one? Are you so full of love for someone that you may die of joy? Jesus holds that individual in His Sacred Heart in the Real Presence. Go to Jesus in the Real Presence and know that your love is requited, your love is returned packed down spilling over.

  2. I believe that (I think it was) St. Teresa saw adoring angels gathered about the altar at the Consecration of the Most Holy Eucharist.

    In my sinfulness, I cannot see them. I know that they are there.

  3. A very fine sermon indeed. I think he is right. I ask myself how so many, including myself and my siblings could leave the Catholic faith when it is the only place where we can receive Jesus Christ into our physical bodies and be blessed by the Graces that this entails.

    The answer is simple, my siblings and myself were never taught, really taught and brought to fully understand that Jesus is truly in the Eucharist. Yes, I think we were told this in CCD class (I can’t remember). If we were taught it, we were not taught to understand it. Really understand the full import of what it meant.

    As far as why the Graces of the Eucharist are not fully realized by those who receive it without understand its divinity, I don’t know. I can conjecture that it might be that this lack of faith in the real presence inhibits these Graces. Perhaps they don’t work in unison with these Graces.

    Usually I attend the ‘Latin Mass’ and somehow I only really felt that real presence and the Graces after I started attending there. Why, perhaps the reverence and holiness of the mass and those attending helped me reach the spiritual position I needed to receive these Graces. Perhaps the very pointed and hard hitting sermons about the real presence that the priest taught. Who knows. For me the Tridentine Latin Mass focuses our minds, hearts, and souls on Jesus in the Eucharist.

    So, I think that the Novus Ordo Mass is easier to understand, but also easier to become complacent. What some might think of as a bad thing about the Latin Mass, is the fact that it is in latin. You have to use a missal to follow it. For me, this is a benefit. I never find myself becoming sleepy or board because I have to concentrate on the missal to follow along. When I attend the Novus Ordo, I also use a missal and follow along. This helps me to get more out of the mass. I also study the mass beforehand so that I better understand what God is trying to tell me.

    I attended a Novus Ordo Mass in Wisconsin at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe that I found very reverent and holy. It was inspiring because I was being directed to God, Heaven, and the Eucharist by the magnificence of the Shrine, and the reverence of the Mass.

    Ultimately, I think it is important that Catholics be taught the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, both in classes, sermons, the architecture of the church, and in the reverence and holiness of the mass.

  4. A really meaningful sermon, Father. Yes, the deterioration of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament is seen everywhere. If priests like you take a little more care and interest, lot of improvement is possible. First of all the ignorance among the laity should be removed as the presence of Jesus in the consecrated bread and wine seems to be not known to many. The devotion is not to be confined to the heart, but must express through our customs, our way of respect etc. I have come across churches where communion plates are not used, where bowing before the Tabernacle is not observed, where receiving Communion on tongue is discouraged ( or not encouraged ) and where the people after receiving Communion go back and sit comfortably as nothing has happened( instead of kneeling down and praying till the priest drinks the precious blood). Let us be more vigilant and more dedicated to the Eucharist.

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