Synopsys of the article
Declining Sacramental Life of the Church an Alarming Trend
Where are you headed? It is a question we should ask ourselves as Catholics. “The Church means less and less to more and more Catholics.”
Every year at the Easter Vigil, in most parishes, men and women are baptized and received into the Church. In a diocese, the numbers of baptisms and receptions into full communion run into the hundreds or perhaps thousands in large archdioceses. What happens when the Church marks the Second Sunday of Easter or the Solemnity of Pentecost? Most of the initiated and the received vanish and are not seen again in our parishes.
Regular churchgoers have known for a while now that Mass attendance is not what it used to be. Reliable surveys indicate attendance at Sunday Mass has declined to about 20 percent of regular attendance before Apostasy, amid steep declines in infant baptisms, weddings, funerals, and a massive decline in sacramental confessions. When I arrived in America on June 1976, I kept receiving the sacrament of Penance to discover I was the only sinner in the parish.
The Church’s nature is lost on many Catholics today. The Church worships God and is a mediating institution between people and society to improve social interaction. The mediation begins with Christ — the Mediator — who puts us in a relationship with the Blessed Trinity starting at baptism. The Church’s sacramental ministry — from baptism through the Anointing of the Sick — has a concrete means by which Jesus reaches the Militant Church.
Father Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “Church and sacrament stand or fall together; a Church without sacraments would be an empty organization, and sacraments without a Church would be rites without meaning or inner connection.”
Why so many Catholics choose to forsake sacramental celebration as a regular feature of Catholic life? Is that Catholics view the Church as “an empty organization” or the sacraments as “rites without meaning or inner connection?”