THE indignities to which the Holy Eucharist has been subjected since Vatican II are enough to make one physically sick. They make me nauseous and slightly dizzy, as I would feel if I saw, say, a small child slapped across the face. But things are getting worse. As reported at Tradition in Action, some parishes have instituted self-serve Communion.
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Thomas F. Bertonneau writes:
Will there be take-out communion? Undoubtedly. And the Eucharistic minister will ask, “Would you like to supersize it?”
Actually, we already have take-out Communion, I am sorry to say.
Someone just the other day told me (or did I read it somewhere?) that he was visiting a sick friend when the relative of the sick person pulled out Communion from a drawer and handed it to the sick man. The relative was a Eucharistic minister at her church.
When I was in the hospital after giving birth a nice lady visited my room offering me Communion. Very awkward. I guess they are given the names of the Catholic mothers at the front desk.
This all started with Communion in the hand. Where will it end?
Perhaps I am being pedantic, but you referred to a “Eucharistic minister.” I assume you were referring to a layman, and not a priest or a deacon. In that case, that person should be described as an “Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister” (“EEM”). Such a person is an Eucharistic minister that should be only used under extraordinary circumstances, circumstances that are fairly clearly described by the Church. Of course, abuse of EEMs is rampant in Catholic parishes, and as a result, there is abuse of my Lord and God who is, according to the Church, really and truly present in the Consecrated Host. But of course, everyone wants to “do something!” at Mass, and “be involved!” and as we all know, praying silently, and uniting oneself with the Holy Sacrifice, and placing oneself at the foot of Calvary is not “participating” or “doing something.” (As our current pastor told me, “If your lips are not moving, you’re not participating, and you’re not being fed.”)
Contraception and the abuse of the Eucharist are THE issues in the RCC today. Nothing else matters. In our parish, and in many parishes in our archdiocese (an archdiocese that is feted as one of the best in the US) we have every kind of lay organization – mens’ groups, womens’ groups, homeschooling groups etc. But all of these groups, while well-intentioned, are just playing Protestant because the abuse of the Eucharist is so widespread, and the belief in the Real Presence is so weak. In my mens’ group, which I led, I was met with blank stares when I discussed the notion of vertical communion, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the Sacrifice of Calvary re-presented to our time. These guys – men who were so serious about their faith that they met at 6 a.m. on Friday mornings – thought the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was just a communion of persons, a celebration of community, which, of course, is just a celebration of themselves, which is nothing different from which we have in secular society.
The problem lies in large part in Communion standing and in the hand. At our parish, the priests bemoan the fact that they often have to run after people to instruct them to consume the Host immediately, instead of walking away with Him. And there right in front of their faces stands an intact, pristine Communion rail that has been there since the church was built. An organic movement grew two years ago, and many members of the parish urged the pastor to allow Communion on the knees at the rail at a Latin Novus Ordo Mass (the only such Mass in our archdiocese). He was supportive, and allowed it during Lent on a trial basis, and it went off without a hitch. He then decided to request permission from the archbishop to allow such reception – in conjunction with reception standing, whether in the hand or on the tongue – on a standard basis at only the Latin Novus Ordo Mass, but before he could make his request, the archbishop was reassigned . . . And a few months later, the pastor was reassigned, and so we sat in limbo, until the new pastor, of the same order of priests, came on board, and let it be known that no way, no how would anyone be allowed to receive on their knees at the rail. Dead issue.
So, the fact that there is take out Communion? No surprise. Didn’t Irish patriots martyr themselves by throwing themselves in front of the Consecrated Host as the British fired upon the altar? Can anyone imagine a Catholic in America doing the same thing today? My God, if they can’t even get on their knees – or won’t be allowed to do so by the hierarchy – to receive The Master of the Universe, then how can we be surprised at the abuses that run so rampant.
Please Lord, forgive us.
Mrs. P. writes:
I remember when Holy Communion was administered by the priest on the tongue while I kneeled at a communion railing. I was taught never to chew the Host, but to let it dissolve on my tongue. One did not receive Holy Communion if one had committed a mortal sin and had not gone to Confession.
A Methodist church I am familiar with has a communion railing where people kneel to receive Communion from the minister. Communion railings are coming back to a few Catholic churches. Kneeling is a humble posture that can help prepare one spiritually to receive Holy Communion. This is why we bring the kneelers down where we sit so that we can kneel in prayer and prepare ourselves for Communion.
As church practices and rituals evolved over the centuries, it reached the point that so much emphasis was placed on the sacredness of Holy Communion that believers felt unworthy to receive it. It served to separate Christ from his followers and make him unreachable. As a result few people received Holy Communion. Practices with regard to Communion began to change in the Church with Pope Pius X in the early 1900′s and they became more relaxed. Eventually in more modern times the Church allowed believers to return to the ancient ritual of taking Holy Communion in the hand if they so desired and to drink the wine. In the 4th century, St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote “Make your left hand a throne for your right, because your right is going to receive the King; make a hollow of your palm and receive the body of Christ, saying after it: ‘Amen!’ …Then, after you have partaken of the body of Christ, come forward to the chalice of His blood…..”.
In the early church, the altar table was in the midst of the people rather than against a back wall and the priest faced the people when praying. At least now the priest faces the people when he he is at the altar table. I can remember when the entire Mass was said in Latin and the priest had his back to the people. The changes that followed upset my grandmother a lot. She was used to the Latin Mass. She felt as if her religion had disappeared. But it had not.
Your grandmother was almost right.
Fortunately, all those things you mention — the priest facing God rather than the people, communion railings, Communion on the tongue and a Latin liturgy – are available to some. That’s the way it is at the church I attend on Sundays.
Mary mentions the awkwardness of having laypeople visit your hospital room offering the Eucharist. When my husband and I were staying in the hospital for many weeks with our son, we had to keep turning them away with different “excuses” (all of which were true, technically, but concealing our main reason for declining). We would cite something like the fact that we had just eaten, or that we wanted to go to Confession first. The lay ministers always seemed a bit taken aback, would say “oh…”, then after a moment of awkwardness, would leave.
I once attended a traditional ordination. It is one of my life’s cherished experiences. I will not attempt to put into words how beautiful and moving it was; it must be witnessed. But if all Catholics could see with their own eyes at least the consecration of the priest’s hands they would think twice before ever touching the Holy Eucharist. His hands are bound by the bishop with holy oils and linen. Bread and lemons are brought for the lavabo instead of water. (There are actually five or six lavabos, some with water and some with bread and lemons.) After the priest is ordained the linen from the consecration of his hands is given to his mother. When she dies she is buried with it.
Returning to the ancient practice of Communion in the hand and the other practices mentioned had a tremendously disruptive effect on the Church; reverence for the Eucharist has declined precipitously as a result, culminating in things like the above-mentioned self-serve Communion. The Catholic Church had developed slowly and organically over the centuries until the 1960s. Leaps such as this, in which the Church suddenly reverts to practices long suspended, were unprecedented, for obvious reasons: the Church in her wisdom understood that making changes too suddenly would only serve to give the faithful the impression that Catholicism is changeable and malleable according to the times; and that her beautiful, universal truths would fall into question as a result. And indeed she was right, for it is painfully obvious that they have. The old Mass in Latin as our parents knew it was in place for at least 500 years prior to the 60s. Countless souls have been lost.
Perhaps I am being pedantic, but you referred to a “Eucharistic minister.” I assume you were referring to a layman, and not a priest or a deacon. In that case, that person should be described as an “Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister” (“EEM”).
In fact, there is no such thing in the Roman Catholic Church as an “EEM.” A proper title for these Novus Ordo pretend-ministers might be “Distributor of Holy Communion.” In any case, and as any well-formed Catholic would know, there is only one minister of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, and that is a validly ordained Catholic priest. These lay people that carry Holy Communion to other lay people puff themselves up with importance, believing as they do that the Novus Ordo’s “new” sacramental theology places them on equal footing with the ordained.
Of course, a discussion of this subject wouldn’t be necessary but for the near-demise of priestly vocations that was precipitated by Vatican II (and continues to this very day).