How’s that been working for us so far?
How’s that been working for us so far?
The most ancient practice of distributing Holy Communion was, with all probability, to give Communion to the faithful in the palm of the hand. The history of the liturgy, however, makes clear that rather early on a process took place to change this practice.
From the time of the Fathers of the Church, a tendency was born and consolidated whereby distribution of Holy Communion in the hand became more and more restricted in favor of distributing Holy Communion on the tongue. The motivation for this practice is two-fold: a) first, to avoid, as much as possible, the dropping of Eucharistic particles; b) second, to increase among the faithful devotion to the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Saint Thomas Aquinas also refers to the practice of receiving Holy Communion only on the tongue. He affirms that touching the Body of the Lord is proper only to the ordained priest.
Therefore, for various reasons, among which the Angelic Doctor cites respect for the Sacrament, he writes: “. . . out of reverence towards this Sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest’s hands, for touching this Sacrament. Hence, it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it except from necessity, for instance, if it were to fall upon the ground, or else in some other case of urgency” (Summa Theologiae, III, 82, 3).
Over the centuries the Church has always characterized the moment of Holy Communion with sacredness and the greatest respect, forcing herself constantly to develop to the best of her ability external signs that would promote understanding of this great sacramental mystery. In her loving and pastoral solicitude the Church has made sure that the faithful receive Holy Communion having the right interior dispositions, among which dispositions stands out the need for the Faithful to comprehend and consider interiorly the Real Presence of Him Whom they are to receive. (See The Catechism of Pope Pius X, nn. 628 & 636). The Western Church has established kneeling as one of the signs of devotion appropriate to communicants. A celebrated saying of Saint Augustine, cited by Pope Benedict XVI in n. 66 of his Encyclical Sacramentum Caritatis, (“Sacrament of Love”), teaches: “No one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it” (Enarrationes in Psalmos 98, 9). Kneeling indicates and promotes the adoration necessary before receiving the Eucharistic Christ.
From this perspective, the then-Cardinal Ratzinger assured that: “Communion only reaches its true depth when it is supported and surrounded by adoration” [The Spirit of the Liturgy (Ignatius Press, 2000), p. 90]. For this reason, Cardinal Ratzinger maintained that “the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion has in its favor a centuries-old tradition, and it is a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species” [cited in the Letter “This Congregation” of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 1 July 1, 2002].
John Paul II, in his last Encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (“The Church comes from the Eucharist”), wrote in n. 61: “By giving the Eucharist the prominence it deserves, and by being careful not to diminish any of its dimensions or demands, we show that we are truly conscious of the greatness of this gift. We are urged to do so by an uninterrupted tradition, which from the first centuries on has found the Christian community ever vigilant in guarding this ‘treasure.’ Inspired by love, the Church is anxious to hand on to future generations of Christians, without loss, her faith and teaching with regard to the mystery of the Eucharist. There can be no danger of excess in our care for this mystery, for ‘in this sacrament is recapitulated the whole mystery of our salvation.’”
In continuity with the teaching of his Predecessor, starting with the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in the year 2008, the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, began to distribute to the faithful the Body of the Lord, by placing it directly on the tongue of the faithful as they remain kneeling.
So why are we still doing this? Especially when we have the following 1997 document from the Vatican, signed by the Pope, 2 Pontifical Councils and 6 Vatican Congregations which makes it clear that this habit of using the laity for distributing Holy Communion to the faithful should not be abused as it continues to be, almost everywhere:
Watch the following if you have the time:
This is from the latest Pew Research Center:
Then there is this older Gallup poll about the trend to stay home on Sunday:
Or how about this older Pew poll which shows the trend for so-called Catholics to disbelieve and actively want the Church to change Her teachings on these important social and moral issues:
Pretty appalling isn’t it? So how many Catholics actually have been taught the Faith? How many accept the Faith, though they vowed to do so when they were Confirmed? How many parents make their kids continue their religious education after Confirmation (NB: the teachings are age appropriate . . . so if they don’t go they will not learn about many moral issues (especially sexual ones)?
It makes me wonder whether we ought to scrap the idea of Confirming kids until they are finished with their religious education so that their vows actually mean something. And parents; if you are not educating your children in the Faith then you did not follow the first ordering of marriage (maybe you don’t understand the primary purpose of marriage yourself?). First is procreation and the education of your children. It does make our preparation for marriage look rather suspect as well . . . does it not?
Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, the wife of the 20th-century theologian Dietrich von Hildebrand, traces the historical roots of the crisis of the last 50 years.
“I relate in my biography of my husband, The Soul of a Lion, that a few years after his conversion to Catholicism in the 1920s, he began teaching at the University of Munich. Munich was a Catholic city. Most Catholics at the time went to Mass, but he always said that it was there that he became aware of the loss of a sense of the supernatural among Catholics. One incident especially offered him sufficient proof, and it greatly saddened him.
When passing through a door, my husband would always give precedence to those of his students who were priests. One day, one of his colleagues (a Catholic) expressed his astonishment and disapproval: “Why do you let your students step ahead of you?” “Because they are priests,” replied my husband. “But they do not have a Ph.D.” My husband was grieved. To value a Ph.D. is a natural response; to feel awe for the sublimity of the priesthood is a supernatural response. The professor’s attitude proved that his sense for the supernatural had been eroded. That was long before Vatican II. But until the Council, the beauty and the sacredness of the Tridentine liturgy masked this phenomenon.
…[My husband] believed that after Pius X’s condemnation of the heresy of Modernism, its proponents merely went underground. He would say that they then took a much more subtle and practical approach. They spread doubt simply by raising questions about the great supernatural interventions throughout salvation history, such as the Virgin Birth and Our Lady’s perpetual virginity, as well as the Resurrection, and the Holy Eucharist. They knew that once faith – the foundation – totters, the liturgy and the moral teachings of the Church would follow suit. My husband entitled one of his books The Devastated Vineyard. After Vatican II, a tornado seemed to have hit the Church.
Modernism itself was the fruit of the calamity of the Renaissance and the Protestant Revolt, and it took a long historical process to unfold. If you were to ask a typical Catholic in the Middle Ages to name a hero or heroine, he would answer with the name of a saint. The Renaissance began to change that. Instead of a saint, people would think of geniuses as persons to emulate, and with the oncoming of the industrial age, they would answer with the name of a great scientist. Today, they would answer with a sports figure or cinema personality. In other words, the loss of the sense of the supernatural has brought an inversion of the hierarchy of values.
Even the pagan Plato was open to a sense of the supernatural. He spoke of the weakness, frailty and cowardice often evidenced in human nature. He was asked by a critic to explain why he had such a low opinion of humanity. He replied that he was not denigrating man, only comparing him to God.
With the loss of a sense of the supernatural, there is a loss of the sense of a need for sacrifice today. The closer one comes to God, the greater should be one’s sense of sinfulness. The further one gets from God, as today, the more we hear the philosophy of the new age: “I’m OK, You’re OK.” This loss of the inclination to sacrifice has led to the obscuring of the Church’s redemptive mission. Where the Cross is downplayed, our need for redemption is given hardly a thought.
The aversion to sacrifice and redemption has assisted the secularization of the Church from within. We have been hearing for many years from priests and bishops about the need for the Church to adapt herself to the world. Great popes like St. Pius X said just the opposite: the world must adapt itself to the Church.
The devil hates the ancient Mass. He hates it because it is the most perfect reformulation of all the teachings of the Church. It was my husband who gave me this insight about the Mass. The problem that ushered in the present crisis was not the traditional Mass. The problem was that priests who offered it had already lost the sense of the supernatural and the transcendent. They rushed through the prayers, they mumbled and didn’t enunciate them. That is a sign that they had brought to the Mass their growing secularism. The ancient Mass does not abide irreverence, and that was why so many priests were just as happy to see it go.”