Communion in the hand

There have been recent reports in the media (and only God knows why they report this) of an official in the Holy See’s Congregation for Divine Worship expressing his views about communion in the hand. The comments are found in the preface to a book published by a bishop. In Rome, the “how and where” of a one’s statements makes all the difference. Comments in a preface to a book are about “floating” an idea to garner reaction.

The comments reported were that communion in the hand was perhaps something to be reconsidered and was never really intended by Vatican II. The report claims that this official stated that Pope Paul VI was basically “forced” to accept communion in the hand. This is the same pope who wrote Humanae Vitae? Paul VI may not have had the larger-than-life personality of Blessed John XXIII nor the the stamina of John Paul the Great, but I would not say that he would ever have been “forced” to do anything. Communion in the hand has been accepted and it was expanded to include many countries. I have personally seen the popes give communion in the hand to the faithful.

In our parish we not only encourage communion in the hand, but we discourage communion on the tongue. After our fight with SARS several years ago, we in Toronto became keenly aware of how much contact with saliva is made by this practice.

But the issue at hand (no pun intended) is much more profound than a sanitary one. Why this concern with communion in the hand? Is there widespread abuse? Not that I have seen. 99.9% of our parishioners receive communion with reverence. There are exceptions and these are addressed by on-going catechesis. The challenges do come when people of other faiths approach the altar for communion and obviously don’t know what the are doing. One has to find gentle and pastoral ways to encourage them to participate in other ways. But, this is not the real issue, is it?

I think the real issue in some people’s mind is a separation of what some see as the “sacred” and the “secular”. A priest’s hands (and most of the time those who hold this belief don’t even bother thinking of deacons), a priest’s hands are sacred and only he should touch the host. Oh, ok, I get it. A lay person’s hands are not sacred enough, but their tongue is? Come on!

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in priesthood. I have great respect for my ordination. There’s something quite humbling about having your palms anointed with Sacred Chrism. It’s something I will never forget. A priest is anointed in a very special way for his ministry in our Church. But what does that mean? Is it only for holding consecrated hosts? Presiding at the Eucharist and holding the bread as it becomes the real presence of Christ is a huge privilege… something for which I will never be worthy; but for which I was chosen by the Church. These consecrated hands are also for holding the hand of a woman on her last breath, for baptising a baby, or for embracing a sinner. The hands of a priest, my hands, have a sacred and unique role in the Church… as an extension of me, and my call in the Church.

The hands of a layperson, perhaps not consecrated in the same way and nor for the same purpose, are no less holy. The hands of a woman who gets up in the morning to change her baby’s diaper, who then goes to work and uses her hands to remove the cataracts from a man’s eyes and then returns home again to bathe the aching body of her elderly father; those hands are holy! The hands of husband and father who spends his days cleaning the classrooms, halls and bathrooms of a school to support his family and in the evening comes home to make love to his wife and then on weekends uses those same hands to help build a home for the homeless; those hands are holy! The student who extends a hand to a new classmate, or reaches out to stop a bully; those hands are holy! The senior who gently rolls her hands over her beads as she prays for her family or uses her hands to pack food at the foodbank; those hands are holy!

I believe that the Lord would have no problem being welcomed into those sacred hands as he gives himself in Communion. Yes, it is true, those same hands can also be used for hateful purposes, not in keeping with the true character of the Christian. But then again, and perhaps more so, the tongue can be a sharp and hateful weapon too. In fact, there is no part of us that is always and truly worthy of Communion.

It’s a gift!

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30 thoughts on “Communion in the hand

  1. While I agree with most of your points, I didn’t see you address the issue.

    I have had numerous discussions with various stripes of Protestants and sooner or later the topic of the Eucharist comes up. One guy told me if he believed as I believe that the Eucharist is actually Christ, then he would crawl on his hands and knees to receive Him. That’s always stuck with me. Now as a product of the pre-Vat. II era I remember one the off chance child dropped the host on the ground and the nuns would wash the spot for what seemed like hours. I have no desire to go back to that type of “reverence”. However I don’t see religious instruction as resolving it.
    I am in strong favor of altar rails simply to define the sanctuary from the nave. We don’t need 15 “extra” ordinary ministers at the altar to distribute communion. Frankly I’d like to simply receive at least once from the priest in say a 5 year period, which is common in Texas. One would think if you don’t distribute communion within 5 minutes it’s considered hostage taking;>)

    But for me the basis is I would like time to reflect prior to receiving and with the communion songs and the 20 second walk up to receive simply isn’t enough time [for me] perhaps others are quicker. I like to receive on the tongue, as I understand it to receive on the hand one should form a “throne” for Christ, which I doubt many were ever taught not perform. Not that I’d want it to be legalist about it, just simply a tool to assist the faithful in receiving.

  2. Thanks for your comments. I agree reverence is key. It’s interesting you note the idea of creating a “throne” that’s exactly the image we use on a regular basis with our parishioners when we review the proper way to come to communion.

    Hopefully, that reverence for the Body of Christ also extends to the parking lot as sisters and brothers in Christ jockey for the exits!

  3. If “all parts” of our body are holy why bother receiving communion either by tongue or hand. I will agree with Fr. Rick to receive the “Body of Christ” by the hand with proper positioning of the hand (making a throne) for many reasons. One for sanitary purposes. Second, our hands are holy. We are caught up more on the external and we don’t have the consciousness to feel Jesus presence in our hearts. Maybe it’s good to develop that “contemplative” attitude that we always remain connected with Jesus which ever ways we receive Him in communion.

    We don’t only confine the Holy inside the Church, using our tongues in communion or only in the hands of an ordained minsiters as what Fr. Rick said, though they are truly chosen by God (I still believed that it is God who puts the gift in their hearts to become priest, they are just generous enough to respond such a call) to lead /facilitate the community to make God’s presence more visible on earth, but our hands too are holy as a part of our total being “created into the image of God.”

  4. It is the law of the universal Church in the Latin Rite that we receive Communion in the traditional manner. To receive on the hand is only an “indult,” or concession that is in effect here and there. It does not exist in the greater part of the world.

    Communion was indeed forced on Paul VI when it was first introduced in Belgium by the notorious Cardinal Suenens in disobedience to the rubrics of the Holy See. Paul VI’s mistake was in not wishing to publicly rebuke a him, and he did his best to qualify and limit its use as it spread like a contagion. The motives of Suenens is anybody’s guess, he did so much damage. Maybe it’s just ignorance–an attempt at psuedo-ecumenism–where bringing us all together means we’re reduced to aping Protestant practices, or at the very least engaging in false archaeologism: an idolization of (alleged) practices of the ancient Church.

    I read your blog, Fr. Rick, but I confess, I just don’t get you. Why be a Catholic priest, when you seem to be such a passionate advocate of protestant doctrine, where every person is his own priest? To say “I believe that the Lord would have no problem being welcomed into those sacred hands” is not the point. The point is, it’s not up to individual priests, deacons or laypersons to “vote on the truth” or engage in speculation of what Christ wants. We already know what God wants from us through the teaching authority of the Church.

  5. Well reasoned and correct is your criticism of the idea that the hands of laymen are lacking in holiness compared to that of a priest; and that therefore, one would, unless a priest, be guilty of some heinous sin if he were to receive Communion except on the tongue. However, we need to avoid very much false reactions in countering error so that we don’t make similar mistakes.

    Unfortunately, I think there is a false reaction at work, but it would be more right to call it a straw man if anything else. Characterized is the “conservative” or “traditionalist” or “pre-Vatican II” or “unenlightened” attitude towards receiving the Eucharist in the hand. My understanding is that such people underscore the importance of reverence and our filial relationship to God, and do not artificially assign to body parts moral qualities that are supposed to be intrinsic to them.

    The same Jesus of Nazareth who gave us His Body as food and Blood as drink also gave us the Our Father, and that we receive the True Manna of Heaven and drink of the Cup of Salvation humbly, in a way that is symbolic of our child status before God’s, is, I should hope, a principle joy of the devoted Christian. For in the East, the People of God are spoon-fed; in the Roman and other Western Rites the practice of receiving while kneeling on the tongue is considered an Apostolic Tradition (Council of Trent). Both examples exude the same aura, given the real and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the praying of the Our Father, they certainly contribute to and enhance our actual, prayerful participation in offering ourselves to the Father of Mercies.

    With all charity, I must say that I also find the sacramental reality of the priesthood has been, to my reading, somewhat downplayed. “A priest is anointed in a very special way for his ministry in our Church.” Yes, he is anointed in a very special way, and that is a manifest understatement. A priest receives an indelible mark on his soul, one that makes him a ministerial priest in a sacramental conformity to Christ. The priest’s hands are consecrated, not just in some beautiful and dignified way, but in a way that sets the priest apart from all other people (even the dedicated mother, father, brother, sister, and senior), and in a way that gives him the capacity to lead the faithful in prayer towards Heaven. So being made a priest is not only for holding consecrated hosts, but of course, also for consecrating them!

    Being a priest is of such great responsibility and dignity, and a priest’s hands ought to have our reverence. (Kissed, as was the custom until a few decades ago.) Again, not because he is some mean black-cassocked slave-driver, but because he is truly our father and intercessor, who makes the King of Kings appear on the Altar, His Throne. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with receiving Our Lord in the hand, but it could be argued that such a practice is not ideal; highly problematic even. One certainly can receive Our Lord reverently in the hand (it is not a sin); but why should one, unless he (she) has been desensitized to the sublime reality of the Divine Liturgy? Should this practice of receiving communion in the hand actually be encouraged? I do not think it should, if only because allowing ourselves to be fed directly from God and by those who He has ordained and set apart to be act in persona Christi, and to foster awe and devotion to Our Lord in the Eucharist, as well as respect and reverence for the Churches Holy Dogmas.

    Since it is “out of reverence towards … [the Holy Eucharist], [that] nothing touches it, but what is consecrated” why anyone but a priest is permitted under ordinary circumstances (as opposed to extraordinary circumstances such as persecution as St. Basil noted) to handle either the consecrated chalice or consecrated host is a question that needs revisiting. We should all be glad the Pope and some bishops are thinking about this some.

    I had originally intended this to be short. Well, I hope my long and formally uneducated response to your thoughtful and touching (see paragraph seven) blog entry was edifying to all who read it, if it made a shred of sense.

    Pax et bonum.

    *Summa Theologica, Pars III, Q. 82, Art. 3, Rep. Obj. 8.

  6. Correction:
    –I do not think it should, if only because allowing ourselves to be fed directly from God and by those who He has ordained and set apart to be act in persona Christi, so that awe and devotion to Our Lord in the Eucharist, as well as respect and reverence for the Churches Holy Dogmas are fostered in all who receive Communion.

  7. Thanks Sarah… but I don’t think I’m preaching protestant theology. Actually it’s pretty mainstream and solid Roman Catholic theology. As far as the “teaching authority” of the Church…well, I share in that authority too. Not to teach my own thoughts, but that of the Church. Which I believe I do effectively. I still don’t understand why it’s such a big deal for you to receive on the tongue… or perhaps more importantly, why would you want to stop others from a legitimate expression of faith.

  8. Sarah,

    It would seem your cutting & pasting Jude A Huntz article from HOMELITIC & PASTORAL REVIEW March 1997. It’s a good article. But I think it’s crossing the line stating Father teaching protestant doctrine.

    Fr. Rick, if I may ask, as one of the last children of the pre-Vat. II era(that means I’m 50) I can tell you that there was many a priest that attempted to suppress receiving on the tongue in lew of receiving in the hand and I’m sure you will agree that this was an abuse.
    Sadly the over joyed Aggiornamento crowd of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s lead to actions not in-line with Vat. II and those actions will bear some rather bad fruit coming from “traditional” quarters, most of whom didn’t have to endure that era. One would think that the Novus Ordo is on the way out the way some bloggers post.

    I am not in that camp, however I would like to see more intergration between the two rites and I think that the Holy Father is inclined to do just that.

    As a person who has had their liturgical service distrupted by the latest and greats DRE’s summer seminar course of enlightment inflicted on me for the past 40 years; I can say that it can be distracting at best and upsetting to the point of being unable to receive the Eucharist or considering leaving the church. So I would be opposed to “restoring” communion on the tongue as mandatory thereby inflicting change on those for perceived reverance. I do think receiving on the tongue should be the norm(actually it is atleast in law) and should be taught to those receiving their first communion, and allow those who express their reverence to God in the hand to continue as long as they fell the need.
    Frankly I think if receiving in the hand to be the norm we might as well pass the Eucharist around in the collection basket. No need to have Extra-ordinary ministers;~)

  9. Come on, you don’t really want to equate it to passing communion out like candy!
    I can appreciate that you’ve experienced some pretty bad expressions of liturgy. I have too. Some of the seemingly “progressive” clergy and laity can be quite the totalitarians when it comes to liturgy… um… well, I’ve been accused of that myself. BUT, I know that my liturgical sense is balanced and grounded in tradition. The conservative mantra… “do the red, read the black”… is hardly offensive to me. But, the liturgy also allows for some creativity… but that needs to be done EXTREMELY prudently. It’s not my mass, it belongs to the whole church.I am a man of Vatican II. I love its theology and its liturgy… done well. I believe that in it people can find the reverence and sense of God we all yearn for.

    This desire for the return to reverence in the liturgy has been a rallying call in some quarters. That’s where the genius of B16 reveals itself. Now that the “extra-ordinary” expression of the Roman Rite has been expanded… where are all the extreme traditionalists? They have no reason to remain outside of Communion. Ah, but perhaps the issue is not just the beauty of the the Latin Mass. The rift runs much deeper!

  10. – Reading the black isn’t enough! One ought to say it too! ;o) N’est pas?

    – Creativity in the liturgy? Hopefully you mean stunningly beautiful vestments, Brother! The Second Vatican Council gave us nothing new (if one reads the documents in concordance with previous church teaching), except a fresh (and in some respects ‘ecumenical’) recapitulation of previous Church teaching and practice. The constitution on the liturgy is magnificent, and it is so unfortunate that it has been abused, even by those in high places.

    – Unfortunately the extreme traditionalists don’t acknowledge Pope Benedict as Vicar of Christ (sedevacantists).
    However, the actually traditional are less interested in “smells and bells” (which exist in the N.O.M.) and this is no secret at all. Its not like they hide it or anything. Traditionalist societies like the SSPX and their advocates need our prayers, if not only for their good, if it be God’s will, also for the good of the rest of the Mystical Body of Christ.

    – Perhaps you could work on a few blog entries about your hero, Father Karl Rahner, and his theology and personal faith. Personally, I am intrigued by the man and would like to know more about him. The only work of his I’ve encountered was his Theological Dictionary, which was immensely formative for myself, but I hesitate to read anything else.

    pax

  11. No I didn’t mean that it’s equalivent, but the underlying theology IMO wouldn’t prohibit it either.

    The problem with the “progressive” clergy and laity I’m afraid is not longer with them (a dying breed) it’s with the equal and opposite traditional crowd. I don’t think the US bishops have any idea how much resentment has been built up over the years and it’s going to come out in intolerance to anything hinting of “progressive”.
    Those that have been “out in the wilderness” have tasted the “I’m more Catholic, then the Pope” mantra and they’ll need time to readjust if at all.
    I wrote about a similar issue here on Liturgical antiquarianism and those who never experienced Latin opine for it.
    http://quickbeamoffangorn.wordpress.com/2007/12/16/latin-liturgical-antiquarianism-vs-the-spirit-of-vatican-ii/

    It is difficult to balance btwn the two poles right now. At least I feel like it is, because I get flack in my local parish from both sides so I must be doing something right;>)

  12. quickbeam,

    The “progressive” or “creative” spirit is still very much alive, and has been perpetuated, regardless of whether or not those who were the original enthusiasts are returning to dust. That is because the spirit has already been crystallized and implicitly imparted to those who take part in modern worship. This idea that innovation and personality are the way of the future is being passed on to our priests, and this ought to put everyone on edge. Liturgy, if we are properly understanding it, should have VERY little to do with personality and innovation, which is a challenge considering the 1920’s innovation versus populum..

  13. “Liturgy, if we are properly understanding it, should have VERY little to do with personality and innovation, which is a challenge considering the 1920’s innovation versus populum..”

    Somehow I think St. Peter practice versus populum; but then having the Emperors secret police hunting him, he probably didn’t have much choice.

    Litrugy while an expression of the Faith, is a jurisdictional matter more so then a doctrinal one. So “innovation” isn’t bad,wrong or sinful as long as it’s done infrequently and over generational time frames, not 5 years and certainly not with poor theology.

    It’s been my experience in the south and visits back to Jersey that those desiring a creative spirit are less numerous and lack the fire their forerunners held.

    Its the youth, who have gone through seeing divorce of their parents, know nothing of a country without legal abortions, child abuse, etc. They have a burning desire for tradition for stablility.

  14. Some of the friars who were around in the “old” days tell of how many “mortal sins” you could fall into while “saying” mass if your hands were not in the right place, or you did something wrong. They were programmed not to display any personality, lest they sin. WOW! I don’t want to go back to that.

    By its very nature, the restored liturgy of Vatican II calls for a Presider who can express warmth and connection with the rest of the Assembly in a way that facilitates the worship of God.

    The key here is to be at the service of the liturgy… not at the service of the priest’s emotional needs or desires. You have to be well grounded in the tradition, you’ve got to know the liturgy well and have the fundamental “conservative” attitude of the liturgy (nothing to do with politics here). The Roman Rite, by its very nature, is conservative and simple.

    In the same spirit, the needs of some for emotional stability, should not choke the legitimate expression of warmth, creativity and humanity in the liturgy. A classic example of this for me was during World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto. We were waiting for the start of the Sunday Papal Mass. We had spent a horribly windy night and the rains started. We were drenched and cold.

    When the Pope finally arrived and began the liturgy (and the rain stopped when he arrived) and came to the Sprinkling Rite, he managed to break through his Parkinsonian “mask”, smiled, and said something to the effect: I think we can skip the sprinkling, since God seems to have taken care of it himself.

    It wasn’t anything dramatic. It wasn’t turning the liturgy up-side-down! The Holy Father was just being human and acknowledging the reality of the situation: we were cold, soaked and tired. He made human contact. It meant a lot to me.

    And then, that’s when it happened… The Glory to God started… and the clouds parted and the sun broke through. I was there, it happened.

    For me that’s what I mean by creativity. Using all the options and choices in the liturgy (not all at once), respecting the right of the faithful to experience the Roman Rite which gathers our human experience and places it in contact with our transcendent calling… union with the Trinity, and enjoying what you are doing, looking like you want to be there. I think joy is probably one of those things you can’t fake. People can tell if you mean what you are saying and if you are “into” it. I don’t care if you sway to the liberal or to the conservative. People respond to presiders who are credible.

  15. My uncle just passed away this past fall after 51 years as a priest. There were about 75 priests and the bishop there and it was the first time I ever witnessed a bishop being so humble with the live my uncle lead. I never heard him once complain about the rubrics of either mass.

    Having said that I don’t see the point in making the sign of the cross 33 times symbolic for the number of years Our Lord walked the earth. At the same time I don’t see why the kiss of peace is located where it is in the mass. WHy can I ignore my neighbour in the pew, until the host is concertrated and Our Lord is present, then I acknowldege the imgae of Christ in my neighbor. It’s always been backwards IMO.

    “They were programmed not to display any personality, lest they sin. WOW! I don’t want to go back to that.”

    St. John of the Cross often noted that we must be nothing so that God can become everything in us, or, St. John the Baptist, “I must decrease, so that He may increase.”

    “In the same spirit, the needs of some for emotional stability, should not choke the legitimate expression of warmth, creativity and humanity in the liturgy.”

    I agree with you ,but the balance I think is this: stripping ourselves of self, which the ancient ritual does, is a requirement for any authentic spirituality. I think if it’s approached correctly it can actually be a great relief for the priest. They don’t have to be glib, or like Johnny Carson (sorry Conan O’Brien for you ;>)up there and I have felt like some of the priests feel they need that as an ice breaker, but they don’t. That should happen at the church doors when you press the flesh;>)

    “By its very nature, the restored liturgy of Vatican II calls for a Presider who can express warmth and connection with the rest of the Assembly in a way that facilitates the worship of God.”

    Forgive me Father, can you show me where your drawing that in SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM ?
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html

    I think perhaps you meant Committee for Implementing the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Consilium)headed by Archbishop Annibale Bugnini? I don’t agree that Vat II & Consilium are joined at the hip (at least not any more).

    As I understand it, that which the council fathers wanted to get ride of was FORMALISM, which if I read your statement above about the old timers concern abou mortal sin. The idea behind having 4 different Eucharist prayers was behind this. However in practice I can say from my experience Eucharist prayer #III was say about 85% of the time. I’ve never hear #4, perhaps 10% for #II and 5% for the actually Roman Canon. Hence that which the fathers intended to avoid happened anyway. People move to the path of least resistance, habit form, soon things that were noval, become standarized.

    I submit out of obedience (not preference) to receive communion standing rather then kneeling. I submit out of obedience(without ear plugs) to Glory & Praise rather then Chant (which is mandated by Vat. II). I submit to altar girls out of obedience, yet any one who has raised boys knows they don’t want to do things that girls of their age do, hence there are few altar boys and some services none at all(yet this [altar boys], is by law required to be protected).

    IOW Father we all endure things we’d rather not if we had control over the liturgy. But it’s not ours. This isn’t an oh woe is me post however. This is simply something that I have to bear. If it didn’t crop up during the liturgy it won’t be an issue for m at all. But since it’s during worship it is difficult. Just because the laity is complying doesn’t mean their happy about it;>)

    I am in full agree with Vat II on active participation(which is mandated by Vat. II – #14).

    But note how the same document defines “active participation” 30. To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html

    “People respond to presiders who are credible.”

    Well said I agree. But don’t you want them to do so with joy as well and not out of obedience?

    And not to give you the impression that I’d pro traditional either. I think I’m a very small minority attempting to hold a middle ground.

    Change in the Mass started well before 1969. All the young guns in my parish who want to revert back to the 1962 missal, just give me a chuckle. They are shocked when I tell them that all the inovations that took place prior to Vat. II.

    1945 – “New” Latin (“Pius XII”) Psalter introduced
    1951 – Time of Easter Vigil changed
    1954 – venacular tongues introduced into Sacraments
    1956 – Traditional rubrics of Mass, Divine Office, and Holy Week changed
    1960 – Traditional rubrics of Mass and Divine Office changed again

    I am hoping for a balance to be struck and I think B16 is taking just the right tempo in doing so. I simply hope he has health long enough to do so.

  16. I appreciate your honesty and the passion & reason you bring to the issue. Your desire to stay grounded and in the “centre” is an inspiration.

    My experience of liturgy is very different. But I think in the end we are looking for same thing… to experience God.

    I think it might be good for me to offer another post on this topic we are talking about… how to find that middle ground and gather as many people as possible under the tent.

    Thanks again for the respect, the open-ness and intelligence that you are showing on this blog. You are welcome here!

  17. To answer why why it’s such a big deal to receive on the tongue… or why I would want to stop others from a legitimate expression of faith, I will say this. In my places of residence in towns in Ontario, it has been my experience that the the illicit and the irreverent is the rule, not the exception. The few extraordinary ministers of the eucharist I got to know over the years saw no problem living with their boyfriends or contracepting. One was civilly divorced and dating, and there were more than a few “student ministers” living the full “friends with benefits” dorm lifestyle. None felt any pressing need to acknowledge God’s commandments, confess their sins or ensure that the eucharist isn’t passed around like candy to anyone. Being a minister was “fun” and their “personal right,” not the difficult extraordinary arrangement it was intended to be.

    Well it’s my right as a Catholic not to line up for whatever they’re handing out up there, and its my right not to make a silly little “throne” which has no basis in liturgy or tradition. I’ve never received in the hand and never from one of these people, and, as is my right to the ordinary rubrics, I never will.

    I know I’m far from alone on this. Next time you’re at mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral take a look at the difference in communion line lengths, priests vs. extraordinary ministers of the eucharist. Three to one by my estimate. Quod erat demonstratum.

  18. Wow…I can respect your opinion and preference, not to receive in the hand. I can understand your concern about the lack of proper “screening” for ministers who are “public” in their flaunting of Church teaching. We need to be careful here because can get into some medievel heresies here if we start connecting the sacrament and the ministers’ worthiness. Been there, done that!

    And… I think you begin to cross the line of fair discourse when you make call the Church’s practice of receiving communion in the hand as “silly”.

    BUT, my greatest concern is that you would walk away from the gift of Christ in the Eucharist because he is being offered to you in the hands of a lay minister. Didn’t Christ come to us in the first place (incarnation) through a lay woman? Regardless of whose hand he is in, it is the Lord. Differences aside, you don’t turn your back on the Lord!

  19. Thanks for your response Fr. Rick. I could never turn away from our Lord- I receive the eucharist every Sunday on the tongue and from a priest.

    This is not a Donatist objection. I’m a convert and I was catechized to understand God’s relevation to us as meaning the teaching of the Church embodied in the pope when he acts in unison with all the bishops in a way which doesn’t contradict dogma and doctrine of sacred tradition. It’s an beautifully simple way to discern truth from error and heresy.

    Applied to today’s church, we Catholics also have to accept although the documents of Vatican II were a brilliant wind of renewal, along with them, came the modernists, dissidents, psychologists, marxists and assorted revolutionaries along with their funny ideas, slippery slope reasoning and new-agey customs which persist to this day.

    Extraordinary ministers and communion in the hand come from the same murky place as the “seamless garment” doctrine, sign of peace hand grabbing, applause during mass, and (I’m not kidding) kitty litter and twigs in the holy water fonts during Lent.

    If we really, really believe that the eucharist is the body of Christ, How can we support these two illicit innovations which open communion up to the wholesale abuses it now endures? I just look at the Latin Masses I’ve attended where maybe 60% of parishioners receive communion. That’s about right if we truly understand what we’re receiving and that we must approach without serious sin. When I go visiting my parents in London, Ontario, virtually 100% of the parishioners in their groovy circular RC church line up with their hand out for their “treat” from the four extraordinary ministers there. The Protestant “shared meal” is the agreed-upon image in that parish, and naturally no one few deems themselves unworthy of receiving. The whole point of praying the mass is missed and Eucharistic ministers and communion in the hand have contributed to this loss of the sacred. As a Catholic I just feel wrong supporting things which blur the distinction between sanctity and sin.

  20. Having a difference of opinion is one thing. Mocking the piety of fellow Catholics is another. Please be gentle with your brothers and sisters… and with yourself.
    Peace,
    Friar Rick

  21. Do we all not have OUR OWN job to do? I believe that the more we compromise the
    ‘Original Church’ the more we give it to the Enemy! Is God not Past, Present and
    Future? Jesus is here NOW just as He was and will ever Be! We have no right
    to change what God has given us, and I believe with immovable volition that
    Jesus wants us to take the Host from the Priest’s Hand (the one who Jesus sent
    to represent Himself), not our own.
    I’m sure we all agree that the priest represents our Lord in the flesh giving
    Himself to us in the Host. The reason that we do not take the Lord in our own
    hands is that we could drop a piece of the Holy Flesh or perhaps decide to
    keep it without consuming it (as those who work for the Enemy would!).
    Thus, there is far less a chance of defiling, disrespecting and
    continuing to “crucify” Jesus Christ if the priest (who represents the Lord) does
    the job of handling the Sacred Host. In Christ, Tracy Illes

  22. Well, ok, thanks for that. However, if you really want to get to the “original” way it was done, Jesus probably passed the bread along and each one broke some off to eat.

  23. If I could add my two cents to the big communion in the had debate….

    So let me understand this, we don’t receive communion on the tongue out of concern for public health? The possibility of spreading germs is one of the arguments put forth against this traditional pracitise of the Catholic chruch. However these very people who put forth their paws to receive our Lord will march forth to the next Eucaharistic minister to recieve our Lord under in the form of his precious blood from a communal cup? Perhaps I misundertand the transmission of germs.

    I would think their is an inconsistancy here. I some how feel that people the “progressive” types would like to sever any ties to the pre Vatican II church an latch onto the gimmcks and kitsch offered up by lay groups to be more inclusive and offer more and more ways of participating. It would seem the more and more participation individuals have at mass the less the focus becomes on the true reason to be at mass (the true presence). I’ve heard good priests say that they sometimes end up waiting for their que at mass to move on to the next part of the liturgy. If that is the case what about us poor uncatechised lay people. We end up going to play our role in the show, and not offer ourselves up in the sacrifice at Calvary.

  24. Hello Friar Riccioli,

    This is my first time commenting on your blog, so forgive me if I repeat something that has already been said and the length.

    Here are your comments that I found interesting: “Some of the friars who were around in the “old” days tell of how
    many “mortal sins” you could fall into while “saying” mass if your hands were not in the right place, or you did something wrong. They were programmed [trained I think is the term you meant to use] not to display any personality, lest they sin. WOW! I don’t want to go back to that. By its very nature, the restored liturgy [please clarify…restored from what century?] of Vatican II calls for a Presider who can express warmth and connection with the rest of the Assembly in a way that facilitates the worship of God.[please reference quote]”

    I read these comments and I thought to myself that there has to be something more to the “mortal sins while saying Mass” bit, because I know the Teaching Authority of the Church doesn’t make something a mortal sin willy nilly. A priest friend of mine clarified it for me. In the past – and I believe it still holds – that a priest is not allowed to change the rubrics or the words on purpose; this of course does not include mistakes that may occur in the course of saying Mass like missing a line of a prayer (excluding the words of Consecration, which must be said properly). That being said it’s a priest’s responsibility to be able to say Mass without ‘forgetting the routine’.

    If a Priest doesn’t like a particular wording, say for example ‘brethren’ and changes it to say ‘brothers and sisters’ that may fall under a mortal sin depending on why he did it. The priest could be saying that the Church is not inclusive to women and deciding for himself to rectify that. Changing or cutting out rubrics that are within the Mass…or even adding to it – for example an ‘introduction of yourself to your neighbour before Mass’ is not allowed. If he does this, that is a mortal sin. I’m pretty sure that a priest is still bound under pains of mortal sin to say his Mass daily and properly according to the rubrics of the Church, right? Which means it wasn’t just part of the “old” days.

    As for your personality comment, I gave Fr. R the example that I thought of when I read that likening it to him going up before Mass and doing a card trick. He added saying, “and for my next trick, let’s go over to the table.” As the Vatican II document on the Sacred Liturgy states, “The liturgy, then, is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ…From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body, which is the Church, is a scared action surpassing all others.” (Chapter 1, para. 7) This says to me that a priest’s personality does not belong on the sanctuary. If you are ‘in persona Christe” shouldn’t you put away your personality for those precious moments that you are Christ to the congregation? I know the personalities of all the priests in my parish, but I didn’t come to know ‘them’ through the Mass, but in their relations with me outside of the Mass.

    However, I humbly stand aside for Fr. Zuhlsdorf at http://wdtprs.com/blog/…with some humor about rubrics…

    “The official WDTPRS parodohymnologist, Tim Ferguson, has sent me this: A Holy Thursday Reflection on “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” by Lew Brown, Sam Stept and Charles Tobias. (Imagine Ray Eberle and the Modernaires singing this…)

    Don’t go washing those women’s feet; the Latin is plain to me:/ “selecti” should be “viri.” The rubrics are clear you see. No, no, no,/ Don’t go washing those women’s feet at Thursday night’s liturgy, / Thus says the Pope of Rome.

    Don’t go altering rubrics now, no matter who you may be, /
    Or where you got your degree in Scripture and Liturgy. No, no, no, / Don’t go altering rubrics now, this calls for humility:
    You’re not the Pope of Rome.

    I just got word that Ranjith has heard,
    ‘n put the Vicar in a jam,
    Seems some priest here, washing feet last year,
    Scrubbed a nylon-covered gam.
    So, don’t go washing those women’s feet at Thursday night’s liturgy,
    Or feel the wrath of Rome.”

    Pax

  25. I think you should consult an older priest. My sources tell me it wasn’t just the deliberate change of words in the liturgy. Even if you held your hands in the wrong position it was a mortal sin. Mortal; as in a complete rupture of your relationship with God. Give me a break!

    Yeap, we washed women’s feet this Holy Thursday, as we do every year, and we did it with the blessing of Holy Mother Church. So do we adapt some language of the mass when it is not inclusive. We do this in keeping with the Bishops’ instruction on appropriate inclusive language in the liturgy.

  26. Yes, indeed, there are many parishes washing the feet of women on Maundy Thursday but in all fairness, I think parishioners in attendence deserve to know that this activity is outside of the tradition of the Catholic Church. “Inclusive washing” is an example of the low-grade dissent in today’s Church hierarchy. Certain groups of people within national Bishop’s conferences seem to make a career out of subverting the the clear and consistent teaching of the Catholic Church as embodied in the Catechism and Magisterium.

    In this case, the opening shot began in 1986, when a particular US Bishop asked the Holy See if, in a particular case, he could also wash women’s feet “if he considered it pastorally necessary.” The reply from Rome was to affirm the traditional teaching and give permission for this particular case. From a strictly legal point of view, the permission had no value outside the diocese in question, but within months of this incident, the US Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy (BCL) of the US conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) put out a newsletter which included a “directive” about the washing of feet. To quote:

    ÒWhile this variation may differ from the rubric of the Sacramentary, which mentions only men (vir selecti), it may nevertheless be said that the intention to emphasize service along with charity in the celebration of the rite is an understandable way of accentuating the evangelical command of the Lord, “who came to serve and not to be served”, that all members of the church must serve one another in love.Ó (BCL Newsletter, February 1987, Volume XXIII)

    This text, couched in ambiguous terms does not claim any authority whatsoever (in spite of the USCCB aura of authority). It is diametrically opposed to Church teaching which, in the encyclical Paschale Solemnitas, forbids the washing of women’s feet on Maundy Thursday. To quote:

    “The washing of the feet of chosen men (viri in Latin) which, according to tradition, is performed on this day, represents the sevice and charity of Christ, who came “not to be served, but to serve” (Mt. 20:20). This tradition should be maintained, and it proper significance explained.”

    The rubrics of the 2002 Missale Romanum confirm the Paschale Solemnitas:

    “Depending on pastoral circumstances, the washing of feet follows the homily. The men (viri) who have been chosen are led by the ministers to chairs prepared in a suitable place. Then the priest (removing his chasuble if necessary) goes to each man. With the help of the ministers, he pours water over each one’s fee and dries them. No conference of bishops, individual bishop, or pastor has the authority to change this.”

    So there you have it, a brief history of this recent innovation. Interestingly, by restating that the washing of women’s feet “differs” from the rubric of the Sacramentary, the USCCB acknowledged the authority of the Vatican on the Sacramentary and then admitted to going against it! What’s quite amazing here is that the USCCB document inserts the implicit premise that a pastor or bishop has the authority to change or vary a specific rite at his own behest. Yet the proper authority for such a reinterpretation is the Holy See OR a two-thirds vote of an episcopal conference which must then be RATIFIED by the Holy See. A USCCB “newsletter” just doesn’t cut it. Therefore women’s foot washing (and anything else which comes from individual bishop or pastor but which differs from the Church teaching) should be questioned by the faithful.

    By mentioning all this am I rejecting Jesus’ inclusive love for all in favor of conservative legalism or Phariseeism? I don’t think so.
    The proper significance of the ritual surely depends upon fidelity to what has been received. It is certainly true that in Christ there is neither male nor female and that all of us are equal before the Lord. But it’s important to realize that this reality is not (according to Catholic rubrics) expressed in every rite, especially one that is so tied up to the concrete historical circumstances of the Last Supper.

    The washing of women’s feet, or the washing the feet of the entire congregation, or people washing each other’s feet (or hands), and the resulting greatly extended time required to perform it, tends to convert a meaningful rite into the focal point of community celebration. That shift detracts attention from the concrete context of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the principal motive of the celebration. Particularly in the context of the Holy Thursday liturgy, the ritual of washing the feet of men suggests the strong connection between Christ’s washing His Apostles feet and the institution of the Eucharist and Holy Orders. If the washing of feet were only symbolic of charity and service, why did Jesus not wash the feet of the sick, or the hungry, or the lepers, or His friends in the house of Lazarus, or at the feeding of the five thousand? The Lord might have have found other occasions to give a lesson in charity and service in the presence of all His disciples, both men and women. But He did not. Christ chose an occasion which was not open to all His followers, but only to those twelve men He had chosen and called as Apostles. We must conclude, then, that the ritual is intimately connected to the priesthood and the institution of the Eucharist. Its symbolism cannot be reduced to a general theme of service to the whole Church.

  27. At communion the altar boy used to stand beside the priest holding a paten. The reason for this was to keep Our Lord from falling to the ground, and I do not mean the Host in its entirety but any tiny little speck that that may become detached through handling. As catholics we believe that when the priest says the words of Consecration that is when we are blessed with the Holy Presence of Our Lord. Right? This means that He is present in each and every molecule of the Host.
    As a priest when you are finished offering Communion you rinse your fingers into the chalice, do you not, and finish by consuming the last traces of His Body and Blood. How many of the people who have just received Communion in the hand do you see doing this. NONE! I see in this a lack of respect for the sacredness of Our Lord. I understand That it is not a sin to receive in the hand, but I certainly agree with some of the former posts that this could very well lead to some major problems for the church. As for me when I am able, being out of the state of sin, I will continue to receive on the tongue.

    As an aside and talking about Vatican II, which I am too young to remember, I understand it that no where does it say that the priest has the authority to say Mass facing the congregation. Any thoughts?
    ______________________________________________

    (From an interview of Bishops Bruskewitz and Corrada by Brian Mershon, 1 February 2006 – http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/mershon/060201 )

    Q. There was nothing in any document from the Second Vatican Council or after it authorizing the priest to offer Holy Mass versus populum (toward the people). But there are but a handful of places in the entire U.S. where Mass is offered regularly facing God in the Novus Ordo liturgy. This is simply amazing. What is your reaction to this?

    Bishop Bruskewitz: It causes at least to some extent, a distorted liturgical view. The coram populo altars….[In Rome], they had both kinds. I was ordained a priest in Rome in 1960. The catacombs, some went this way and some went another way, and it made no difference. The major point is that they were oriented toward the East.

    Facing coram Deo, before God, if you face that way, you have the correct impression — that the priest is standing in the person of Christ mediating between God and the congregation — exchanging words and gifts with God on behalf of the congregation. That is a clear thing. The temptation when the Mass is coram populo is that one thinks the personality of the priest has to come through or that somehow or another, a priest is talking to the people when he’s addressing God. It’s exacerbated because you have some of the prayers to God and then you are talking to the people: “Let us offer each other the sign of peace.”

    The people get the impression the priest is somehow entertaining them or addressing them, which is a misunderstanding of what is going on.

    So I think there are a lot of difficulties in that regard. That is one good example, and with Msgr. Gamber, I think that stuck in his craw pretty high. And I can’t disagree with him that it would have been better had there have been a more gradual evolution. There has not been a historical liturgical development — the sudden eucalyptus from Mt. Olympus that changes the whole element.

    On the other hand, we have to live with where we are now. You can’t cut down the oak tree to get back to the acorn. And so I think that is the major pastoral problem confronting the hierarchy of the Church — how to take what we currently have, and where do we go from here?

  28. Pingback: Friar Rick’s Weblog

  29. After seeing crumbs of Jesus on my hands after receiving communion one day, I decided to change over to receiving on the tounge. I realized that if I truly believe that the bread is Christ’s body, then I should be doing whatever I can to keep this most Sacred gift from falling to the ground and being trampled upon. Receiving on the tounge may not completely eliminate this problem–crumbs from the Sacred Host may still still fall to the ground as the priest is lifting the host into the communicant’s mouth–but it if more people received on the tounge, I would expect that much more of Christ’s body would end up where it should be then fall to where it shouldn’t. This, by the way, is also why priests should use pattens.

  30. I should also note that although you’ll find most parishes distribute the standard white round “non-crumbly” hosts, they are not crumble free!

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