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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Deepen Your Love for the Eucharist

The letter below was published last Sunday on the Feast of Corpus Christi in the bulletin for St. Ann's Catholic Church in Charlotte, N.C. by its pastor, Fr. Timothy Reid. I was thrilled to read it, especially since my own pastor preached the same message on the feast day. More and more priests are urging greater respect for the Eucharist and asking their parishionsers to return to the venerable practice of receiving on the tongue. It is a humble act reminding of our dependence on the God who feeds us with His own Body and Blood.

The Real Presence is the center of our faith and as more Catholics devote themselves to the person of Jesus in the Eucharist we will see a spiritual renewal in our parishes, our families, and our world. God bless Fr. Reid, my pastor Fr. Ettner, and Fr. Robert Lange who recently wrote a beautiful article on this subject. Thank you, dear fathers, for your love for the Holy Eucharist. May Jesus Christ be praised now and forever.

Dear Parishioners,

This weekend Holy Mother Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, a feast instituted in the late 13th century to commemorate our Lord’s institution of the Eucharist, which is the “source and summit of the Christian life” (Catechism #1324). As such, this is a day in which we are called to give rightful honor to our Lord’s true presence in the Blessed Sacrament. It’s also a good day for us to consider our own particular relationship with the Eucharist, most especially how reverent we are in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and particularly our reverence in receiving Holy Communion.

To this end, I’d like to invite you to deepen your own love for our Eucharistic Lord by prayerfully considering receiving Holy Communion on the tongue. I have several reasons for this. While Roman Catholics in the U.S. and most other countries have been given an indult (an ecclesial permission for a particular situation) to receive Holy Communion in the hand, the universal norm for the reception of Holy Communion is on the tongue. In fact, as a means of fostering greater devotion to the Eucharist, the Holy Father now requires that those who receive Holy Communion from him do so kneeling and on the tongue.

No doubt many of our older parishioners will remember before the 2nd Vatican Council when everyone received Holy Communion on the tongue and kneeling. Contrary to popular belief, Vatican II did not call for a change in this practice. Sadly, Communion in the hand came about through the disobedience of many priests and bishops. Observing that in some places Communion in the hand was being introduced (in disobedience to the universal laws of the Church), Pope Paul VI sent out a questionnaire in 1968 to the bishops of the world asking whether there should be a change in the Church’s practice of distributing Holy Communion. The vast majority of bishops voted against a change in practice (cf. Memoriale Domini). Undaunted, some dioceses petitioned the Holy See to officially permit Communion in the hand, and it was in 1973 that the Church granted this wider permission (cf. Immensae Caritatis).

While Communion in the hand is permitted, the Church’s experience the past 40 years has shown that it may not be the most prudent practice. When I was parochial vicar at St. Matthew, we regularly found consecrated hosts in the pew racks or even stuck to the bottom side of the pews. Sadly, there has been one time in my tenure here at St. Ann that I found a consecrated Host in a pew rack. My dear friends: this is a terrible sacrilege! I have also had the terrible experience of having to “chase” communicants who received in the hand but did not consume the Host. The Eucharist is our Lord’s greatest gift to us because it is our Lord Himself! To treat Him with such casual disregard is truly an outrage and a scandal. However, reception on the tongue helps to eliminate the possibility of desecration.

Furthermore, please keep in mind that there is always the danger that particles from the Host may remain in the hand when one receives that way. And even though they are small, the Council of Trent infallibly taught that our Lord is truly present even in the particles as well. This is why priests go to such lengths (through the use of corporals, purificators, and the purification of his hands after Communion) to catch any particles from the consecrated Hosts. If you ever find particles in your hands after receiving Holy Communion, you should consume them immediately.

In addition to giving prayerful consideration to how you receive our Lord in Holy Communion, I also encourage you to be mindful of our Lord’s presence whenever you are in the church. Making sure to genuflect whenever you pass before the tabernacle, maintaining a prayerful silence in the church, dressing modestly, and silencing cell phones are practices that we would all do well to follow – not simply out of  respect for our Lord, but for the benefit of our fellow parishioners as well.

Prayerfully yours,
Fr. Reid

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