4 April 2014

'Limited' Communion and Coronations

In the English Coronation Service, which happens, of course, in the context of a Solemn Pontifical Mass, only the Celebrant, Sacred Ministers, the Sovereign, and the Sovereign's Spouse receive Holy Communion. I wonder if this piece of Anglican Patrimony could be a useful contribution to the solution of a problem in the Latin Church.

Not that many Catholic parishes have a weekly coronation. What I have in mind is the difficulty often raised by Nuptial Masses at which there is a general, or open, Communion. We all know that this is problem. It's not just a question that crops up with regard to mixed marriages or in post-Christian England. Even where Catholicism is still the cultural 'fall-back' religion of a society, as in Ireland, there must be an increasing problem of people who are lapsed making an act of Communion when not in a state of grace. Of course, it is not for us to judge the state of another man's soul; but clergy do have a pastoral duty not wantonly to create situations in which it may prudently be foreseen that people might eat and drink "not discerning the Lord's Body".

Frankly, I see very little problem about confining Holy Communion at a Nuptial Mass to the Happy Couple. There is already a social convention that they are, on this day, a very special couple, Monarchs, as it were, for a day (even if we Latins do not, as the Byzantines so happily do, crown them). It could very easily become accepted as part of their special and privileged status that only they received Holy Communion. It would obviate all the unease we naturally feel about the apparent discourtesy of 'excluding' from a general Communion those who are not of the household of Faith; indeed, may not be even nominal believers.

I shall delete all cracks about confining Communion at Funeral Masses to the Deceased. But I do wonder about the modern conventional wisdom that Masses without a general Communion are ipso facto and always improper. In a curious sort of way, our age which prides itself sometimes on flexibility is often fairly rigidly uniform and doctrinaire. When I was an undergraduate in the early 1960s, the Pusey House Sunday High Mass was non-communicating; College Chaplains were sensitive about PH filching communicants from the 'primary worshipping community' of the College Chapel. PH claimed simply to 'supplement' and not to replace College chapels. And at nearby S Mary Mags, the High Mass was non-communicating and Communion was given from the Tabernacle ten minutes before Mass began.

Indeed, I have Magisterial authority for the suggestion I am making. Benedict XIV, in the Letter Certiores effecti, after defending the right of the laity to receive Communion within the Mass, went on to lay down that unseasonable demands for this right of receiving Communion within Mass should not be allowed to cause perturbatio, giving rise to confusio et scandalum. (Learned pontiff that he was, he went on to point out that the opportunities for reception of Communion during Mass were much greater 'now' than in the times when when only one Mass had been celebrated in each church, and when the laity had been obliged only to receive the Eucharist from their own proper pastors!)

I think that 'limited Communion' should be regarded as a valid option when a particular pastoral good suggests it. I am not advocating it as a norm!


Doodler said...

At Cambridge in the early 60s it was 8.00am in the College Chapel and then 11.00 am non-communicating High Mass at Little Saint Mary's.

Steve Cavanaugh said...

May your suggestion be followed by many. Several years ago I sang at a wedding. The mother of the bride was a good friend who had invited me to sing, and the groom was the brother of a long-time friend. The groom and family, alas, were Christadelphians, and so were not even baptized. The groom and best man did their best to refrain from communion, but the priest, feeling everyone "must" receive communion, more or less forced them to receive despite their demurring. Of course, in the case of a mixed marriage, I would think that the marriage rite should not be within Mass, but a stand-alone ceremony, which would also prevent a situation like the above.

Chris Jones said...

'limited Communion' should be regarded as a valid option

I agree; and I do not see why this should be in any way controversial. Any of the faithful who are properly disposed and prepared have ample opportunity to make their communion at Sunday Mass, and thus have no pressing need to do so also at the Nuptial Mass. Anyone else -- those not prepared, or not of the household of faith at all -- should not be communing in the first place.

At the same time, I cannot agree with this:

it is not for us to judge the state of another man's soul

That sounds like a fine and a humble sentiment, but the fact is that the priest is the steward of the mysteries and therefore the guardian of the Chalice. It is precisely his duty to judge the state of the soul at least to the extent of recognizing when a person is manifestly not properly prepared to commune, and excluding that person.

I sometimes wonder whether the unease we naturally feel about the apparent discourtesy of [closed communion] -- and the feelings of deprivation or even of resentment on the part of those who are excluded -- are not perhaps useful for teaching the Faith. If someone feels bad because they are being "excluded" from Holy Communion, might he not ask himself why he should want that bread and wine? What makes it desirable, and what must I do to be able to have it? I cannot help but wonder whether such feelings might sometimes provide an opening for the Church's proclamation of the Gospel.

Eques said...

I fear Fr., that you would have the present code of canon law against you:


Can. 912 Any baptised person who is not forbidden by law may and must be admitted to holy communion.

Can. 917 One who has received the blessed Eucharist may receive it again on the same day only within a eucharistic celebration in which that person participates, without prejudice to the provision of can. 921 §2.

Can. 923 Christ’s faithful may participate in the eucharistic Sacrifice and receive holy communion in any catholic rite, without prejudice to the provisions of can. 844.

Also there is this interesting note in Fortescue:
any Catholic has normally a right to present himself
for Communion at any Mass, on condition that he is in a
state of grace and fasting from midnight.

Pastor in Valle said...

I suppose it depends what you mean as a 'norm'. If you mean a regulation that should be always observed, it is one thing. If you mean that it is what usually happens, it is another. I think we suffer here from what the laudable desire of St Pius X, building on centuries of encouragement from the saints, was aiming at: frequent Communion. The trouble is that we have gained what he wished for. If Communion were not frequent, then we would not have the copious sacrilegious communions that we see Sunday by Sunday. Nobody would feel out of place by not advancing at Communion time. But now people feel that they have not been to Mass unless they have been to Communion. This is a real problem; a few years ago, when non-Catholics were proposing to come to a Mass 'to see what we do', and expressing the usual 'hurt' that they were 'excluded' from 'participation', I suggested that nobody but the celebrant and ministers would communicate. I was shot down by everyone. What seemed to me a perfectly sensible solution was seen as utterly beyond the pale. And yet, it is within living memory (just) that Communion was almost never received at Mass: at Westminster Cathedral in 1910 Communion was received between Masses in the Blessed Sacrament chapel.

Francis Arabin said...

Anyway, isn't it a commandment of the Church that the Faithful should receive communion at least at Easter? Doesn't tell us something about the special character of the Easter Communion? And the obligation to keep Sundays and high Feast days does not necessarily imply reception of communion - only that to hear Mass. Frequent communion should have meant communion at Feasts/Solemnities with due preparation

Mike Hurcum said...

I am 3hearts@telus.net, my name is mike hurcum and I have just read a later comment and I feel there is not a firm understanding of canon law 912. Forbidden by law if we are not in a state of grace. As this is an English Blog the Penny catechism from 1869 onwards states in the 6 commandments of the Church must confess our sins at least once a year at Easter or thereabouts , but especially at once if we have committed a Mortal Sin. After all for me the problem with Canon Law is written by men and is sometimes very Idiot-syncretical. just me after being told by another Vicar general friend there is no need for relics on the altar as canon law does not say there should be.

Mike Hurcum said...

Fr...I was an altar boy at St Nicholas of Tolentine in Bristol from 1947 to about 1953. The parish Priest was Canon Percival William Hayes, the Vicar general of the Diocese. On Sundays at the High Mass which to my delighted memory we always finished with a rendition of the Te Deum. We literally rattled the roof. What was astounding was he never gave to communion to antone other than the fr Deacon that helped him. He was Fr Macarthy, both strong Irish men. One day being a nosey youngster I asked him on the way to the Eastville workhouse to be his altar boy for the infirm. He told me, "Michael, I am as Irish as most of those who come to the 11o'clock mass and I am very aware most of those come late and go early they have been drinking and carousing with unsuitable women. I cannot give them communion". I can tell you Fr H I never heard a complaint against this habit of his. He did say I take communion for all those sinners.
Before any of you who were there he did die before I left the parish and sang in the choir at the local Jesuit parish

Ori Pierz said...

Could I mention something tangential to your main point, raised by one of the comments? You suggest that the priest is 'guardian of the chalice'. At my CofE seminary we were drilled that 'the deacon is guardian of the chalice.' Do you have a view on this, I wonder?