3 October 2019

'Limited' Communion and Coronations

In the English Coronation Service, which happens, of course, in the context of an Anglican 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 social 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!


Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

This is eminently sensible. I was speaking about this very matter with an FSSP priest (not in England) and he restricts communion both at weddings and funerals when it seem prudent. The feedback from the faithful proves that this is a very pastoral act. The happy couple do not wish to see their day spoiled by witnessing non-believing cousins and friends making sacrilegious communions under social pressure to “go up”, and the same goes for the widow and close family of the deceased. If you are burying a faithful soul who believed what the Church believes, what would you want his funeral to be an occasion of sacrilege? Parish priests should consider carefully what is truly pastoral. Often this is not the same as the sentimentally kind.

Pete said...

At the funeral of Canon Head, vicar of Headington Quarry for over 40 years, Bishop Harries celebrated and only the family were communicated. This was in '92.

Thiago Santos de Moraes said...

In my archdiocese, Olinda and Recife (Brazil), at nuptial masses, whether in the rite of Paul VI, or in the traditional roman rite, it is common that only the spouses and the priest take the communion.

Unknown said...

Let it be known far and wide, that I (nobody), fully, completely and indeed, rabidly... endorse this suggestion especially if it's enhanced by confession being made available before Mass.

Not too long ago, perhaps 7 years, I was at a funeral Mass (the young Catholic, church going wife and mother of two, friend of my daughter, was murdered by her husband who then took his own life. The little ones found them lying there when they were awoken by the noise.) It was attended by friends and family, most of whom I did not know. But you can tell a lot about people in the way they comport themselves. Appearances do tell. Especially about their Catholicism, by their prayer, their relationship to the place, the setting they have found themselves in. It's especially true when they're carrying their large iced latte into Holy Mass, a necessary aid when rolling into Saturday morning Mass after a night out...
At any rate, it was a N.O. 'mass', so the priest and deacon had a full and constant view of the parishioners. I can happily say I witnessed at least one practicing Catholic in attendance, minimally by her dress and confident responses. However, were I a betting man, I would lay odds that she was one of only two present, aside from the departed (may she rest in peace).
When the Priest offered communion, all but three individuals remained seated, because, it seemed, not a one of them had the slightest clue as to what was happening, much less to understand what was being offered, or more to the point, Who.
But that didn't prevent the [show must go on and I'm here to help!] Deacon, ever at the ready, from smiling, raising his arms, and with a series of waving gestures [reminiscent of Seinfeld's Newman calling over a waitress for a second helping of pancakes and syrup), inviting the 'innocent flock' up to receive our Lord. Because 'everybody eats at my house'*.

*hat tip to Cab Calloway
Lord Have Mercy.

stebert said...

I believe the practice of the Good Friday Mass of the Presanctified prior to the Holy Week reforms in 1954 in the Latin Rite (MR), a single host was reserved for the priest celebrant of the Good Friday liturgy, placed in the chalice (which was topped differently, including paten upside down, and veil tied around the stem of the chalice as I recall), and then processed to the altar of repose. Ergo, only the priest would receive Communion on that day.

The addition of communion to the faithful after 1954 required alteration of some smaller repositories used for that purpose to accommodate larger ciboria.

A similar happening at a funeral (not of the deceased, but a restriction among the laity to communion only for a surviving, practicing spouse) seems warranted on the same grounds. For a deceased priest, communion of all the faithful could be permitted on essentially the same grounds (assuming celibacy remains the norm for Latin clergy). In the general case, the family and friends could be encouraged in a caring and empathetic way to offer their own next Holy Communions in their home parishes for the decedent.

One also notes that the last regal coronation in the UK was in 1953, no? Perhaps the custom of limited communion will be changed in the light of changed practices in the Catholic church.

Fr Edward said...

To my surprise I find myself greatly relieved that more couples request a Marriage Service than a Nuptial Mass.
Certainly most couples I see are relieved that they don't have to marry in the context of a Mass.
Granny might like it, but often thats about it (including the vicar).

Perhaps a solution could be to have the marriage service just before Mass begins.
For those who want it, Mass will continue, and for those who don't everything is done and dusted.

Now then, where's that Sacristy Manual?