Well, we all know what happened in the twentieth century. Divorce got its toe in the door ... and within decades the door was wide open. Unnatural and disordered sexual practices corrupted Marriage. Fornication gradually ceased to be furtive and, after being 'Free love' in the 1930s, had by the end of the century become the natural assumption of Western societies. Homosexuals ... no; some homosexuals ... ceased to enjoy inhabiting an amusing subculture and became aggressive public ideologues. The mortal sin of missing Mass without good cause ceased to be a matter of guilt. You know all this, and much more.
My analysis, and suggestion, is this. Society has in effect regressed to the superficially christianised state it was in during the 'Dark Ages'. We are, in other words, in a new Dark Age of widespread unrepented mortal sin. In fact, ours is an even darker age, because people do not even accept that they are in a state of sin, and do not repent, not even once a year. Nor, probably, even when they die.
Unhappily, however, we have inherited the ecclesial sacramental culture, to which the reforms of S Pius X have led, in which it appears that a General Communion is the normal custom at every Mass. It is not commonly preceded by Confession; that sacrament has become so uncommon that, at the beginning of the Year of Faith, I heard (yes, I heard this with my own ears) one priest in a mainstream church, say this to his congregation: "I have decided to use the Year of Faith to revive confession. As you all know, in this church we have for long used the Confessional for storing what gets left unsold after a Parish bring and buy sale. It's pretty full, and we need to get rid of all the stuff so as to use the Confessional for confessions again. There are a lot of books ... I invite everyone to come and help themselves to any thing at all they can take away and use; and then we'll have a Work Party to clean it out."
So people who have not been to their duties for years receive Communion when, at family events, they have the rare experience of being at a celebration of Mass. People who have committed sexual sins for which they feel no repentance, which they have no intention to strive to avoid in future, naturally troop up to the Altar and receive Communion. As a product myself of Anglican culture, I am still horrified by the widespread Catholic custom of receiving communion into the hand and then walking nonchalantly away putting the Host into ones mouth as one walks.
The way ahead? Getting rid of the assumption that everybody always receves Communion. And a good start here would be the rooting out of an organised, military, Communion Procession in which a person actually has to make herself obvious if she declines to troop up to the altar.
Yes; only a first step; but some step has to be the first.
Your reflection on this is so true. At an SSPX Mass several people do not receive. In the Ordinary Form I have very often been the only one in the packed church who is not in a state of grace. It is very rare to see anyone who is not in a state of grace apart from myself.
Dear Father. Amen, a million times Amen.
Who has Jesus chosen to set right the wrongs you have faithfully identified?
The Abbe Gaume, "The Catechism of Perseverance reminds us of what we already know:
The forty days which our Lord should remain on earth after his resurrection, drew to an end. The Divine Master had instructed his apostles in the mysteries of the kingdom of God. He had given them the under standing of the Scriptures. The admirable economy of man’s Redemption, the object for which the Incarnate Word was born into the world, lived, died, and rose again; the necessity for all men to unite themselves to Him by faith, hope, and charity ; the end of this union in time being the imitation of his life, and in eternity the participation of his glory; the only cause which can sever this holy union and render Christ unprofitable to us, is sin; all these matters were henceforward known to the apostles, who were charged with instructing the whole world regarding them.
Was there anything else still to be done by the New Adam? Yes; to secure the preservation and provide for the propagation of his Divine work, in order that all men coming into the world might gather its fruits. He would not himself impart instruction, personally, much longer; his earthly mission was fulfilled; He was about to ascend to the right hand of his Father. How would He perpetuate the benefit of redemption, and render it accessible to all persons, even to the consummation of time ?
He substitutes another for Himself; He selects a vicar on whom He will confer the plenitude of power which He has received from his Father, and to whom He will confide the care of perpetuating and extending the great work which He Himself has come to begin. Never will man be elevated to a higher dignity; never will a more formidable responsibility be laid upon the shoulders of a mortal.
Who will be this viceroy of the Son of God? 0 abyss of mercy and wisdom! Even he, who, but a few days ago, thrice denied his Master at the voice of a servant. All that is most weak is chosen for the work that is all important! A reed to support the world! A great sinner to be the teacher of faith, and the father of Christians! In a word, the vicar of the New Adam will be the apostle St. Peter.
How sublime and affecting are the circumstances of his consecration !
When a king wishes to confide some important charge to one of his subjects, he looks for a guarantee or security; so does Jesus Christ. This Divine Shepherd, who came to shed his blood for the salvation of his sheep, is on the point of quitting them. Before confiding to St. Peter so precious a flock, He required some guarantee or security. But what can He expect from a poor, illiterate fisherman, without any other fortune than a boat and its nets?
The greatest and safest pledge that man can give, namely, love ; but a love carried even to heroism, a love ready to sacrifice itself for the service of its Master and the interests of its charge.
Such is the meaning of these admirable words, so earnestly repeated :Simon, son of John, love thou me more than these? It is only after having obtained the assurance of this love, proof against every trial, that the Divine'Shepherd says to him: Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.‘ Everything that breathes of paternal devotedness in authority, everything that breathes of filial gentleness in submission, consequently everything that is indestructible in the social bonds, is contained in this model consecration of the chief of all superiors; a consecration unique in the annals of the world, and displaying in itself alone more social philosophy than all the books that were ever written. Absolute power to govern the Church, the right of confirming his brethren, the primacy of honour and of jurisdiction, infallibility as supreme teacher in faith and morals; such are the prerogatives of Peter, ever living in his successors.
The easiest solution, and the best, would be to restore fasting Communion. If a person has fasted since midnight they may present themselves for Communion.
I’m 60 years old and grew up in the Philippines. I attended a Catholic girls school all my life. I had always been taught that one could never receive Communion without first going to Confession. I left the Catholic Church at age 18 after I moved to America. I came back to the Church in 2017, after 40 years away. So I missed almost all of the innovations of Vatican II. However, like a well-catechized old school Catholic, I never lost the abhorrence for Communion without Confession. So after I came back to the Church and began going to confession every two weeks, I was shocked to see no one going to confession at the Novus Ordo church I attend in spring an autumn in a country where I have a holiday home. The worst thing is that they all go to Confession, all at the same time, during Lent, which means I have to show up at the church at least an hour ahead of time if I want to be first in the queue and still have time to say the Rosary before Mass. The parishioners seem to be saving up all their sins until Ash Wednesday when they decide to go to Confession. At first I thought that the parish was filled with saints (as they never went to confession), but now I know better. Why don’t the priests tell people they don’t need to save up all their sins till Lent? Don’t they know that if they die in a state of mortal sin between Easter and the next Ash Wednesday that they will go to hell? Saving up their sins doesn’t earn interest, unlike money in a bank (at least before the central banks lowered interest rates to zero).
By contrast, in Singapore, where I go to the EF mass, the queues for confession are long . . . Every Sunday.
Padre...thought you might enjoy these articles regarding the trajectory (downhill) of fasting practices in western Europe over the centuries. You don't specifically link fasting with Confession and Communion in this post, but it does seem to be part of your theme and emphasis in returning, body and soul, to a state of grace before receiving the Eucharist.
here's the link!
Pope Benedict says much the same.
50. The distribution and reception of the Eucharist
In this regard, I would like to call attention to a pastoral problem frequently encountered nowadays. I am referring to the fact that on certain occasions – for example, wedding Masses, funerals and the like – in addition to practising Catholics there may be others present who have long since ceased to attend Mass or are living in a situation which does not permit them to receive the sacraments. At other times members of other Christian confessions and even other religions may be present. Similar situations can occur in churches that are frequently visited, especially in tourist areas. In these cases, there is a need to find a brief and clear way to remind those present of the meaning of sacramental communion and the conditions required for its reception. Wherever circumstances make it impossible to ensure that the meaning of the Eucharist is duly appreciated, the appropriateness of replacing the celebration of the Mass with a celebration of the word of God should be considered.
From American history, this piece from the minister of the church that our indispensable First President attended:
"...as the Pastor of the Episcopal Church...observing that on Sacrament Sundays, Gen'l Washington, immediately after the Desk and Pulpit services, went out with the greater part of the congregation, always leaving Mrs. Washington with the communicants, she invariably being one, I considered it my duty, in a sermon on Public Worship, to state the unhappy tendency of example, particularly of those in elevated stations, who invariably turned their backs upon the celebration of the Lord's Supper. I acknowledge the remark was intended for the President, and, as such, he received it.
A few days after, in conversation with, I believe, a Senator of the U. S., he told me he had dined the day before with the President, who, in the course of conversation at the table, said, that on the preceding Sunday, he had received a very just reproof from the pulpit, for always leaving the church before the administration of the Sacrament; that he honored the preacher for his integrity and candour; that he had never considered the influence of his example; that he would never again give cause for the repetition of the reproof; and that, as he had never been a communicant, were he to become one then, it would be imputed to an ostentatious display of religious zeal arising altogether from his elevated station.
Accordingly, tho' at other times, a constant attendant in the morning, he afterwards never came on the morning of Sacrament Sunday."
My dear Father Hunwicke:
I am entirely in agreement with your insistence that something must be done, steps must be taken, to end the thoughtless, somewhat automatic and routine, and quote often sacrilegious reception of the Most Blessed Sacrament. I also agree that ending the regimented Communion "procession" would be one good place to start. But, let it be a quick step on to the next by ending reception of the MBS in the hand. I am aware of how it was (or is) practiced among certain Anglo-catholic Anglicans and I would agree that it is better than what is most commonly practiced now. However, I would also urge with Paul VI that reception kneeling and on the tough is both the most proper posture and most efficacious means for inculcating the dispositions necessary for a fruitful and pious reception.
On the history of the frequency of the reception of Holy Communion in the Church, I commend to your reading the concise but comprehensive treatment given to that topic by the late Bishop Juan Rodolfo Laise in his book, Holy Communion, 115-195, recently republished by PCP.
A Canadian priest,now sadly departed, told me that we had a duty to have the Apostolate Of Not Going To Communion - every so often we should abstain from Sacramental Communion to encourage and help those who "couldn't" receive. If these people saw a few others not receiving they would not feel so guilty,isolated and on their own.
If you want to see how casual Holy Communion can be just go to a Catholic School Mass. When I see those children I cannot help thinking of my anglican days and my family and friends and with what care did they communicate; none of them were High but they had reverence. I often am tempted to think why did I become a Catholic ?
Your teachers, I am sorry to say, were not quite correct. The authentic tradition of the Church ( see for example St Thomas's Summa Theologiae if the Decrees of the Council of Trent) is that one should not receive Holy Communion with unconfessed mortal (repeat, mortal) sins on one's conscience. Venial sin, as Aquinas and Trent tell us, is no impediment: prayer, acts of charity and non-sacramental penitence, as well as the penitential rite of the Mass, suffice to remove it. In short, if you are not in a state of mortal sin, you do not need to confess every time you receive Communion.
The problem now is that we have lurched to the opposite extreme and become too insensitive to sin.
What I said above, by the way, is not an encouragement to become complacent about venial sin. Small faults left uncorrected can lead us into big ones.
Thanks for this. I can't help notice Covid has put a stop to some of these practices. No more "Extraordinary Ministers" of Holy communion dressed in shorts and slogan t-shirt, no more giving out of the chalice with the Precious Blood; no more processional, therefore no more altar servers which means no altar girls. No more liturgical dancing, at least not yet. On the negative side, the suffering good priests look like something from the Star Wars cantina, what with their robes, face shields, and masks. Of course Communion on the tongue is forbidden here. Speaking of Catholic school Masses -- at my local parish they were simply halted. The school kids watch Mass in turn on video in different rooms. So, the way those children behaved has also been put a stop to. It's all very curious.
I concur with what Shaun says. The hardest thing about my transition in 1999 from an Anglo Catholic Episcopal Church to the Catholic Church was going from receiving reverently on the tongue at an altar rail to the "supermarket checkout line" at the typical Catholic church where as Fr. Z would say "we get the white thing and then we sing a song".
I remember my parents watching part of a Mass televised from an Irish Cathedral; they were amazed and horrified to see Lay people distributing Holy Communion to the standing communicants. They thought it was very much like the Presbyterian forms, where the (non-clerical) Elders of the Kirk Session gave communion and not at all like the restrained but mildly glorious liturgical decency of Armagh Cathedral's Choral Eucharist - according to the Irish edition of the Book of Common Prayer.
I was taught never to receive Communion if one was not correctly disposed (ie, not torqued off at my siblings or parents, not inattentive and lost in worldly thoughts, not believing, not filled with self-righteousness, etc.) as well as if one had committed a mortal sin or had not fasted.
Of course, if you could pull yourself together, forgive your siblings, and fix one's attitude before Communion, then one could receive. This wasn't enforced, because obviously my parents couldn't know our hearts for sure (although they could remove one from church altogether, in disgrace). But I always knew about it.
This form of devotion is denigrated, nowadays, as somehow being ungrateful and insulting to Jesus. Bah.
Anyway, the point was that tons of people might not be receiving, for whatever reason, and it wasn't a big deal. A lot of people now feel peer pressure, or are even forced to get up by ushers; and that has at least been pushed back by the Coof.
I have noticed that at the Latin Mass, people start going up to kneel down long before it is time to recieve. I have done this myself, when it seemed to me that my concentration was well enough focused, and that I should go up straight away, and keep myself in a prayerful state until the priest would come to me. At other times, I have seen people ardently praying, approach the altar at what seemed the last possible moment, apparently because they were finally at the height of their mental preperation. I have also noticed how many people do not recieve at all, because there is no physical or social pressure to do so. This remains true no matter where they are seated, from the front pew, to the back wall, or that hidden spot in the transept.
At the Novus Ordo, it seems that we behave like people going up to get a box lunch, or some other item of no spiritual significance. Thet go by row. They go whether they have been to confession or not. They go, sticking out their hands, and standing, without reverence or sign of belief. If I, standing in the vestibule, attempt to go up in the begining, the usher will attempt to bar my approach, although without success. Nobody stays to make their thanksgiving after mass.
In my parish, a new piece of foolery has entered the 5 o'clock mass, that last refuge of the long suffering, who prefer to go to the last possible mass on Sunday, so as to avoid the trimmings of the novus ordo. The fat, neurotic priest, who was with us briefly a few years ago, used to chide us as bad Catholics. What he failed to understand, is that the "Five" is and was well attended by the regular attendees at Nocturnal Adoration, the morning Rosary, and the various novenas. Not the lukewarm. I will have already been to mass in Latin earlier in the day, but go again to remain active in the parish. We simply want to avoid the hand holding, the guitars, the women giving out communion, the crazy preaching, the horrible "children's" hymns" that sort of thing. But, I digress. The new tomfoolery is Holy Communion being brought back to the entrance of the church, and each person being accosted to recieve. Perhaps the fact that the people being accosted never made any attempt to approach should have been a sort of clue. Yet they do it anyway. Many of the people had the positive intention to NOT recieve, but have panicked, or were bullied into recieving the host. And the day came when a "lay minister" made a beeline for ME. I tried to hide in the confessional. No good. The curtain is being repaired, and he can still see me. I sit on the step, and pretend to be asleep. He tries to wake me up. No luck. He will not take the hint. He keeps trying to wake me. I blurt out something about his lack of respect, and run from the church. After mass, I am waiting to see him. Several people come over and tell me I was right. Someone else says they wish THEY had not just received, since they were in a sinful state. Finally, the man comes up to me. Before I can make peace with him, HE apologizes, and tells me that for himself, he will only will receive from the priest. Apparently, he has been dragooned by the pastor into his new role as extraordinary minister. So, here we are, facing the invasion of aggressivly mobile lay ministers, and also greeters, and even, for a brief while, 1960s folk music to bring in the young people. But, we live in hope, secure in the knowledge that the Pallotines have a 7 pm, and the Fransicans an 8 pm on a Sunday, only a few miles away. And, thankfully, they save the trimmings for the morning mass.
Right there too: the peer pressure for automatic reception is to be avoided.
I wrote on this topic a few years ago for the Bellarmine Forum magazine. https://www.academia.edu/29295387/Communion_for_Pilgrims_Rethinking_Eucharistic_Reception_and_Todays_Egalitarianism
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