Blessings from lay people?

April 30, 2010

My post yesterday about deacons giving blessings prompted a reader to write:

My question is, as a eucharistic minister, would you have in your repertoire a short blessing that we can use when a non-Catholic or child comes up for a blessing during communion? I use, ” May the Lord’s blessings come down upon you in abundance” Acceptable?

Well, actually, no. As I replied: technically, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion shouldn’t be giving blessings, and I know quite a few priests who think the practice of doing this at communion, even by the ordained, is wrong.

A good explanation comes from Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput:

“As members of the community move forward to receive holy Communion during Mass, parents will often bring their small children along. Over the years, it has become a custom in many parishes for these children to receive a blessing. I don’t really know where this practice began, but it’s worth some reflection.

“Usually the children in line will look up expectantly at the person distributing holy Communion. The minister then responds by doing one of several things: He or she may pat the child’s head, or touch the head in a sign of blessing, or mark the child’s forehead with a sign of the cross. As warm and well intentioned as the gesture may be, in the context of the liturgy, the Communion procession really isn’t the time for a blessing of children or adults who are unable to receive Communion.

“There are times in the liturgical year when the laity assist in specific acts of blessing, such as the blessing of throats or the distribution of ashes. These are clearly indicated in the Book of Blessings. But extraordinary ministers of holy Communion do not ordinarily have a commission to bless in the name of the Church, as priests and deacons do. At this point in the liturgy, they have a very specific function: to collaborate with the clergy in the distribution of holy Communion.

“As we’ll explore in a later column, the blessing of the assembly properly occurs at the end of the Mass. As the body of Christ, the assembly is blessed together before we depart to live the fruits of the liturgy.

“What would be appropriate for children to do who accompany their parents in the Communion procession, and adults who do not receive Communion?

“The Communion procession is an opportunity for parents to begin to teach their children about the great gift of the Eucharist. First of all, children could learn to give reverence to the Lord hidden under the forms of bread and wine. Children can already learn from their parents, and others receiving holy Communion, to give honor to the Lord by bowing reverently.

“Parents and catechists should start teaching the mystery of the Eucharist at an early age. Children will soon begin to desire to receive holy Communion. This earnest desire to receive our Lord sacramentally is traditionally called a ‘spiritual communion.’ Regrettably, we don’t talk about spiritual communion as we once did. But Thomas Aquinas, Alphonsus Liguori and many other great saints strongly encouraged spiritual communion as a practice.

“Both children and adults can make a spiritual communion. They may come forward with their arms crossed and bow before the Eucharist. Then the priest, deacon or extraordinary minister could say to them kindly, ‘Receive the Lord Jesus in your heart.’ This is not a blessing, but an invitation to worship, so no gestures are made.

“This spiritual communion would more authentically carry out the spirit of the liturgy. Being faithful to the truths of the sacramental celebration allows all of us, young and old, to enter more deeply into worship.”

Source: New Advent


The Myth of Overpopulation

April 30, 2010

The Pope to the Rescue

April 30, 2010

Late Nite Catechism – Hilarious!

April 30, 2010

Why so many hate the pope

April 29, 2010

Respect For Christ In The Eucharist – One Priest’s Perspective

April 29, 2010

[The picture above is of my home in Fort Valley, Virginia, and the light is coming  from my chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. There is not  light in the window and there is no sun out on the day of the picture.] 

by Rev. Robert Lange

Americans have the option of receiving the Holy Eucharist on the tongue or in the hand.  The Vatican granted us the option of receiving on the hand in 1977. This was accomplished by an indult, a lifting of the law, so we may receive either way, on the tongue or in the hand.  The indult was granted because the American Bishops told the Vatican that their parishioners were clamoring for it.  “We can feed ourselves” was one of the specious arguments put forward. 

After Apostolic times, the Church gradually adopted Communion on the tongue as the universal practice.  In the early fourth century the Arians, who denied the divinity of Christ, revived the practice of receiving Communion in the hand specifically to show a lesser respect for Christ, believing that He is not “equal to the Father.” 

The universal Church law, which requires Holy Eucharist to be distributed to the faithful on their tongues, remains in force; it remains the law.  However the indult has the effect of making the law inapplicable where in force.

Foreseeing the demand for the indult coming, the Sacred Office for Divine Worship sent a letter to the presidents of the bishops’ conferences to advise them how they may implement this option if granted.  The letter spoke about reverence for the Holy Eucharist being the number one priority.  With this in mind, the letter went into great detail trying to explain this crucial concern.  The letter contained the following specifics. 

Communion on the hand is an option; it is not the primary way of receiving.  Catholics must be catechized to understand this important point.  No one is to be forced to receive on the hand. 

When receiving the Body of Christ on the hand, the faithful must be aware of the fact that each and every particle, no matter how small, is truly the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.  Therefore no particle should ever be discarded or treated with less than total respect due to the Body of Christ.  

The faithful must also be reminded that their hands must be clean to receive our Lord, Jesus Christ.   

When ordained in 1986, I was a proponent of receiving Communion in the hand, but time has changed my thinking on this issue.  Seeing so many abuses and forming a deeper respect for Jesus’ true Presence in the Holy Eucharist were the factors which forced me to rethink my position. 

On March 28, 1965, when the catholic college I was attending opened their newly renovated chapel, we students were told how to receive the Holy Eucharist: standing and in the hand.  There was no option given. May I add that this was fully twelve years before any American diocese received the indult, which allowed for that option. 

Why did those priests, abbots and bishops disobey the authority of Rome? Communion in the hand became the norm for American Catholics in the 1960’s. In many cases the practice was not presented to us as optional, but as the way to receive. 

In my twenty-four years as a priest, I have served in many parishes and witnessed many Eucharistic abuses caused by receiving in the hand. I have picked Jesus off the floor from under pews and picked Him out of hymnals. I have followed people back to their seats and asked if they would give me the host back (they bring it out of a clinched hand or out of their pockets) and have witnessed many other sacrilegious desecrations of the most Blessed Sacrament, far too many and varied to mention, some so shocking most people would simply not believe my words. 

As I began to see these desecrations of the Holy Eucharist, I began to understand how very sickening, disheartening and avoidable all of this actually has been. Many religious education programs teach the children how to receive on the hand, with at most a cursory mention of the traditional way of receiving on the tongue.  Why?  The Church documents do not support such teaching. It was the same with many American dioceses in the 1960’s when the faithful were being coerced into receiving on the hand a decade before being granted the indult.  

Father Benedict Groeschel, a familiar face to EWTN viewers and an accomplished author, announced on his “Sunday Night Live With Fr. Groeschel” program that he considered Communion in the hand to be an abomination. That is strong language! 

Blessed Theresa of Calcutta was asked what was the worst thing that has happened to the Church in her lifetime. She replied without hesitation, “Communion in the hand.”  Again powerful language! 

Why would these two great figures of our time be so fervent in their opinions regarding this issue if it did not affect their whole being? Somehow I think they would agree that Communion in the hand is a true American tragedy. 

Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI leads by example.  Since becoming Pope, anyone receiving Holy Eucharist from him must receive on the tongue and kneeling. He is not requiring a change throughout the world, but is giving us a profound message by example.

Proper respect shown to the Holy Eucharist is primary.  Please consider these thoughts before receiving Holy Communion this Sunday.  Thank you.


Holy War

April 28, 2010