This came from a reader:
It is from St. Paul’s in Philadelphia, where Fr. Gerald Carey is pastor. The sender introduces the situation.
Due to recent sacrileges to the Blessed Sacrament at St. Paul Parish in Philadelphia, the pastor, Father Gerald Carey, had the following letter placed as a special insert into the weekly parish bulletin. If only more priests would do the same.
In the following, my emphases and comments.
LETTER REGARDING A RECENT SACRILEGE AT SAINT PAUL
AND REVERENCE TOWARD THE BLESSED SACRAMENT
Last week I was deeply upset about the fact that our maintenance man found a Sacred Host on the floor of the church while he was sweeping. I can’t tell you how upsetting this was for me and how much this made me so sick to my stomach. After speaking about this to a few people, they told me that this was not the first time that this has happened here at Saint Paul Parish. I didn’t know whether to be upset with the individual who committed this despicable act of irreverence toward the Blessed Sacrament or myself for not being vigilant enough as a priest in watching people receive so as to ensure that they have consumed the Host completely in front of me at the Altar. [Oh Father… you can’t watch everything.]
I am not that old (41), and I remember as a child how the priests, nuns and my mother and father taught me how precious our Lord was in the Blessed Sacrament and how this was not just a “piece of bread” but truly the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ – Bread from Heaven! At that time no Catholic in my parish and most others would ever dream of touching the Host because of this belief. [Amen and amen. The priest’s hands are consecrated for this.] I received my First Holy Communion in 1976 and was the last class only permitted ["permitted"…. sigh…] to receive on the tongue then the Church granted an “indult” to receive both in the hand and on the tongue in 1977. I remember us being told that this was an ancient practice and that both ways can be “just as reverent”. [Right. Yah.] This may be true, and trust me I know that there are many who do receive on the hand reverently. But, I also believe that overall, we as Catholics have gotten way too casual in our demeanor toward the Blessed Sacrament and I believe that those who do not receive Communion in the hand properly have in many ways diminished our understanding and belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ. [It is a hard thing to have to say, but I agree. It is not the fault of most people who do. This has been a matter of creeping incrementalism, a nearly imperceptible shift. When you change how we pray, right down to our posture and gestures for receiving Communion, you change our belief about the Eucharist.] In every assignment I have had, I have encountered this problem. Who would have ever thought that looking just 30 years back, we would even have to have this conversation; finding the Blessed Sacrament on the dirty floors of our churches, in hymn books, or taken God knows where else? [That’s right.]
At the present moment, the Church allows for Communion given either in the hand or on the tongue. The person receiving has the complete freedom to choose which way he or she wants to receive. [Well… sort of. If the priest thinks there is danger of profanation, he can insist, but generally he is right. People do have rights.] I myself, any priest and any Extraordinary Minister will always respect that decision and we will never look differently upon any individual for doing so. I personally have always struggled in my heart with this decision by the Church to allow this to happen and I myself don’t prefer it and I struggle to believe that it has helped to increase reverence, awe and devotion among Catholics toward our Lord present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. But, I must be obedient as a priest and I must allow for what the Church allows. I have no authority to change this practice but as your Pastor, I do have an obligation to do all I can to safeguard and defend the Eucharist and to promote reverence toward Our Lord when I see an abuse. [I think he is making himself clear.]
With all this being said, [sounds like an ablative absolute… his dictis…] on the reverse side of this paper I have provided an instruction concerning the proper and reverent way to receive Communion in the hand in hopes that it will foster greater reverence to our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament if anyone chooses to receive that way. [Though we hope they won’t.] I remind you, that this manner of receiving is optional (not required) and the more time honored practice is receiving directly on the tongue. Even our present Holy Father requires Communion on the tongue at his Masses. I encourage all of you to really pray about this and to reflect upon what you are doing at the moment of receiving our Lord present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. One Host lost is one too many for me. May God help anyone who treats the Blessed Sacrament with such disrespect and may God help all of us to regain again a “sense of the sacred” in our Catholic churches.
May the Heart of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament be praised adored and loved with grateful affection at every moment in all the tabernacles of the world, even until the end of time. Amen.
Huge WDTPRS kudos to Fr. Carey. Good job Father!
We are in your corner and thank you for your firm and charitable instruction.