In this last week’s edition of The Wanderer, we read a reprint of a column by Most Rev. Thomas Doran, Bishop of Rockford. I believe it was originally on the site of the diocese on 2 September 2011.
My emphases and comments.
Reverence and Respect of The Blessed Sacrament
From time to time people make inquiries of the Bishop’s office that demand more than a private answer. One of the things that disturbs practicing Catholics more and more is the seeming lack of reverence and respect for our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in our liturgy and in our devotions.
As I go about in the various parishes and observe people, a surprising number of people do not genuflect toward the Tabernacle on entering or leaving church and many more do not know how to do it (it is the right knee, not the left that touches the ground when genuflecting). Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament has almost completely disappeared because neither clergy nor laity know how to perform it, and the beautiful hymns that we used to sing on that occasion, all of them replete with deep meaning about the Holy Eucharist, are largely forgotten.
One lady recently wrote me that she had just been informed by a deacon that to receive the Holy Eucharist while kneeling was in disobedience to the Bishops’ Conference and to me as bishop directly. I am grateful for this reminder that this is a subject that we all should take to heart. [In other words, this dopey statement by that deacon was the last straw?]
First of all, bear in mind that many people have difficulty genuflecting and would have difficulty kneeling for Holy Communion. Obviously, if doing so imperils health or wellbeing, one is not obliged to do it. Reverence for the Blessed Sacrament starts in the heart. Whether it is reflected in our posture depends on many things. [In other words, we use common sense. If you can’t genuflect, don’t genuflect.]
One thing that matters much to me is the practice of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, when he gives Holy Communion. His practice is to distribute Holy Communion on the tongue of recipients who kneel as they receive communion. That should say something to all of us. [NB] I would make this personal observation that I usually do not distribute Holy Communion when I say Mass in the parishes because every parish has its own peculiar way of ordering Holy Communion and I am confused by such a variety of practices, [“Peculiar!” ROFL! We see Bp. Doran’s excellent sense of humor. For those of you not in Rio Linda, but in, perhaps, Eden Prairie, “peculiar” can mean both “strange” and also “belonging exclusively to some person, group, or thing”.] and so since discretion is the better part of valor, I do not get involved in it. [Imagine your Bishop coming to your parish and then he doesn’t distribute because of the strange things you do there… and then hearing about it later.]
Then there is the fact that many of us identify unity with uniformity. The two are distinct. We are bound to unity in faith, not necessarily to uniformity and how we receive Holy Communion. Now, the Third General Instruction of the Roman Missal now in force, at n. 160, permits receiving Holy Communion kneeling or standing, on the tongue or in the hand. [And let us not forget Redemptionis Sacramentum.] That same instruction allows the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to establish norms for this practice. This was done by Archbishop Wilton Gregory when he was President of the Conference in 2002. The bishops decided that standing was the normative posture. [I recall some discussion about that norm being more descriptive than prescriptive.]
It is, therefore, permitted to Catholics to receive Holy Communion standing, receiving the Blessed Sacrament on the tongue or in the hand, depending on their choice, and this is the usual way in which Holy Communion is to be distributed in our churches. [NB: That was a description rather than a prescription.] Cardinal George asked about this in 2003 and the Holy See responded that posture at Holy Communion is not to be so rigidly regulated as to interfere with the freedom of people receiving Holy Communion. If you have to read this two or three times to understand what is being said, that is alright. The whole matter is somewhat confusing. [Read it again and again not only to understanding it, but to remember it. Repetita iuvant.]
I am old enough to remember when, in a flurry of “me-too-ism,” communion rails were ripped out of our churches, something that was never advised, commanded or imposed. Most churches had suitable communion rails with padded cushions upon which communicants could kneel. And it seems to me looking back on the early days of my priesthood, that communion was distributed more reverently and was received more reverently when people knelt for Holy Communion. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] A few found it difficult and even then those who had difficulty kneeling could stand. Few did, but it was allowed. It would seem that if anyone who wanted to go back to this method of receiving Holy Communion, they would find that communion would be received more reverently, in a more orderly fashion and in less time than it now takes. [Do I hear another “Amen!”?] But time is not the most important thing and order is not a virtue, but rather a convenience. [ROFL! And with this Bp. Doran also reminds us that most of the time we don’t need EMHCs either. Is that what he was referring to with the “peculiar” way in which Communion is distributed in some parishes?]
[And now…] One thing that should be clear is that at present, to receive Holy Communion kneeling is not a sign of disrespect to all the bishops or to anyone. I would add, however, that practicing Catholics generally like to follow the reasonable requests of their pastors so that Holy Communion may be distributed reverently and in a dignified fashion. It is also true that among those in Holy Orders, bishops and priests are our teachers. [And… and…. are you waiting for the other shoe to drop here? And…]
WDTPRS kudos to Bp. Doran.
“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are saying even as you pound with your witto fists on the table. “Don’t keep us in suspense! What ‘other shoe’? Telllll us!”
Bp. Doran said: “It is also true that among those in Holy Orders, bishops and priests are our teachers.”
And the Holy Father is their teacher as well as our teacher. And the Holy Father distributes to people who kneel. He is teaching by example, just as Bp. Doran is teaching by clarity, innuendo, and humor.
Are you left at the end of the article doubting what he prefers concerning the Blessed Sacrament?