Card. Onaiyekan on the proper disposition to receive Holy Communion

John Card OnaiyekanI have had my eye on John Card. Onaiyekan, archbishop of Abuja in Nigeria, for some time.

There was recently a Eucharistic Congress in the Philippines. Since Archbp. Piero Marini (former MC to JP2) is in charge of these conferences you might expect that there was some silliness. His talk about inculturation was a blast from the past. However, Card. Onaiyekan was pretty good, it seems. Here is an account from CBCPNEWS:

CEBU City (Jan. 29, 2016) – Where others prefer to tiptoe and use couched language, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, archbishop of Abuja in Nigeria, minced no words in talking about the proper disposition for the reception of the Holy Eucharist, which many Catholics seem to take for granted nowadays.

Delivering this morning’s catechesis, Onaiyekan said no one was really worthy to receive Holy Communion, but all people are under God’s “loving compassion.”

“That is why we have a penitential rite at the beginning of Mass. And when before communion we solemnly announce: ‘Oh Lord I am not worthy…,’ it is not a figure of speech, but a sincere admission of our spiritual inadequacy,” the 71-year-old cardinal said.

Nonetheless the Church has guidelines that set limits to the level of “unworthiness” compatible with a fruitful reception of Holy Communion, the metropolitan pointed out.

No to ‘Eucharistic hospitality’  [The Eucharist is not canapé at a liberal Left catholic brie and chardonnay reception.]

Allowing just anyone to receive communion during Mass will inflict “serious damage on the sanctity of the Holy Eucharist,” and harm both the individual and the wider Church.  [Sacrilege hurts everyone.]

“The traditional requirement of being ‘in a state of grace’ cannot be jettisoned without spiritual negative consequence at both personal and ecclesial levels.  [Bad Communions harm the Church.  So, good Communions help the Church.  Save The Liturgy, Save The World.]Therefore, those who freely offer or accept what is inappropriately called ‘Eucharistic hospitality’ to whoever cares to come to the communion rails seem to me to be inflicting serious damage on the sanctity of the Holy Eucharist,” said Cardinal Onaiyekan.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that those who have mortal sins cannot receive communion without first going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It defines mortal sin as “sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”

In Nigeria, he said, it is pastoral practice during public Masses to announce clearly before communion that “only Catholics that are properly prepared should come forward to receive communion.”

Sacrilege  [There it is.  The “S” word.  So few prelates and priests are willing to use the word these days.  They’ve gone all wobbly.]

“We do not believe that this is a place for any kind of false ‘political correctness.’ It seems that in many places today, there is a need to recover the sense of outrage about whatever may be tantamount to ‘sacrilege.’”  [Did he just say “outrage”?  Yes, I believe he did.]

Onaiyekan’s catechesis was on “The Eucharist: Dialogue with the Poor and the Suffering.”

“Here we might consider how much we do to make the Eucharist available to the poor living in slums or in remote villages. What about those who live in prisons and detention camps? Wherever possible, those who are suffering should be able to contemplate the face of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist,” he said. (CBCP News)

Fr. Z kudos to Card. Onaiyekan.

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18 Responses to Card. Onaiyekan on the proper disposition to receive Holy Communion

  1. Rob in Maine says:

    ” [The Eucharist is not canapé at a liberal Left catholic brie and chardonnay reception.]”

    Heh. Heh. In my opposition to EMoHCs I’ve always quiped “this is Holy Communion, not a consession line at the ballpark. The line doesn’t need to go fast.”

  2. HeatherPA says:

    “In Nigeria, he said, it is pastoral practice during public Masses to announce clearly before communion that “only Catholics that are properly prepared should come forward to receive communion.””

    I pray that somehow, some way this comes to American parishes by and large.
    I think the bewilderment would be palpable in most places, sadly. Followed by outrage.

  3. APX says:

    Did he say “approach the communion rail”? There are churches that still use those?

  4. Maynardus says:

    I’ve had the privilege of meeting H.E. on two occasions – one before he was raised to the Cardinalate – and he is the “real deal”. He is very plain-spoken, and he way he radiates humility and sincerity makes him a very effective teacher and communicator. As an aside – I don’t know whether it is particular law in his archdiocese – I have met a number of priests from Abuja and NONE of them will distribute Communion in the hand… they just won’t! Indeed, we need to hear more from him and his like!

  5. majuscule says:

    Therefore, those who freely offer or accept what is inappropriately called ‘Eucharistic hospitality’ to whoever cares to come to the communion rails seem to me

    Communion rail: Let’s pray for a time when it’s not just a figure of speech any more!

  6. lairdangusmcangus says:

    Reverence–just like its opposite–is contagious.

    One of the best things traditional Catholics can do in their parishes is to approach the Eucharist with a sincere and obvious sense of holy awe. Kneel before it. Take it on the tongue, not in the hand. Conform your posture and your body to your interior state. This is not “pharisaical,” rather it is an act of consummate respect for other members of the body of Christ. By letting them SEE the proper way to approach the Eucharist, you are encouraging them and giving them the strength and confidence to do the same. In this sense, it is not so dissimilar from the theory 0f true martyrdom in the early days of the Church.

    Admittedly, the martyrdom here is rather tame by comparison–suffering a little bit of embarrassment hardly compares with being torn apart by lions!

    I have started doing this, and I have noticed that others around me seem to be increasing in their reverence for the Eucharist. Perhaps I’m just deluding myself, but I really do think that this is an easy way for us to do something in our role as assistants to the Mass that has an *actual* and *measurable* impact on our communities of faith.

  7. Imrahil says:

    While I agree, of course, to the tenor of what His Eminence says, let me note two things:

    1. The “traditional requirement to be in a state of grace” is a traditional imprecision. What is actually required is “not to have any mortal sins on your conscience since the last Confession”. [Where “last Confession”, to be even more precise (some scrupulous souls might need that) means “the last one for which you have no reasonable positive fear that it was invalid”.]

    a) A person who happens to have committed a mortal sin but has no idea she has, and approaches Holy Communion, does not sin; and she is actually, as the theologians usually teach, brought back to the state of grace by doing so. (That is the “accidental enlivening effect of the sacraments of the living”, or so.)

    b) After committing mortal sin, common sense and all the spiritual advisers advise us to set an act of contrition as soon as possible. This is not something that is restricted to the most saintly lives, but it can actually work and you can even be reasonably sure that it has worked (e. g., if you know the traditional prayer by heart, say it, and are certain that you have said it without mental reservations).

    And if it has worked, you are back in a state of grace. But you must not communicate until you have Confessed the sin also. (With some very limited exceptions for priests who, in that case, have to Confess a.s.a.p.)

    2. When all is said and done and all whose-side-are-you-on-talk is cut off by just talking about what we really mean (a rather utopian proposal, I know) … then the German bishops and theologians would agree as well.

    They would agree in so far as mortal sins are concerned; that is those they agree to be mortal sins. They would even agree that destroying one’s marriage is such a mortal sin. Their actual point of dispute is whether remaining in a different union (once the damage’s been done) is a mortal sin.

  8. Mark says:

    ” It seems that in many places today, there is a need to recover the sense of outrage about whatever may be tantamount to ‘sacrilege.’”
    Something tells me that the lack of outrage is due to a lack of belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. People may say they believe, but they lack faith and think they would be foolish and appear foolish to those who don’t believe by being outraged by something that looks outlandish if you don’t believe.

  9. kiwiinamerica says:

    Africa…..it’s where it’s at!!

    First Card. Sarah, now Card. Onaiyekan shining a light in the ever growing darkness.

    The Western Europeans and Americans (North and South) are worthless, with rare exceptions. They’ve lost the faith.

  10. lmgilbert says:

    Re the discussion about a communion rail.

    To me, at least, there seems a very clear connection between Eucharistic reverence and the presence of a communion rail.

    We have a communion rail at Holy Rosary parish in Portland. People are allowed to receive in the hand, but only a small percentage do- perhaps 5%, if that.

    The communion rail creates the sacred space of the sanctuary, and laymen are very diffident about entering that space. It is instinctively understood, as it should be, as the Holy of Holies.

    Since the chalice is not offered, there is no need for EMHC’s to offer the chalice.

    With two priests distributing Holy Communion on Sunday mornings, the entire congregation is communicated very quickly, so there is no need for EMHC’s to offer the Host.

    In sum, there are no EMHCs at all, which has the effect of emphasizing the dignity of the priest. The sign value of this is enormous, for it is Our Lord in the person of the priest who is feeding us. In other words, the identification of the priest with Christ is thereby liturgically underlined, whereas the presence of EMHCs tends to dilute that identification, and very probably contributes materially to a diluted respect for the priest and the priesthood and therefore to fall-off in priestly vocations

  11. stephen c says:

    Father Zuhlsdorf, thank you for calling to our attention this wonderful speech by this Cardinal who was, apparently, a friend – or at least a respected or close colleague – of Saint John Paul. Those of us living today may not have been born into the best times we could have been born into, but nobody can say that those of us living today are not, in a very real way, extremely lucky to live in a time with so many good-hearted and compassionate bishops . Sure there could be more but when was that ever not true?

  12. Robert of Rome says:

    Cardinal Onaiyekan was one of the contributors to “Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family,” published by Ignatius Press, in preparation for the 2015 Synod of Bishops. He offered a strong defense of the Church’s traditional teachings on the sacraments of penance, matrimony and Eucharist.

  13. Imrahil says:

    Dear kiwiinamerica,

    The Western Europeans and Americans (North and South) are worthless

    Nothing is worthless. What has no other use has at least the use of a being a bad example: As Scripture says (in the Proverbs), God hath created everything for its purpose, so also the wicked man for the day of judgment…

    That said, I don’t think that these could so simply be grouped together, especially why include the South Americans.

  14. JonPatrick says:

    Well said lmgilbert. That is exactly why when the “wreckovations” happened in the 1960’s and 70’s, the communion rail was the first thing to go.

  15. pelerin says:

    It always strikes me as ironic that having removed the altar rails some churches and cathedrals have had to resort to erecting ‘expanding blue ribbon barriers on metal stands ‘ (sorry don’t know what the correct term is) such as found in banks and cinemas. These look so out of place in an ancient church but are often necessary to keep visitors/tourists from wandering into the sanctuary.

    I was in an old church in Paris this weekend and they even had to add a notice to ask people not only not to mount the steps to the sanctuary, but also not to scrawl grafitti on them. Because so many are now ‘open plan’ the average visitor has no idea of the sacredness of the area which was once so defined by the Communion rail.

  16. Chuck says:

    Laird Angus McAngus,

    I expect you aren’t imagining things. When I came to my current parish in 2008 (through RCIA) I was one of a handful who wore suits. Now I see more and more suits. I have not received in the hand in at least two years, and have seen more people do that as well and not just parents with children in their arms. I haven’t yet started kneeling to take communion, but your comment makes me think I should do it regardless of how the ordinary and extraordinary ministers respond.

  17. spock says:

    “only Catholics that are properly prepared should come forward to receive communion.”

    It’s interesting that in the Byzantine Liturgy, the phrase “Holy things are for the holy” is used. The peoples’ response is “One is Holy, One is Lord, Jesus Christ ….” so that caution is built into the rite.

  18. The Cobbler says:

    Imrahil says,

    They would agree in so far as mortal sins are concerned; that is those they agree to be mortal sins. They would even agree that destroying one’s marriage is such a mortal sin. Their actual point of dispute is whether remaining in a different union (once the damage’s been done) is a mortal sin.

    Assuming that by “is a mortal sin” we mean “is necessarily/always/inherently a mortal sin”: the traditional, orthodox teaching of the Church is, of course, that it is not. However, certain actions are mortal sins performed between anyone other than husband and wife, and you can’t actually have two marriages at once (hence “a different union”), and the first one doesn’t cease to be because of whatever “destroying one’s marriage” is. If the German bishops can’t see that that is what is at issue, then it doesn’t very much matter if they get the right answer to the question of whether it’s necessarily a sin to remain in a union that’s not a marriage — that’s the wrong question.