From a reader…
When my wife and I attend Mass at our regular parish, we have always made it a point to receive Communion from the priest. Recently, when we did so, the priest stopped my wife, looked her in the eye, and in a stern voice loud enough for those around us to hear, said, “Go to the next available Eucharistic minister. You don’t have to come to me. Do you understand? Do you understand?” [Oh dear.]
We attend Mass there weekly, and I’m sure he recognized us. We always stay after Mass and pray for a few minutes, so he could’ve easily talked with us about this after Mass. I’m not sure why he felt the need to make a minor scene about this at the front of the church.
We are not sure what to do at this point. We live in a diocese that has notoriously bad liturgy. The Mass at this parish seems to be the least worst of those around us, and I have doubt that there is a parish within an hour that has a priest who would agree to allow us to receive from him rather than a layman every week. We would attend the Latin Mass, but the nearest one is an SSPX Mass an hour away.
Can you please offer any thoughts about what we should do? I think it may not be worth the trouble to try to work this out with the priest who made the scene at the front of the church. If we can’t find a parish that’s any better than this one nearby, would it be rash to start attending the SSPX Mass or even move to another diocese out of interest for our spiritual well-being?
Regardless of one’s inclinations, theological or liturgical opinions, everyone can agree that what the priest did was bad form. It’s improper to use the moment of the reception of Holy Communion as a weapon. Let’s be clear: a different situation would be that of someone who is egregiously, manifestly sinning (e.g. attempting to receive Holy Communion whilst remaining in a notoriously sinful state) or causing grave scandal (attempting to receive Holy Communion whilst wearing a blasphemous t-shirt or rainbow sash). In that case the priest is obliged to say something, though this is for him the third rail and it could bring the world down on his head. It is sad that priests are crucified by bishops for following the Church’s teachings and Canon Law, but I digress. The Communion rail (or conga line, as it sadly is in many churches) is not the place for this sort of antic on the part of the priest.
While it’s unlikely that you will change the pastor’s mind, it could still be helpful to talk to him face-to-face. Obviously, you know more about his character and the fruitfulness or futility of such a conversation.
No one can be forced to receive Holy Communion from an extraordinary minister. For that matter, no one can be forced to receive from an ordinary minister! No one can be forced to go to Communion at all.
The modern practice of row-by-row Communion leads not only to psycological pressure for those who shouldn’t go forward, but also to certain “traffic” pattern. “Raus aus dieser Bank! Eile! Raus mit euch!” There is a strong expectation that one stays in one’s line and receive in the proper order. There’s nothing in the law mandating this. In Italy, people get up and go when and if they desire. That seems a little chaotic at first, but it works. We should seriously talk about alleviating this row by row Communion thing, if not eliminating it, coupled with deeper preaching and catechesis about the proper disposition to receive.
If Father wants to attempt to enforce some silly parish “policy” as law, let him try. If he makes a scene again, just know he’s the one who is looking petty and ridiculous, not you.
Moderation queue is ON.
Reminder: This is an ASK FATHER feature.