Not long ago, Robert Card. Sarah penned a preface for a recent book (HERE) about Communion in the hand. The Cardinal Prefect of the CDW argues that various forces and practices have diminished faith in the Eucharist. Some of those forces and practices are demonic. He is, of course, right. Card. Sarah recommended a reconsideration of reception of Holy Communion in the hand in favor of on the tongue while kneeling.
Card. Sarah’s recommendation elicited a spittle-flecked nutty from ultra-liberal Rita Ferrone and the usual “It’s all about ME!” crowd. You can tell that Sarah is right by the nastiness of the attacks on him.
Today I read Fr. Hunwicke’s biting demolition of a sniffy attack on Card. Sarah posted at The Bitter Pill (aka RU-486 aka The Tablet) by one Thomas O’Loughlin, who is, in theory at least (I haven’t heard of him) a “trained liturgist”. That “trained liturgist” reminds me of an attack on Benedict XVI in The Bitter Pill by Mark Francis. “The Pope,” wrote Mark, “who is not a trained liturgist…”
These people are so predictable.
In any event, O’Loughlin makes essentially the same argument for Communion in the hand today as Cliché Rita did before him. In sum, “People took the eucharistic bread with the fingers or in their hands a long time ago. That means that it’s okay to do so now. It’s more than okay, it’s more authentic and pristine.”
This archaeological approach doesn’t account for different practices in different places. Nor does it account for the fact that Communion in the hand dropped away over time because our understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist developed and deepened. In other words, we grew out of it.
As I read O’Loughlin’s piece, one of my old analogies came to mind.
On the model of Paul, speaking about spiritual food, milk for the young and solid for the mature, I sometimes – with jocular tongue in cheek – refer to the newer form of Mass and the traditional form of Mass respectively and respectfully as the “kiddie Mass” and the “adult Mass”.
Carrying the analogy forward, the little jar of pureed carrot and zooming the choo-choo towards little Stupor Mundi’s messy mouth is entirely age appropriate. “Here comes the choo-choo!”, could be an analogy for the modernist liturgists’ attempts to lower everything to a simplistic baseline so that it can be “understood”.
However, as junior gets older, he starts to eat more complicated food with his own besmeared hands. Later, having matured, he graduates to utensils. After that, he cuts his rare steak with a sharp knife and quaffs a Cabernet from a long-stemmed glass. A toddler can’t use that knife and glass or chew the steak. An adult could regress and eat from little jars of baby food or even be fed with the choo-choo, but that’s not the best choice for someone still compos sui or in good health. He could survive on that, but not thrive in spirit and body.
By orders of magnitude I prefer the traditional Roman Rite. Each time I am some place where Communion in the hand is distributed, I die a little inside. It’s almost physically painful to see. However, I will say the Novus Ordo if that is what that community does and I will observe the Church’s present legislation about Communion in the hand. In weighing these matters, I wonder if perhaps Communion in the hand in the context of the choo-choo Mass isn’t – after decades of liturgical and catechetical disaster – “age appropriate” for a lot of Catholics today. Even priests who are die hard liturgical trads could, when looking at the state of affairs, consent to say the Novus Ordo or give (shudder) Communion in the hand, with the understanding that, over time, people will mature liturgically and need more and better fare. It would be horrible for a father to refuse to feed his baby son with age appropriate food and even with the zoooming swooshing sounds produced by spoon-shaped airplanes and trains.
At the same time, a good parent is always looking out for the welfare if his children. He doesn’t want them at 3 years old, consuming what they needed at 6 months. By 3 and by 5 and by 7 and by 17, their needs change. Hence, the good parent will along the way be testing and trying new things, new foods in new forms. He won’t infantilize his older children by forcing them to be spoonfed with whizzed-up peas. In turn, junior, watching daddy eat, will get the message over time and start changing their modus manducandi.
Analogies limp. To make my point, I provoke with the images of choo-choos and steaks.
We have had decades of liturgical disaster. The result has been sheer devastation of our Catholic identity.
Bitter Pill O’Loughlin tries to take away the symbolism of people receiving food like children, being fed by a parent like children. What he is doing, however, is arguing that Modern Man™ has grown beyond signs of humility. Moreover, his bid for standing and receiving in the hand reduces the vision of the Eucharist to ordinary food. He talks about “loaf” and “cup”. It is precisely the belief that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ that – in a reversal – brings the mature to their knees, as children. His description of people kneeling as “cowering fear” insults our forebears. Unlike modernists who strive to reduce the supernatureal to the natural, our ancestors at least had the “beginning of wisdom”.
What we have been doing under the tutelage of modernists has enervated us, infantilized us, much as a father would were he to spoon-feed grown children with goop. That’s what happened with the sudden and brutal imposition of a liturgical rite, unforeseen by the Council Fathers who mandated rather few points of reform, that was artificially cobbled up by modernist experts. It is as if a father tied his grown child into a chair and allowed sustenance only with little jars and swooshes. No one thrives on that. That’s what happened in the Church after the hijacked liturgical reforms were compelled.
“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are mewling, “How dare you suggest that people can’t take in the hand! Vatican II says that’s what JESUS wants! But you hate Jesus because YOU HATE VATICAN II!”
Imagine yourself hearing now the end of a radio commercial where the paid non-attorney spokesperson rattles off a several dozen caveats about it is available (e.g., NOT at the Extraordinary Form) and that people through no fault of their own learned to “take” Communion that way and that people can, indeed do – some people at least – receive actually believing what the “official” Church teaches, or used to teach about sacraments and the Eucharist, and that some people do receive with a measure of reverence, and that no one is suggesting that it is impossible… blah blah blah… and that NOTHING in Vatican II’s documents required such an innovation – yes, innovation despite claims of the modernist archeologizers – and no one wanted it before it was pressed on them and that an indult for Communion in the hand demonstrates that it is still NOT the rule, etc. etc. etc.
The People of God deserve better.
It was wrong to impose suddenly that artificially created rite without preparation. It would be wrong today suddenly to impose dramatic changes without preparation. And yet change we must.
Card. Sarah, bless him, invited priests to consider ad orientem worship. Many priests have quietly taken him up on that, and the results have been positive where implemented.
Card. Sarah, may he thrive, has invited a reconsideration of Communion in the hand. He has soberly described the stakes in terms of spiritual warfare which the Enemy constantly wages on us. That a spiritual war is ever waging is hardly to be denied. Hence, we have to do our part in the war.
Let’s make some salutary changes before the shifting demographics of priests in active ministry and lay people attending Mass drop like a toddler’s flung spaghetti through a crack in the floor.