From a reader…
When a priest arrives at a sick person’s house in order to provide Communion, should the Communion rite happen immediately upon arrival?
I presume that tea, biscuits and chatting should certainly not happen beforehand?
I was recently put into this situation: bonhomie taking place for at least an hour before Communion. I wasn’t sure that the Blessed Sacrament was present at first, but when this was made apparent I was shocked and upset.
I raised this with the assistant priest, one of the two who had visited. He said that the parish priest (he was the other who had visited) likes to give Communion at the end so all can leave in silence (which on my recollection didn’t happen anyway.) The assistant priest conveyed my thoughts to the parish priest, and apparently his suggestion was that they leave the Blessed Sacrament in the glove box of the car until it’s time.
I have to commend the priests on their pastoral care; I’ve seen priests with no attention to this whatsoever and I think it’s important, but not at the expense of proper treatment of the Blessed Sacrament.
Thanks for also adding your positive comments about your priests.
“tea, bicuits beforehand”
“leave the Blessed Sacrament in the glove box”
I am sure that these priests have no intention of showing a lack of respect for Christ in the Eucharist.
However, as soon as I read this, a phrase flooded into my mind:
Nihil anteponendum dilectioni Christi.
Flooded with this phrase, I had to look it up. I had it almost right. The true phrase is: “dilectioni Dei et Christi nihil praeponendum … nothing is to be set before/preferred to the love of God and Christ”. This is St. Cyprian of Carthage (+258) Ad Quirinum 3, 18.
One of the things priests learn when they use the traditional forms of our sacred liturgical rites is that, indeed, nihil anteponendum when it comes to the Eucharist. This principle guides even the order in which a priest carries out certain tasks.
For example, after Holy Communion he must purify vessels. First, he consumes whatever of the Precious Blood might be in the chalice. Then he begins the ablutions. If there is a ciborium to be purified, he pours the ablutions into the ciborium and consumes everything from it. In reposing the Blessed Sacrament after exposition, the lunette is handled as little as possible. Therefore, tabernacle is opened, pyx is readied, etc. Then the Host is removed, put into the pyx, reposed in the tabernacle, door closed before anything is done with the monstrance, etc. Everything is readied so that when it is time to do something with the Blessed Sacrament, no other object or activity interrupts. Anything having to do with the Eucharist has priority of attention and action.
Another clue is taken from the rite of visiting the sick itself. The very first thing that the priest does when he arrives at the place and enters, he says, “Pax huic domui! Peace to his house!” The rite continues from there without interruption… for biscuit or chats or anything. Also, knowing that the priest is coming, people should have everything ready for the visit. Households had sick call sets. I’ve written about them HERE. Everything should be ready for the arrival of the King. With all things set out beforehand, when the priest arrives he should be brought directly, without delay, to the person who will receive Communion. There’s time for other things after the more important things are completed.
Hence, I cannot go along with anything that is put before proper attention to the Blessed Sacrament when it comes to sick calls.
This must must must also be hammered into any lay people who take the Eucharist to the sick or shut it. If you are given the tremendous task, do nothing to interfere with your duty. Don’t stop for gas (get it beforehand. Don’t go through the Taco Bell drive-thru (go later). Don’t … don’t… don’t. Just go straight to the place you must go and carry out your task. The same then applies to purification of the pyx. Christ is present even in small fragments of the Host.