Father, thank you so much for the live streamed daily Mass. I’m ‘attend’ every day since you started and it has kept me focused on what’s important. My question: I thought that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was the most important act on the whole earth, and that distribution of Holy Communion was of secondary importance and a wonderful gift but not required. If so, why aren’t Masses restarted without Holy Communion for now since there’s such a dust up about it?
This is a good question.
For many generations, our Catholic forbears who really believed what the Church taught about the Eucharist and about the Sacrifice of the Mass, went to Mass regularly but received Communion relatively rarely. They knew that, without confession, they shouldn’t receive because that would be an additional terrible sin.
Now, Catholics who barely believe, go to Mass with spotty regularity but they all receive Communion all the time. They have not a clue that reception when not in the state of grace, many unshriven for a really long time, is the grave sin of sacrilege.
Both the 16th c. Council of Trent and 20th c. St. Pius X urged Catholic to receive frequently. Frequently… BUT to receive frequently as true believers in Catholic doctrine and in the state of grace.
Lack of catechesis about the Sacraments and especially about the Eucharist and Penance, shabby liturgical practice, indifferent handling of the Eucharistic species by armies of lay people, and the dreadful indult for Communion on the hand have all contributed to a terrible shift in Catholic identity. For so many people now the moment of Communion is that time when everyone goes forward and a smiley person, probably a woman, puts the white thing on their hand and then they sing a song… unless they are heading out the door to beat the parking lot rush. “They like me! I belong. It’s nice to, like, see these people once in a while and, like, not have one of those, like, homilies that, you know, are kinda mean.”
Bottom line, a huge percentage of lay people and of, I dare say it, priests and bishops don’t have a firm grasp about what Mass is, what Communion is, and how they relate to each other.
Imagine the impact on the Body of Christ, on the whole wide world, from literally millions of sacrilegious Communions. Sunday after Sunday after Sunday … er um… Saturday evening after Saturday evening… millions of sacrilegious Communions, endangering their immortal souls. With hardly any effort from our Church’s pastors to improve the situation.
One of the very best things that we could do as we re-open and seek of “new normal”, hopefully a “better normal”, is basic catechesis on the Four Last Things, mortal sin and the Sacrament of Penance, and the “ends” of the Mass, which is above all a Sacrifice, something they may not have heard much about.
I suspect a lot of people would probably say,
“What’s the point in going to Mass if I can’t receive Communion?”
Stop and think about that attitude before reading on.
It seems to me a reasonable approach to open up churches for Mass but to tell people that Communion won’t be distributed during the Mass. All those who want to receive, can receive afterwards. That’s a reasonable approach. It isn’t the only approach, but it is reasonable. Ironically, without swarms of unnecessary Communion ministers, and no ridiculous hand holding and antics at the entirely optional Novus Ordo version of the Sign of Peace, and few people receiving but many attending Mass… we will have returned to something that looks rather more like the normal of our forebears. Our forebears… who would probably to a man and woman be appalled at what is done in many of our churches today and at what is spewed in pulpits.
Let’s please use this time of “phases” and lifting of lockdowns and reopenings to examine our practices, and consciences, with deep intensity.
Maybe opening Masses without Communion would be a good thing. And the time not spent in distribution of Communion could allow for a longer sermon and basic catechesis, so that after a while, more people would at least have received, or reviewed the basics.
It’s an idea worth thinking about.