Friday, October 19, 2012

AND WHAT ABOUT NON CATHOLICS EXPERIENCING THE SACRAMENTALS OF THE CHURCH?




In the RCIA process, catechumens experience being prayed over during the Season of Lent in what are called the scrutinies which are penitential acts and also minor exorcisms. These are preludes to the washing away of and total forgiveness of Original and actual sin at the Easter Vigil.

At St. Joseph Church at our RCIA retreat a week prior to the Easter Vigil, we give the unbaptized an opportunity to go to "confession" if they wish although they are not allowed absolution as they are not yet baptized and baptism will actually be the absolution. One could view the option given to an unbaptized person to speak to a priest in a confessional experience and without absolution but just a blessing, not “role playing” but an experience of a form of spiritual or pastoral direction as they prepare for the Sacrament of Penance in their post-baptismal life. But again, the option to do this should be their choice and not forced upon them.

However, for the baptized candidate, I think it would be malpractice on the part of those teaching in the RCIA not to insist that the Sacrament of Penance be celebrated as a renewal of their Baptismal washing to enable them to be in a “pristine, baptismal” state of grace for Confirmation and Holy Eucharist, even if there are no mortal sins but only a confession of venial ones. Penance is not just for mortal sins but could be devotional and venial sins may be mentioned.

However, it is not role playing of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick for a priest or lay person to pray over a sick person (catechumen or candidate) offering a blessing which might include the laying on of hands–charismatics do it all the time and sometimes they use blessed oil. It is not a sacrament nor a mocking of the sacrament but a sacramental that could be available to any catechumen or candidate.


The same for Holy Water and blessing one’s self. We cannot forbid the catechumen from using Holy Water. No they aren’t recalling their baptism but could be encouraged to use it as an anticipation of their baptism and it would clearly be seen as a sign of their desire for baptism in case of death prior to baptism.

Sometimes there is a fear of making the Sacrament of Penance more readily available to people seems contrived and based upon a prejudice toward this sacrament which surely should not exist in the Church. Again, would any of us caution people against receiving Holy Communion each time they attend Mass or daily. I hope not. And surely we shouldn’t discourage candidates and catechumens from attending daily Mass if they so desire even though they can’t receive Holy Communion yet.

14 comments:

Henry Edwards said...

"Again, would any of us caution people against receiving Holy Communion each time they attend Mass or daily."

Well, yes, I'd hope so. For instance, when one is not in a state of grace, as when he's missed Mass on a Sunday or holy day of obligation and not been to confession subsequently.

Compare your Mass attendance on All Saints Day this coming Thursday, Nov 1, the number of communicants on Sunday, Nov 4, and the number of confessions on Nov 2-3. Not much arithmetic should be required to make plain the sad truth.

Anonymous 5 said...

Given the fundamental differences between sacraments and sacramentals, I don't see any problem with any of the practices you mention. (I'm betting, though, that Marc would say that prior to baptism or sacramental confession with absolution, the inquirers/catechumens/candidates receive no grace from these sacramantals except the grace of conversion, but I'll let you and him thrash that one out).

Even accepting the "no grace" position arguendo, I still think it's good practice, for pretty much the same reason that you give them unconsecrated wafers (I don't think you can call them unconsecrated Hosts, it's self-contradictory) on the Saturday morning before th Easter Vigil: as a dry run or to help them practice, although that's putting it in a crude way. The immersion in Catholic culture through sacramentals is an important part of they're becoming Catholic regardless of what graces they're receiving.

One aside: I think your comment about confession without absolution points up the formalistic nature of the sacraments (a good thing, in my opinion). Modernists tend to treat the forms of the sacraments as mere formalities, with the really important stuff being the change of heart that precipitates it. While that's true to a degree (and only to a degree), one must be very careful with it (and the Modernists aren't). There's just a small step from that idea to the idea of "If it's just a formality, then it can be dispensed with completely, since the inward change in my heart it the only thing that really matters."

Marc from iPhone said...

A5: You're right. You are also right in the post on giving Communion to non-Catholics.

There's nothing wrong with sacramentals "only" giving converting grace, though. That is, after all, the grace that is most need by those outside the Church. It is axiomatic that they cannot receive habitual grace, since they are outside the Church and therefore objectively not in the state of habitual grace. So, converting grace is essentially the actual grace needed for catechumens - grace to proceed with the action of conversion.

Marc said...

Oh, I also agree with Henry. People need to know that it is okay to go to Mass and not receive Communion. This is something I didn't know for a while after coverting and that many new converts have asked me. People do not know this - they assume they must receive.

They need to be further instructed that one receives grace from merely assisting at Mass without Communing. It doesn't help to illustrate that point when the RCIA people are ushered out in the middle for what is essentially a Catholic version of Sunday School...

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Well of course no one should be counseled to receive Holy Communion in a state of unrepentant sin, either mortal or venial, although if one is sorry the Mass itself and the reception of Holy Communion purifies the communicant of venial sin too but for mortal sin the ordinary means of forgiveness is the Sacrament of Penance prior to receiving again. And certainly if one has broken the fast they should not receive. But otherwise, whey in the name of God and all that is holy would one fast from Holy Communion when one is in a state of grace to receive?

Marc from iPhone said...

I have abstained from Communion despite being in the state of grace when I noticed that receiving was becoming too routine. I have also abstained when it was impossible to receive from a priest (that is, when forced to receive from an EMHC, I abstain). I abstain if I have not adequately prepared thru prayer that morning or the night before Mass. I have abstained if I was distracted during Mass.

I see all of these as good reasons to abstain...

Marc from iPhone said...

Forgot one - I have abstained when the Mass was particularly "liberal" in terms of the looseness of rubrics or other strange things.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, but scrupulosity is not to be encouraged as none of what you mention is an impediment to receiving.

Marc said...

Receiving without adequate preparation or forethought is an impediment and all the things I mentioned go to one of those impediments.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Some pertinent Catechism of the Catholic Church extracts:

1393 Holy Communion separates us from sin. The body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion is “given up for us,” and the blood we drink “shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins.” For this reason the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins…

1394 As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life; and this living charity wipes away venial sins…

1395 By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins…

Thus the Eucharist itself ensures that all who receive it are “pristine” and cleansed from all sin except grave sin, as CCC 1395 also reminds us.

Marc from iPhone said...

I agree with all your selections, Father. I add the following:


1387 To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament, the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church. Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest.

I also commend to you the last section of this article: http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/communion_dispositions.htm

This is a good summary: "[A]s a matter of morality Catholics must pay attention to their interior and exterior disposition when going to Communion."

Marc from iPhone said...

Father, let me clarify and say that I do agree with you generally. People should not refrain fom Communion for scrupulous reasons. I likewise would not suggest anyone follow my lead or practices.

I just mean to convey that, while what you've cited from the CCC is certainly true, is it not true that the efficacy of the Sacraments, including Communion, is dependent on our disposition when receiving them? Therefore, we must all not only be sure we are able to receive from a legalistic standpoint, but that our disposition are such that the Sacrament will be efficacious.

So, ideally, we would always be properly disposed: Ina state of grace and of proper comportment. For myself, I cannot always manage one of both of those. But, I still go to Mass, including daily Mass without receiving in order to show God that I love him and to receive His converting grace. And that's the broader lesson I was thinking should be conveyed to people (as I know you do from being your parishioner for many years).

Henry Edwards said...

Actually, I might question the pertinence of CCC 1393-1395 to the question of whether one should receive Holy Communion if not adequately prepared spiritually.

Better might be some guidance on abstaining if reception would likely place one somewhere on the scale between irreverence and sacrilege. Neither of which, I fear, is uncommon nowadays.

Also valuable might some systematic instruction on the graces of spiritual communion when not properly disposed for sacramental communion.

ytc said...

I thought that whole, "Holy water is only there to 'remind us of our baptism'," stuff has been forsaken?

Because if it just reminds us of something, instead of sanctifying--as was the understanding before the rite was changed and still is the understanding within the context of the EF--then what real good is it? Especially for the vast majority of Catholics who were baptized as infants?