Thursday, February 18, 2010


Well, yesterday at St. Joseph Church in Macon, it was like Christmas and Easter. We had about 150 at the 6:30 AM Mass, 400 at 8:00 AM, the two school Masses were packed with students and others, the 5:00 PM Mass was packed to standing room capacity, about 600 and just a little less than that at 7:00 PM.

There were many young people of college age present. Along with those there were many others that I seldom see. I thought perhaps a convention was in the city that brought in an influx of Catholics for some reason. No, for the most part, the strangers were "ACE" Catholics (I just thought of this up now, has anyone heard this acronym?) ACE Catholics stands for "ashes, Christmas, Easter" Catholics! Am I really the first to use this?

But as I look at Vice President Joe Biden's mark of repentance on his forehead, and good for him that he wore it, it could be both politically advantageous as well as disadvantageous, I thought to myself that ashes are actually "imposed" upon the person who presents himself for these. Holy Communion, however, is never imposed, Christ must be "received." I hope the ashes on the Vice President indicates a true repentance of his pro-choice political stance. I hope he went to confession. I hope that he also received Holy Communion thus in a state of grace.

At all the Masses yesterday where we had so many ACE Catholics, all of whom had ashes imposed on their forehead, I also noticed that all of them also came forward to receive our Lord in Holy Communion and for the most part piously so. But I could not but wonder if the sacrament of Penance had been a part of this marvelous show of ACE Catholics yesterday and their seemingly pious reception of Holy Communion. Or was there a disconnect between the sign of the ashes imposed on their forehead, meaning they are repentant sinners, and their actual reception of our Lord in Holy Communion, meaning they were truly in a state of grace as a result of the Sacrament of Penance? Only God is the judge on this one, we can only wonder.

In a sense, though, while ashes are imposed and Holy Communion is never imposed, the person presenting themselves for ashes must receive them. The efficacy of the act of receiving either the ashes or the Most Holy Eucharist lies within the person who receives. For ashes, if there is no true repentance and a desire to return to the Sacrament of Penance as the normal means to express sorrow, repentance, receive penance and absolution, then the act of being marked with ashes is less than meritorious on the part of the person receiving. The same can be said about the unworthy reception of our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Depending on the state of the sinner receiving, it can either be meritorious or an added mortal sin.

Finally, I must comment on the plurality of ways Catholics receive Holy Communion in the hand. It still shocks me that even those who should know better, continue to snatch, cup or one hand this option that I have thoroughly catechized about in terms of the correct way. I guess people just don't listen or missed Mass on the Sunday I catechized about it. What to do?!

The correct way, by the way, to receive our Lord on the palm of the hand is clearly enunciated in the American Bishops' Adaptation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal dated June 14, 2001:

“41 Holy Communion under the form of bread is offered to the communicant with the words "The Body of Christ." The communicant may choose whether to receive the Body of Christ in the hand or on the tongue. When receiving in the hand, the communicant should be guided by the words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem: "When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost." (51)

Shall I tattoo it on the palm of every hand, (or maybe "brand it") that is stuck out for our Lord? Now that would be an "IMPOSITION!"


Gene said...

What to do? Go back to receiving in one kind on the tongue...end of problem.
You know, there was the Donatist heresy,in rsponse to which the Church asserted that character or behavior flaws in the Priest do not vitiate the efficacy of the Grace conveyed in the Sacrament.
Perhaps the Church needs to make a statement regarding the Dumbasstist heresy...reminding us that stupid people or irreverant people have no power regarding the efficacy of the Graces conferred in the Eucharist...they merely cause the rest of us to commit venial sin in our thoughts about them.

Templar said...

I know I sound like a broken record Father, but what to do is to "encourage" Communion on the tongue. I know you can not deny Communion in the hand as long as the Indult stands, but if you encourage Communion on the tongue and kneeling many in the congregation will do it. As long as we're all queued up like a Soviet era breadline people will be afraid to do anything but what they have been doing for years (regardless of whether they do it correctly or not).

Gene said...

Bring out the kneelers at every Mass, or restore the altar rail.. That would be a clear indication that receiving on the tongue is encouraged.

Henry Edwards said...

Most Rev. Athanasius Schneider on Communion in the Hand:

Specifically, where he makes it plain that current use of the famous "make your hand a throne for the Eucharist" quote of St. Cyril is completely (and surely intentionally) misleading. That no one in ancient times would have ever picked up the Host with his fingers. Instead, the communicant bowed deeply to receive the Host directly from the palm into the mouth. This "communion by mouth" was profoundly reverent, and did not resemble today's perfunctory "communion by hand".

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Dear Henry, you are 100% correct. In fact the way our Episcopalian/Anglican brothers and sisters receive Holy Communion is by bringing the palm to the mouth or bringing the mouth to the palm to consume the wafer. Catholics have scoffed at their method over the years thinking our method of thanking the thumb and index finger to life the Host from the palm is superior. It is not Anglican method is truer to tradition and the reverence that Catholics should have for our Holy Communion as understood through "transubstantiation." Fr. McDonald

Anonymous said...

As an EM at our parish, I was apalled one day when I was distributing Communion one night and after saying "the Body of Christ", the gentlemen snatched the host from my hand to then consume it. My thought was: "hey, no one takes the Body of Christ, you are supposed to receive it". As a matter of justice to our Lord, I always make sure the person says AMEN before they recieve the host, becayse after all, if you don't say you believe, then you should not receive. Peace and blessings this Lenten season for you and all your parishioners!

Anonymous said...

ACE - that's great!
I've always heard
A&P (ashes & palms)