“People are suffering because their marriages are broken, not because they cannot go to Communion. For us, the center of the Eucharist is the consecration. Each Christian has the obligation to go to Mass, but not to go to Communion. To concentrate on only one aspect resolves nothing.”-- Cardinal Gerhard Müller
Prior to Vatican II when we had more than 90% of all Catholics attending Mass each Sunday, most Catholics did not receive Holy Communion when they celebrated Mass. There are a variety of reasons for this:
1. A well formed, keen conscience that prevented Catholics from going to Holy Communion when they felt they were in a state of mortal sin and had not been to Confession yet
2. The fast could not be maintained (when it was from midnight to the time of Mass and even when it was reduced to 3 hours before Mass or even the minimal one hour)
3. Irregular life situations such as divorce and remarriage that is an impediment
For a small minority of Catholics scrupulosity and an unhealthy sense of unworthiness prevented them from going to Holy Communion more often. For many it was the heresy of Jansenism. The Church requires by law that Catholics receive at least once a year by going to Confession first and this should be in the Easter Season.
After Vatican II rules were relaxed and the "new morality" led to unscrupulous lifestyles quite contrary to Catholic moral teaching. It all hinged not on external moral principles but on an internal awareness of right or wrong decided by the conscience even if this went against the moral law.
But more of an influence was the de-emphasis on the Mass being a sacrifice. It was touted as a meal and no one goes to a meal without eating. Everyone must eat and drink or the Mass made no sense. And if the Meal is all that is emphasized then it makes sense that everyone should eat when they go to dinner.
But the Mass is first and foremost the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross in an bloodless way to make the graces of what brings forgiveness, redemption and eternal life to every person in the world.
So if a person doesn't receive Holy Communion they are receiving wonderful graces from the Sacrifice that is renewed in an unbloody way.
But let's be clear. There is only one person at Mass who must receive the Most Holy Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ and to complete the Holy Sacrfice and that is the priest who is celebrating the Mass.
It is here that modern theologians wanted to do away with what is critical for the completion of the Sacrifice because in their estimation it was clericalism not dogma. Folks, its dogma not clericalism to teach what is orthodox, that the priest-celebrant must complete the Sacrifice by consuming the Holocaust. This does not apply to anyone else simply attending Mass be it the pope, cardinal, bishop, priest of lay person.
It is noble and laudable for the laity to receive Holy Communion at every Mass if there are no impediments and many laity do for the benefit of their salvation, but it is not required!
What Father says is correct here and of course the Church teaches that when they cannot receive at Mass people are able to have a spiritual communion:
"St. Thomas Aquinas defined Spiritual Communion as “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Holy Sacrament and a loving embrace as though we had already received Him.”
The basis of this practice was explained by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia:
In the Eucharist, "unlike any other sacrament, the mystery [of communion] is so perfect that it brings us to the heights of every good thing: Here is the ultimate goal of every human desire, because here we attain God and God joins himself to us in the most perfect union."
Precisely for this reason it is good to cultivate in our hearts a constant desire for the sacrament of the Eucharist. This was the origin of the practice of "spiritual communion," which has happily been established in the Church for centuries and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life. St. Teresa of Jesus wrote: "When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you" [The Way of Perfection, Ch. 35.].1 .
Thus, the passionate desire for God, whom the saints have seen as the Sole Satisfier, and who in the Eucharist is the "summit and source of the Christian life""
The Church gives us a prayer for an Act of Spiritual Communion:
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You.
The wonderful thing too about a spiritual communion is that we can make one at any time of the day or night, when we're sick and can't get to Masss or for any other reason. The Church teaches that a spiritual Communion comes very close to the actual physical reception of Christ in the Eucharist.
I've been going to Mass for about 80 years and I never remember a time when "most Catholics did not receive Holy Communion when they celebrated Mass".
GOB, there were many pre-Vatican II Masses where Holy Communion was not distributed to the laity. I know this to be a fact.
But in your case, and you must have been rugged, did you go to late Sunday Mass, i.e. like at 11 or 12 noon and maintain the fast from food, water and medicine? I think it was these late Mass which had the fewest communicants.
Or did you go to the early morning Mass, like at 5:30 AM or 6:00 AM so you could eat breakfast afterwards?
I am so ashamed of the times I received Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin. I pray for God's Mercy on my pathetic soul! In the back of my mind, I guess, I figured I shouldn't be presenting myself for Holy Communion, but growing up in the 80's and 90's and going to Catholic school in the Atlanta archdiocese, I was not really ever educated, that I can remember, on mortal sin and when not to present myself for Holy Communion. When I returned to the Church in 2012, at the age of 32, only then was I properly educated by Father McDonald and Father Dawid about not receiving Holy Communion until I was living in a State of Grace and then made a detailed good confession. I wonder if most Catholics my age, living in sin, even know they should not be receiving Holy Communion, but should still be attending Mass on Sundays, Holy Days and whenever else they can? S.C.
When I was young, I often went to 6:00 AM with my mother. Then from about age 9 until maybe 14 or 15, I was an altar boy and went whenever I was assigned. After that it was usually 8:15 for a while, then in high school I was in the choir and we did 10:00. So, I covered the schedule pretty well. Communion was always distributed and most people received....and "I know this to be a fact".
People not in a state of grace cannot make a spiritual communion in the real sense of the phrase, Jan.
Yes, Marc, what you say about mortal sin is correct but sometimes people can't go up for communion if they have broken the fast, for example, or if they are sick and don't feel they can go up for communion. Shut-ins for example who are in a state of grace, people making a visit to the church when there is no Mass on, people who have no Sunday Mass all can make a spiritual communion if they are in the state of grace:
"The traditional understanding of the Church is as follows:
(1) If a person receives Holy Communion with the correct dispositions they receive both sacramentally and spiritually.
(2) If a person receives Holy Communion, but is not correctly disposed, they receive sacramentally but not spiritually; that is to say, they physically eat the Body and Blood of the Lord but do not receive an increase of sanctifying grace, rather “he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself.” (1 Cor 11:29)
(3) Finally, a person who is correctly disposed to receive Holy Communion, but is not able to do so physically, receives spiritually but not sacramentally when they make an act of spiritual communion. A person who willfully persists in a state of mortal sin is thus not able to make a spiritual communion in the proper sense of the term. Therefore a person who is divorced and “remarried” is not able to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, or able to make a spiritual communion, until they repent of their sin."
SC, from what you say there appear to be mitigating circumstances if you weren't properly catechised and God would take that into account. Also, as you have confessed your sins then don't dwell on them. None of us is worthy but we can all do penance for the purgatory due for the sins we have committed. Thank God that you have been given the grace of repentance. But I am sure you are right that some don't know they should not be going up for communion.
We usually attend the High Mass at our parish, which is at 11:30 a.m. Since I follow the midnight to Communion fast, sometimes in my fleshly weakness I cannot make it until Communion (which is around 1 p.m.) without something to eat or coffee. So, it is not unusual for me to remain in the pews during Communion for this purpose.
Two of our priests hear confessions before and during Mass, so there is no excuse for me to not be in a state of grace!
Gob you are mistaken. I was in a liturgically progressive parish prior to the disaster known as Vatican II. Our norm in that parish was the Missa Dialoga, and maybe, at best, 10% of the congregation went to Holy Communion. I was well traveled in those days and throughout the US, I experienced the same thing. Nice try.
TJM...I am NOT mistaken. I don't know or care where you were, I don't care how "well traveled" you were, you were not where I was and you don't know what the hell you're talking about.
It could be that Gob is simply lying...he is a liberal, you know.
gob, you live in a liberal fantasy world. You know, ObamaCare probably covers "anger management"
I am an Orthodox Christian and I enjoy very much reading this blog and others by traditional Catholic groups. I just want to comment briefly on how unimaginable it seems to me to receive communion in the absence of confession, penance and full nightly fast. What does a 3-hours or 1-hour fast mean, for God's sake? This is an oxymoron. There is no such thing as a 1-hour fast, by definition. Fast should be abstention from food and drink. And as we don't eat and drink continually by nature, there are more than 3 hours naturally in which we might not partake of food or drink daily. Then, if there is such a thing as a 1 or 3-hours fast, by means of induction, all of humankind, all of the time, fasts. It is perfectly equal to saying there exists no such thing as fasting.
I can tell you from experience, my mother is not a practicing Christian and she has received communion a few times after participating in Mass in Catholic churches. Not only did she not keep a fast, or make confession, but she isn't even Catholic, being Orthodox by birth, and moreover not a practicing Christian. She didn't know better, she saw everyone in the church queuing up to take the Eucharist and she genuinely thought that is what she is supposed to do. Growing up and living most of her life in a communist regime in which theological education was non-existent and going to Church meant risking yours and your family's life, I cannot blame her. But what was the priest doing?
Fact is that Communion taken in a state of sin and unpreparedness is in one's condemnation. By way of argument, the Catholic Church nowadays actually contributes massively to condemnation of souls, rather than salvation of souls. And mouthfuls of rhetoric won't change that one bit.
Living a true Christian life is difficult and frustrating. It was never meant to be otherwise. This is precisely why I find Catholic churches always empty and Orthodox churches always packed. Paradoxically, people don't want more inclussiveness and relaxation of doctrine, as Vatican II and post-VII theologians axiomatically presume. They have plenty of that in the world. They want the church to be the Church, or else what does it have to offer? You know, no merchant ever makes a living by offering what is plentifully available everywhere else -- and doing a poorer job of it, at the same time. Whether or not they approve, whether or not they are currently or want currently to be a part of it, people want the Church to be holy.
Getting back to communion, in our Church not only do you have to be in a state of grace to receive communion. And the fast does not only refer to keeping the night before sharing the Eucharist, but you also have to fast every Wednesday and Friday (which also means abstinence and watchfulness), but also keep a 40-day fast of Eastern, another lengthy Christmas fast and plenty other shorter ones throughout the year. Which I am know that traditional Catholicism also had, before the reforms.
Just for comparison, you have to fast all night just to take "anaphora" -- or the piece of blessed bread that is given as a consolation and substitute for the ones who cannot yet receive communion, which is the majority of people. So how much more should you purify yourself for the Eucharist. Are you going to take Christ in you in a state of mortal sin and with the eggs and bacon you had for breakfast, with coffee and cigarettes?
But more importantly, and finally, even if you have had confession, have fasted and are in a state of grace, there is still no guarantee you can receive communion. Because as the canons of the Church specify, there is a specific recommended period of penance for grave sins. Depending on your confession, the nature of your sins and the pastoral guidance of your confessor, you might be stopped from communicating for a few months, a year, three years. In the meantime, you are expected to fulfill your canon of penance, its difficulty again depending on all those factors. There is what we call "iconomia" -- which is judging on a case by case basis, using pastoral discretion and relaxing canons if necessary. They are not applied from the standpoint of a prosecutor or judge, but from the standpoint and with the disposition of a doctor. Just like you have to keep a certain diet, have a certain regimen of life and take certain medications to get better, you need to keep a certain discipline to heal your soul as well. This is not to be seen as punishment or making amends for sins, although it can also be this kind of metanoia in a sense, but more importantly it is the path to spiritual healing and restoring of your broken connection with God. It is a path out of sin and into virtue, and ultimately a way to show your commitment to amend your ways.
Only after these conditions are met, can you be worthy of receiving Christ. How could you even approach Him otherwise?
I'm not saying anything new. This was, I am sure, standard Catholic doctrine. This is what the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation used to mean. I was only expressing my astonishment of how far things have gone. This is not in any way to show the superiority of the Orthodox or such nonsense. I think the Catholic Church, restored to its former dignity, would be one of the most beautiful and inspiring things in the world. Both my grandmothers have been Catholic. And I would have no qualms to convert, for example, to a pre-Vatican II Catholic Church. I would feel at home there, as I never feel in the actual Church now. The few times I've tried to go to mass in a Catholic church, I have been dismayed by the complete lack of "pnevma", or Spirit. The difference between liturgy and theatre isn't there anymore, as is the difference between clergy and laity. Those should be sensible differences of nature -- between holy and profane -- that are not there anymore, just like the feel of Protestant churches.
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