Wednesday, May 16, 2018


If only he would mandate kneeling for Holy Communion with standing as the exception and give widespread permission for ad orientem and intinction. That would be the way to go!

Reverence for our Eucharistic Lord

Most Rev. Alexander Sample, Archbishop of Portland
Tuesday, May 15, 2018 12:35 PM
The gifts of bread and wine await their transformation at St. John the Baptist Mission in Clatskanie. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
The gifts of bread and wine await their transformation at St. John the Baptist Mission in Clatskanie. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
My sister who lives here in Portland watched on EWTN the Mass I celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on April 28. One of her comments (after she finished making fun of her younger brother!) was about how Holy Communion was received. She remembered with some real fondness how, when we were children, we always received Holy Communion at the Communion rail and on the tongue. No one dared touch the Holy Eucharist, except the priest.

Whatever anyone reading this thinks about the current practices regarding the distribution of Holy Communion, the rationale behind the former discipline was a profound sense of reverence and awe for the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It is not just a symbol or sign. Jesus Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul and divinity in the Holy Eucharist.

The Real Presence

That’s what Catholics believe. But our liturgical and sacramental practices far too often do not reflect that profound understanding and faith in the Real Presence. The story is told of a Protestant minister who was invited to attend Mass. Afterward he was questioned on what he thought. He replied that he did not think that the congregation really believed in the Real Presence. When asked why he thought this, he said that he personally did not believe in the Eucharist as Catholics do, but if he did, he would approach our Lord for Communion walking on his knees. He found the casusal and irreverent attitude at the time of Communion in that particular church very unconvincing.

As part of a new Liturgical Handbook for the Archdiocese of Portland to be released on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi (June 3), and after consultation, there are two changes in practice I am implementing with regard to our understanding and reverence for the Holy Eucharist. Please consider this a “teaching moment” for all of us. As shepherd and teacher of the faith, and as the one ultimately responsible for the liturgical life of the Archdiocese of Portland, my intent is to foster greater devotion to our Lord in the Blessed Eucharist and in the Holy Mass.

Showing reverence

We will return to the practice of kneeling after the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). The current practice is to remain standing, which has been an exception to the universal norm of kneeling that has been perfectly legitimate and permitted by the liturgical norms. Nevertheless, returning to the practice of kneeling at this moment in the Mass will foster a greater reverence for our Lord.

The priest at that moment is about to hold up before the congregation our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist and proclaim, “Behold the Lamb of God.” It seems most fitting that we be on our knees before the Lord for such a proclamation of faith. In the Book of Revelation, when the Lamb of God (Christ) is presented before the throng of heaven, all fall down in worship before him. The Mass is a participation in this heavenly liturgy. (On the left coast, most stand for the "Behold the Lamb of God" and remain standing throughout the distribution of Holy Communion--but this isn't common in most of the USA).

On Communion and Holy Sacrifice of Mass

The second change coming is that, in the absence of a priest to offer Mass, the distribution of Holy Communion on weekdays in the parish church during a “Communion service” will no longer be permitted. This does not affect such Communion services in nursing homes, prisons, etc., where the people do not have the opportunity to attend Mass on Sunday in the parish.

There is an intimate and intrinsic link between three realities that is essential in this context. They are the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the priest who ministers in the person of Christ, and the distribution of Holy Communion. These are not to be separated except for serious reasons and pastoral need. As long as the faithful have the opportunity to participate in Mass and receive Holy Communion on Sunday, there is no such pastoral need to receive Holy Communion outside of Mass.

When we go to Mass, we are there to do much more than just receive Holy Communion. We participate actively and consciously in the offering of Christ, the Paschal Victim, through the hands of the priest, who ministers in the very person of Christ at the altar. From this sacramental offering, we receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, thus culminating our participation in the paschal mystery being celebrated. This is the way the Church has always viewed this. The Church never envisioned breaking them apart by distributing Communion outside of Mass. This is only done for the sick and those otherwise unable to participate in the Sunday Eucharist. To do otherwise is very poor sacramental and Eucharistic theology.

When Mass cannot be offered on a weekday in a particular church, parishioners are invited to experience the wider Church by attending daily Mass in a neighboring parish. The faithful can also gather for other forms of prayer, and our Office of Divine Worship has prepared a prayer service for such occasions that include parts of the Liturgy of the Hours with readings from the Mass of the day. 
 This is a way to experience another form of the Church’s liturgical prayer.

These changes may take some time for adjustment, but I am confident that they will lead us to a more profound reverence for the most precious gift of the Holy Eucharist, and a more informed, conscious and active participation in the Holy Mass. And a greater love for our Lord in the Mass and in the Blessed Sacrament will lead to a greater love of neighbor and service to the poor.


TJM said...

Archbishop Sample is a shining light in a liturgical wasteland. Interesting thing, given his age, he did not witness the ugly liturgical wars of the 1960s. Somehow he found himself attracted to the majesty and beauty of the Roman Mass. His seminary professors must be grieving!

qwikness said...


Henry said...

Archbishop Sample--surely one of a handful of the Church's finest prelates--took office in Portland in 2013. One can only wonder what state he found the archdiocese in then, that it took him five years to initiate even such modest steps as these toward re-sacralization of the liturgy there.

I wonder whether he's done anything to begin a clean-up of Oregon Catholic Press--of which I believe he's ex officio chairman as archbishop--one of the nation's leading purveyors of liturgical throwaway trash.

rcg said...

FrAJM, donyou think that there is any value to a discussion about *refraining* from communion when our spiritual state is in question? This leads to a studied examination of concience, contrition, and confession as preparation. So; while we should yearn for daily communion we would find that maintaining proper state of our souls for that goal more difficult than many might now think.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, we should not make the reception of Holy Communion at Mass the end all and be all of the Mass. There are graces galore even if one does not receive Holy Communion and simply being at Mass for a mortal sinner who is not in a state of grace, can allow God's grace to lead them to Confession and worthily receiving.

Many Catholics who otherwise could receive because they are forgiven, do not when they might have broken the fast.

Anonymous said...

"There are graces galore even if one does not receive Holy Communion and simply being at Mass for a mortal sinner who is not in a state of grace, can allow God's grace to lead them to Confession and worthily receiving.

Pelagianism pure and simple.

"a mortal sinner....can allow God's grace...


"A mortal sinner, led by God's grace...."

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

So you are teaching heretically that God controls us by our grace and we cannot help but be led by him without our full consent of the will which God's grace makes possible if we use it? INTERESTING NEW TEACHING!

Anonymous said...

No, grace does not override free will.

The sinner, however, doesn't "allow" God's grace to bring about conversion. Allowing means exerting control over. A parent allows a child to have a second helping of Brussels sprouts, exercising control.

A sinner, acting at the prompting of grace, accepts that grace and is changed.

(P.S. "Full consent of the will" is used when speaking of mortal sin, not when speaking of the action of grace.)

ByzRus said...

A bishop controlling the liturgy and ensuring uniform posture and reverence. Why is this such a news item??

Oh right, I forgot, for so many within the episcopacy, free and easy is the order of the day.

Gene said...

Full consent of the will is also a gift from God. Man "allows" nothing. It is by God's grace that full consent of the will occurs. Again, we run up against the Catholic Church's semi-Pelagianism. "Our will is not free until it is enslaved to the will of God." St. Augustine

Anonymous said...

"The Dominican or Thomist solution, as it is called, teaches in brief that God premoves each man in all his acts to the line of conduct which he subsequently adopts."

The human subject of grace is free to allow or "adopt" Divine Will.

As Augustine notes, faith without good works is not sufficient for salvation. The grace to do good works is always available to us. The human will, burdened by sin, is not always open to adopt or allow that grace to operate in us.