Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Dangers of "Routine Communions"

As the centenary of the death of Pope Saint Pius X approached this summer, Fr. Timothy Finigan, in "What I Want is Mercy, Not Sacrilege: The Dangers of 'Routine Communions'” (Faith Magazine, July-August, 2014), while recognizing the infinite graces that have flowed from this pious practice, assessed the dangers that can arise when the Eucharist is viewed as a human prize rather than a divine privilege. Excerpt:
Priests who speak on these matters will probably be confronted by the protest “Are you saying that I am being irreverent by standing and receiving communion in the hand?” It is time that we stopped caving in to this childish passive aggression, in favour of helping the majority of ordinary faithful to benefit from external signs of reverence that they quickly recognise as helping reinforce belief in the real presence.

... I can almost hear the cry from some quarters of “Jansenism! Jansenism!” ... The debate on who should and should not receive Holy Communion needs to be re-framed according to classical Catholic spiritual teaching. Nobody wants to see frequent Holy Communion disappear from the lives of Catholics, but it is equally necessary that Holy Communion should once again be understood as a sacrament to be received with due preparation, in a state of grace, and in a state of life that accords with the teaching of Christ and the Church.

Christ quoted the word spoken to Hosea desiring a real change of heart, and not an empty external ritual. We could reword His call without disrespect: “What I want is mercy, not sacrilege.”
As a reader commented in an email:
... the problems are not simply a Catholic liturgical thing, but represent the larger and seismic generational shift. People no longer think of approaching God as requiring much acknowledgement of grandeur or holiness. The newer emphasis is that God is not so much 'Other' as he is 'For Us.' And this without the pivotal pre-acknowlegement of the Cross as opening up our access to Him. Of course it makes sense. If sin is downplayed, and if God's universal salvific will is read as simply God's unconditional love, then communion is simply the equivalent of the club membership ritual. Every member gets to participate as long as they show up. Even the kids. "Let the little children..." The mass is no longer communion with someone but affirmation of worth.
Wow! And too true!!

Those of us who are converts from Protestantism may even remember greater reverence, of sorts, in our erstwhile communions than we are apt to experience in certain AmChurch Catholic parishes these days. We may not have had the true Body and Blood of Christ, but we were taught that the Lord's Supper, whatever we supposed it to be, was something special. You had to be old enough to have an inkling of what it's about, and if you had big things to still get right with God, you abstained.

How different today, when you're likely to feel like an oddity if, out of awe and reverence for our Lord, you choose to abstain rather than queue up in the communion line. As my contact put it: "Same symbols but close to an entirely different religion. In the new cult the problem is not how God sees us, since he loves us. It is how we see ourselves."

Auguste Comte's dream of a religion of man has come true.

1 comment:

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

Well, if the premise to be promoted is that we are all saints, then "affirmation of worth" is always going to be the fortune in the cookie.