Monday, July 5, 2021

Do We Realize What We Have?

Dear Parishioners,

Recently, there has been increased attention on the reception of Holy Communion by prominent public officials who profess to be "Catholic" despite the fact that they publicly support policies directly contrary to Church teaching.  During their last general meeting, U.S. bishops debated whether to draft a document—not directly condemning those who potentially commit such sacrilege against the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord—but, rather, to reinforce the Church's traditional teaching on the Holy Eucharist.  

I am not a bishop and I completely respect their apostolic succession.  However, many of the faithful question whether this particular document will truly have any lasting impact on congregations that have dwindled dramatically over time and who appear to have lost faith in the Real Presence.  Does the bishops' response truly address the problem at hand or somehow attempt diplomatically to skirt around it?  Too often I think we fear offending someone rather than warning them about the potential jeopardy to their eternal salvation.     

During my lifetime,  I have witnessed a dramatic decline in respect and reverence for the Most Holy Eucharist.  When I received my first Holy Communion, we were not permitted to touch the host.  The practice of receiving in the hand, currently acceptable and quite common, was not allowed at that point in time.  Everyone received on the tongue.  I can remember as a child going to many churches where we knelt along the altar rail when receiving Holy Communion.

Reflecting after nearly six decades, I have had significant time to process what this change has meant to our reception of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament.  In my opinion, kneeling and receiving on the tongue seemed to maintain more of a spirit of reverence when receiving Holy Communion.  Today I have encountered everything from people trying to grab the sacred host, to those who walk away without consuming the sacred host immediately, to those who handle the sacred host with as much respect as eating a potato chip.  I truly do not know what people believe in the deep recesses of their hearts—now or then.  However, it appears to me that there used to be much more reverence in the reception of Holy Communion in days gone by.

Moreover, there is some misguided notion in today’s society that we should simply go up to Holy Communion whether or not we are in the state of grace and sufficiently prepared.  I also remember a point in time when people would go to confession (the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation) pretty much each week before receiving Holy Communion.  While I realize that confession is only necessary if there is mortal or serious sin involved, I, unfortunately, do not see any great lines for confession week after week.  I also have this nagging question as a result of such experience:  Do people no longer confess missing Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation as a sin?  This was a problem well before the pandemic and its related circumstances.  

Christmas and Easter Catholics seem to approach the Sacrament in great numbers.  Have they all made a good sacramental confession beforehand?  How about those who ignore the proper fast (one hour from food and drink beforehand), those in irregular marriages (i.e., not recognized by the Church), those who persist in beliefs contrary to the faith (e.g., pro-abortion or “pro-choice” Catholics or those knowingly, regularly using artificial birth control), etc., etc.?

Worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist includes, but is not limited to, being in the state of grace (not conscious of any serious or mortal sin), a fast of one hour from food and drink beforehand (not including water and, naturally, if in good physical health), reverence and devotion (e.g., not chewing gum, talking or socializing in the line to Holy Communion) and a proper thanksgiving (not walking out the door of the Church while still consuming the sacred host).     

Do we realize what we have here?  We are privileged to receive Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, truly present under the appearances of bread and wine.  

Is anyone really worthy of so great a gift?  Nope.  Still, I desire to see all people grow closer to Jesus—especially those who may not, at this time, be able to receive Holy Communion for some reason or another.  A Spiritual Communion is always a valid option in this instance.  (If such circumstance applies to your life, why not take the time to see if it is possible to correct matters by talking to a priest?)

Those of us who are able to receive should do all that we can to prepare properly, to receive reverently and to give thanks adequately for so great a privilege.  

God Almighty deserves nothing less.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

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