Saturday, August 26, 2006

More St. Pius the Tenth week thoughts...

The Eucharist as 'fast food'?

Monday was the feast of Pope St. Pius X, known as the "Pope of the Eucharist" because he permitted frequent if not daily Communion, and allowed the reception of Communion for little children. A wonderful favor for the modern Church.

Sometimes I wonder about daily reception, not to mention Sunday reception for those who rarely ever go to confession, or may not be properly catechised, much less prepared to communicate. I have met persons whose determination to communicate daily almost borders on obsessive compulsive.

I had a woman who worked for me once who either had to come in late or leave early from work to make it to Mass in time to receive Communion. She would become agitated with the prospect that she may not make it in time to receive. While it wasn't uncommon for her to speed when driving to the Church. I've known a few people who would do similar things in order to get to Mass - or, more specifically, to Holy Communion. I have often heard people say things like, "I can't live without daily Communion!" It is not unusual for them to occasionally request the priest, or an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, to give them Communion outside of Mass when they were unable to attend the same day. After receiving, they left the chapel almost as quickly to go about their business shortly after receiving. This practice is where I get the title of this post, "Eucharist as fast food."

In the movie "The Nun's Story", Audrey Hepburn's character Sr. Luke, because she had to assist in surgery early in the morning and therefore miss the conventual Mass, received Holy Communion at the door of the operating room when the priest came through the hospital to distribute for the sick. That is a different situation all together - however it didn't appear to do Sr. Luke much good. Daily Communion, in some people's eyes, may be more important than the actual celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass. In some instances, it may even be a sort of "point system" tally-thing going on for them. People often forget that before Pius X the faithful rarely received Holy Communion on a daily basis, even in religious houses. Many of the saints did not even have this privledge. (Although, on the other hand, you have the very devout who assist at more than one Mass a day and receive Communion at every Mass. I believe two Communions may be permitted at two different liturgies in one day, but anythings else, other than for a priest who celebrates more than once, seems exagerrated to me.)

Here is a part of Pius X proclamation concerning daily Communion. Notice the emphasis on proper preparation and disposition:

"Accordingly, the Sacred Congregation of the Council, in a Plenary Session held on December 16,1905, submitted this matter to a very careful study, and after sedulously examining the reasons adduced on either side, determined and declared as follows:

1. Frequent and daily Communion, as a practice most earnestly desired by Christ our Lord and by the Catholic Church, should be open to all the faithful, of whatever rank and condition of life; so that no one who is in the state of grace, and who approaches the Holy Table with a right and devout intention (recta piaque mente) can be prohibited therefrom.

2. A right intention consists in this: that he who approaches the Holy Table should do so, not out of routine, or vain glory, or human respect, but that he wish to please God, to be more closely united with Him by charity, and to have recourse to this divine remedy for his weakness and defects.

3. Although it is especially fitting that those who receive Communion frequently or daily should be free from venial sins, at least from such as are fully deliberate, and from any affection thereto, nevertheless, it is sufficient that they be free from mortal sin, with the purpose of never sinning in the future; and if they have this sincere purpose, it is impossible by that daily communicants should gradually free themselves even from venial sins, and from all affection thereto.4. Since, however, the Sacraments of the New Law, though they produce their effect ex opere operato, nevertheless, produce a great effect in proportion as the dispositions of the recipient are better, therefore, one should take care that Holy Communion be preceded by careful preparation, and followed by an appropriate thanksgiving, according to each one's strength, circumstances and duties.

5. That the practice of frequent and daily Communion may be carried out with greater prudence and more fruitful merit, the confessor's advice should be asked. Confessors, however, must take care not to dissuade anyone from frequent or daily Communion, provided he is found to be in a state of grace and approaches with a right intention.

6. But since it is plain that by the frequent or daily reception of the Holy Eucharist union with Christ is strengthened, the spiritual life more abundantly sustained, the soul more richly endowed with virtues, and the pledge of everlasting happiness more securely bestowed on the recipient, therefore, parish priests, confessors and preachers, according to the approved teaching of the Roman Catechism should exhort the faithful frequently and with great zeal to this devout and salutary practice." [snip] Go here for the Full text.

My whole point here, is not against daily Communion, rather the manner in which we present ourselves to communicate, as well as the attitude we may have of "the right" to do so. In some ways, it may be analogous to someone grabbing the host out of the hands of the minister, as opposed to devoutly receiving it upon the tongue or upon the sacred throne of our hand before consuming the host. Can daily Communion lead to nonchalance and taking the sacrament for granted? I think so - I think it does even among the devout. I often share with others the suggestion to frequently make acts of "spiritual Communion" as a means of recollection and a way of continuing the effects of their sacramental Communion. Aside from the proximate preparation of prayer and devoutly assisting at Mass, there is no better preparation than to spiritually unite ourselves frequently to Our Lord in spiritual Communion.

Never take the Lord for granted in His Eucharistic Presence - someday we might find ourselves deprived of it.


  1. I believe you are on to something here. And I might add this to it:

    Too many people have come to believe that their "active participation" at Mass includes recieving communion. This simply is not the teaching of the Church. While encouraging frequent communion, even daily reception, no where does the Church say that this is NECC. in fulfiling one's obligation.

    Plus, daily communion, while laudable, has led to other abuses. For instance, as you mentioned, confessions are less and less these days, yet everyone goes to Communion. Have we all become perfected? Certainly not. Many people are emabarressed to sit in the pew because they are afraid of being judged as a sinner so rather than offer this terrible slander up, they commit sacrilege. Also the danger is like you said, taking Christ for granted. How many do we see heading for the door right after receiving and not even waiting for the end of Mass! Is this not madness? Because of the large numbers of people that do this, I think it's fair to judge that many do not believe in the real prescence of Christ. How can they? If it were one person leaving we could excuse and say they had some very important appt. but sometimes half the congregation is gone before the priest leaves the sanctuary!

    Some may say that the allowance of frequent communion is not to blame for these abuses. I agree. I believe the saintly Pope would not allow this if he could've known. It must be noted though that his decision was prolly based on the fervor of the Catholic faithful of the time which was certainly more than it is today. And so, no problem. But Catholics of today are not those of days gone by and now this practice which was meant to bring fervor and spirtual joy has become a source of suffering for our Eucharistic Lord. How many hearts receive Him unworthily because they think they must communicate? How many are living in sinful unions? How many approach in mortal sin and fear man more than God and heap sin on sin by receiving? How many of these people receive a curse instead of a blessing for their sacrilgous communions? I would say judging by the times, countless numbers.

    Frequent communion is a boon for those prepared and properly disposed to practice it. I would say whipping into Mass (after speeding), flying into the pew and cranking of some quicky prayers cuz' you're late, then receiveing, making a hasty thanksgiving because you have to whizz home for whatever NOT being properly disposed.

    Christ will refuse no one and loves the heart that loves Him. But we must not treat our Lord like we're going to McMass. I say if you don't have time to adequetely prepare or time to make a proper thanksgiving, you should refrain. My humble opinion.

  2. just me11:19 PM

    I stay in my pew when I know I cannot receive the Eucharist. It is so awkward, when everybody else stands up to receive... not to mention, when you are in the outer part of the pew, and you have to move aside, let everyone else go and then resume your place! This is very humiliating, but I have found that I can offer this humiliation as part of my penance and reparation for the sins that are preventing me to receive.

  3. Lady Fett - great post!


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