Sunday, March 04, 2012

Preparing for Holy Communion.

There was a time when people used to prepare for Holy Communion, not only by a longer, stricter fast, but by prayer before Mass, and of course, confession.  Likewise, many people remained after Mass to make a prolonged thanksgiving after Communion.  People approached to receive with great reverence, something noticeably lacking in most churches today.  If the solemnity of receiving Holy Communion was restored, I doubt just anyone would approach without deep recollection of what is taking place, and who it is they are receiving.  Despite the increase in adoration chapels, I'm not sure Eucharistic piety and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament is widely understood.


The conditions of a good communion are indicated in the decree (December 20, 1905) by which Pope Pius X exhorted all the faithful to frequent Communion. This decree recalls first of all this principle: "The sacraments of the New Law, while acting ex opere operato, nevertheless produce a greater effect by reason of the more perfect dispositions of those who receive them. . . . Care must be taken, therefore, that an attentive preparation precede Holy Communion and that a suitable thanksgiving follow it, taking into consideration the faculties and condition of each person."

"If thou didst know the gift of God!" John 4: 10
Formerly to show the necessity of thanksgiving, people were told how St. Philip Neri had two altar boys, carrying lighted candles, accompany a lady who left the church immediately after the end of the Mass during which she had received Holy Communion. How many times this well deserved lesson was told, and how often it bore fruit! But nowadays people have acquired the habit of treating almost everybody, superiors as well as equals and inferiors, and even our Lord Himself, with easy familiarity. If this abuse continues, there will be, as someone has said, many Communions and few real communicants. If zealous souls do not set to work to stop this habit of unconcern, it will go on increasing, gradually destroying all spirit of mortification and of true and solid piety. And yet Christ Himself is ever the same, and our duty of gratitude toward Him has not changed. - Garrigou Lagrange


  1. Jesus Christ himself3:34 AM

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  2. Terry,
    This is something very dear to my heart. I know you are familiar with the devotion, piety, decorum and reverence with which Jesus is received in places like St Agnes Church in St Paul. But why is it thus? I believe it has to do with the way it is presented. You are stepping into sacred space. You are treading on holy ground.

    after my own reversion, I had the opportunity to assist daily for a few years at the traditional Mass early every morning. I started the custom of keeping the fast from midnight. I still do this and it really makes a big difference. Since I become accustomed to receiving only kneeling at the altar railing for that time I decided that I would continue to kneel at the local Novus Ordo. I was reluctant at first because I didn't want to come across as "holier than Thou" but a holy priest told me that I should seek by my own piety, decorum, devotion and recollection to be a good example so I continued to kneel on one knee at the Novus ordo. I find the prayers in the Father Lasance prayerbook to be excellent in preparation and for a thanksgiving.

    I think however that as long as the Holy Mass is presented as just another part of the day as just an apendage the rest of life rather than a reflection of heaven and the beauty of holiness that we shall continue to see the same lack of respect, reverence and devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist. As long as the liturgy remains this dialogue between the presider and people turned absurdly & inwardly on themselves rather then turning toward the LORD together in a real act of worship the problems will continue.

  3. Servus - Beautiful comment - I agree with you. I'm edified by your devotion and example.

  4. +JMJ+

    That's a great story about St. Philip Neri!

  5. servus brings up a good point. i'm very much aware of my own lack of proper disposition during Mass. scrupulous by nature, i've been wondering just what authentic worship is ... what our Lord wants, how it should look & feel but more importantly, BE ... i've started attending daily Mass, and just friday on the drive to work after Mass, i caught myself wondering how long it will take before i start considering daily Mass just another part of my schedule; something to get through. then this morning at Mass, i asked myself if i could not make it to 6am Mass during the week, would i go out of my way to attend Mass elsewhere at a later time that day. because i'm a creature of habit and often tied to my internal timetable, i found myself saying 'probably not.' and what a pity that is! i have so much work to do. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.


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