Monday, June 09, 2014

Another problem which may affect reverence for the Blessed Sacrament

Clericalizing the laity...

On Saturdays, before confession, I would watch the nuns cleaning, dressing the altar, placing flowers, and so on.  Whenever one of the sisters passed before the tabernacle she genuflected - no matter how often she passed, no matter how old she was.

Likewise, on Sundays, the community of School Sisters of Notre Dame sat right up front and were the first to receive Communion, kneeling at the rail, their hands under the communion cloth, receiving on the tongue, solemnly returning to their pew, they made a profound thanksgiving, their faces hidden by their coifs.  They weren't there to put on a show of piety - they really were pious.  It was their faith, their formation - their training, and their transmission of that training to school children, as well as their example at Mass that reinforced the set standard for the reception of Holy Communion.

Today, the nuns are gone.  Today we have lay EMHC's distributing the sacrament.  We have lay people doing the readings,  In some case we have women religious sharing in a sort of homily for Word an Communion 'service'.  We now have called and gifted people teaching RCIA.  We have lay people wandering about in active participation of some thing.  If there isn't a 'lector' to do the first reading - the priest calls for someone to come forward to fill in.  The same thing happens if he is short an Extraordinay Minister of Holy Communion.  Minister, lector - those aren't titles for lay men and women.  They are clerical titles.

A husband or wife who brings the sacrament to their spouse at home is not usually an EMHC, they simply have permission to carry the Blessed Sacrament, in a pyx, in a special circumstance.  It's a sacred commission no doubt.  But don't stop for breakfast on the way home - don't reserve the Blessed Sacrament in your home next to the television.

I wonder if we can be too casual about the practice of bringing Communion to the sick?  I wonder if we take daily Communion for granted?  Do we receive every day and then move onto the next exercise without thought?  Slap out neighbor on the back and say good morning on our way to back to our pew?  Do we fore go our thanksgiving to get downstairs for donuts and coffee - and in the case of those bringing Communion to the sick - chatting with the pyx in our pocket?

Are we too involved, too busy with our church jobs - our assigned apostolate, or active participation to be reverent?  To be mindful of the Real Presence?  Is it all about us?  Is that why we treat the Eucharist so casually?  As Bishop Schneider noted:
The real crisis of the Church is anthropocentrism and the forgetting of Christo-centrism... This is the deepest evil: man, or the clergy, putting themselves in the centre when they are celebrating liturgy and when they change the revealed truth of God. - Bishop Schneider
The Pope said something about clericalizing the laity that I think may relate to what Bishop Schneider pointed out:

“Some bishops and priests are drawn by the temptation to clericalise the laity, but there are also many lay people who get down on their knees and ask to be clericalised: it is a two-way sin... a lay person has the strength that comes from baptism and his lay vocation is not negotiable.” - Pope Francis

I think familiarity breeds irreverence and indifference.  (I know people want to chime in with Communion in the hand - but think beyond that - what led to it?  Think - comments are closed so you can.)

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church 
could teach us much about reverence for the Eucharist.