Rorate Caeli

Attempting serious Communion at an unserious liturgy

Premières communiantes [First Communicants]
Musée de la civilisation, Québec

As the Church recently observed one of the ten universal holy days of the liturgical year, the subject of Holy Communion has naturally come up in different arenas for discussion following the feast of Corpus Christi.  One such blogger, Deacon Gregory Kandra of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, wrote a piece that offered guidance to communicants who attend the novus ordo liturgy.

In doing so, he inadvertently exposed some of the absurdities of trying to improve decorum and seriousness with the distribution of communion at a liturgy that seriously lacks seriousness.

For instance, Deacon Kandra wrote:

"The Eucharist remains the greatest gift, the 'source and summit' of our faith, and we shouldn't approach Holy Communion like we are standing in line at the DMV."

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), for the benefit of our foreign readers, is, in the United States, the state-level government department responsible for the registration of motor vehicles and that administers procedures for driver licensing. It is important to note that DMV-looking lines only happen to be at locations that predominantly feature communion-in-the-hand (which Deacon Kandra seems to claim as more historically Catholic than receiving on the tongue).  And why not?  If the end-game is to approach a lady who will place a host in your palm while the communicant stands, then the casual approach is naturally going to become the norm. 

It took 20 seconds to find this photo from Deacon Kandra's own diocese.  

Compare the above Brooklyn parish to the Institute of Christ the King's mission in Gabon. Which one is more conducive to belief in the Real Presence?

In addition to the parish level, take, for instance, mass Masses. Communion was never intended to be distributed to thousands of people at Mass, even following the reforms and preachings of Pope Saint Pius X.

When Francis Cardinal Spellman, archbishop of New York, offered a traditional Latin Solemn High Pontifical Mass at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx in 1957, he alone received communion.  The 50,000 others did not receive.

When Pope Paul VI, on October 4, 1965, offered a Mass for Peace at Yankee Stadium using the "1965 missal" (the 1962 missal, with the many alterations ordered by Inter Oecumenici, as a supposed application of Vatican II), here is what one diocesan newspaper reported:

Twelve children chosen from among those whose parents are involved in the work of the United Nations will form the offertory procession.  Only the children will receive Communion at the Mass.

Although the tone was obviously (4:43 mark) less serious at the 1965 Mass than in 1957, one can still see a moderate level of reverence with respect to communion.

Contrast the TLM and even the 1965 liturgy, both at Yankee Stadium, to the logistical nightmare of communion at the most recent novus ordo at Yankee Stadium.  Clearly there was a high level of seriousness in 1957, a more casual but still reserved approach in 1965, followed by logistical chaos at subsequent mass novus ordo gatherings. Holy Communion is not supposed to look like collective snack time with crumbs.

There can be Corpus Christi (technically for the novus ordo, which strives to change everything no matter how popular, it is Sanctissimi Corpus et Sanguis Christi) reminders, but they will do nothing unless larger issues are addressed.  Of the communion hosts taken from churches, for sale on E-Bay and otherwise profaned, it is a safe bet that none of them were from a traditional Latin Mass, where communion is always received on the tongue and kneeling from a priest (or in some cases a deacon).

Taking off one's gloves or figuring out the correct palm of one's hand to stick out for a host will never solve the problem that comes with an approach that will always look like the DMV.