Rorate Caeli

Don Pietro Leone: The Coronavirus and Holy Communion in the Hand

Translated from the Italian by Francesca Romana

If honour is due to another according to his dignity, that is to say according to the excellence that he possesses, it is due to God absolutely in virtue of His infinite dignity and excellence. The name of this honour due to God is ‘Adoration’, which encompasses an attitude both of the mind and of the body.

That of the mind is defined by Bossuet as: ‘The recognition of God’s Highest Sovereignty, and of our own most profound dependence’. The attitude to be adopted by the body, by contrast, when we are in God’s presence, that is to say when we are before Our Lord Jesus Christ in church, has been established by Holy Mother Church in tems of silence, genuflections, kneeling, and deep bows. To receive Holy Communion, more precisely, it is necessary to kneel at the Communion rail and communicate on the tongue.

This second practice, introduced in the first centuries A.D. and established for the Church Universal over a thousand years ago, was abolished by the so-called ‘Reformers’ in the 16th. century. As quoted in our book ‘The Destruction of the Roman Rite, the apostate Dominican Martin Bucer states in his ‘Censura’: ‘It becomes our duty to abolish from the churches... with all purity of doctrine, any form of bread-adoration that they wish the antichrists to use and maintain in the hearts of the simpler people’. Such were the reasons for which the Reformers Zwingli and Calvin also imposed Communion standing and in the hand. Communion in the hand was subsequently to become a mile-stone in the denial of the Catholic dogma of the Real Presence.

In the 1960’s the same practice was introduced into the Catholic Church by priests in central Europe as an act of defiance against Rome, some say as a reaction to the encyclical Humanae Vitae. The practice, as we well know, proceeded to expand throughout the Catholic world.  

Taking into one’s own hand the Sacrosanct Body of the Lord - typically while standing - brushing Its fragments off the hands, swallowing It while walking – how can such behaviour possibly be described as ‘Adoration’?  Indeed it was thought out precisely in order to render adoration impossible. Both priests and people alike should refuse absolutely to participate in act of such heinous injustice.

On the occasion of the Coronavirus epidemic, did the hierarchy react by encouraging the few practicing Catholics left in Italy to pray more, and to invite the non-practicing to return to the Sacraments? Did they think of organizing nights of prayer, processions, pilgrimages as had been the common practice in the Church up to recent times, Venice in the 15th Century comes to mind; Milan in the 16th, Marseilles in the 18th. No indeed: rather they have been busy closing churches, or if they keep them open, they seem unwilling to provide the Sacraments of the Eucharist or Penitence; or again if they offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in public at all, they insist on Communion in the hand and prohibit Communion on the tongue.

A devout Albanian woman whose family was persecuted and whose uncle, a Bishop, died a martyr under the Communist régime, was drawn into receiving the Highest Good in the hand last Sunday for the first time in her life and with profound suffering. ‘These hands’ she said to me afterwards, ‘should be burnt with acid.’ A boy who had received his First Holy Communion the week before, was induced by his mother to receive in the hands as well, and burst into tears.

Celebrating and having always celebrated only the Old Rite, and thus being able to give Holy Communion only on the tongue, the author of this article, spending this period in a diocese where Communion on the tongue is forbidden, found himself in a certain difficulty. Not belonging to a group not subjected (or not fully or clearly subjected) to the Pope or the Bishops, he felt obliged to obey the local Ordinary and, although à contre coeur, not to distribute Holy Communion to the faithful at all. 

We informed the faithful of our decision prior to the Holy Mass last Sunday while encouraging them to make a spiritual Communion and saying that The Lord would certainly not deprive them of the Graces which they would otherwise have received sacramentally. After the celebration, we exposed the Sanctissimum for half an hour to enable those present to unite themselves the more intimately with His Divine Majesty, at least in a spiritual manner. 

How great was not our consolation and spiritual joy thereafter in the Mass to read the following words of the Communio and Postcommunio: ‘Manducaverunt et saturati sunt nimis, et desiderium eorum attulit eis Dominus: non sunt fraudati a desiderio suo... Quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui celestia alimenta percepimus, per haec contra omnia adversa muniamur.’ They ate and were greatly satisfied, and the Lord brought them their desire: they were not deprived of their desire... We pray, Omnipotent God, that we who have received celestial nourishment may by this be preserved from all adversity.’ 

Not this Grace alone, however, but another was also to be granted to us subsequently, ‘to preserve us from all adversity’. Having continued to celebrate in the same way for two further days, we received from the Curia the signal privilege of administering Holy Communion on the tongue.

The Coronavirus, is being used by the Devil particularly to attack the Church, reducing sacramental Graces and thus further weakening and impoverishing spiritually large areas of the Catholic heartland. The virus, like any other illness or physical evil, is the consequence of a spiritual evil, that is of sin. Its definitive remedy may thus be only found in a spiritual good, that is to say in the conversion of the heart: prayers, a return to the sacraments, and, in a word, the Adoration of God.

Sit nomen Domini Benedictum. Ex hoc nunc et usque in saecula. Amen.