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Eucharistic Priorities

January 11, 2013

788px-Comunione_degli_apostoli,_cella_35Some Catholics baffle me.  I will on occasion come upon a conversation in which one of my coreligionists explains his or her insistence on receiving the Blessed Sacrament only from the priest, i.e., the one who offered the sacrifice of the Mass.  I sort of get this desire as a preference, although I don’t share it.  However, I know there are those who will refrain from receiving Holy Communion if the priest isn’t distributing, out of some need to make a statement or to keep oneself pure by not participating in an “abuse.” This disposition I find very odd.  If you believe that Christ is still fully present in the Blessed Sacrament, even when not distributed by the priest, then why wouldn’t you receive him?  Refraining in this circumstance implies that the rubrics are good enough for God to be present, but not good enough for you to participate by receiving the sacrament.  Is ritual purity really more important than union with God and participating in his divine life in this particular way?  Maybe I missing something.

UPDATE: Post revised for clarity. Added text in italics.

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  1. January 11, 2013 2:21 pm

    Careful…you MAY just end up being a *gasp* Anabaptist! ;-)

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      January 11, 2013 5:50 pm

      Funny you say that, Robert, because I was just thinking that this example parallels the Anabaptist form of purism that hearkens back to the Donatist controversy: does sacramental validity depend on the moral status of the person administering the sacrament (ex opere operantis) or on the rite itself (ex opere operato)? The Anabaptist solution to any such dilemma was to reject the sacramental content of ritual (I was going to say “reject ritual altogether” but that’s not quite true) and focus instead on moral purity. The parallel purism among Catholics has taken the form of a pharisaical focus on ritual correctness. But the Catholic tradition also contains a middle-ground answer to this dichotomy, which has become clearer in many of the reformed rites (although I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was absent before): the administration of the sacraments is essentially prayer. The primary actor in the sacraments is God: this is the truth that sets us free from either a semi-Donatist antisacramentalism or a semi-Pelagian magicalism.

      • January 11, 2013 6:49 pm

        Kind of goes along with I was saying below, actually. While we can have all sorts of conversations about the reverent/irreverent attitudes of those who administer and those who receive, it comes down to recognizing, within the heart of hearts of either, regardless of externals, as to whether or not the focus is on God or on the ritual.

  2. Jordan permalink
    January 11, 2013 2:55 pm

    There are a confluence of influences here.

    It’s important to remember that not a few laypersons still prefer to receive on the tongue. In the parishes I attend, the priest or deacon stands one or two steps above a standing communicant to more easily facilitate the dropping of the host into the mouth. The parishes also permit communicants to kneel at the rail, which is the easiest method for communion on the tongue. In other parishes, the priests and/or lay ministers often do not stand in such a way that easily facilitates communion on the tongue. More than once I have had to stoop down, practically to a kneel, for a layperson half my size to safely drop the host into my mouth.

    Lay eucharistic ministers are permitted, but perhaps this ministry should not be permitted pro forma at every Mass. I suspect that some liturgically conservative/traditionalist Catholics who go to an ordinary form Mass are upset by the phenomenon of a phalanx of EMs administering communion. Many have thought, (including myself), that an additional fifteen minute wait for the priests and deacons alone to administer communion would be preferable than having a large number of laypersons to perform what is specifically a sacerdotal and diaconal liturgical task. Indeed, the parishes I attend seldom call upon eucharistic ministers. Subsequently, the communion often takes twice as long than at comparable Masses. As parishes, we have chosen this and accept that the Mass will be longer than in most places.

    I must temper my uneasiness with lay eucharistic ministry with the reality that this ministry is one of the few public ministries for women (besides altar serving and lectoring). Even though I am liturgically conservative and traditional, I also try to keep in mind the dignity and feelings of my sisters in Christ. This is why I will receive from a lay minister so long as he or she can safely place the host on my tongue. More times than not, the priest-celebrant is best suited for reasons of height or position in the sanctuary.

  3. January 11, 2013 3:14 pm

    You are missing something; a strong emotional reaction to irreverence. My first shock after the rules changed, i.e. when only priests could touch the Euchrist, was when a sweaty guy in sweat clothes gavie me Holy Communion. It was a clear act of irreverence to me and it should have been to any one who belives that Christ should not be so disrespected. My next shock came when a priest refused Communion to a women who knelt down. She was so furious that she screamed at him that he should listen to his Pope as she stomped out of Church. These two incidents are only a sample fo what’s going on today. It should be obvious that convenience was made more important than the piety of a believer. It’s a major reason so many Catholics (and non-Catholics) don’t believe in the real presence; reverence is a reflection of a true belief. Have you noticed that the Pope, by his example, has recipients receiving communion on the tongue and on their knees. When the bishops copy him we’ll be on our way back to growing our church. When we had altar rails and received Christ kneeling their were more believers and more participants. Your friends who are reluctant to recieve only from a priest are protesting too much if they don’t receive at all. But it should be obvious to Catholics that when our bishops requested the indult to receive Communion in the hand it was a grievous mistake. They consequences are less belief in the real presense, and less participation in the Mass. Our faith has deteriorated since the indult was initiated . And it should be obvious that our Holy Father is trying to influence a return to genuine reverence for the body of Christ; it would be a major move back to a revival of faith. If Christ is present in the Eucharist why not ACT like it?

    • January 11, 2013 4:02 pm

      This is an excellent question. Not being a Catholic myself, hopefully my statements can be taken as good faith understanding.

      Essentially, what it seems to me is that the problem is not in the exercise of the ritual itself, but a matter of the heart/soul. Whether or not the priest is giving it, the dress of the person giving it, etc., it’s not the ritual that matters. It is a matter of the participant and their attitude when receiving the Eucharist.

      Consider: Jesus was not a priest and was not necessarily “clean” from the perspective of our priests. When kneeling to heal the blindman or the leper, most likely he was dusty from the road, a little sweaty from traveling a long distance, and perhaps a bit unkempt from travel. When interacting with such a Jesus, is the problem with the appearance or with the the attitude of those who rejected him for not looking the part?

      Consider: The people who came to meet Jesus. They, also, were not necessarily looking their best, but they approached with reverence. The woman who screamed at her priest when he would not give her the Eucharist because she knelt, it seems to me that her attitude in approaching the Eucharist was perhaps a deeper issue. Was her response in the attitude of the Christ of whom she was partaking in the Mass?

      As a Mennonite, I’m obviously not one strong on ritual. But we even have our rituals in our churches and we have the same issues. I have witnessed young people who have received baptism, gone through the formal rituals, but have not displayed the attitude leading up to it (treating it as a joke, laughing about getting soaked, etc) nor have they necessarily lived out the witness afterwards. The ritual is not the problem, the problem is the heart. We can wrap it up in as much formality and fancy dress as we want, but if the heart is not right, then no amount of corrective statements from Pope or Bishop will fix things

      • Melody permalink
        January 11, 2013 5:50 pm

        “The ritual is not the problem, the problem is the heart. We can wrap it up in as much formality and fancy dress as we want, but if the heart is not right, then no amount of corrective statements from Pope or Bishop will fix things.”
        Amen to that, Robert.

    • January 12, 2013 1:15 pm

      While it does seem to be the Holy Father’s preference, he has not enshrined it in any kind of legal move, nor has he insisted on it (some people do stand and receive in the hand)

  4. Kurt permalink
    January 11, 2013 3:39 pm

    It is odd to refrain, whatever one’s opinions are on these matters.

    I’m somewhat pleased to read “receiving the Blessed Sacrament only from the priest, i.e., the one who offered the sacrifice of the Mass”

    For many of us of the liturgical renewal, we can affirm the better practice of the priest-celebrant or even concelebrants and deacons distributing. Unlike traditionalists who have voiced strong objections to lay eucharistic ministers when need goes beyond the aformentioned, we of the renewal direct our objection to the non-concelebrating priest showing up from the sacristry only to distribute. The Eucharistic minister, clerical or lay, should be part of the whole celebration of the Mass in which he/she ministers.

    On the other concern, I’m not keen on a 15 minute intermission in the middle of Mass, unless it is Bach’s Mass in B minor being performed at the Kennedy Center.

    • Marv permalink
      January 11, 2013 5:30 pm

      Really! “[A]15 minute intermission in the middle of Mass”??? For some of us waiting while others go to communion before us or after us is a time to reflect and meditate on what we are about to receive or have just received and consider it an important part of the Mass. It is not a time we should view as having to endure while waiting to run out the door to Sunday brunch or to watch the big game. I think your comments reflect how the use of EM’s and the habit of rushing people in and out of Masses like they were restaurants having to turn over table have adversely effected the sense of reverence toward the Eucharist and at Mass.

      • Kurt permalink
        January 12, 2013 10:43 pm

        I’m sorry, but at a certain point (and people can have various opinions as to what that point is) you have a length of time that exceeds that purpose and begins to break the unity of the Mass.

        Of course, today the Mass is longer in time than it was before the Council when communion was quick because few received, not to mention that the Sunday homily was optional and priests tended to rush through the mumbled Latin the lay faithful did not understand.

  5. Mark VA permalink
    January 11, 2013 3:54 pm

    I think there is a much more fundamental question to ask – the question asked is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Of those who attend the Ordinary Form of the Mass regularly, what is the percentage that believes in the Real Presence, and what’s the percentage of those who never did, or stopped believing, in the Real Presence?

    We may also try to account for those who have never heard of the Real Presence.

    I believe the answers to these questions will “re-contextualize” Kyle R. Cupp’s original question in the direction of some facts worth pondering.

    • Melody permalink
      January 12, 2013 8:33 am

      “Of those who attend the Ordinary Form of the Mass regularly, what is the percentage that believes in the Real Presence, and what’s the percentage of those who never did, or stopped believing, in the Real Presence?” Um, I see the need for a lot of caution here. I don’t think we can extrapolate the presence or lack of faith from from the way one prefers to receive Communion (maybe I’m misreading what you are saying). I am an EMHC at our parish, I have to assume that my fellow Catholics who are also at Mass are there for the same reason I am. I believe there is a lot of self-selection that goes on; if people don’t believe, it’s awfully easy to be somewhere else. It requires some discipline (albeit a smidgeon) to show up week after week, why make the effort if it’s something you barely believe in?

      • Mark VA permalink
        January 12, 2013 6:25 pm


        Yes, you’re misreading what I’m trying to say – mea culpa. I agree with you that this kind of extrapolation is impossible and meaningless.

        My point is that the belief in the Real Presence should be actively promoted, to help us experience the Mass on a higher and deeper level. The predominant sign of that would be increased reverence. Our Pope addresses this problem quite often.

        The link below has information regarding the beliefs (scroll down for the Real Presence) of contemporary American Catholics:

    • Michelle permalink
      January 14, 2013 10:31 am

      This data is readily available from various surveys, there is no need to speculate. See CARA for example.

  6. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    January 11, 2013 4:48 pm

    To recapitulate on a theme, but here for a different issue: There have been a number sources since the sixties– such as the Seer of Bayside visions, etc– which scared a whole lot of people with the idea you would go to hell if you received in the wrong way. I am not “in” the RC Church anymore, and don’t know things from “on the ground” so to speak, but I have often wondered how all that scary rhetoric got palliated. My guess is it did not. Part and parcel of that rhetoric was a a belief that many, many priest were very corrupt, so what do you think they thought of lay ministers no less? Since the idea of lots of people going to hell for this or that infraction or real perversity filled the minds of those types, it seems that sociologically, just being choosy about whom one receives from is a small matter comparatively. The reason I am interested in such things still may be germane to Kyle’s basic question here. The view Kyle articulates (which btw makes perfect sense to me as a former Catholic) is though commonsensical and unfanatical, just also massively at odds with nearly all of Catholic history on the subject. I am not talking about the ultimate issue of ex opere operato, but of the cultural preference for great weight having been put on ritual fulfillment, at least as ideal.

    Thus, when Kyle writes:

    “This disposition I find very odd. If you believe that Christ is still fully present in the Blessed Sacrament, even when not distributed by the priest, then why wouldn’t you receive him? Refraining in this circumstance implies that the rubrics are good enough for God to be present, but not good enough for you to participate. Is ritual purity really more important than union with God and participating in his divine life? ”

    Kyle sane but blithe-sounding question evinces little sense that in the ideal sense ritual purity was the sine qua non FOR “union with God”. THe modern catholic sense of inversion of that sense is just that…..modern Catholic. It is another proof that the RC changes in massive ways…and yet eventually people forget all the previous history and the new reality becomes the commonsense. No wonder somehow people actually believe that the RC Church is basically teaching and practicing the same things. Not even close, on my reading. But that’s another story.

  7. Sacerdotus permalink
    January 11, 2013 4:57 pm

    Why would we think that those who received in the old rite had any better understanding of “Real Presence.” I think what is going on with those who will not receive from a layperson is a fundamental lack of understanding of the ordination we all receive at Baptism.

    • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
      January 11, 2013 6:33 pm


      By the lights of the RC Church, a Church Council cannot err substantively, or that would impugn the inspiration of the Holy Spirit on the assembled Fathers. But if what Kyle mentions represents (in your words), “a fundamental lack of understanding of the ordination we all receive in Baptism,” then here a glitch. When people in the past were condemned and sometimes burnt for Eucharistic irregularities (like the Utrtaquist controversy in relation to the Council of Constance) were they somehow not inspired by the Holy Spirit and manifesting a “fundamental lack of understanding of the ordination we all receive at Baptism.” This is not a trick question. Just one of religious consistency!

  8. January 11, 2013 6:37 pm

    Christ would be present at any mass celebrated by a validly ordained priest. But I still would not assist at a mass in which death metal was played, or the priest dressed in a ballerina outfit. Christ’s presence is precisely why I would not participate: Because he is being mistreated and disrespected, and I don’t want my participation to appear to ratify it.

    You seem to be saying that Christ’s presence lends legitimacy to any and every Mass, and so we ought to participate and receive Communion regardless of how people conduct themselves. But that’s fallacious. Christ doesn’t make a separate decision whether to be present at each Mass. He’s present at any and all of them, regardless whether he is treated reverently or disdainfully. (In fact his presence is the only thing that allows him to be maltreated.) The fact of his presence can’t justify participating in any and all manner of conduct.

    To clarify, I’m not saying that lay ministers always reflect an irreverent or disrespectful attitude. But liturgical abuses are inherently disrespectful, since they are disobedient. Granted, many lay ministers are not even aware that an abuse is taking place when they become the rule rather than the exception, so I don’t judge them personally culpable. But I can understand people who view their ubiquity as an abuse, not wanting to participate in that abuse. For them, doing so may be a violation of conscience. They’re being placed in a awkward spot, which is not their fault and in many cases could easily be avoided.

    For the record, I don’t refuse Communion from lay ministers. I’m just saying I can understand the feelings of those who do.

    • January 11, 2013 8:36 pm

      I wouldn’t say that any and all manner of conduct is justified by the Real Presence. It clearly wouldn’t justify anything satanic or sacrilegious going on at a Mass.

      I’m not sure I buy the violation of conscience here, at least in general. One’s mere presence at Mass is a form of participation in the Liturgy, whether or not communion is received. You may refrain from receiving based on perceived abusive use of lay ministers, but others at the Mass will be receiving as part of a communal act of which you are a part, if not fully participating member. You’re not there as an autonomous individual but as a member of one body. Unless you depart, you’re participating, and by participating, “ratifying” what’s going on in your words. But let’s say that you’re there at Mass, everything seems liturgically okay, until the moment of communion when the priest sits back and lets the lay ministers do all the work. I can see how someone might want to refrain from receiving out of conscience, but I’m not convinced that this conscience is well formed, and simply by staying one is participating and ratifying the perceived mistreatment of Christ.

      • Mark VA permalink
        January 12, 2013 7:06 am

        Kyle R. Cupp :

        Take a more detached view of this conversation. Your original question was stated as:

        “Is ritual purity really more important than union with God and participating in his divine life? Maybe I missing something.” (sic)

        First, from the beginning, you’ve chosen to characterize those whom you are trying to understand as concerned with “ritual purity”. The allusion to Pharisaical conduct is obvious – you see these people as lacking in sufficient spiritual resources to see this issue “the correct” way. Yet you still wisely allow for the possibility of “missing something”;

        Second, when that something is offered by Agellius, you respond by “I’m not sure I buy the violation of conscience here, at least in general. “. OK, would you then buy it in particular? Why are we having this conversation anyway, if we’re not willing to extend our imaginations, contra our biases, to encompass another point of view?

        My take is this: it is self evident that the drift in parts of our Church, for the past few decades, has been away from the Real Presence, and from that one particular symbolic object, the tabernacle. The drift has been toward an exaggerated, unbalanced notion of “community”, where the dissident conscience is washed out in favour of a communal one. Translation: those who hold temporal power in a parish, often dictate the terms of this “collective conscience”. But a reaction has also set in, since Christ promised not to leave us orphaned.

      • January 14, 2013 1:11 pm

        “I can see how someone might want to refrain from receiving out of conscience, but I’m not convinced that this conscience is well formed, and simply by staying one is participating and ratifying the perceived mistreatment of Christ.”

        I don’t agree. We all have to go to Mass, it’s an obligation, and most of us have no control over how it is conducted. We do have control and the choice whether to receive Communion from a lay minister. I don’t see any inconsistency in being present for those parts of the Mass over which we have no control, due to the obligation to assist at Mass; yet declining to participate in a particular part of the Mass which we believe is being conducted improperly.

        As to ill-formed consciences, granting for the sake of argument that you’re right, nevertheless St. Paul taught that we should show consideration for those whose consciences are more sensitive than our own, by, for example, not eating meat sacrificed to idols in their presence, even if we know full well that there’s nothing wrong with it. (1 Cor. 8) With this in mind, I don’t see why a parish couldn’t have just one mass per week in which there are no lay ministers, for the sake of those who object to them.

        • January 14, 2013 1:47 pm

          But being “present” for the Eucharistic liturgy is more than being in a space where something is happening: you’re participating in what’s happening, and by your logical ratifying it, including any abuse, whether or not you receive. You may be declining to participate fully, but you’re still participating in the whole Eucharistic prayer. Unless you’re really just there as an observer, like a visiting non-Catholic or some such, but this way of being present isn’t what we’re discussing.

  9. Mark VA permalink
    January 11, 2013 7:10 pm

    It is telling that no one has pick up, so far, on the barely concealed coercive element in the scenario Kyle unwittingly outlined.

    Those who still believe in the Real Presence, and understandably want to show the greatest respect possible when in God’s Presence, are asked instead:

    “Is ritual purity really more important than union with God and participating in his divine life?”

    In other words, your need for what we’ll choose to characterize as “ritual purity” is beside the point, since we control how you’ll receive the Eucharist. If we choose for you to receive it from the so called “Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers” (which is the norm today), so be it. The “we” in this case, is more often than not the local “Liturgical Council”.

    This is nothing else but a power play.

  10. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    January 12, 2013 1:21 am

    The post here with the comments added is really perplexing. I can’t figure it out. Has some new Council met, and ya’ll are announcing its contents by quirky objections?? Is there the slightest doubt that the RC ethos has always meant that objections about ritual were themselves considered disrespectful, in light of the great “Eucharistic mystery”, which is there, according to doctrine, in spite of all disrespects., not the other way around. hwat in the world do you all think the Catholic response to the Reformation’s accusals of moral disrespect were about. The increasing ritual punctiliousness of Trent surely can only be understood in light of this much wider reality.

    But seeing as this is a bit hard to grasp, let’s make it more concrete and relevant with today. Let us take Agellius’ comment as a grid. Agellius feels that assisting at a mass where “death metal” was played would be a disrespect. Let me say in passing that I share his aesthetic horror. (though I think it would more likely be rap lately) Now I remember a few seminarians who were into death metal and the like. And I betcha they were some of the ones who actually went on to ordination. Now here is the real question. Let’s say you had a decent, normal guy, a priest, who had the unfortunate idea to have death metal mass. Is that “more disrespectful”, and worse to receive communion at, than say a beautiful ritually perfect mass with lovely chant, and maybe a bit of Palestrina, by a clean cut young priest like the guy highlighted in this recent case. I am not trying to be salacious, but serious:

    Now if one looks at this priest’s picture he looks like the very model of clean cut conservatism. And yet that is often the very type attracted to certain other proclivities. Which is more “disrespectful”. If you understand Catholic history you will know the answer.

    • Mark VA permalink
      January 12, 2013 1:41 pm

      Peter Paul Fuchs:

      I think you’re trying to build a foundation of a reassuring argument based on outliers.

      However, if one really believes that clean cut conservative priests are “often the very type attracted to certain other proclivities”, then perhaps there is a well conditioned Pavlovian view of the Catholic Church as well:

      Catholic conservative – suspect
      Papacy – corrupt power
      ritual – rote and rigorism
      hierarchy – evil
      infallibility – don’t make me laugh
      traditional – fanatical fundamentalist flat earther
      Catholic history – contradictory
      Assumption – ecumenical setback
      Baroque – gaudy excess
      Dogma – a perennial variable

  11. Julia Smucker permalink*
    January 12, 2013 2:03 pm

    I see a couple of false dichotomies playing out here. First, between God and ritual. The ritual does not force God to be present by some manipulative magic, but neither does it somehow crowd his presence out. In ritual the Church welcomes him who is always present, and through it he acts, and meets us there in a particular way.

    The other zero-sum game being implied is between respect for the Blessed Sacrament and for the people receiving it. Too many Catholics, past and present, have assumed that Eucharistic reverence requires a negative anthropology, and this reasoning has sometimes led to the misguided idea that the laity are irredeemably unworthy of touching the body and blood of Christ. Others have recoiled so far in reaction to this that they seem to suggest that our reverence for Christ’s presence in the Eucharist must be muted in order to affirm the human dignity of the communicants. Both of these assumptions are false. We can, and should, have both a high sacramentality and a high anthropology. In other words, the Eucharist and humanity are not in competition, and the Church respects both.

    • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
      January 12, 2013 3:09 pm


      Well, you have just highlighted another very interesting part of this whole discussion. And btw, I think that it is precisely in these close parsings of (what might seem to those not versed in Catholic ethos as merely….) rather recondite matters of Eucharistic theology. Of course the point is, these close matters are NOT recondite in fact. To wit, Julia, you wrote:

      “First, between God and ritual. The ritual does not force God to be present by some manipulative magic, but neither does it somehow crowd his presence out. ”

      Well of course I agree existentially, but not as an historical matter for the RC Church. The existential question is why in world could God not choose to be NOT present if the person doing the ritual were utterly alienated from Him. This is a question a lot of very holy people have asked, which does not make it less complicated I would concede. Still, the issue is not “magic or not magic”. The issue is whether The Creator of the Universe, is beholden to laws of Church Councils, and how. People have fought, died, and created vast quantity of intellectual product on this matter. My point is simply this: The confident and somewhat insouciant-sounding views you and others are articulating is just NOT of a piece with the rather anguished history of all this. You all are articulating some sort of comfy existential commonsense on the matter, which I agree sounds fine right now. Yet the tacit assumption is that such would NOT be coherent with “magisterial” teaching down through the ages. NO! That’s why I asked if there were some new Council that had met, and you all were slyly articulating its contents. For the rub is, strictly by the commonsense means you all have accepted, there would be no other conclusion possible for the articulations of the past, but that what was being described was indeed “magic”. There is simply a disjunct. And this is why a lot of modern Eucharistic theology veered towards being quite vague and feel-good. I remember sitting in Kevin Irwin’s class years ago and thinking the same thought, in embryo, based on my interest in Church history. Since he spent much of the class talking about popular spiritual self-help books, and putting Catholic eucharistic theology in context with those books, a question would be begged. Did the past cohere with those also? The answer can only be no. I don’t think this is remotely a close call. And btw all of this bears heavily on Cruz-Uribe’s post on the SSPX. Lastly, None of this means that Catholics cannot engage the religious reality that attracts them. It is not just a free country, it is a free cosmos.

      • January 13, 2013 8:42 pm

        Peter, this and your earlier posts are very interesting to me. They’re very much reminiscent of Arturo Vazquez on his old blog Reditus. He, too, argued that if you compare post-Vatican II Catholicism to what has been actually practiced, taught, etc., there are significant discontinuities. He actually took it further than that, and argued for discontinuities over time even before VII. I don’t recall that he talked about the Apostolic and sub-Apostolic era much, but there are huge alterations between that time and the Constantinian Church.

        To me the real problem is creeping infallibilsm and the Church’s insistence that it has never really changed doctrines (Newman got in trouble for even suggesting “development”). This means that when you have an example of a clear about-face in doctrine (e.g. the teaching on usury), the Church is forced to deny that an obvious change is, in fact, a change. Thus it is denied that previous teachings were really authentically defined; or teachings are redefined with Olympic-class mental gymnastics; or previous views are claimed to have been held only by some elements within the Church, but not the Church as a whole (John Paul II’s apologies for past dastardly deeds usually used this tack); or minute technicalities are invoked; etc.

        In my view, coherence isn’t really an issue. There has to be some, of course–belief in God and in Christ, the Creed, etc.–but Jesus promised that the Spirit would lead us into all truth (John 16:13), not that it would give it in an immutable hunk to be unraveled over the millennia. The Orthodox Church believes that the deposit of faith is authoritative, and that the Church can teach in a final, definitive way; but it has been historically much less obsessed with final definitions and unchanging dogmatic statements (though of course it has tended to rather ossified in practice). I think that would be a model for the Western Church to emulate; but I’m not holding my breath.

        BTW, I’d be willing to state that in a sense the Eucharist is magic. An interesting take (admittedly by a neo-Gnostic, but I think his points, with some adjustment, are valid) in this regard is here. Even within a more traditional framework, though, there is, in my view, considerable leeway for mode of reception of Communion. We know lay distribution was common in the primitive Church; John Chrysostom, I think, refers to taking Communion in the hand (which later changed to the current Orthodox practice of intinction); and the pre-Vatican II rules of chalice for priest only, etc., are relatively recent, historically speaking. Yes, there were huge struggles over the Eucharist, as you point out; but lots of changes, for all that.

    • Jordan permalink
      January 13, 2013 8:39 am

      Julia Smucker [January 12, 2013 2:03 pm]: Too many Catholics, past and present, have assumed that Eucharistic reverence requires a negative anthropology, and this reasoning has sometimes led to the misguided idea that the laity are irredeemably unworthy of touching the body and blood of Christ.

      Perhaps tied into the negative anthropology is the elevation of confession to a necessary preparation for communicants. I come from a background where confession before Sunday communion is a deeply ingrained practice. The custom is to confess on Saturday afternoon and receive communion on Sunday. Sometimes a vigil Mass follows the confessions. At least in my parish, the priests are insistent that an absolved penitent receive holy communion as soon as possible after absolution, so I have been known to stay for the vigil just to receive holy communion and return on Sunday for High Mass.

      I belong to a traditional parish (EF and ROTR), which probably explains the rigorous approach to confession. What I have described was the typical preconciliar confession practice. Nowadays relatively few Catholics go to confession regularly, but many receive. I don’t judge those who confess infrequently but receive every Sunday. That’s on their conscience. However, if a person chooses to commune once a month, then he or she should not be stigmatized for not communing.

      I entirely doubt that Catholics confess much less frequently nowadays because they are generally rotten people or callous towards sin. Watershed events such as Humanae Vitae convinced many of the laity that they could not in good conscience lie to a confessor and say that they would not use birth control. I also wonder if the sex abuse crisis has further eroded the practice of confession, but I’m convinced that the former is a more prominent reason for the decline in the sacrament.

      • Melody permalink
        January 14, 2013 6:45 am

        I’m thinking that the Mass in the vernacular may have led to confession not being used as often. The reason I say that is that I remember a conversation with my devout, daily Mass attending grandmother in the 1970’s. She said that now she was much more conscious of the meaning of the penitential rite in the Mass, that she felt that it wasn’t necessary to confess venial sins before each reception of Communion.
        It should be noted that the practice of confession has changed over the centuries. Tumarion mentions the Eastern Church in his comment; the way they practice confession probably more reflects how it was done in the first millenium (done in the sanctuary, not a confessional, though still private; and more oriented towards serious sin).

      • Julia Smucker permalink*
        January 14, 2013 11:57 pm

        I’m not one to lay blame on the sacrament of reconciliation. It’s one of those things that I came to without any of the old baggage that cradle Catholics sometimes have, and I’ve found it to be a real hidden treasure of the Church. It’s understandable, though lamentable, that some who have been raised with a more legalistic understanding would have a harder time with it, but there are better models (which is part of why I love that confession is also called reconciliation, which to my mind really gets more closely at what it’s all about).

        I read a broad historical overview of confession once that stuck with me, and I think I’ve mentioned it on here before. It named four examples of what have been dominant paradigms for it through church history: a Patristic model based on baptism, a Celtic model based on a doctor visit, a Roman model based on a legal tribunal, and a Vatican II model based on the Eucharist. I wonder if its remaining popularly perceived according to a failed juridical model (even though the revised rite of penance is much richer than that) can account for some of the decline. Maybe what’s needed is more full-orbed catechesis.

        I do find it interesting that the medieval norm was frequent confession and infrequent communion, and that this has now flip-flopped. This might be a relatively healthier situation, but the ideal would be for both of these gifts (and they really are gifts) to be partaken often, with reverence and gratitude. Another pairing that need not be a zero-sum game (and is only made so to the detriment of both).

  12. Trabby permalink
    January 12, 2013 10:47 pm

    There’s another point here that is worth pointing out: insisting on receiving only from a priest can also be a protest AGAINST clericalism. In my case, at least, a large part of it is the absurdity of the idea of “lay ministry” in general. Strictly speaking, all “cleric” means is someone who has a public role in liturgy (at least traditionally). Therefore EMHCs (at least the males) should just be MADE clerics officially (deacons, at least, if not priests), because they are acting AS clerics practically. However, this obviously won’t be the case anytime soon, because the bishops seem hell-bent on maintaining the “clergy” as a full-time salaried celibate caste with an inordinate and unnecessary amount of training, even if they’ve begun to allow part-time married deacons (but still, especially as regards training, on a “professional” model). If we were Mormons, we wouldn’t have this problem…

  13. Kurt permalink
    January 12, 2013 10:52 pm

    Let’s get something out of the way. There have been hints here that a class I belong to, namely the lay faithful, are by our nature less reverent. I resent that.

    If anyone wants to cite particular people or occassions where reverence has not been shown, fine. To say that a class of people — the laity, African-Americans, blue collar workers, bus riders, Princeton graduates, or men, are less reverent is something uncalled for. Knock it off.

    • Trabby permalink
      January 14, 2013 5:27 pm

      Less reverent, not necessarily. But less SACRED, by definition. The lay class is to the clerical as the profane is to the sacred or the secular is to the religious. Nothing bad about that, of course, but it has liturgical implications; the laity are not consecrated in that sense.

      • Kurt permalink
        January 14, 2013 6:35 pm

        Well,then let’s stop the bad mouthing of EM’s as less reverent as a class or by the nature of the lay faithful.

        • Trabby permalink
          January 14, 2013 7:54 pm

          It’s not that they’re less reverent AS people. But using EMHCs instead of clerics is irreverent AS a practice inasmuch as it is using a “temporal man” to carry out a sacred function. There is nothing wrong with the laity, but as a matter of liturgical principle they are BY DEFINITION not ordained to carry out sacred functions. if they were, they would then by definition be clerics rather than lay.

          It’s like using clay vessels rather than a consecrated paten-and-chalice. It’s not that there is anything bad about clay dishes, they may even be beautiful, but in the ritual life of the Church a paten and chalice are consecrated (“made sacred,” which means “setting apart”) for that purpose specifically and as such are the only things that are supposed to touch the sacred species (like a priest’s consecrated hands, etc).

          Another solution would be, as I mentioned above, actually consecrating (as opposed to just deputizing) EMHCs or their hands. But at that point, you are by definition MAKING them “clerics” (according to the traditional definition related to public liturgical role) instead of lay.

        • Kurt permalink
          January 16, 2013 2:29 pm

          and as such are the only things that are supposed to touch the sacred species

          And how does one receive with no part of one’s body every touching the Eucharist?

        • Trabby permalink
          January 20, 2013 8:34 pm

          Oh come now. It’s not really even “touching” that’s the problem, its the question of who administers. “Receiving” is the point. Communion in the hand is basically self-communion, which is theologically problematic.

      • Julia Smucker permalink*
        January 14, 2013 11:19 pm

        The lay class is to the clerical as the profane is to the sacred or the secular is to the religious.

        I try to explain to my Protestant friends and relatives that Catholic sacramentality is not about dividing everything into dualistic categories … and then someone goes and says something like this.

        • Trabby permalink
          January 14, 2013 11:41 pm

          Well, every priest was a layman once, so it’s not a dualism. The profane and the sacred are not so much dual as in a dynamic tension whereby the profane (the whole world really) is made sacred. But that very process requires the maintenance of a symbolic logic that the oxymoron of “lay ministers” destroys.

        • Julia Smucker permalink*
          January 18, 2013 12:17 pm

          Trabby, I was agreeing with everything you said here up until you called lay ministers an oxymoron. Is this not an example of the sacralization of the ordinary? Is this not what we all become at baptism?

          It could be an interesting paradox, come to think of it – the ordinary made “extraordinary”.

          Lumen Gentium certainly maintained a dynamic tension between the distinction and the overlap between the ordained and baptismal priesthood.

          Though they differ essentially and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are none the less interrelated; each in its own way share in the one priesthood of Christ. The ministerial priest, by the sacred power that he has, forms and governs the priestly people; in the person of Christ he brings about the Eucharistic sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people. The faithful indeed, by virtue of their royal priesthood, share in the offering of the Eucharist. They exercise that priesthood, too, by the reception of the sacraments, by prayer and thanksgiving, by the witness of a holy life, self-denial and active charity. (LG 10)

        • Trabby permalink
          January 20, 2013 8:42 pm

          Well, depends what you mean by “minister.” Obviously, we all minister to each other in our individual lives. But the ordained are the ones who are public/liturgical/sacramental/official ministers. The moment a lay person is officially deputized for a public liturgical role (including reader or acolyte/server)…they are, in one sense, being made some sort of minor order of clergy in all but canonical recognition.

          Though the question of how to deal with women is trickier here, my “issue” could in some sense be parsed as just as much an issue (as I first said) about not recognizing these ministers as what they are (by one definition): clergy, apparently out of a desire to maintain a notion of “clergy” as a professional caste.

          Mine isn’t just a “modern” critique either. Lay men or boys were long used as altar servers, “substituting” for real acolytes. Why not just ordain them acolytes??? Mainly because inessential things got attached to the clerical state.

          But it’s all the more egregious when were talking about not merely entering the sanctuary, but actually handling and distributing the sacred species. That task is by-definition clerical.

        • Jordan permalink
          January 22, 2013 10:18 am

          Trabby [January 20, 2013 8:42 pm]: Mine isn’t just a “modern” critique either. Lay men or boys were long used as altar servers, “substituting” for real acolytes. Why not just ordain them acolytes??? Mainly because inessential things got attached to the clerical state.

          Until Paul VI reformed minor orders in 1973, only seminarians were acolytes. It was just a step (gradus) in the progression towards the priesthood. Once any man entered seminary, he was bound to continence. Only after the reforms could married men be instituted as acolytes. The issue was not a greater clericalization of the already ordained, but the reality that most of the tasks which are now duly apportioned to laity were alloted to seminarians only.

          At least where I live, adults (men and women) serve weekday Mass all the time. It’d be impractical for only instituted acolytes to serve Mass.

  14. January 13, 2013 4:50 am

    Might I suggest a different response to the question of how or when our brothers and sisters in Christ receive the Blessed Sacrament?

    “But what are we to do?” said Susan. She felt that the conversation was beginning to get off the point.
    “My dear young lady,” said the Professor, suddenly looking up with a very sharp expression at both of them, “there is one plan which no one has yet suggested and which is well worth trying.”
    “What’s that?” said Susan.
    “We might all try minding our own business,” said he. And that was the end of that conversation.
    (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, ch. 5)

  15. Marv permalink
    January 13, 2013 8:03 pm

    It’s just not overly scrupulous Traddies who object to the use or over use of Extrodinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

    In Dominicae Coenae (1980) Pope John Paul II wrote:
    “… one must not forget the primary office of priests, who have been consecrated by their ordination to represent Christ the Priest: for this reason their hands, like their words and their will, have become the direct instruments of Christ. Through this fact, that is, as ministers of the Holy Eucharist, they have a primary responsibility for the sacred species, because it is a total responsibility: they offer the bread and wine, they consecrate it, and then distribute the sacred species to the participants in the assembly who wish to receive them. Deacons can only bring to the altar the offerings of the faithful and, once they have been consecrated by the priest, distribute them, How eloquent therefore, even if not of ancient custom, is the rite of the anointing of the hands in our Latin ordination, as though precisely for these hands a special grace and power of the Holy Spirit is necessary! To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained, one which indicates an active participation in the ministry of the Eucharist.” [emphasis supplied]

    True, John Paul II later adds that “it is obvious that the Church can grant this faculty to those who are neither priests nor deacons, as is the case with acolytes in the exercise of their ministry, especially if they are destined for future ordination, or with other lay people who are chosen for this to meet a just need,” the purpose of Dominicae Coenae as a whole is to stress the mystery of the Eucharist, the unique dignity of the priesthood, and the importance of ordained men remaining faithful to the special tasks of their state, above all regarding the worthy veneration and handling of the Eucharist.

    In “Redemptionis Sacramentum, On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist” (2004) the Congregation for Devine Worship stated:

    “This [EM] function is to be understood strictly according to the name by which it is known, that is to say, that of extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and not “special minister of Holy Communion” nor “extraordinary minister of the Eucharist” nor “special minister of the Eucharist”, by which names the meaning of this function is unnecessarily and improperly broadened. . . . .
    Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged.[259] This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason.”

    So, am I prideful in refusing to take communion when I believe the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion is wrong or an abuse when their use is necessitated by the Assistant Pastor wanting to sit in the rectory and eat a jelly roll and drink coffee rather than to return to the sanctuary or by a priest wanting to promote some expansive notion of the ordination of all the faithful. Perhaps, but how else should we handle liturgical abuses except to refuse to participate in them.

    • January 14, 2013 1:55 pm

      Participating in the Eucharistic liturgy isn’t erased because you refrain from receiving.

      • Trabby permalink
        January 14, 2013 5:29 pm

        No, but proximate participation in the profanation of a lay person handling the sacred species is avoided.

    • Kurt permalink
      January 14, 2013 6:29 pm

      So, am I prideful in refusing to take communion when I believe the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion is wrong or an abuse

      Yes, you are. The rubrics here are by their very nature gray. It is a matter of prudential judgment as to what is a vaguely define “excessive use” and you should in humility have more respect for the opinions and judgments of others. Just has someone should also boycott the Eucharist because of a believed “abuse” of allowing an excessive intermission in Mass because of the failure to use EMs. Or for that matter of refusing the sacrament of confirmation because of an over use (in your opinion) of auxilary bishops (who are in an extraordinary ministry) rather than the Ordinary.

  16. January 14, 2013 8:32 am

    Refraining in this circumstance implies that the rubrics are good enough for God to be present, but not good enough for you to participate. Is ritual purity really more important than union with God and participating in his divine life?

    But union with God and participating in his divine life is possible even if you do not actually receive. The whole faithful congregation participates in the Eucharist qua memorial, qua sacrifice, qua sign of Christ’s presence, and qua anticipation of glory. It’s just the ‘intimate communion’ of reception and its character as public profession that is not there in these cases; and we already know that there are lots of reasons why one might not actually receive. Anything that one regards as reflecting on one’s ability to receive in a way appropriate to the occasion could count, and, as Marv notes, if under the circumstances you honestly think that you would be participating in a liturgical abuse, that could indeed count, without affecting anything else in the Mass. Plus I think it’s worth keeping in mind that union with God and participating in his divine life is a progressive thing; it’s not something people do all at once, but over time, and not merely receiving communion but doing so more and more appropriately (which may sometimes mean not receiving) can be part of that.

    (FWIW, I receive any which way and don’t pay much attention to questions of liturgical abuse — being myself ceremonially clumsy and inattentive to ritual detail on my best day, I’m not really in a position to harp on such things, and would only refuse to receive for merely liturgical reasons if it were somehow done in such a way as would seem to condone outright heresy. But people who do take such things into account are not being unreasonable, and I think may often even be commendable for doing so.)

    • January 14, 2013 1:52 pm

      I’m not convinced. If you’re present for the Eucharistic liturgy as something more than an observer, then you are to an extent participating in what’s going on, abuses included. The choice to refrain from receiving doesn’t keep you from participation, as you rightly note at the top.

      • January 14, 2013 5:00 pm

        I think this is pretty obviously false. That’s not how participation works, and would require some sort of equivocation on ‘participation’ even to be remotely plausible. Merely showing up at Mass doesn’t make you a participant in every bad decision made at the Mass, any more than participating in the Church makes you ‘to some extent’ a direct participant in every sin any Catholic commits. If an Extraordinary Minister or communicant on the other side of the sanctuary suddenly decides to throw the Host on the ground and stomp on it, you are not automatically a ‘participant’ in the desecration of the Host merely by being in the same room as it. If the priest tells communicants to do something that you know is expressly forbidden by the bishop, and you don’t do that specific thing but others do, your being in the same church as those who do it doesn’t make you a ‘participant to some extent’ in disobedience to the bishop.

        And likewise, not participating in the specific sense of not eating and drinking the Body and Blood doesn’t mean you aren’t directly participating in the specific sense of having a share of the sacramental benefits of the Eucharist; while participating in the Mass in various specific ways does not automatically guarantee you are participating in other specific ways.

        To put it in other words: participation is always under a description, and relative to specific activities and events characterized by the description. It’s not transitive.

        • January 14, 2013 5:56 pm

          Not obviously false to me. You seem to be treating attendance at Mass as the most basic level “being in the same room” as what is happening. I’m no expert in sacramental theology, but I’m pretty sure we’re not mere observers at Mass, but participants in the liturgy. Now when thing happen that are not part of the liturgy–someone stepping in a host–you are right to say that those attending are not participating. The use of EMs, however, is different because their use is part of the way the liturgy is being practiced, i.e., part of what I am participating in. Stepping on the host is not. If I were to attend a Mass in which the EMs were, as part of the ritual, stepping on hosts, I’d say I have an obligation to depart or perhaps intervene to stop the sacrilege. Not sure about the canonical thing to do there.

        • January 15, 2013 9:15 am

          You don’t magically become an active participant just by being in the sanctuary during Mass; you actually have to participate– participation is an act. It is entirely possible to be a mere observer at Mass; it just requires not participating. Now, assuming we do participate, by prayer and the like, we run again into the same point I made before: participation is always an act under a description, and therefore is relative to particular activities and events. Because of this, if Y is a part of X, participation in X, however active, does not guarantee that you are actually participating in Y. It would still have to be shown, in terms of the character of one’s act of participation, that one is participating in the Y part of X.

          ‘The way the liturgy is being practiced’ seems to me to be a slippery term that won’t get us very far. If someone commits a clear liturgical abuse, that is still the way the liturgy is being practiced; if someone commits an action in the performance of liturgical duty that is technically admissible but under the circumstances ill-advised and inappropriate, that is the way the liturgy is being practiced. But the line between these is not hard and certain; there are gray areas between the two, and people who have a problem with EMs are saying that the practice is a case of the latter that is shading into the former — something that exists for emergencies and unusual situations is being treated as the regular course and in such a way that it fails to show proper reverence for the Eucharist. Thus the claim that there is a real difference here is something that you need actually to show; the ‘way the liturgy is practiced’ or ‘being part of the ritual’ is not precise enough to shed much light on the situation.

        • January 15, 2013 6:02 pm

          No claim of magic from me. Of course you can be a mere observer of the Mass, but when you’re participating, I don’t think the Mass lends itself to the abstractions of parts and wholes you’re wanting to distinguish. We can talk about the parts of say, the Eucharistic liturgy, but in the practice of the Mass, they flow into one event. You can say that by refraining from receiving you are not participating in the abuse of EMs, but as the abuse, if real, affects the liturgy as a whole, then your refraining hasn’t really kept you from participating in a liturgy that is to an extent improper. The Mass is not a series or collection of isolated parts in the way you seem to be describing it.

        • January 15, 2013 8:23 pm

          I don’t understand either your distinction between the Eucharistic liturgy and the Mass (the Eucharistic liturgy just is the Mass, and the Mass just is the Eucharistic liturgy) or your claim that parts and wholes are an ‘abstraction’ that doesn’t apply to the Mass: the Mass obviously has functional parts, because they can be identified (distinct prayers, distinct ritual actions, etc.) and as functional parts they contribute to a distinguishable whole, like all functional parts do.

          In any case, it wouldn’t matter. The part/whole distinction follows directly from the nature of participation regardless of the character of the Mass. Participation is an action under a description, and thus relativizes to actions and events as picked out by that description; in other words, there is no need for isolated — or even isolatable parts — because the object of participation is identified by the intentional character of the act of participation and doesn’t depend on the internal constitution of the object.

        • January 15, 2013 11:59 pm

          The Eucharistic liturgy is the second main part of the Mass, the first being the Liturgy of the Word.

          As for participation, I’m not sure we’re getting anywhere. You and I clearly have different understandings of the nature of participation. Intention is part of it, but not all that matters, as I see it.

        • January 16, 2013 10:14 am

          So I take it you were stating your position backwards — the Mass has parts (since the Liturgy of the Eucharist is one) but the Liturgy of the Eucharist doesn’t?

          Intention is not all that matters, but if intention matters at all it has the effect I noted, just as it does in moral and political matters, for purely logical reasons — it changes the appropriate logic to a modal logic, because intensions, and not just extensions, start mattering for things like transitivity and composition.

        • January 16, 2013 10:35 am

          No, the Liturgy of the Eucharist has parts as well.

        • January 16, 2013 11:30 am

          Then I confess I don’t see the problem at all. Take divine providence, of which the liturgy is a reflection and echo. Everything is always flowing into one providential event, and we all participate in divine providence. But that doesn’t mean that we participate in everything that happens in this providential event, because this one event of the history of the world has parts, and providence distributes over different events differently. And even when it doesn’t have different parts, participation as an intentional act can still be under a partial description. Through infused virtues we participate in the divine life itself, which has no parts; but our participation itself is partial and under a description — in this way we begin to participate in something of divine wisdom, in that way we begin to participate in something of divine love, and participating in one is not the same as participating in the other, even though divine love and divine wisdom are not themselves parts.

  17. Althea permalink
    January 14, 2013 7:11 pm

    I admit it upsets me when a priest does not participate in giving out communion, I think it reduces his role in the community to a mere technician. I know the laity like to feel involved, and I do too but the priest should always be part of the giving out of communion. He is not there just to mix the magic formula so the elves can give it out. To me, a priest doing this suggests that he does not understand his own role, and that’s just sad.

  18. Jordan permalink
    January 14, 2013 11:07 pm

    re: Trabby [January 14, 2013 7:54 pm]: It’s like using clay vessels rather than a consecrated paten-and-chalice. It’s not that there is anything bad about clay dishes, they may even be beautiful, but in the ritual life of the Church a paten and chalice are consecrated (“made sacred,” which means “setting apart”) for that purpose specifically and as such are the only things that are supposed to touch the sacred species (like a priest’s consecrated hands, etc).

    Trabby, I agree with you that only a priest, deacon, or (in extremis) a subdeacon/acolyte should administer holy communion. I do not personally believe that Paul VI envisioned the current situation where laypersons regularly administer holy communion.

    Even so, I am attempting to make my peace with EMHCs. I am fond of saying, “Christ is the law, but he is also the Sacred Heart.” Indeed, many who are intellectual or legal in their understanding of liturgy and theology might rightfully decry EMHCs based on historical church directives, the theology of holy orders, and liturgical traditions. As a person trapped in his mind, I cannot countenance the idea of laypersons touching hosts and administering holy communion. Indeed, as I have mentioned eariler, I refrain even from receiving communion in my hand. Yet, the situation or extraordinary ministers of holy communion cannot, and perhaps should not, be changed.

    I doubt that most EMHCs desire to upstage the priest or act as pseudo-priests. Rather, some persons derive spiritual and emotional benefit from sharing the eucharist with other persons. Indeed, many persons are of a “giving” or “helping” temperament. These people derive personal meaning by providing for others. Perhaps some EMHCs yearn to reflect the Sacred Heart and be the face of compassion and fellowship to brothers and sisters.

    Not a few introverts like me cannot understand why a person would not prioritize theology over personal temperament. Perhaps extroverts think otherwise, and introverts are oblivious to extroverts’ concerns.

    I attend the extraordinary form for a number of reasons. One reason is a conviction that only ordained hands should touch the holy sacrament. I do not criticize parishes who use EMHCs for reasons of charity. If one is truly bothered by laypersons administering holy communion, then perhaps he or she should hear Tridentine Mass or attend Byzantine Divine Liturgy. I am convinced that no person has the right to criticize the practices of a liturgically reformed parish without at least attempting to reasonably understand the practices of the community.

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      January 18, 2013 12:36 pm

      Didn’t St. Paul talk about having treasure in clay vessels so that we worship the treasure and not the vessels? Maybe there is a parallel here in putting the Body of Christ in the hands of laypeople, in that it helps us to worship Christ rather than the priest. Yes, I know Christ is present in the priest, but he is also present in the whole assembly – and neither in such a way that they become the object of worship the way we worship Christ in the Eucharist.

      Also, as a fellow introvert, I’m not seeing the connection between introversion and prioritizing theology over temperament. Could you elaborate?

      • January 18, 2013 12:50 pm

        Hello Julia,
        Do you know what word every dissident and heretic in the long history of the Catholic Church always used? The same word you are using here – “maybe”. This is hubris, fight against it. Are you familiar with Fr. Lorenzo Scupoli’s classic “Spiritual combat”? His first advice is, “do not trust yourself”. It is good to keep this in mind.

        • Julia Smucker permalink*
          January 18, 2013 7:13 pm

          So using the word “maybe” makes me a heretic. Now I’ve heard everything.

        • January 18, 2013 11:48 pm

          Do you really not understand what I am talking about?

        • Julia Smucker permalink*
          January 19, 2013 6:42 pm

          No, I don’t. Are you objecting to the word “maybe” in itself, or something else?

    • Jordan permalink
      January 18, 2013 3:43 pm

      Julia Smucker [January 18, 2013 12:36 pm]: Also, as a fellow introvert, I’m not
      seeing the connection between introversion and prioritizing theology over temperament. Could you elaborate?

      I agree, Julia, that I was unwise to correlate extroversion with eucharistic ministry. I’ve always thought, probably mistakenly, that persons who volunteered to be EMHCs did so primarily out of a desire to participate in the liturgy through physical movement and contact with others. I’d do better to listen to individual EMHC’s and their experiences.

      My prejudice against EMHCs likely stems from my misunderstanding of why this ministry exists. I have never met a priest who derives a particular joy from the administration of holy communion. Perhaps such a priest exists, but I have not met him. Why, then, would a layperson ardently desire to take over a role which does not appear to be in itself rewarding? What is the theological rationale for lay eucharistic ministry? Maybe a discussion with a number of EMHCs might reveal why they are motivated to participate in the administration of the Eucharist. Similarly, I should investigate why many pastors employ EMHCs during Mass for any reason.

      The communion rite in the EF features a blessing for each communicant before he or she receives. I rather value this aspect of the old communion rite, which has now been discarded. Only a priest or deacon can offer this blessing. This blessing, and the longer prayer which accompanies the blessing, has always attracted me to the EF. Rationally, this preference should have no influence on my perception of EMHCs. Still, in some way I perceive the previous custom of communion blessings as a reminder that a priest is, and in my mind should be, the ordinary minister of the sacrament.

      • Julia Smucker permalink*
        January 18, 2013 7:21 pm

        Thanks for the clarification, Jordan – and, as usual, for your openness to reexamining your own motives and reasoning (a strength of introverted introspection, perhaps).

  19. January 15, 2013 7:41 pm

    Remaining at Mass does not constitute an endorsement of everything that is done at that Mass.

    I decline to sing silly songs, or hold hands during the Our Father, or say “Good morning” to the cantor or celebrant at the beginning of Mass. Singing silly songs and saying “Good morning” would express approval of those practices. But it doesn’t follow that my remaining there is an endorsement of everyone else’s singing silly songs or saying “Good morning”. All it means is that I have to put up with things at Mass which I personally don’t approve of.

    It’s fallacious to insist that my remaining at a Mass in which silly songs are sung is an endorsement of the singing of silly songs at Mass.

    • January 16, 2013 12:12 am

      You may not be endorsing/approving in your heart and mind, and it would be fallacious to conclude otherwise from your presence at a Mass in which these practices occur, but you are choosing to join in a celebration where these things happen. Your presence there lends them some support, as tolerable practices at the very least. You are willing to participate in a liturgy in which these things occur. In practice, your presence buttresses them. Now you may try to negate that support by withholding tithes or writing letters to the priest, but there’s a negation only if you’re helping keep the practices in place by your attendance. If you’re regularly in the pew, then like it or not you’re lending a hand to the liturgy as practiced.

      • January 16, 2013 12:38 pm

        “If you’re regularly in the pew, then like it or not you’re lending a hand to the liturgy as practiced.”

        I disagree. If attendance at Mass were not obligatory, then I could see your point. As it is, I see no reason to believe that my opinion or my attendance at Mass has anything to do with the way it is conducted.

        No one has asked my opinion, and as far as I know no one counts heads to discern whether parishioners prefer one practice or another, based on how many people are present at one Mass compared with another. If there was any interest in doing so, then they would have to have one Mass at which there are no EMs (or silly songs, or whatever), and another in which there are, in order to compare.

        But there are EMs at every Mass in my parish. I conclude therefore that my attendance makes no difference. If it did, I assure you I would vote with my feet or however else votes might be cast.

    • January 17, 2013 6:06 pm

      You have my support, Agellius, I do exactly the same thing. I come to a Novus Ordo Mass only when I can’t go to the Latin Mass. I do it because I accept its general validity. Just the same, I do not participate in the unorthodox behavior you have mentioned in your post (plus, I never applaud in the church). This is all based on my informed conscience as it should be.

  20. January 16, 2013 10:21 am

    @ Kyle — I suppose whether Agellius remaining seated while things of which he does not approve are taking place constitutes an endorsement of those practices depends on whose assumptions his presence gives rise to. If he doesn’t approve, certainly God knows his heart. If he doesn’t participate, certainly those in the congregation (or the clergy) who see him not participating, would assume that he is not endorsing that which he is refusing to take part in. All those congregants who are not aware of what he was doing (or not doing) would be forming no assumption at all about his intentions or opinions. It would seem to me that an endorsement, by definition, must to made to a second party or parties. I’m not sure in the case Agellius presents here, who that second party would be.

  21. January 17, 2013 4:26 pm

    I never receive the Holy Eucharist from anyone but a priest because I believe that I should always choose the most reverent liturgical option (similarly, I never receive in the hand). In this case, I follow the dictum of St. Thomas Aquinas, “The consecrated from the consecrated” (a succinct paraphrase of his words). It has nothing to do with the validity of the host’s consecration. This will be my position as long as the Church authorities give us a choice in this matter.

    • Kurt permalink
      January 18, 2013 11:34 am

      I understand. I always receive in the hand because I believe I should choose the more reverent option. Everyone has their opinion.

      • January 18, 2013 12:41 pm


        Could you, please, explain how receiving in the hand is more reverent?

        • Kurt permalink
          January 23, 2013 10:22 am


          You have your prudential judgment as to what is more reverent and I have mine. Maybe best to just leave it at that.

        • January 23, 2013 7:50 pm

          In the matters of liturgy and worship there is no room for a subjective approach. If you are unable to state your reasons for preferring this or that, it can only mean that you have no good reasons. Sorry, I can’t accept your excuse.

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