Saturday, January 24, 2015

Just an Impression?

Following the Holy Father's visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, two blips went across my radar which both independently and in contrast to each other left me troubled: the rabbit thing and the video documentation of the less than respectful (sacrilegious) way the Most Holy Eucharist was passed around in the crowd at the outdoor Mass with the Pope. Many push back from both insisting that we not overreact or read too much into either. 

In the case of the rabbit thing, efforts have been made by the Vatican to assuage those feeling offended and perhaps to counter the most aggressive (German speaking?) campaigns to set something like a "catholic family quota" where after confessors are supposed to forgive most anything in the realm of birth control. Hence, I suppose the repeated appeals of the Holy Father to people to get themselves to confession. 

The outrage or "slow burn" over the Holy Father's choice of words is justified, because once again some, if not many, are taking advantage and pushing their anti-life and anti-marital chastity agenda. Unintentional or not the "barn door" was left open and unguarded. The best efforts on the part of others to witness to the fullness of Gospel life in and before marriage are being snowed by those who scorn big families and deny the role of asceticism in the life of all Christ's followers. The allusion to the classic "rabbit putdown" played right into the hands of those who have no time for self-sacrifice within a life-long marital commitment, let alone for the glorious Catholic procession of virgin martyrs which extends over all the centuries, starting with St. Agnes and continuing on through St. Maria Goretti, regularly punctuated by single-hearted little boys and young men like St. Dominic Savio, St. Charles Lwanga and his companions. An exhortation to perseverance, to holy indifference and to entrusting of our lives and the Church to Christ the King, directed toward all those who feel offended or simply nonplussed, is certainly in order.

The obvious disrespect shown to the Holy Eucharist at outdoor Masses, not only in Manila or Rio, but perhaps despite best efforts even in St. Peter's Square, has to do with attempting the impossible. Communion for so many people at once cannot be organized and organizers' attempts to go through with it end in "accidents", in disrespect, if in no other way than by rendering casual or bland/routine the encounter with the living Lord, Christ our God, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Those responsible for organizing the occasions must stop "trying" and draw the conclusion that it cannot be done without disrespect and hence should not be done. Open fields, beaches and giant public squares do not lend themselves to a devout reception of Holy Communion and higher authority should recognize this and bring others to face up to the fact as well.

I remember as a child, before the Council, that Holy Communion was not distributed at Funeral Masses with the body of the deceased present. In the parish, that meant suppressing the early morning Mass (bination was not an option) in favor of a Communion service for the daily Mass folk, as well as any mourners who wished to receive Communion on the day of burial of their loved one. I am sure there were reasons for the practice; I don't recall what they were. The important thing for me as a child and I suppose for most adults was simply that Communion was not distributed at Funeral Masses in the presence of the body of the deceased. Might I suggest, that for the sake of decorum the distribution of Holy Communion should today be omitted at all Masses where people cannot easily approach the Communion rail or altar step, understood as extensions of the altar at Mass. Apart from the extremely diseducative and often disrespectful (if not sacrilegious) Communion practice common to large gatherings in the open and in stadiums, I think I remember being told by an older generation that Holy Communion, before the Council, was not generally distributed even inside the Basilica at Papal Liturgies (more of a rarity then, of course, than now): reverence no doubt being the primary factor.

Whether an embittered "slow burn" or embarrassed silence, pastoral sensitivity would require much more from bishops and priests vis a vis the "little ones", those whose faith is weak or who lack sufficient catechesis in their lives to be able to sort things out. Why should people today be dispensed from the beautiful asceticism their parents and grandparents fought so hard to practice in marriage just because of king mattresses, central heating and air-conditioning, Iphones, Ipads, big screen TV and XBox? Pastoral sensitivity would seem to demand an honest effort at recovering the sustaining Catholic culture, which once helped people live their sacrament, whether it was Baptism, Holy Matrimony or Holy Orders.

Once again, even inside church walls at Sunday Mass, I would make an appeal for putting order in the Communion procession, eliminating the hectic brought on by putting too many extraordinary ministers on such that ushers are pushing people to hurry down the aisle (keep moving!) and return to the Communion rail, which gives each person a moment to focus before Father arrives to feed them with the Bread of Angels.

If we would have mercy on the crowds as Jesus did, like He we would give ourselves tirelessly to teaching, both in and out of season. No doubt many hearts are hardened, but as many or more languish like sheep without a shepherd. St. John Paul II used to repeat to various groups that the true pope for most Catholics was the parish priest in their home parish. The nurturing task of teaching persuasively about chastity for the laity, both single and married, rests squarely on the shoulders of those at home. Beyond witness, parents have much to share with their children about the true nature of love and the ineluctable embrace of Christ's Cross which lets that love shine out in all its eloquence.


1 comment:

  1. I agree, a return to a communion rail would make life easier. It seems to me this is a relatively easy fix, section off the crowd, and bring in portable communion rails. I'd love to see an end to Hand Communion.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.