This particular interview caught The Motley Monk's attention, reminding him about some "general housekeeping" items which, he believes, pastors should periodically reinforce for congregants:
- Get rid of the gum. Really! Some in the congregation come to receive Holy Communion chomping away on a wad of gum, resembling cows chomping away at their fodder! But, please don't stick the wad beneath the seat of the pew. Two weeks ago, the church's housekeeper removed 63 wads of gum from beneath the pews at the parish where The Motley Monk assists on weekends. (Don't believe The Motley Monk? Run your hand on the underside of the pew's seat. See what you find!)
- Wash your hands. Really! If a recipient believes that what's being received is the Body of Christ, unwashed hands--for example, hands covered with snot or notes written in ink, colored by Cheetos, mustard/ketchup from a hamburger or hot dog, or dirt/grime from the lawnmower, a garden tool, or a baseball/soccer game--isn't the way to express reverence for the Sacrament. If absolutely necessary, why not bring along a couple of disinfectant wipes for use immediately prior to receiving Holy Communion in the hand? And please: Dispose of them properly...not in the hymnal/missalette holder.
- Don't snatch the host using the index finger and thumb. Really. Consistent with making the Sign of the Cross, receive the host in the palm of the right hand placed over the palm of the left hand. Imitating an eagle swooping down to snatch a fish from a river and ascending heavenward doesn't express reverence for the Sacrament.
- Stop the obsequious bows, genuflections, and signs of the Cross. Really. Demonstrating respect for the Sacrament shouldn't ever be minimized. But, just like consuming adult beverages, there' a difference between expressing profound reverence for the Sacrament and engaging in overly pious expressions of servitude. Too much is too much.
- The proper response upon receiving Holy Communion is "Amen." The word affirms the recipient's faith--"It is true and dependable." Saying nothing and moving on as well as "Thank you" or "Thank you, Father" are inappropriate because the gift was given with the statement "[This is] The Body of Christ."
As Fr. Kocik noted:
[Kneeling to receive Holy Communion on the tongue] fosters a deeper sense of holy Communion as personal encounter, as intimate communion with Christ in the sacrament of his Body and Blood, and not simply a social ritual in which anyone can take part.
In itself, however, that's not necessarily a negative. After all, communicants can express great reverence for the Sacrament, for example, with a slight, momentary bow of the head...like when President G.W. Bush expressed his respect for Pope Benedict XVI.
In the end, there's nothing inherently wrong with either approach to receiving Holy Communion and there's precedent for both in the practice of the Roman Catholic Church. What's critical is that a communicant--whether receiving Holy Communion kneeling/on the tongue or standing/in the hand--come prepared and properly disposed to receive Holy Communion.
How? Recall and act conversant with the idea that Holy Communion isn't fast food, to be grabbed and taken on the run. No, it's a Sacrament, a divine gift that's to be received with reverence.
About pastors periodically reinforcing those "general housekeeping" items: Why don't they include them periodically as a blurb in the parish bulletin to catechize congregants or reinforce their catechesis? Give them something to think about... without harping.
And don't forget this item:
- Dress for success. Really. Especially during the summer months, looking at what congregants are wearing, one might wrongly conclude that the parish is sponsoring a beach party, baseball or soccer game, or pajama party/sleep over not the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Let the discussion begin...
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