Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Oh the tangled webs we weave when it's most important to receive

If public adulterers can't receive communion, why bother with Mass?
It seems to me that one major problem facing the divorced and remarried is the fact that the automatic reception of Holy Communion,at absolutely every single Mass one attends has become such a normal and ingrained part of post-conciliar Catholic life that if one doesn’t receive Holy Communion, it makes one feel abnormal – like a Protestant guest, not a full part of the Eucharistic community – even though on Sundays and other Holy Days of Obligation, the obligation on the faithful is not to receive Holy Communion, but to be present at the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice, or as it used to be described, to hear Mass.
The fact that for most of the Church’s history frequent reception was not the normal practice may bear a little reflection. To begin with, it is surely the case that automatic reception of Holy Communion is in itself undesirable: it was supposed to be part of the heightened sense of “participation” in the celebration that post-conciliar liturgists went on about: what it has actually led to in practice is a huge loss of reverence for the sacraments in general (the growth of automatic reception was mirrored at every stage by a corresponding decline in recourse to sacramental confession), and in a loss of reverence for the sacrament of the altar in particular.
One of the problems is that generally Catholics no longer think of the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice but a communal meal. To be sure, there is a "meal" aspect to the liturgy as the priest speaks the words Christ spoke at the Last Supper. It's a half-truth at best to focus on the meal parts. It leads to the distortion of Catholic piety described by Oddie. If you can't receive communion, then why bother going to Mass at all?

The subjective (finite) graces we receive from Holy Communion are distinct from the objective (infinite) graces of the sacrifice of the Mass. There's a reason why the Church commands us to attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day, but only to receive communion at least once a year. Today everyone receives communion whenever they bother going to Mass at all.


  1. I'm certainly suspicious of people who insist on downplaying the "holy sacrifice" aspect in favor of the "sacred mid-morning snack" aspect.

    On the other hand, all this insistence on unrepentant adulterers getting the non-Eucharistic spiritual benefits of going to Mass and being "active in the life of the Church" seems strange to me too. I mean, yes, it's great to be active in the Church, but if you die in a state of mortal sin, you're still going to hell.

    1. I think the idea is to not compound the sin of adultery with more sins such as apostasy. Whether an irregular marriage can be convalidated depends on a lot of different things, if it's even possible.