Reflections on my Pilgrimage to Pellevoisin… for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi).
In my last post I reflected on the call to wear the Scapular of the Sacred Heart, as the most prominent aspect of the message of Pellevoisin. This can only be understood as “most pleasing to Mary” if it is accompanied by an inner intention to model one’s own heart after the Heart of Jesus. Yet this is only one half of Our Lady’s request…
“Nothing will be more acceptable to me than to see this livery on each of my children, and that they all endeavour to repair the outrages received by my Divine Son in the Sacrament of His Love.”
All sin offends God, by its very nature. But here Our Lady was specifically speaking of sins against the Blessed Sacrament. What does this mean for our own day and age?
Most of humanity sins by not obeying the command of Jesus, “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, and drink of it.”
Christians outside the Catholic and Orthodox traditions sin by failing to recognise that Jesus wishes to feed us with his true body and blood by the hand of a priest.
Today it is perhaps not well understood among Catholics that not all services of Holy Communion are of equal spiritual value; it is worth restating that the power to make present the Body and Blood of Christ is only given to a priest through the laying on of hands by a bishop who can trace his line of ordination directly back to the Apostles. We do not deny that God pours out blessings on other Christian communities who celebrate Holy Communion following their own tradition; but we cannot affirm that their bread and wine truly becomes the Body and Blood of Christ, and for this reason Catholics cannot receive Holy Communion with integrity at Protestant services.
Christians within the Catholic and Orthodox traditions may sin –
- if they personally don’t believe that the consecrated bread and wine become the Real Presence of Jesus Christ (and apparently the majority of Catholics in Ireland now don’t);
- if they receive Holy Communion without examining their own sins and first confessing those which are serious; and
- if they don’t receive Holy Communion in a reverent manner.
The teaching of the Catholic Church is that a communicant may receive Holy Communion in the hand or on the tongue. It is always permitted to receive on the tongue, and communion in the hand is authorised at a national level, not by individual priests.
I believe that reverence is fundamentally an attitude of heart. It is possible to receive Holy Communion reverently in the hand. For years, before my ordination as priest, I did so myself – I would take the Host, step to one side, make a short prayer in my heart of trust and recognition of the Lord who deigned to dwell in my hand at that moment, and then consume the host. I also believe it is possible to receive Holy Communion on the tongue irreverently – through a sinful lifestyle, immodest dress, or by an ostentatious display of piety in receiving communion.
I am aware that there are currents of opinion which say Our Lord or Our Lady have told certain visionaries that Jesus does not want communion in the hand; or that the official permission was only granted because of pressure from certain lobbies (possibly Masonic) within the Church; or that Mother Teresa of Calcutta, now Blessed, is alleged to have disapproved of the practice.
But Our Lord entrusted Peter with authority over his Church, and it cannot be the case that anything which the Successor of Peter has formally permitted could be intrinsically irreverent. I applaud those Catholics who receive on the tongue because they believe it is “more reverent”. I also applaud those who exercise their choice, in nations where it is permitted, to receive in their hand in order to have a moment of reverent recollection free from the distractions of the movement of the communion queue.
On this Solemnity which commemorates the Lord’s gift of His Body and Blood to His Church I ask you, gentle reader, to examine your conscience. Do you truly believe that Jesus is present, yet hidden, in the most profound way possible in the Blessed Sacrament? And if you do, is there anything lacking in the way you pay Him respect whenever you visit His House? If you have sinned, place your trust in His Mercy, and make your peace with Him through His priest at the earliest opportunity. And in this way you too will help to repair outrages against the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.