Monday, July 07, 2008

Accidents and the holy eucharist

Sometimes they happen. It’s a fallen world.

Melancholicus has read of instances of hosts being found, unaccountably, on the floors of churches, between the pages of missalettes, under pews, or even—what sacrilege—in the trash.

These last, especially if the sacred host winds up in the trash, cannot reasonably be described as accidental.

Melancholicus remembers seeing a parish priest doling out holy communion at Sunday Mass, and not even noticing that a host had slipped to the floor at his feet. Fortunately, a young woman waiting in line had noticed, and picked the host up and returned it to him. He replaced it in the ciborium and went on doling out communion. None of the traditional rites of purification prescribed in the case of a host that falls was followed in this instance, but to be fair, these rites are no longer mandated by liturgical law.

It is really quite amazing. No wonder so many Catholics regard the Blessed Sacrament as no more than a wafer, when they see it treated with such casual regard even by their priests.

Back in his pew after communion, Melancholicus tarried in the church when Mass had ended, as is his wont, offering his private prayers up to the Lord. He loves the silence of the church after Mass when the last members of the congregation have departed. Sometimes he shares the quiet of the church in these moments with the cleaning lady, who potters about the sanctuary and dusts the statues and shrines when the lights have been switched off. This particular Sunday, the cleaning lady was moving about the pews with a brush, sweeping the floor. Melancholicus was reciting his office.

The sweeping drew nearer and nearer, until the cleaning lady was practically only a pew in front of Melancholicus, whereat he noticed her bending down and retrieving an object from the church floor. It was round, white, flat and about the breadth of a €2 coin.

It was, of course, a sacred host.

We looked at one another in startled amazement. She did the only thing she could do; she received as reverently as she could, under the circumstances. Melancholicus was upset, this being his first encounter in the real world with the Blessed Sacrament thus carelessly discarded. He closed his breviary and made some prayers of reparation, but was so filled with distress and repugnance that he could not stay in the church but rose almost at once to leave. In the church porch he addressed the cleaning lady.

“Do you often find hosts on the floor of the church?”

“Every now and then,” was her reply. “Sometimes it’s children, and of course it’s because of communion in the hand, but you really don’t know what some people are up to.”

She really hit the nail on the head. The shoddy catechesis which prevails in our schools has ensured that Catholic children grow up without the slightest knowledge of what the eucharist really is. Dare we be surprised if such children then discard the host in the strange places it has turned up ever since the whole liturgical reform debacle was first imposed?

But the most nefarious culprit in these desecrations is the abominable practice of communion in the hand, which continues to be permitted in practically every diocese, despite the accumulating mountain of evidence that it has greatly facilitated countless sacrileges as well as an incomparable loss of faith among churchgoing Catholics.

Consider this a plea, gentle reader, for the restoration of the traditional method of receiving holy communion, with the reverence and decorum attached thereto. If you are a Catholic, and are not already doing so, please consider refraining from receiving the host in your hand. Please insist only on receiving on the tongue, even when this is difficult, or an occasion of inconvenience. Please insist on receiving only from the hands of a priest; leave the so-called ‘extraordinary ministers’ well alone. If you are yourself an ‘extraordinary minister’, please desist from being so immediately, no matter how fulfilled, spiritual or useful your function may make you feel. Please take care to educate your children properly on the truth about the blessed eucharist; don’t leave it to their school—their school won’t deliver. Please offer up whatever difficulties and inconveniences you may experience as a result of putting these recommendations into practice in reparation for outrages and sacrileges committed against the most holy sacrament of the altar. If more and more people insist on the traditional method of communicating, their example will influence others, and little by little the execrable practice of communion in the hand will die out.

As communion in the hand dies out, sacrileges against the blessed eucharist will become less frequent, for the two are inextricably connected.

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