Cleansing Fire

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Albany’s Understanding of Receiving the Eucharist

February 24th, 2011, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

This CNS article gives some background for how we get into messes like Cuomo receiving the Eucharist (as reported early by Mike)

Father Adam Forno occasionally notices parishioners skipping the Eucharist at St. John the Evangelist and St. Joseph parish in Rensselaer, where he is pastor. [Fr. Forno sees this as a bad thing. Another pastor might delight in seeing this.]

Sometimes, a Massgoer doesn’t receive Communion because he or she has remarried without having a first marriage annulled. Other times, it is because of personal shame. [ There’s several reasons for not receiving communion. It’s perfectly acceptable to abstain from the Eucharist. It’s the fact that we make such a big deal out of people not receiving that places pressure on those who should not receive to feel awkward if they don’t. I know a friend who will every once in a while just abstain for the reason of making others feel comfortable with seeing someone stay in the pew.]

“We’ve got some people who just feel they’re not worthy,” Father Forno explained. “People have a strong sense of not being in right relationship with God, and so they honor that by not going to Communion as they were taught. But my sense is that you need Communion more than ever then.” [perhaps, but they should be encouraged to do what they need to do first and then receive in a state of grace (which Fr. Forno does mention later)]

Several pastors throughout the Albany Diocese said they have spotted handfuls of Catholics at their parishes abstaining from the Eucharist, occasionally or habitually. They noted that many parishioners falsely believe being divorced or forgetting to pray are reasons to abstain. [Is it so hard to make this statement more explicit? If you’re divorced and remarried and currently living a full married life, then that is not a false belief. You would be correct to abstain.  If you’re civilly divorced and living a chaste life, then that doesn’t disqualify you. Forgetting to pray sounds perhaps a bit extreme, but should they be pressured to receive if they don’t feel properly disposed?]

Massgoers who stay seated during Communion present pastors and parish leaders with complex tasks of spiritual guidance. [I can’t imagine it’s easy.] Whenever possible, parish leaders are advised to teach about church rules but help people differentiate between mortal and venial sin.

“It calls for such pastoral nuancing,” Father Forno said. “It’s not black and white.”

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, parishioners who are “aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive holy Communion, even if (they experience) deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless (they have) a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession.”

For a sin to be considered mortal, its object must be grave matter and it must be committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent, according to the catechism.

Often, people falsely believe they are in a state of mortal sin because their actions contradict church teaching, said Father Peter Sullivan, assistant judicial vicar to Albany Bishop Howard J. Hubbard. [Heads are buried in the ground here – much more often people are wrong about thinking they are NOT in a state of mortal sin when they actually are.]

Father Sullivan said pastors and spiritual directors should counsel people based on their individual situations. He offered the example of 19th-century Eskimos leaving their elders to die on the ice to prevent them from experiencing long, excruciating deaths without the aid of morphine: Today, this might be considered murder; back then, it was mercy. [gotta love these edge cases.]

“You need to go to Communion, and you can do so very humbly. You’re not doing this with pride; you’re doing this out of a need and out of a command.”

Father Forno recalled the prayer recited immediately before receiving Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

“If we say those words and believe it,” he said, “then the Lord should be able to heal (us).” [Certainly the Lord is able to, but we’re Catholics; which means we believe our Lord would want us to follow Church teaching.   Saying the Lord is capable of working good in a bad situation doesn’t mean we should put ourselves in that bad situation. ]

Marianne Lee, a parish eucharistic minister, agrees that few “sit out” Communion, but older Catholics might be influenced by the culture of their youth, when people went to confession more frequently. [those pre-V2 folks STILL haven’t gotten with the times, have they?  We better keep harping on them.]

“There are still some people who feel they need to have the sacrament of reconciliation before they receive,” Lee said. [If you’re in the state of grace it would be wrong to say you NEED the sacrament of reconciliation before receiving, but perhaps they know they don’t need it and merely prefer it. Should we be judging these people?]

Father Paul Catena, pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Margaretville, said he often faces the task of making people aware of outstanding sins. But approaching them about the need for confession before receiving Communion is no easy task. [I don’t suppose it is.]

“It’s hard to go up to somebody and say they shouldn’t,” Father Catena said. “I think every priest struggles with, ‘What do I say? When do I say it?’ The best I can do is try to teach over time.” [I’m sure it’s not easy but, people must be properly informed.  This article makes the question of “who can receive communion” seem like a mystery that no one knows the answer to .]

Christianity, he said, is about continual conversion; followers should always learn and grow in faith.

Church teachings can also confuse Catholics. “They’re not easy to understand,” Father Catena said. “It takes time and effort to understand the teachings, and it takes a certain openness.” [It’s really not that hard to understand. Read this article:
http://www.catholic.com/library/Who_Can_Receive_Communion.asp

and you’ll know most of what you need to. Why do we pretend that Church teaching is just so hard and so nuanced? It really isn’t all that complicated. I think we’ve got another trilemma on our hands here. Either 1) they are stupid 2) they think you are stupid 3) or they don’t agree with Church teaching.]

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5 Responses to “Albany’s Understanding of Receiving the Eucharist”

  1. avatar Phoebe says:

    The state of things in Albany has got to be among the worst situations in the entire country right now. There is no Catholic culture whatsoever, no leadership proposed. The brand of liberalism is imposed, in a totalitarian way that smacks of fear and desperation, and it is reactionary in the way that it pretends that the beautiful teachings of the Church do not exist. The flock is scattered. With respect to what little has been supposedly attended to, in the way of Catholic social justice, again, it is not inclusive and holistic but smacks of self-righteous propaganda. The very basic life in the sacraments has been neglected and endless and widespread liturgical experimentation by priests off the reservation have been allowed to victimize an apathetic and uncatechized laity. The leadership is so partisan it actually demonizes those of the pro life party and exalts its chosen favorite without apology or explanation. Families huddle together to attempt to salvage some hope for the future of the Church and the next generation in faith and are dismissed pastorally. Families and youth are encouraged and expected to totally celebrate and join (at what health risk?) the dominant commercially-marketed sex culture, and if they assert any values to the contrary they are marginalized as suspect. So much for counter-culturalism. This brand of Catholicism has wholeheartedly joined the culture backed by the media which sucks the lifeblood from our young people and families. Any change will be for the better and could not come soon enough.

  2. avatar Nerina says:

    Pheobe,

    It sounds like the DOA (no pun intended) is in the same boat as the DOR.

    Ben,

    A masterful parsing of this article. I remember sitting out from Communion for several months when I first learned of the full teaching of the Church regarding birth control. I knew to receive Communion while not fully accepting the teaching would be enormously hypocritical so I abstained. Many thought I was being too scrupulous and even suggested that many priests would not find contraception gravely wrong.

    Sometimes I will sit out from Communion just to demonstrate to my children that you don’t have to receive Communion if you know you are not properly disposed to do so. Last year, during Lent, I abstained from Communion so as to increase my spiritual desire for our Lord in the Eucharist.

  3. So this is the great problem of our time — too few Massgoers receiving communion?

    The priests of Albany ought to read Pope Benedict’s apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, where he teaches, “Clearly, full participation in the Eucharist takes place when the faithful approach the altar in person to receive communion. Yet true as this is, care must be taken lest they conclude that the mere fact of their being present in church during the liturgy gives them a right or even an obligation to approach the table of the Eucharist.”

  4. Pope Benedict helpfully continues here: “Even in cases where it is not possible to receive sacramental communion, participation at Mass remains necessary, important, meaningful and fruitful. In such circumstances it is beneficial to cultivate a desire for full union with Christ through the practice of spiritual communion, praised by Pope John Paul II (170) and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life (171).”

  5. avatar Daniel says:

    Their days are numbered. Take heart. Find the best service and go there for the sake of your family and yourself. You will benfit from it. Their self styled adolescent project is almost over. Stay with the Church and become more devout.


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