Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Another thing I love about the Latin Mass….

April 9th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

I do love the Latin Mass for many reasons, and one reason has nothing to do with the language: it is how Communion is received.  It isn’t just a matter of receiving on the tongue instead of in the hand.  One of the things I have come to really love about the Latin Mass, with everyone receiving on the tongue, is that I no longer see those horrible Eucharistic abuses.  I no longer wonder if I should run after someone who just put a host in his pocket, when I have just received myself and fear being disrespectful to the Lord whom I now tabernacle.  I don’t see someone chewing gum on the line for Communion.    There is no chalice to receive in hand and realize the outside of the cup is wet.  And I don’t see so-called Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (still called EEM’s in some places) trying to give blessings, dropping hosts, or allowing intinction or other abuses.  Such abuses no longer disturb my moment of receiving God Himself.  And I love receiving at an altar rail, because I can fully concentrate on that moment when the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ is laid on my tongue, without trying to get out of line quickly to make room for the next person.

I thought I could simply excerpt a few sentences from a homily given by Fr. Heilman in 2014, and which has been reprinted several other places since.   But so much of it is of value that it is difficult to delete anything,  so please do read the  whole homily. Here is a bit to whet your appetite, further revised from my original posting for the sake of brevity.

The Truth About Communion in the Hand While Standing

by Fr. Richard Heilman 

Fr. Richard Heilman

Fr. Richard Heilman

“On May 28, 1969 the Congregation for Divine Worship issued Memoriale Domini, which concluded: “From the responses received, it is thus clear that by far the greater number of bishops feel that the present discipline [i.e., Holy Communion on the tongue] should not be changed at all, indeed that if it were changed, this would be offensive to the sensibility and spiritual appreciation of these bishops and of most of the faithful.” 

“[….] the pope would not authorize Communion in the hand. He was, however, open to bestowing an indult – an exception to the law – under certain conditions … the Holy See set down seven regulations concerning communion in the hand; failure to maintain these regulations could result in the loss of the indult.”

Fr. Heilman sets forth in exquisite detail the machinations of Archbishop Joseph Bernardin and the NCCB to produce a 2/3 vote among U.S. Bishops for receiving in the hand.  That section is worthwhile reading just for validation that Machiavellian techniques are not obsolete, even in the Church or in US elections, where absentee ballots sometimes win the day. The author understandably reaches the conclusion that some of Pope Paul VI’s conditions were not achieved, at least in the US.  He notes three in particular:

1) Respecting the laity who continue the traditional practice:  “Reports are now widespread of priests refusing Communion to those who wish to receive kneeling and on the tongue. Even reports of priests berating people for this.” 

2) Maintaining the laity’s proper respect of the Eucharist.  The author cites e.g. a deacon’s experience with a number of ‘lack of respect’ situations.  “The Vatican does not allow communion in the hand … one reason is because tourists were taking the Holy Eucharist home as a souvenir of their trip to Rome.”

3) Strengthening the laity’s faith in the Real Presence:  “In 1950, 87% believed in the Real Presence. Today, that number has plummeted to a mere 34%. The abusive and hurried manner in which the practice of Communion in the hand was imposed after Vatican II lead to a widespread lack of reverence for the Eucharist …

Fr. Heilman offers a fascinating quote from Pope Benedict, regarding kneeling and its importance.

In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict speaks of a “story that comes from the sayings of the Desert Fathers, according to which the devil was compelled by God to show himself to a certain Abba Apollo.   He looked black and ugly, with frightening thin limbs, but, most strikingly, he had no knees.  The inability to kneel is seen as the very essence of the diabolical.”

Finally, Fr. Heilman quotes the beautiful words of St. Thomas Aquinas regarding only touching the Eucharist with what is consecrated: The dispensing of Christ’s body belongs to the priest for three reasons. First, because . . . he consecrates in the person of Christ . . . Secondly, because the priest is the appointed intermediary between God and the people, hence as it belongs to him to offer the people’s gifts to God, so it belongs to him to deliver the consecrated gifts to the people. Thirdly, because out of reverence toward this sacrament nothing touches it but what is consecrated….”  

As we pray for vocations, it is well to remember how much we depend, or should depend, on God’s gracious giving of such vocations.  Read further in Fr. Heilman’s homily regarding Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter Dominicae Cenae regarding the anointing of priests’ hands:

“How eloquent, therefore, … is the rite of the anointing of the hands in our Latin ordination, as though precisely for these hands a special grace and power of the Holy Spirit is necessary. To touch the sacred species, and to distribute them with their own hands, is a privilege of the ordained, one which indicates an active participation in the ministry of the Eucharist.”


(Excerpts in blue italics are from Homily by Fr. Richard Heilman on March 16, 2014)
See also Bernie’s Cleansing Fire post:

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2 Responses to “Another thing I love about the Latin Mass….”

  1. Diane Harris says:

    Thanks, Ben. I switched the URL to the earlier NLM version.

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