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Saturday, 25 April 2009

Expediency and the Body and Blood of Christ

Besides my recent ruminations on the advisability of a regimented approach to presenting oneself for communion (row by row? as the Spirit moves one? from front to back or back to front?) I have been pondering the method by which one receives, said ponderings prompted by prattle with Himself, whom I am wont to forget looks at much of Catholic culture with the eyes of a convert.

Father Z's combox has hit gushers several times recently, and this one caught my eye for that reason.

How to receive the Blessed Sacrament "on the tongue."

I knew this was a subject fraught with anxiety for barely trained, (and frequently nearly uncatechized,) Extraordinary Ministers, but I didn't realize how many Catholic communicants, and not all of them converts, even of a certain age, agonize over this. (Himself's molecules are held together by worry, so everything is a source of fretting for him, but I didn't know how typical he is in this particular one.)

And the good news is that those among Father Z's commentariat most prone to this worrying seem to have shared Himself's experience -- once or twice having received in this way, and kneeling, and comes the realization that it makes the sacrament even more moving, and the sign even stronger.

I recall when I was a teenager, a woman for whom I babysat was in the vanguard of lay ministers of communion. She told me that she could only administer the Precious Blood, (although IIRC she said "the cup,") because she was afraid someone might want to receive on the tongue and she didn't know how to do that.

I guess because my hands were so often grotesque with eczema, or slimy with salve, even when virtually everyone received in the hand, I usually received on the tongue, but never really had any notion of the strong feelings on one side or the other of the question of how to receive. (My First Communion would have been on the tongue, but I don't remember it, nor when the "change" came about.)

And of course there was no question for the time that I was, (mostly,) attending Byzantine rite parishes.

Then for a long time after I started moving around, especially when such a high premium seemed to be put on keeping things moving along at a good clip, I usually received in the hand, (although I slowed things down plenty, I suppose, with my reverencing the sacrament, which was not the practice at my current parish until after the new GIRM came out. And when it did and the diocese sent out instructions as to how most expeditiously to demonstrate reverence, I admit I just ignored them and forbore to bow to the buttocks of my predecessor in the communion line...)

It was typical of my thoughtlessness that I never allowed the fact that an EM might be nervous to enter my deliberations on the subject, although I do let the EM's age, dexterity and height to influence my decision.

But the main thing, (isn't that just like me? looks like four or five hundred words, before I got to "the main thing".....) is that WE ARE NOT UNDER THE GUN. If everyone could get that through his skull it would go a long way to relieving these anxieties.

What's the hurry? where's the fire? why should anyone feel the need to rush?

Take your time, and the chances of biting the priest, dropping the Host, licking the EM, smacking the communicant in the nose, sticking your tongue out too far or not far enough, choking or being choked? reduced to virtually ZERO.

Where did these fears of the "Communion Rite" being "unduly prolonged" arise?

The Altar of Sacrifice is not the Prep Kitchen for a Fast Food Franchise.

And while I'm at it, (yes, that was the end of my rant, this is a new and barely related subject....) if anyone's ambition were really to expedite things?

Himself, almost every single time we hear a Mass offered by a member of the Canons Regular of St John Cantius, or of the Institute of Christ the King, notes the speed with which the distribution of Communion is accomplished.

We tend to sit towards the front of any nave, and he remarks after almost every Mass (I may have blogged on this before, I can't remember,) that when he looks around and sees the number of communicants he figures we'll be there all day or evening and is then shocked by how quietly and quickly all is accomplished.

How can it be that three priests administer the sacrament to three times the number of people as at another parish that has one priest and seven EMs, yet take less time?

That's the grubby little secret of American Catholic lay ministry, isn't it? everyone knows EMs cost time, they don't save it.

If we were under the gun, hiding from Tudor spies, darting about in Roman catacombs, alarmed at the approach of Federalistas? if we did need to rush?


So the claim of a "need" for more EMs than one, or perhaps two to administer the Precious Blood at a normal parish Mass is disingenuous.
(As is also, as pointed out by one of Fr Z's commentators, the frequent "germophobe" argument against Communion on the tongue, introduced as is usually is by those who don't also then, [as logic would dictate,] press for intinction, rather than the common cup. But I digress...)

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