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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Presenting Ourselves for Holy Communion

In my previous post, in which I discussed nearly missing an opportunity for Confession, a couple commenters brought up an important point. Although their point did not apply in my case (as I was not at the church to attend Mass that evening), it COULD apply to some people and so I thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss our approach of the Sacraments.

Just this afternoon, I spoke with a teen who had visited a parish offering a Spanish language Mass, and he noticed that only about half of the Spanish-speaking people who attended did not present themselves for Holy Communion, and he wondered why...for in his home parish EVERYONE goes to Communion.

It was an opportunity to discuss the need of us to receive the Lord only if we are in a state of grace so as to avoid profaning the Body and Blood of Christ. And he understood this, yet by his query, I realized that others likely wonder about the same thing...why are people not going forward at Communion?

It goes back again to the idea that we NEED to have a certain desperation for the Sacraments, something completely lacking in our culture for they are so abundantly offered. We also, in this country, have an attitude of entitlement; that we have a "right" to something, and through some very lacking catechesis, many have never been taught the reality of personal sin, of taking responsiblity for sin, and that they cannot present themsevles for Holy Communion if they have committed mortal sin.

The teachings have been so watered down for a few generations that Catholics today think nothing of deciding for themselves that their sins are not mortal because they don't see anything wrong with something "everyone" in society is doing. And so we have short Confession lines, and long Communion lines. Or, I guess it's entirely possible that we have many parishes filled to the brim with perfect Saints who have no need to confess what they haven't done.


Now, it's important to say that if you have not messed up insanely and committed mortal sin, you don't need to go to Confession every time you go to Mass. And, of course, if you ARE in a state of grave sin, you STILL have the obligation to ATTEND Mass on Sunday, however, you should refrain from going to Communion until you've received Sacramental Confession. The same applies for Daily Mass...if you are in a state of grave sin, you can and should still attend Mass, but remain in your pew and make a Spiritual Communion through prayer, and resolve to receive the Sacrament of Penance as soon as you are able.

Last night, if my intention was to attend Mass and I had not been in time for Confession, I would not have presented myself for Communion. In the past, my parish did not offer the Sacrament before Mass, but afterwards, and in fact, this was an important factor in my conversion! I could not receive Communion, and attending Mass without being able to receive what I realized was truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ was the very thing that goaded me to overcome my fear and go to Confession!

Thus if you discern that you might not be in a state of grace, DO attend Mass and let your abstinence from Holy Communion serve to pierce your soul, forcing you to realize the union you no longer have with our Lord. Gaze upon the Crucifix and comprehend how deeply and passionately He loves you...and allow that love to bring you to the throne of His Mercy in the Sacrament of Confession.



Hidden One said...

But don't - if you are able - let there be much time where you cannot receive. Aside from the whole, "You die, you in trouble" thing, the edge of desire for the Eucharist can be dulled. I currently live in a situation where my access to the Sacrament of Confession almost does not exist - thanks be to God that this changes as of next Sunday - and can testify from my own experience that that is a real danger.

Of course, living a long time with a heavy conscience is bad for you for a thousand other - some no less grave - reasons as well.

Simply Sister Mary said...

There is another big reason a person should refrain from communion as well, especially on shorter weekday masses: the communion fast. I've seen people munching food in their car, get out, go to daily mass and receive communion ... clearly not keeping the hour fast.

Adrienne said...

I watch girls go up to communion who are living with their boyfriends and their illegitimate children. Now, to be fair, they could be living as brother and sister. Somehow I doubt that.

One girl is justifying this because "they're going to get married."

But, what the hey - Nancy Pelosi and the rest of those politicians receive - why not them?

Unknown said...

Excellent thought, Adoro. We need to get 40,000,000 or so printed up and distributed to all U.S. Catholics.

I've attended a couple of Spanish language Masses and noticed that most parishioners did not receive Communion. That was the practice before Vatican II.

That's why one of the "Commandments of the Church" is to "receive Holy Communion at least once a year during Easter time."

I volunteer twice a week as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion at a hospital. The patients are mostly older and I really appreciate (but am saddened by) the fact that most of them do not take Holy Communion when it is offered to them. In that way, I do not become a party to sacrilege.

In some cases it is because "I went on Sunday" and doing it more than once a week has not been their practice. Some will admit that they haven't been to church in a long time.

In some cases, I read a spiritual communion if I sense that they want to be back in God's graces. Otherwise, I just pray for them.

Anonymous said...

As I am doing my confession research, I read that venial sins can be forgiven and absolved during Mass - during the Penitential Rite. You still have to have a contrite heart and willingness and resolve never to commit the sin again. You then can receive Holy Communion.

Mortal sins, however, you must go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion.

Although the Church states that you must go to Confession at least once a year, during Holy Week, the Church also highly recommends Confession once a month. And the Church states that Mortal sins must be forgiven/absolved in the Sacrament of Penance, but highly recommends that those who have committed venial sins to also attend Confession.

I just know that when I had to refrain from receiving the Holy Eucharist at Mass, I had tears in my eyes because I KNEW what I was missing! I yearned to receive Christ even more! (and when I went the next day, the Priest noted the fact that I did not receive Communion ... how humbling!)

Cow Bike Rider said...

Right on.


Unknown said...

Lillian Marie:

Father Corapi tells the story about teaching religion to youngsters and he asked them if they could name the Ten Commandments.

It says a lot about education today when one person raised their hand and asked: "Do I have to say them in order?"

In the olden days when all the damsels were fair and knighthood was in flower, we memorized things. All the time.

Yes, you have to say them in order.

What is worse, if I asked most Catholics "What are the Commandments of the Church?" I would bet that most younger people would answer "Huh?"

Yes indeedy, the Church does have commandments that its people are expected to keep, under pain of sin, just like those given to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

1. To assist at Mass on all Sundays and Holy days of Obligation.

2. To fast and to abstain on the days appointed.

3. To confess sins at least once a year. [It doesn't have to be in "Easter time" but if you are going to your only Holy Communion then, it would make sense that you would go to Confession right before it.] The Pope goes once a week. I suppose if you are holier than the Pope, once a month would be enough!

You should go as often as necessary; and somebody said that the "just person sins seven times a day." You figure it out.

4. To receive Holy Communion during the Easter time. [Easter time used to be from Ash Wednesday to Trinity Sunday, the Sunday after Pentecost. I think it is just til Pentecost now. Why would you not want to receive Jesus at every opportunity?]

5. To contribute to the support of the Church. [It is appalling to see how many dollar bills are still in collection baskets. That's what my Dad gave in the 50s when he had five kids. They used to publish the contributions of parishioners once a year. How'd you like that to happen in your parish?]

6. To observe the laws of the Church concerning marriage. [Back in the olden days, they were a lot more strict. Marriage to a non-Catholic was pretty rare and very much frowned upon by Catholic relatives and friends.]

With respect to venial sins, Holy Communion is part of the absolution process when the sin is forgiven.

It is not strictly necessary to go to confession before receiving. But it is highly recommended to go to go regularly to develop the discipline to keep you from committing sins that some day might become mortal sins.

Confession is like a "moral gymnasium" to keep us in spiritual shape.

Adoro said...

LOL! You-all have turned the combox into a discussion of the finer points of the catechism! I love it!

LM - you wrote your comment as though you didn't know some of these things before you did your research?

I also gave a talk to RCIA on sin a few years ago and was amazed at how many of these basic things the sponsors didn't know, i.e the remission of venial sins during Mass (also through the use of Holy Water upon entering Mass or any other time), the encouragement to people to go to Confession frequently (what an alien idea to them!), etc etc.

* sigh * So many people don't know their faith!

And becaue of that, they don't practice it, either!

And....LM>...why in the world are you commenting here and not picking on FR. S.!?????

Lillian Marie said...

Adoro - LOL! I just got home - your blog was the first one I went to ... you should be honored! LOL

Regarding my comment - I knew the research but rereading what I wrote, yeah, I can see how you could take it that way. LOL I'm in an over-worked brain fog! Guess that's what an analytical mind will do to a person.

Regarding Fr. S.'s blog - I haven't been there yet. (and I couldn't post yesterday or get email yesterday - it was part of my penance! YES! I went to Confession yesterday, told the Priest what I gave myself for a penance (yes, I'm that nutty!) and he seconded the motion - gave me the same thing!).

I'm now trying to play catch up.

Lillian Marie said...

I recently had one of the most humbling confessions. I wrote about it on my blog.

I had been trying to prepare for Confession for weeks (I try to go once a week - I can't remember past that! Oh the art of getting older). It had been at least a month since the last time I went to Confession.

At the Cathedral, they offer Confession before each Mass - no one was in line, so I entered & explained to the Priest my predicament.

He wanted to absolve me! I didn't feel worthy - I hadn't prepared. I didn't have my laundry list of sins that I normally prepare...nor had I been able to say a good Act of Contrition at home.

For the first time in months, I cried during Confession! I know I'm never worthy of God's mercy ... but this time I REALLY felt it and KNEW it.

jamie said...

Oh, I'm so glad I walked into this one. It's beautiful conversation you have going on here, and I agree with what's being said. But (there's always a but, not?!) as a catechist for 2nd graders preparing for First Penance and First Holy Communion, I feel a little defensive about how we're able to help them prepare. (and as a parent to a second-grader preparing, I know what an important job I have!) The difficulty is that while we teach them in class about the 10 commandments, our Good Shepherd, how Jesus wants to forgive us, and the real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, (and on and on) for many children, the education stops in the classroom. I teach in a Parish School of Religion, where parents pay a very small fee for their children to attend religion classes 2x/week for about 40 min. each class. It runs in conjunction with the school year, and our (public) school even has made arrangements for "release time" so that the kids go during school hours. A small walk across the public school parking lot, to the Parish Center, and it's just a part of their regular school day. There's no "homework" given, and so for many parents(not all) it's out-of-sight, out-of-mind. It's catechism made easy. I know from personal experience that my parents were raised very 'Strict' Catholics, and refer often to the teachings of the old "Baltimore Catechism". Unfortunately, something happened that the "strict" education didn't get passed to me...I am embarrased to say that I didn't know what the "Catechism" book was until I was required to purchase one a few years ago for a prayer group. (Can this be possible?!) And I think it's safe to say, the same may be true for a lot of others in my generation (mid-thirties). So, my question is, how do we reach parent like myself who somehow got "lost" and don't realize that the hour and half their kids are getting each week isn't enough. That Penance is not a one-time Sacrament, and that our faith is something we live every day, and must be examples to our children?! How do we make it known they we as parents must be the PRIMARY educators of our faith to our kids? I believed for many years that our Catholic church had a lot of "silly" rules. And it wasn't until my late twenties that I truly came to understand the beauty of our Catholic Church, and the richness of it's traditions. And to understand and appreciate the "Why?" of much of it. (Constantly learning more, always a work in progress.) So where do we go from here?

Banshee said...

I had a pretty good Catholic education, but I never had heard of the Commandments of the Church until I'd been online several years. (I did know you had to do this stuff.)

What I didn't know at all until I got online was the whole venial sin/Mass thing (which apparently also works with taking Communion, or even with sacramentals). Some places I guess emphasized the penitential rite so much as to devalue Confession; but not at my parish. :)

Adoro said...

Jamie ~ Thanks for your comment! You may be interested to know that I work for a parish and among of my job titles is "Sacramental Coordinator". Thus, I am in charge of the very programs you teach...and I coordinate both for our evening classes and for the school. We have a home component, so the parents come in for orientation, and are given formation that way. (This yeear I'm restructuring how it's done as now I know the objections and concerns, and got a BRILLIANT idea today during class!)

Anyway, I feel your pain, probably even more than you do because as a catechist, you get to sigh a lot at the parents...but I get to bear the brunt of their anger as I have to be the "bad guy" and impart to them that Church teaching on sin and the Sacraments hasn't changed. (Although I am still certain you feel this pain as well...I don't think anyone who teaches the sacraments is immune!)

As far as this post goes, don't be defensive...realize the "audience" isn't those who teach the's for those who don't even realize some of these points. And I hope they're reading and paying attention. I'm also in my 30's, I also had horrible formation and only by God's grace was I able to educate myself, a track God placed me on that lead me into my current grad program in theology.

All we can do is learn all we can, speak up in charity, pray for those who have been away or are obstinate...and do our best to make sure the kids in our charge learn their faith. It'll be the children who will lead their parents to holiness. And after all, it's fitting...Christ was a child, too, and we remain devoted to Him even in that image. (Consider the Infant of Prague...)

God bless, and don't give up!

Lillian Marie said...

So, my question is, how do we reach parent like myself who somehow got "lost" and don't realize that the hour and half their kids are getting each week isn't enough. That Penance is not a one-time Sacrament, and that our faith is something we live every day, and must be examples to our children?!

Jamie - this is where WE come in. We evangelize through how we live our lives and talking about these things.

My sister & nephew laugh - but I talk about Confession a lot because I love the Sacrament! I am currently preparing for a talk (blog posts) on Confession and I went to a famous restaurant during the day so I could have some table space, refilled drinks, and a bite to eat. The waiter & I talked about what I was doing - I was honest...which has now led him back to the Faith!

I never know where God will lead me next & who needs to know about this wonderful Sacrament...but I do know He will place me there at the right time.

It is through how I live my life and my Faith that I can reach people...that God can reach people through me. It just takes one word or thought to create a spark into someone.

He's using you in the same way. Just think of what you ARE teaching those students ... and how God has led you through the process. You have placed that spark...and hopefully these students will talk with their parents about what they learned. The students (and parents) will meet someone else who will place another spark.

Beyond where prayer comes in. Like Adoro said, we are not the parents, as difficult as it may be, we have to let the parents teach their children. We can only set a good example & talk to them. Say 'hi' in Church if we see them (granted, this may only be once or twice a year). It is the parent's job to get their children to Heaven. We may have a small part in their lives - but it's ultimately the parent's responsibility. Keep praying & I'll pray for you & your students and parents as well.