Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Sacrilege and Communion in the Hand

I have found that whenever I mention the issue of sacrilege in regard to the Blessed Sacrament eyebrows are lifted. "Surely we don't need to worry about that sort of thing do we?" But perhaps if we worried more about it it might happen less often!

In the summer of 2008 Catholics were horrified when a professor at the University of Minnesota willfully desecrated the Eucharist. On the Internet Professor Paul Zachary Myers invited anyone to obtain for him a consecrated Host from a Catholic Church so that he could desecrate It. Another man read about the request and took a Host from the London Oratory, videotaping himself taking It from the Mass. He then sent the Host to Professor Myers and posted the video on the Internet.

Professor Myer then proceeded to drive a rusty nail through the Host in order to show the “absurdity” of the Catholic belief in the True Presence, and posted photos of the event on his website. Unfortunately the event set off a series of copycat crimes, and these deliberate desecrations are all over the Internet.

Deliberate desecration is not the only problem. Ignorance, lack of faith, etc. can also lead to terrible sacrileges taken place, as this video clearly shows:

And for those who think that such cases are rare:
"Do you remember last year here at St. Mary’s when we found a Host under one of the pews in the church? I know from other priests that this happens every once in a while in other parishes as well."
Fr. Greg J. Markey, Pastor of St. Mary Church, Bridgeport Diocese, USA.
"Are there any occasions in which a danger is present that profanation is likely? I think so. (1) In one parish I served a half-consumed Host was found just outside the Church door; (2) in another a half consumed Host was found on the floor and (3) in another, an EMHC took great delight in sharing with me her “amusing incident” wherein, having taken her pyx and the Blessed Sacrament home before going to the designated sick person, she had finished her housework and gone to the sick person’s house “only to realise that the pyx was in the pocket of her other coat.” She found this amusing; I did not, nor was it amusing (4) to arrive at a hospitalised person’s bed to be told she would not have the nun back because when it came time to give the Host, Sister “could not find her pyx in her handbag.”"
English Pastor's comment on an earlier post.

“Children are known to have fiddled with the Sacred Host placed into their hands at Holy Communion; adults have been seen to pass the Blessed Sacrament from one to the other in a queue. Rightly does the Sacred Congregation ask whether such people who act like this really believe in the Real Presence of Christ. One must pass over in appalled silence the unspeakable abominations of demonism when the Sacred Host is sacrilegiously carried off to the satanic rituals of black masses. Sacrileges have occurred in the past and will occur in the future. But today the Holy See testifies that they are numerous and widespread; it also says that Communion in the traditional manner [on the tongue] is a better safeguard against adulteration of doctrine and profanation.”
Bishop Bernard D. Stewart, Sandhurst, Australia

"Then there are those who abusively take away the sacred species to keep them as souvenirs, those who sell, or worse yet, who take It away to desecrate It in Satanic rituals. Even in large concelebrations, even in Rome, several times the sacred species has been found thrown onto the ground."
Cardinal Ranjith in his foreword to Bishop Shneider's book
“…cases of a deplorable lack of respect towards the Eucharistic species have been reported, cases which are imputable not only to the individuals guilty of such behavior, but also to the pastors of the Church who have not been vigilant enough regarding the attitude of the faithful towards the Eucharist."
Pope John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae, Feb 24, 1980
A few years ago a pupil at a Catholic High School in a nearby diocese nailed a consecrated Host to the door of a classroom. I have myself twice found Hosts on the floor of the church after Mass. A priest I know was once shown a photo album by parishioners of their trip to Rome some years earlier which contained a concecrated Host next to a photo of them at the papal Mass. (The priest promptly consumed the Host, to the horror of the couple who had now been robbed of their souvenir of the papal Mass).
I was present at Mass to mark the 150th Anniversary of the Restoration of the Hierarchy in Westminster Cathedral where I witnessed Cardinal Daneels (who else?) hand Communion to an arab gentleman who was sitting with the dignitaries at the front. The man walked back to his seat holding the Host in his fingers, clearly unsure what to do with It. A priest friend of mine, sitting at the front of the sanctuary, followed him, sat next to him and asked him if he was a Catholic. He was a muslim from the embassy of some country or other representing the Ambassador. The priest asked him nicely "would you like me to take care of this?". "Yes" said the man. A situation that should never have arisen.

These incidents, and there are many more, remind us that it would certainly be more difficult for people to take the Host improperly if everyone were receiving Holy Communion on the tongue. As the Catholic Church teaches, “If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful” (Redemptionis Sacramentum, 92).

"let all remember that the time-honoured tradition is to receive the Host on the tongue. The celebrant priest, if there is a present danger of sacrilege, should not give the faithful communion in the hand, and he should make them aware of the reason for way of proceeding."
(Congregation for Divine Worship, April 1999)

(This is to say nothing of the real and present danger of the loss of fragments of the sacred Host which might be best dealt with in another post.)

I find myself in complete agreement with Cardinal Ranjith who wrote:
"Now I think it is high time to review and re-evaluate such good practices and, if necessary, to abandon the current practice that was not called for by Sacrosanctum Concilium, nor by Fathers, but was only accepted after its illegitimate introduction in some countries. Now, more than ever, we must help the faithful to renew a deep faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in order to strengthen the life of the Church and defend it in the midst of dangerous distortions of the faith that this situation continues to cause."
In our secular lives, to be fed directly by the hand of another is a very intimate and personal act and a sign of great love. It happens sometimes that lovers might place food directly into each other's mouth and of course the most obvious and suitable analogy - when babies and young children are fed by the hand of their parents. A sign of complete dependence on the part of the child and of love and care on the part of the parent and surely a beautiful way to receive the sustenance of eternal life. Taking the best of our human acts and building them into our spiritual relationship with the Lord.

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