Monday, January 14, 2013

I agree with Deacon Kandra...

...who writes this today:
Okay. I've changed my mind. It's time to bring back the altar rail.

Hey, I'm as surprised as anyone else that I feel this way.

Two years ago, I rhapsodized on the Feast of Corpus Christi on the theology behind standing to receive communion, and defended it. And why not? I've received that way for most of my adult life; I even remember the Latin church's experiment with intinction back in the '70s. Standing and in-the-hand always seemed to me sensible, practical and—with proper catechesis—appropriate.

But now, after several years of standing on the other side of the ciborium—first as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, now as a deacon—and watching what goes on, I've had about enough.

I've watched a mother receive communion, her toddler in tow, then take it back to the pew and share it with him like a cookie.

At least four or five times a year, I have to stop someone who just takes the host and wanders away with it and ask them to consume it on the spot.  [...]

After experiencing this too often, in too many places, under a variety of circumstances, I've decided: it's got to stop. Catechesis is fruitless. We've tried. You can show people how it's done; you can instruct them; you can post reminders in the bulletin and give talks from the pulpit. It does no good. Again and again, there is a sizable minority of the faithful who are just clueless—or, worse, indifferent.

The fact is, we fumbling humans need external reminders—whether smells and bells, or postures and gestures—to reinforce what we are doing, direct our attention, and make us get over ourselves. Receiving communion is about something above us, and beyond us. It should transcend what we normally do. But what does it say about the state of our worship and our reception of the Eucharist that it has begun to resemble a trip to the DMV?

Our modern liturgy has become too depleted of reverence and awe, of wonder and mystery. The signs and symbols that underscored the mystery—the windows of stained glass, the chants of Latin, the swirls of incense at the altar—vanished and were replaced by . . . what? Fifty shades of beige? Increasingly churches now resemble warehouses, and the Body of Christ is just one more commodity we stockpile and give out.
Read the whole thing here--do, really, because it's terrific.

I agree with Deacon Kandra, wholeheartedly, 100%.  I think he's on to something important here, and I encourage those priests with the ability to change things in their parishes to do so--and that goes double for bishops.

I would just say that in those newer churches where rails weren't built and aren't really possible, we should keep up with the instruction and catechesis, and look into the purchasing of prie-dieux for use at Mass (preceded by instruction, of course).  And there should be clear guidelines for the reception of Holy Communion for those not physically able to kneel, such as the elderly or handicapped.  (I wonder--how was this handled in the preconciliar age?  Does anybody know?)

But kneeling to receive Holy Communion would, indeed, be a start in the right direction toward recapturing that sense of reverence at Mass, provided it is done properly (I've never been a huge fan of the "lone kneeler," for instance, not because I don't sympathize, but because I've seen it done in such a way that endangers the surprised person in the Communion line right behind the "lone kneeler" who suddenly has to dodge to avoid being tripped.)

What do you think?  Should we return to kneeling (especially with Communion rails)?  Why or why not? 


Deirdre Mundy said...

Yes. I started receiving on the tongue after a disturbing incident where I got back to my pew and realized there were bits of Jesus stuck to my sweaty pregnant palms. At that point, I swore never again....

BUT standing and receiving on the tongue is really clumsy, especially if the Eucharistic minister is really short!

Also, Altar rails might cut down on the 'small barbarians marauding at the altar after Mass' syndrome. Since some parents won't rein their kids in, a physical reminder of sacred space might help...

Unknown said...

In the EF Mass in Milwaukee, those unable to kneel either receive standing at the rail, or the priest will come to a disabled communicant.

rdcobb said...

I started receiving on the tongue about two years. I usually have a toddler by one hand, a preschooler by the other, and a baby strapped to my chest.

It's enough just trying to get them down the aisle and back to the pew. I don't know if I need the extra challenge of holding of kneeling for communion, too.

But even if the altar rail went back up there would still be people who received unworthily--non-Catholic spouses, improperly catechized children, and those in a state of mortal sin. There's only so much any one can do.

Pat said...

Yes: Communion rail. Ideally we would be seated at a table for communion, the way Christ first did it. I think the "Depression-Era-bread-line" method is awful -- too "soup kitchen" for communion.

At my church we use the rail and we all kneel next to each other, elbow to elbow, as the priests move right to left distributing communion. It causes me to pause, wait patiently, reflect, take in the altar and my surroundings, and not feel that someone is behind me about to push me out of the way.)

Tony said...

Ordinary form ministers of holy communion (both ordinary and extraordinary) need to learn and practice how to distribute communion on the tongue.

I don't know how many times I've been "tongue swiped" by a minister not paying attention.

At extraordinary form the priest has perfected the "touch drop" method, never touching a tongue.

freddy said...

Our pastor (parish devoted to EF Mass) gave a moving sermon on the reception of Holy Communion. He said that receiving kneeling and on the tongue wasn't just a matter of reverence, but also signified our childhood before God. We recieve as small children -- infants really -- fed by a loving Father.

He pointed out the picture (many churches have one) of the pelican slashing her breast to feed her young gathered before her. A posture of kneeling and being fed indicates both our yearning and trust in Our Lord. Even the priest, Father noted, bows low over the altar to recieve his communion, as if Our Lord Himself were feeding him.

On a practical note, those who cannot kneel -- either due to physical infirmity or caring for others, (often parents with their arms full of small children) will recieve standing or Father will come to them.

Kirt Higdon said...

I received on the tongue for a long time, but started receiving in the hand after a couple of instances where the priest dropped the host. I think this may have been due to reluctance to accidentally touch another person's tongue. There have been a couple of times when the priest has dropped the host while I was receiving in the hand, but at least then I was able to make the catch before it fell to the floor.