Pars Tertia: JP2, Mother Teresa, and apostle-ness

Alas, here it is, my friends, the third post of this little treatise of mine. Two people come to my mind, both of them relatively popular and both of them certainly holy. The first is our former Holy Father, John Paul II, and the second is Mother Teresa. You’ll notice that these two people are particularly loved by the feel-good crowd of Catholics due to their unswerving love of, well, everyone. The same people who love Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa are the ones who tend to be advocates of reception of Communion in the hand (don’t get me wrong, I love these two people, but I love them cause of their service to the Faith and not predominantly because they were nice to people). I wonder if the liberal-minded folks who want Communion in the hand are aware of how the former pope and Mother Teresa felt about it? They’re probably not.

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You may have heard the saying that Mother Teresa found Communion in the hand to be one of the greatest problems in the Church. While I admit that I haven’t found a definitive source to back that claim, I would not be at all surprised if she did, in fact, say that. She was a woman who loved Our Lord very much, as evidenced by the fact that she was beatified so shortly after her death. And if she was beatified that soon, that means she went through Purgatory (maybe even bypassed it completely, who knows?) pretty quickly. People who go to Heaven that fast tend to always have that which is most pleasing to God at the forefront of their minds. In the end, regardless of whether she actually made that statement about Communion in the hand, it would not be at all surprising if she held that view anyway. Also, from what I’ve read, it certainly seems that she herself was known to receive on the tongue only.

As for John Paul II, he’s said more than this, but the following quote sums up his view: “There is an apostolic letter on the existence of a special valid permission for this [Communion in the hand]. But I tell you that I am not in favor of this practice, nor do I recommend it” (he said this to a reporter in Fulda, Germany, November 1980).

I know some liberal-minded Catholics who often say how great this pope was, how he was “the best pope EVER”…and these people are the same ones who like happy-clappy Masses which almost undoubtedly include Communion in the hand. Do they really admire John Paul II that much, or is it a surface appeal and nothing else?

Another claim that comes from advocates of Communion in the hand is this: “But that’s how the Church at the times of the apostles did it!”

Before I even begin to respond to this claim, I think we should take note of something: the early Church was primitive. She didn’t teach error, but certainly she could have, over time, found more ideal ways of doing things, and the mode of reception when it came to the Eucharist could very well have been one of those.

Even if Our Lord was received in the hand by the Church during the apostolic age, in no way was He “just received in the hand”, and indeed, if this argument is going to be used, then those who mention it should be fair and tell us how the early Church did it.

It was not like today where the communicant simply takes the Host and that’s it.  First of all, the fingers of the one receiving never touched Our Lord’s body. He (notice the use of the masculine pronoun) was placed on the communicant’s right palm, and the communicant would then carefully raise his palm toward his mouth and then consume the body of the Lord. He wasn’t permitted to touch the consecrated Elements with his fingers. Is that the case today? Nope.

A second problem found in the “early-Church-did-it” argument was briefly looked at in my post Pars Secunda: Why Avoid It? and will be given emphasis here as well. It’s been hard to find a definitive source for this, but it’s incredibly likely that those who received the Holy Eucharist at the time of the Church’s infancy needed to thoroughly cleanse their hands before receiving Him. Is that done today? No, or not by the majority of people, it would seem.

So if the argument of the early Church is supposed to be to Communion in the hand’s favor, two things need to be assured: 1) make sure your hands are squeaky clean to touch the King of kings and 2) don’t touch Him with your fingers or lift Him into your mouth by picking Him up; transfer your hand to your mouth. Think that sounds awkward? Well, perhaps you should try receiving on the tongue, then! :D

And again, there is yet another problem with this argument, which is that Communion in the hand was only done in certain cases and was by no means the universal practice. St. Basil, who lived from about 330 to 379 anno Domini, said that Communion in the hand was allowed if: 1) the Church was under persecution and no priests were available; or 2) there wass a hermit in the wilderness who did not have access to a priest.

A recap:

  • John Paul II and Mother Teresa, loved by many who call for Communion in the hand, were against it.
  •  The Church grows in her understanding of what is ideal.
  •  The early Church was far more reverent about in-hand reception than people tend to be today and if the early Church’s way of doing it is to hold water as an argument, then Communion in the hand should be received as the early Church practiced.
  •  If that’s too hard or awkward, perhaps you ought to rethink the practice entirely.
  • Communion in the hand even in the early Church was not the universal practice, but a practice in certain circumstances only

May the Lord bless you and may His mom pray for you especially during this month, and please follow this blog if you like it,

Michael

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