GIRM 13b-14: Communion for the Laity

In light of imprudent policies put into place by bishops in Phoenix and perhaps Madison, this portion of the GIRM is very illuminating:

Above all, the Second Vatican Council, which recommended “that more perfect form of participation in the Mass by which the faithful, after the Priest’s Communion, receive the Lord’s Body from the same Sacrifice,”[SC 55] called for another desire of the Fathers of Trent to be put into effect, namely, that for the sake of a fuller participation in the Holy Eucharist “at each Mass the faithful present should communicate not only by spiritual desire but also by sacramental reception of the Eucharist.”[20]

14. Prompted by the same intention and pastoral zeal, the Second Vatican Council was able to give renewed consideration to what was established by Trent on Communion under both kinds. And indeed, since nowadays the doctrinal principles on the complete efficacy of Eucharistic Communion received under the species of bread alone are not in any way called into question, the Council gave permission for the reception on occasion of Communion under both kinds, because this clearer form of the sacramental sign offers a particular opportunity for understanding more deeply the mystery in which the faithful participate.[SC 55]

[20] Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XXII, Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio, September 17, 1562, chapter 6: Denz-Schön, no. 1747.

So let’s be clear about what the Church actually does say about Communion. The “clearer form” does not impart more grace, but it does offer a “particular opportunity” for a deeper understanding about the Paschal Mystery. GIRM 14 phrases it with the catechetical or rational term, “understanding.” But the perception of the Mystery of God is something that transcends brains that know. The bishops, at the very least, should realize they are legislating policy on realities that go far deeper than their understanding. Some notable few speak in terms of a lack of respect or reverence for holy things or holy people. But on a much deeper level, God’s grace will manage to move around human boundaries. God’s movement will detour around the sacramental obstacles imprudent leaders will throw up at the faithful.

That’s not to say I don’t find problems in the way GIRM 14 expresses a Catholic understanding of the sacraments and of the opportunity for grace in the liturgical context. But clearly, the mainstream of curial thinking is not quite where those few bishops are.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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