Having laid the groundwork of history and theology, Sacra Tridentina arrived at nine conclusions. We’ll cover the first four today, and wrap up our examination of this document with the others tomorrow.
Accordingly, the Sacred Congregation of the Council, in a Plenary Session held on December 16, 1905, submitted this matter to a very careful study, and after sedulously examining the reasons adduced on either side, determined and declared as follows:
1. Frequent and daily Communion, as a practice most earnestly desired by Christ our Lord and by the Catholic Church, should be open to all the faithful, of whatever rank and condition of life; so that no one who is in the state of grace, and who approaches the Holy Table with a right and devout intention (recta piaque mente) can be prohibited therefrom.
2. A right intention consists in this: that (she or)he who approaches the Holy Table should do so, not out of routine, or vain glory, or human respect, but that (she or) he wish to please God, to be more closely united with Him by charity, and to have recourse to this divine remedy for his weakness and defects.
3. Although it is especially fitting that those who receive Communion frequently or daily should be free from venial sins, at least from such as are fully deliberate, and from any affection thereto, nevertheless, it is sufficient that they be free from mortal sin, with the purpose of never sinning in the future; and if they have this sincere purpose, it is impossible by that daily communicants should gradually free themselves even from venial sins, and from all affection thereto.
4. Since, however, the Sacraments of the New Law, though they produce their effect ex opere operato, nevertheless, produce a great effect in proportion as the dispositions of the recipient are better, therefore, one should take care that Holy Communion be preceded by careful preparation, and followed by an appropriate thanksgiving, according to each one’s strength, circumstances and duties.
Whether they realized it or not, the pope and his council applied a significant spiritual and liturgical nudge to the Church, countering centuries of momentum. It’s important to realize that nearly as much time has passed since John XXIII called for a council (53 years) as the number of years between Sacra Tridentina and that announcement (1905-1959: 54 years). If that perspective is helpful, note the passage of time and wonder what other movements might be afoot in our time.
Church teaching is vividly clear: venial sins are not necessarily an obstacle to receiving Communion.
My sense is that the fourth declaration strikes the right balance. Frequency leads to routine: this is a human tendency–not necessarily sinful or overly casual. The remedy for routine reception is clear. The Church calls not for a “fasting” from the Eucharist, but more attention to preparation and thanksgiving. The goal is a richer spiritual life, and for deeper opportunities for God’s grace–as we are reminded of the operative power of the sacraments.
Catechesis is not the domain only of the home or the classroom, or even the liturgical assembly:
220. Catechesis is a responsibility of the entire Christian community. Christian initiation, indeed, “should not be the work of catechists and priests alone, but of the whole community of the faithful”. (Ad Gentes 14. In this sense Catechesi Tradendae 16 says: “Catechesis always has been, and always will be a work for which the whole Church must feel responsible and must wish to be responsible.” Cf. also 1977 Synod; Message to the People of God 12; RCIA 12; canon law 774 § 1) Continuing education in the faith is a question which concerns the whole community; catechesis, therefore, is an educational activity which arises from the particular responsibility of every member of the community, in a rich context of relationships, so that catechumens and those being catechized are actively incorporated into the life of the community. The Christian community follows the development of catechetical processes, for children, young people and adults, as a duty that involves and binds it directly. (Catechesis must be supported by the witness of the ecclesial community, General Catechetical Directory 35; cf. part IV, chapter 2) Again, at the end of the catechetical process, it is the Christian community that welcomes the catechized in a fraternal environment, “in which they will be able to live in the fullest way what they have learned”. (Catechesi Tradendae 24)
221. The Christian community not only gives much to those who are being catechized but also receives much from them. New converts, especially adolescents and adults, in adhering to Jesus Christ, bring to the community which receives them new religious and human wealth. Thus the community grows and develops. Catechesis not only brings to maturity the faith of those being catechized but also brings the community itself to maturity.
Yet, while the entire Christian community is responsible for Christian catechesis and all of it members bear witness to the faith, only some receive the ecclesial mandate to be catechists. Together with the primordial mission which parents have in relation to their children, the Church confers the delicate task of organically transmitting the faith within the community on particular, specifically called members of the people of God.*
*”Besides this apostolate, which belongs to absolutely every Christian, the laity can be called in different ways to more immediate co-operation in the apostolate of the hierarchy, like those men and women who helped the apostle Paul in the Gospel, labouring much in the Lord” (Lumen Gentium 33). This conciliar doctrine is adopted by canon law 228 and 759.
Whole community catechesis is effective simply in the lived example of the Christian life of believers. This is not a new concept to the GDC or to the conciliar documents on evangelization and the mission apostolate. But it’s a bit more involved than that very important first step. note the allusion to “a rich context of relationships.” Catechesis: more than imparting information, and more than a nosiness about how others are doing it. Do our parishes provide an environment in which new believers can live the Christian life “in the fullest way,” as Pope John Paul II urged?
GDC 221 suggests that a community’s maturity is defined, in part, by how much of an evangelizing force it is.
One of two settings of Isaiah 43 in NPM’s top-four is a polling opponent of a United Kingdom top-ten.
With some David Haas pieces, I hear echoes of others’ liturgical songs. “We Have Been Told” seems to pick up on Marty Haugen’s “Eye Has Not Seen.” “Harvest of Justice” on Bob Hurd’s “In The Breaking of the Bread.” I don’t know if he had “Be Not Afraid” in mind when he prepared the text of “You Are Mine,” arguably his most-loved song among Catholics. But it might be that there is a great appeal among believers in this passage:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:1b-2)
I had been thinking for some time about the holiness of God, and how that as a community of believers and as individuals, His desire is for us to live continually in his presence. My longing for revival in the Churches and spiritual awakening in the nation was growing, but also a recognition that we cannot stand in God’s presence without ‘clean hands and a pure heart’. So I wrote the three verses and ‘road tested’ it in my home church. Though there was clearly merit to the song, it seemed incomplete, so as I was unable at the time to take it any further, I put it back in the file. Several months later I was asked to submit new songs for a conference song book, and as I reviewed this three verse song I realised that it needed a chorus. I remember standing in my music room with guitar slung round my neck trying different approaches. The line ‘Shine Jesus Shine’ came to mind, and within about half an hour I had finished the chorus, all but some ‘polishing’. Though I felt an excitement in my spirit at the time, I had no inkling at all that it would become so widely used.
about Todd Flowerday
A Roman Catholic lay person, married (since 1996), with one adopted child (since 2001). I serve in worship and spiritual life in a midwestern university parish.
Neil has been a blogging collaborator for the past several years on Catholic Sensibility. He brings his unique experiences from theology, spirituality, and the ecumenical sphere. Pay special attention to each one of his posts.