Sacra Tridentina Declarations 5-9: Supporting Frequent Communion

The final five declarations of Pope Pius X and his council are aimed at supporting this “new” initiative.

Confessors have their part to play:

5. That the practice of frequent and daily Communion may be carried out with greater prudence and more fruitful merit, the confessor’s advice should be asked. Confessors, however, must take care not to dissuade anyone from frequent or daily Communion, provided he is found to be in a state of grace and approaches with a right intention.

Not only are all clergy called upon to support it, but they must do so often and with enthusiasm:

6. But since it is plain that by the frequent or daily reception of the Holy Eucharist union with Christ is strengthened, the spiritual life more abundantly sustained, the soul more richly endowed with virtues, and the pledge of everlasting happiness more securely bestowed on the recipient, therefore, parish priests, confessors and preachers, according to the approved teaching of the Roman Catechism should exhort the faithful frequently and with great zeal to this devout and salutary practice.

Leaders of religious communities and seminaries, as well as those who guide and teach youths:

7. Frequent and daily Communion is to be promoted especially in religious Institutes of all kinds; with regard to which, however, the Decree Quemadmodum issued on December 17, 1890, by the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, is to remain in force. It is to be promoted especially in ecclesiastical seminaries, where students are preparing for the service of the altar; as also in all Christian establishments which in any way provide for the care of the young (ephebeis).

Religious communities already devoted to reception of Communion at particular times as part of their apostolate received a challenge:

8. In the case of religious Institutes, whether of solemn or simple vows, in whose rules, or constitutions, or calendars, Communion is assigned to certain fixed days, such regulations are to be considered as directive and not preceptive. The prescribed number of Communions should be regarded as a minimum but not a limit to the devotion of the religious. Therefore, access to the Eucharistic Table, whether it be rather frequently or daily, must always be freely open to them according to the norms above laid down in this Decree.

Furthermore, in order that all religious of both sexes may clearly understand the prescriptions of this Decree, the Superior of each house will provide that it be read in community, in the vernacular, every year within the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi.

And finally, detractors are not silenced, but directed to withhold writing that stirs contention over frequent communoion. I imagine this was difficult to swallow:

9. Finally, after the publication of this Decree, all ecclesiastical writers are to cease from contentious controversy concerning the dispositions requisite for frequent and daily Communion.

All this having been reported to His Holiness, Pope Pius X, by the undersigned Secretary of the Sacred Congregation in an audience held on December 17, 1905, His Holiness ratified this Decree, confirmed it and ordered its publication, anything to the contrary notwithstanding. He further ordered that it should be sent to all local Ordinaries and regular prelates, to be communicated by them to their respective seminaries, parishes, religious institutes, and priests; and that in their report on the state of their dioceses or institutes they should inform the Holy See concerning the execution of the prescriptions therein enacted.

Given at Rome, the 20th day of December, 1905

With this publication centuries of Catholic practice was changed within just a few generations. No Catholic with an adult memory of pre-Sacra Tridentina is now alive. Today’s Catholics only have an experience of it-has-always-been-so. Along with Quam Singulari these two documents opened up an immense opportunity for grace.

I appreciate Liam’s suggestion to look at these two documents. Upon reflection, I see them as less a nod to a distant past and more of an enrichment of perspective. Even if none of us have experienced infrequent Communion, it’s still good to know the Church is a human institution in part, and therefore susceptible to human flaws and the tendency to limit our perspective, not to mention refusals of God’s offered grace. I leave off for your final comments.

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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.
This entry was posted in pre-conciliar documents, Sacra Tridentina 1905. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Sacra Tridentina Declarations 5-9: Supporting Frequent Communion

  1. Liam says:

    Todd,

    You are most welcome. At the risk of overstatement, I suspect that these documents will eventually be seen as more consequential in the history of the Church in particular, and Christianity in general, than Vatican I.

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