Redemptionis Sacramentum 80-82

Chapter IV (RS 80-107) treats matters involving “Holy Communion.” Some might perceive the instructions given in these sections to be a tamping down of 20th century enthusiasm for matters such as frequent reception of the Eucharist or Communion offered under both kinds.

My sense is that the CDWDS perceives real concerns, and at root, their protection of the Church’s liturgical traditions is largely authentic.

Eight sections (80-87) discuss “Dispositions for the Reception of Holy Communion,” so let’s read of a few of them:

[80.] The Eucharist is to be offered to the faithful, among other reasons, “as an antidote, by which we are freed from daily faults and preserved from mortal sins”, [Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XIII, 11  October 1551,  Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist, Chapter 2:  DS 1638; cf. Session XXII, 17  September  1562,  On the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,  Chapters 1-2:  DS 1740, 1743; Eucharisticum  Mysterium 35] as is brought to light in various parts of the Mass. As for the Penitential Act placed at the beginning of Mass, it has the purpose of preparing all to be ready to celebrate the sacred mysteries; [Roman Missal, Order of Mass 4] even so, “it lacks the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance”, [Cf. GIRM 51] and cannot be regarded as a substitute for the Sacrament of Penance in remission of graver sins. Pastors of souls should take care to ensure diligent catechetical instruction, so that Christian doctrine is handed on to Christ’s faithful in this matter.

“Diligent instruction” is the prescribed cure for misunderstanding. And yet, the words of people and priest in the Penitential Act are clear, and given without the fine points of diligent instruction. Do the words mean what they say? Or don’t we bother with the fine print in liturgy?

That said, I’m not a proponent of cheap grace, as it were. Sin is a very real barrier to relationships: with God and with others. Is it always enough to have good intentions as Mass begins? God sees the penitential heart and can discern, I suppose.

Nearly every Catholic, even many clergy, know the prescription of RS 81, but we like to deceive ourselves, perhaps.

[81.] The Church’s custom shows that it is necessary for each person to examine himself at depth, [Cf. 1 Cor 11: 28] and that anyone who is conscious of grave sin should not celebrate or receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession, except for grave reason when the possibility of confession is lacking; in this case he will remember that he is bound by the obligation of making an act of perfect contrition, which includes the intention to confess as soon as possible”. [Cf. Code of Canon Law 916; cf.  Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XIII, 11  October  1551,  Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist,  Chapter  7:  DS  1646-1647; Ecclesia de Eucharistia 36; Eucharisticum Mysterium 35]

[82.] Moreover, “the Church has drawn up norms aimed at fostering the frequent and fruitful access of the faithful to the Eucharistic table and at determining the objective conditions under which Communion may not be given”. [Cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia 42]

The efficacy of the Penitential Act (formerly called a “rite”) is always fodder for good discussion. What about today?

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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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One Response to Redemptionis Sacramentum 80-82

  1. Liam says:

    A subtle but key distinction: the words of the conclusion of the Penitential Act are conditional, not instrumental (analagous to the difference between invocative vs constitutive blessings). The wording of sacramental absolution is the latter (it’s why, when penitents are faced with priests who alter the form to something like “May God absolve you”, they are entitled to a do-over.)

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