Priests or People?

Archbishop Cordileone gave an interview with CNA. Salvatore J. Cordileone, cropped.pngSome liturgy questions and answers popped up at the end of it. It’s always interesting to see a totally different point of view from most Catholics. What do I mean by that? 

Clergy never go to Mass as a believer–they are nearly always doing something. Usually away from most of the people. In a cathedral, even a bit farther away from the back pew. Their experience of Mass is telling people what to do, and enjoying considerably more elbow room, no matter how close the altar servers are.

What in particular about the Mass needs to change?

How the Blessed Sacrament is handled and how people prepare to receive Communion respectfully. There’s a lot of goodwill out there. I think people just need better formation and awareness about it. So I do think there’s a lot to work on.

My premise here, and always has been that many priests need better formation in liturgy. And there is a lot to work on–maybe even more than the laity. 

It’s very easy to be casual when receiving in the hand. It’s a lot more challenging to preserve reverence for the Eucharist when it’s given in the hands. If we are going to do it, we have to be very intentional about it. When I was a pastor, I would regularly instruct people about how to receive Communion properly. Actually at Sunday Mass for the homily, I would demonstrate how to receive on the tongue as well as in the hand.

I suppose if one’s parishioners are stuck in a state of evangelization, this is a possible need. It might be that a consistent lecture on liturgical practice falls on deaf ears. At least, the reverent people don’t need the coaching. And the stubborn don’t see themselves in need of correction. It’s always about the other person. 

I’d see it happen, and the priests on Monday would find hosts on the floor, under the pews, or in the pages of a missalette. So I had the ushers at the Communion station to make sure people did not walk off with the host.

Yes, this does happen. There are often reasons for it: a non-Catholic gets ushered into the procession, or a very young child. I once saw a communicant spit it out, so there’s no golden fool-proof method to distribute. 

The Church’s problem is that we have too many clergy who don’t themselves treat the Eucharist–or worshippers–with respect. How does that work?

When an uninformed person leaves consecrated altar bread in a pew, the person finds it feels dismay. An experienced pastor likely doesn’t let it bother him. When a priest is super speedy in distributing Communion, several people will feel the rush. And if a parish has clergy who routinely do this, it will detract from a proper sense of respect for Mass. A parishioner mouthing off to a priest? Minimal impact. A priest on harangue from the pulpit? Dozens to hundreds will feel it, most of whom don’t deserve it.

You know, [Catholics] used to have to fast from midnight [the night before Mass], and be on their knees, and receive only on the tongue. We need to have some kind of practical measures in place, reminders to people of who they are receiving when they are receiving Communion. Never has Communion been treated so casually, In any of the apostolic churches, in any of the Eastern rites, or in the West. So this is a new thing we’re trying to grapple with.

Good leadership knows it has to start at the top. Bosses give orders and people follow them sometimes. Effective leaders show the way. They don’t have to tell it.

My sense is that casual treatment hits seminaries and students there might be taught it’s the laity’s fault. They need to see that perhaps the infection is a bit wider than expected. Starts at the top, perhaps.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Priests or People?

  1. Liam says:

    “Never has Communion been treated so casually”

    The archbishop’s imagination is cramped and/or skewed. The centuries where Holy Communion was rarely offered to or received by the general faithful within the Mass other than during the Easter Octave was the peak of casualness: this praxis reduced their sacramental participation to something incidental and functional.

    I would suggest there may be a link between that and what is observed to be casualness now.

  2. nassauny says:

    The New York Times Magazine of 11.27.2022 offers an in-depth study of an old homicide in San Francisco and how the case was handled. Mark 25:36. “Oh, someone said they found Jesus tucked into the pages of a missalette!” The article does mention a Saint Jarlath parish.

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