Last week I wrote about how our Eucharistic piety can have an effect on the Church on a worldwide scale - for bad, as we see in the case of Eli and his sons, or for good as we see in the life of the saints.
This week I was reading the blog of Monsignor Charles Pope from the Archdiocese of Washington DC and wanted to share something he wrote pertaining to Eucharistic piety on a personal level:
The Eucharist is a sacred meal that requires of us something more than just “showing up.” There are warnings against irreverent reception, in which the Eucharist is regarded as ordinary or is treated casually.
Is the Church merely being “fussy” about Holy Communion? No more so than were St. Paul and the Holy Spirit, who inspired him to write and warn us against unworthy reception of the Eucharist. Rather, the Church is charitably exhorting us to receive the Eucharist but also warning those who are unprepared to refrain from reception. Indeed, Scripture warns that the unworthy reception of Holy Communion brings not a blessing but a condemnation. This is God’s teaching, not mine.
Perhaps an analogy can be found by noting that some people are allergic to penicillin. For them, a drug that has saved many lives can be life-threatening. Similarly, sinners, though not by accident or genetics but by choice, will find that the Eucharist—life-giving to many—is not so for them when in such a state. In charity, the Church teaches that those individuals unprepared to receive Communion must refrain from doing so until the problem is resolved. This is charity, not cruelty or a lack of hospitality.
...Indeed, [here] questions arise as to what is meant by mortal sin and how dissenters, those in serious sin, and those in invalid marriages or other irregular situations should be handled. Such questions and issues must be handled charitably and equitably by the Church, but not in a way that violates the principles given by Scripture and Tradition on the need for worthy reception of Holy Communion. The clear instruction of Pope Benedict XVI, written as Cardinal Ratzinger, deserves to be reiterated and needs to be better taught and applied with clarity and charity:
Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgment
regarding one’s worthiness to do so, according to the Church’s objective criteria, asking such questions as: “Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g.,
excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at
least an hour?” The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a
consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (2004 Ratzinger Memo to Cardinal
McCarrick, # 1).
May God bless you and make you a saint!
Last week I wrote about my childhood love for the figure of the kindly and wise priest Eli in the Old Testament and my confusion over the story of Eli and his sons in the first part of 1 Samuel. Why did God punish kindly Eli for the actions of his bad sons? And why did all of the Israelites suffer and feel abandoned by God because of these two corrupt priests? Eli’s sons used their position as priests. They committed what we call today “liturgical abuse.” This is where a priest changes the liturgy for his own personal reasons, or even for what he calls 'pastoral reasons,' because it suits him or others better that way. Liturgical abuse means that instead of worshipping God the way God asks and offering to the people the liturgy as God wishes us to receive it, we get it as a human man would prefer it to be. This is a grave sin. Priests are to be custodians of the liturgy, servants of the Divine Worship, not makers of it.
Eli's sons did more than this, however, the text says that they also used their position in order to sexually exploit people!
Eli was the head priest, the one who is in charge of making sure everything went as it should at the temple where he served. He failed to stop his sons from abusing the liturgy and abusing the people. The text says that he talked to them, but not that he ever imposed sanctions on them, removed them as priests, or even denounced them publicly. As a result, the whole people of Israel were scandalized, and as evidenced by the surrounding text, fell away from true worship. After all, if priests can get away with this, then it must be okay, right? Israel's view of God, His perfection, and each person's moral responsibility before Him was slipping away. For this, Eli, who is responsible for leading God's flock, was punished. The whole people of Israel experienced a great chastisement and desolation for many years - losing the Arc of the Covenant!
If this is all starting to sound very familiar, it should! We live in times where for the last 40 years, priests have taken great liberties with the Holy Liturgy and with the Holy Eucharist. We all know of the terrible, horrendous, sexual abuse that has happened. We also see the ineffectiveness of the bishops in their defense of our Holy Religion and of victims (children and adults) of sexual predators. And all of us have suffered and are suffering as a result. And has the Church ever been so discredited in the eyes of the world?
How do you and I fit into this? What is our role?
We should take extra care to be devout and reverent with the Holy Mysteries God has given to the Church, particularly the Holy Eucharist. Our Lady assured us in Fatima that if we pray fervently and devotedly, if we frequently go to Confession and receive the Sacraments, our prayers can make a difference even on the worldwide scale. Loving devotion and reverence conscientiously carried out in our everyday lives can make a difference in all of these things. Especially in regards to when we meet Jesus Himself in the Holy Eucharist.
Let us entrust ourselves to God by living reverently and devotedly in our parishes, in our homes, in our lives.
May God bless you and make you a saint!