11 October 2013

What annoucement should be made before Holy Communion?

Over at In the Light of the Law, Dr. Ed Peters has a helpful piece about what sort of announcement should or should not be made prior to the reception of Holy Communion.  Among the points he raises, he rightly notes that
one should NOT encourage, as an alternative to reception of Communion, “coming forward with arms crossed for blessing”. Receiving a blessing is not an “alternative” to receiving holy Communion (any more than being handed a raincoat in a hurricane is an ‘alternative’ to be admitted to a storm shelter) and, moreover, such a rite is an intrusion into the liturgy forbidden by Canon 846 § 1. I’ve addressed that liturgical abuse here.
Some years ago (in 1996) the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved and adopted a set of Guidelines for the Reception of Holy Communion, which many people have either completely forgotten or somehow altogether missed them.  The Bishops ordered that these guidelines "are to be included in missalettes and other participation aids published in the United States" (if you look you'll find them, generally on the inside front cover) and noted that the guidelines: "seek to remind all those who may attend Catholic liturgies of the present discipline of the Church with regard to the sharing of eucharistic communion" (emphases mine).

Knowing that I would have both non-Catholics and Catholics who might not be properly disposed to received Holy Communion (a good guide for which can be found in the USCCB's Happy Are Those Who Are Called To His Supper), I included these guidelines in the program used at the "first Mass" I celebrated in my home parish.  I cannot remember seeing the guidelines included elsewhere, though they certainly should be.

Making greater use of these guidelines will not further alienate people from the Church, especially those coming from denominations with "open communion," but will rather explain why the Church teaches what she does about the Sacrament of the Altar:
We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).
Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 § 4).
I can't imagine anyone being offended at such words, unless he is already inclined to be offended.  Indeed, I have made similar announcements (and ones for Catholics either living in a state of sin or who simply have not kept the 1-hour fast) and have only received words of gratitude for the explanation, which has been found quite sensible.

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