Method of receiving Communion not only factor in belief
Letter to the Editor
Respectfully, I wish to offer some different insights to Bishop Sheridan’s Jan. 17 article, “Demonstrating Our Reverence for Christ in the Eucharist.” I strongly agree that reverence is owed to Jesus in his divine presence in the Eucharist and I am also concerned about findings of the Pew Research Center about American Catholics’ belief about the Eucharist.
Regarding reception of the Body of Christ on the tongue as opposed to in the hand: Is the tongue any more holy than our hands? None of us are worthy to receive Our Lord and Savior. However, Jesus said: “Take and eat, for this is my body.” If we receive the Body of Christ on our tongue, it seems as though it is a passive reception except for our “Amen” to the words the “Body of Christ.” It’s like we are being fed as an infant as opposed to our setting up a “throne with our hands” to receive the precious Body and then take and eat, as Jesus commanded.
We more actively partake in this sacramental activity by using our hands. Reception on the tongue could become a phony piety, which denies our more fully embracing the Body of Christ when we choose to take and eat as Jesus invites us to do.
I am not accusing anyone who chooses to receive the Body of Christ on the tongue of a phony piety. From my experience as an extraordinary minister since 1985, I have been humbled and awed to see true reverence of the Eucharist whether the communicant chooses to receive by hand or mouth. We believe faith is a gift. The mode of reception is not going to inspire or create more belief in the real presence of Jesus for those who no longer believe.
The Bishop also said that “Because this way of reception began to be practiced in the United States, Pope Paul VI granted an indult for the Holy Eucharist to be received in the hands of the faithful.” The indult by the Holy See under Pope Paul VI was first given to the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship’s 1969 letter to presidents of those conferences of bishops petitioning the indult for communion in the hand. Belgium was the first on May 31, 1969. It was granted to many nations and regions before it was granted to the United States in 1977.
I don’t believe it is just the weaker catechesis about the Eucharist that the Bishop cites for some years after Vatican II. As a person involved in faith formation and catechesis for over 40 years (23 professionally) with advanced degrees in religious education, I know there are good to excellent catechetical texts and programs. Faith has been eroded by many influences, not the least of which includes anger and frustration with the Church hierarchy’s handling of the sex abuse scandals from the first revelation in 1986 up to the present time.