Friday, Week Twenty-Three
(Begin readings from 1Timothy).
The Responsorial (Psalm 16) is: “You are my inheritance, O Lord!”
An inheritance is something one has a right to. Can we say Christians have a right to Communion?
The faith of the Church, the laws of the Church, and the pastoral practice of the Church can give three different answers to that. Is that shocking?
Catholic faith allows Communion as soon as a person is baptized. The Eastern rite Catholics give Communion to infants. The Western or “Latin” rite Catholics postpone Communion until children have reached the age of reason and are sufficiently instructed. Roman law is more restrictive than that of the Eastern rites, but it is no more and no less “Catholic.”
The Latin Church, however, grew into a restrictive rigidity, especially when influenced by “certain doctrinal and ascetical errors... rooted in Jansenism”:
One was the idea that to receive first Holy Communion requires... an extraordinary preparation. In effect, this meant deferring first Communion to the riper age of 12, 14, or even older.
Another error was the pretense that “the Holy Eucharist is a reward (for virtue), not a remedy for human frailty.”
The errors pinpointed by Pius X had inevitably led to grave abuses. One was depriving children, early in their lives, of the right of living in Christ through Holy Communion, a right given by Baptism. (See Cardinal John Wright, “First Confession and First Communion,” Vatican web site. Emphasis added).
In that era pastoral practice discouraged frequent Communion until Pope Saint Pius X officially decreed: “Frequent and daily Communion, which is strongly desired by Christ and the Church, is open to all the faithful of Christ. No one who is in the state of grace and comes to the table of the Lord with a good attitude and devotion can be prohibited from receiving” (Eucharistic decree, December 20, 1905. And see Quam Singulari, decree on First Communion, August 8, 1910).
That declares Communion a right. But unreflective pastoral practice sometimes still denies Communion to people not clearly in mortal sin.
In 1Timothy 1:1-14 Paul says “I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, a man filled with arrogance. But because I did not know what I was doing in my unbelief, I have been treated mercifully.” Was Paul in “mortal sin” when, with zeal for the Law, he “approved of the killing” of Stephen and was “ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women,” and committing them to prison? How many people do you know about whom you would dare to make that judgment? (Acts 8:1-3).
In Luke 6:39-42 Jesus warns us that judging others may just reveal the blindness in our own hearts. Before we say to our brother or sister, “You have no right to receive Communion,” we need to examine our own obedience to the command Jesus established as the benchmark of our love for him: “If you love me, feed my sheep.”
Action: Be a faithful steward. Be more intent on connecting than correcting.