May 3, 2008

Too Frequent Communions

The Church recommends frequent sacramental Communion for many reasons. Yet, for forty years I have been distressed when I saw (see) virtually all Mass attendees process to the front of the church to receive Holy Communion. I conclude that few parishioners accept the truth that they can and do commit serious sins and are then unworthy to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Great sacrileges are being committed because of lack of faith in the true presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and because of loss of sanctifying grace due to committing mortal sins and then not confessing them to a priest to be forgiven.

How do I know these great sacrileges are common at Sunday Novus Ordo Masses? The statistics on Catholic belief in the U.S. are absolutely shattering, including the very low frequency of sacramental penance (reconciliation). According to CARA at Georgetown, 38 percent of frequent Mass attendees never or almost never confess their sins. The Pew Forum compares beliefs of Catholics and other groups and finds that there are often few major differences. Fr. John McCloskey notes from another survey of lay religious teachers in Catholic schools--which should be an exemplary group:
Only 10 percent of lay religious teachers accept Church teaching on contraception; 53 percent believe a Catholic woman can get an abortion and remain a good Catholic; 65 percent say that Catholics have a right to divorce and remarry; and, in the late nineties in a New York Times poll, 70 percent of Catholics aged 18-54 said they believed the Holy Eucharist was but a “symbolic reminder” of Jesus.
On some occasions, I personally choose to stay behind and not receive the precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Perhaps too many venial sins have piled up and I haven't yet confessed my sins to the priest, or perhaps I have been inattentive and not prepared myself well for Holy Communion.

This temporary absence, when not continued, seems to make my heart grow fonder of and to more appreciate the gift of the body and blood of Jesus. A more balanced and truthful assessment of my spiritual status can be achieved by an occasional deliberate holding back from receiving our Lord in Holy Communion. It's important to remember Jesus' parable from Luke 18:
9 And to some who trusted in themselves as just, and despised others, he spoke also this parable: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. 12 I fast twice in a week: I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O god, be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I say to you, this man went down into his house justified rather that the other: because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.
Good reasons on why we should continue to receive Holy Communion frequently are found here. Yet, Biblical references on "not worthy" keep the issue in perspective. I believe denying oneself Holy Communion once in a while is useful not only for our own souls, but also serves as an example to others who may feel they are obligated to receive Holy Communion simply because they attend Mass. It's important to demonstrate that FREQUENT COMMUNION DOES NOT MEAN ALL THE TIME.

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