Saturday, December 21, 2013

Armstrong Family "Christmas Card" for 2013

[I sent this out to over 1,000 people on my mailing list. If you'd like to be on that list, to receive Christmas cards every year and the occasional update of my work (never any "begging" / solicitation), please send your e-mail address to apologistdave [at] gmail [dot] com] 




 

Star of Bethlehem -- watercolor by Edward Burne-Jones (1890)


We wish you and yours a Merry Christmas, and a wonderful, blessed new year; with much love:



Dave & Judy, Paul, Michael, Matthew, and Angelina Armstrong 



Joseph's Carol
[my 12th Christmas poem written since 1996]


My name is Joseph, descendant of King David and father of the savior of the world;
From Nazareth, a town in Galilee, from which, it was said, nothing good ever came!
I was betrothed to sweet, lovely Mary, serious and ever holy, even as a young girl;
Joyously awaiting marriage, we never imagined what an angel would soon proclaim.

Glorious Gabriel suddenly appeared to my beloved, and at first she was quite afraid;
Hailing Mary as "full of grace" and thus confirming her exceptionally favored state.
Speaking of a wondrous child, born of God the Holy Spirit, in her womb to be made;
"Second Eve" was overshadowed by God and Jesus took flesh: at conception great.

Not knowing this at first, I was greatly distressed to find my betrothed with child,
And resolved to divorce her quietly, so as to spare her any public scandal or shame.
But then an angel spoke to me in a dream, affirming Mary's innocence all the while;
The Holy Spirit had indeed conceived  "God with us": He who would heal the lame.

Later that year, we journeyed to David's Bethlehem: for a census to be signed by all;
Even though Mary, riding a donkey, was great with child: a mother very soon to be.
Seeking a warm inn as the time drew nigh, we found no lodging but an animal's stall.
There newborn baby Jesus lay in a manger; adored by parents and shepherds, was He.

We escaped to Egypt to flee Herod's wrath; the Messiah he had determined to shun;
Mary and I found Jesus, at twelve years old, teaching in the temple, warning of hell.
He was our pride and joy, and what a privilege: our many years with the God the Son! 
As Jesus grew, I taught Him the carpenter's trade; from Him I learned much as well.

Happy and wonderful!: the blessed time we spent with our Lord who was yet our son;
Peace filled our hearts as Jesus told us of God's gospel and kingdom message wise.
Though I would not live to see Him preaching, healing in Galilee: sinners to be won,
I'll never forget my son's birth, with glowing angels and the star lighting up the skies.



Written on December 5-6, 2013
[see my Christmas page, with links to my other eleven poems]


Dave Armstrong | Catholic Apologist and Author

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The Catholic Verses: 95 Bible Passages That Confound Protestants (*) [2004]
The One-Minute Apologist (*) [2007]
The New Catholic Answer Bible (** ) (co-author of inserts: Dr. Paul Thigpen) [2005; rev. 2011 with RNAB]
Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths (*) [2009]
The Wisdom of Mr. Chesterton (x) [2009]


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Armstrong Family: Christmas 2012: children from left to right: Paul (then 21), Matthew (16), Michael (19), and Angelina (11)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Thoughts on the Practice of Preferring to Receive Holy Communion from a Priest



For previous treatments see my posts about overuse of Eucharistic Ministers of Holy Communion, and a lengthy dialogue on receiving from a priest, with priests. See also the public Facebook thread where I linked to this, with more of my own comments and those of others, and a second Facebook thread with yet more comments.

* * * * *

Reason #412,574,034 why I am close in spirit (in many ways) to mainstream "traditionalists" (as opposed to radical Catholic reactionaries).

***

Nothing against eucharistic ministers themselves (really). All I'm saying is that there is excessive use, and that I receive from the priest because he is the alter Christus / in persona Christi in a way that the lay ministers are not.

That's my entire argument in a nutshell. I discussed it with several priests: some agreed with me, one (very much) did not. But he's an esteemed friend with a great, thriving parish, so we can agree to disagree. No biggie.


***

I prefer to receive from a priest (and no one has of yet told me why I should not have that opinion or not be able to exercise it). One priest friend of mine could only argue that I would be disrupting the Mass. But I take great pains to not do that, and if it causes a "scene" I don't get in a different line.

***

Fr. Rod Allers (in blue throughout this section):
there is absolutely no difference between the host in my bowl and that of an extra-ordinary minister.

I didn't say there was. The only difference is the status of you vs. them. You're a priest; they are not. And that is a significant factor. It's precisely why the use of EMHCs is supposed to be limited in the first place.

The EM (for sake of space) is exercising a valid ministry.

Of course; already acknowledged that; not an issue.

I think you should be serenely free to receive from who you would like, just so long as you understand that there is no difference.

Good. No difference in Who I am receiving; difference in the one I'm receiving from (and this cannot be denied).

Point I am trying to make is this... the Truth for all of us probably lies in a radical trust of God in our lives. I have also found that the Truth is usually found somewhere in the middle. I have watched a few traditionalists think the church is a haven for them rather than a mission to proclaim forgiveness and reconciliation and true freedom and fullness of humanity. I think both extremes have hindered this mission.

I agree. I'm not a "traditionalist". I am coming at this from a concern for the rubrics, and from the theology of the priesthood. I'm all for mission, of course, being an apologist and evangelist myself
.


I have extreme respect for priests. May God always bless you, Father, as you serve Him! Thanks so much for your time and valuable input on this thread. 

***

There is a sense in which one may receive a little more alongside receiving the Eucharist (which remains the same from either source): akin to a priestly blessing. I don't know if that is literally true or not but I suspect it is. The hand that consecrated the elements now distributes our Lord Who is there because of the miracle of transubstantiation wrought by his own hands.

To me it is (technically speaking) more of a liturgical or symbolic thing than eucharistic. The priest is the norm; therefore I prefer him if at all possible. He's out there distributing communion, too. I want to receive from the priest.

What possible objection could there be? The priest who commented on this thread fully agreed that anyone can receive from the priest. Certainly there is no canonical prohibition of it. We ought not disrupt the procedure to do so; we agree on that.


***

Those of us who prefer the priest don't usually "switch lines"; we simply get in the one where the priest is, without making a fuss.

I commend you for your service. As I have reiterated, none of this discussion requires any derision against EMHCs per se (have lots of friends who do this): it's only objecting to overuse of them, and poorly trained ones, or ones with objectionable demeanor or dress.

Nor does preference to receive from a priest necessarily imply any such derision at all. We want to receive from him, because that is the norm, and he is the alter Christus. It's not difficult to understand.

I agree that if this is accompanied with dumb attitudes and elitism, or disrupts a service, it then becomes wrong. I don't do any of that.

We're not trying to major in the minors. We seek to receive Our Lord from the alter Christus. Don't take it personally! It is not (or shouldn't be) any slam at you.

Even if one who takes this view holds that excessive use is in play, it's still not the fault of the individual EMHC, but of the priest who should know his rubrics better.

We have to be careful. If abuses take place, it's not the fault of every EMHC. If you do a perfectly fine, solemn, pious job you shouldn't be subjected to any criticism for it. As one who is subjected to bum raps almost every day online, I can deeply empathize with that. It's terrible.

As an analogy, I often criticize the public schools. But I rarely criticize teachers in them. I have the utmost respect for teachers of all sorts. It's a system vs. individuals in the system issue. So I can respect you as an EMHC, while continuing to object to abuses in the way it is carried out, as outlined in this thread.

But you and I both know that there are EMHCs who don't do a good job, and it is understandable that there is a lot of resentment and even anger over that. We've seen it in this thread. This sublimely sacred act -- a sacrament -- of Holy Communion shouldn't have to be accompanied by impious or inappropriate behavior (like my example of the lady with nice legs and a miniskirt).

It's a lot like abuses in the OF Mass. We are complaining about that, not the Mass itself (like the RadCathRs do).
 


***

Catholics believe that it is not only the Blood given under the appearance of wine but the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, under either and both elements or accidents. That's why if only one is given, there is no intrinsic loss in what is received. There is no necessity to receive both, as the host contains the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ (which is why the Church reserved the cup for many centuries). Both/and as usual in Catholicism. Anyone can do one or both, and they are receiving Jesus.


***

It's not about EMHCs; it's about wanting to receive from the alter Christus. Individuals who do this ministry may be the holiest, most pious ministers in the history of the world, but it remains the case that they aren't priests. That is the reasoning behind why I practice the way I do.

But I received from a deacon at my parish the last time. I didn't make a "scene" or get legalistic about it. I only "switch" to the priest if it doesn't disrupt anything.


***

My post was no more running down priests (quite the contrary!) than it was supposedly running down EMHCs. If it is a large parish, the Church allows for EMHCs. If not, it's a violation of the rubrics. That's not me saying that: it's Holy Mother Church (and writers like Jimmy Akin and Fr. Peter Stravinskas pointing this out). I didn't make the rules.

***


I'm not questioning the role of the EMHC at all. I am saying it is abused according to the rubrics, and that I prefer to receive from a priest. Having a preference carries no implication whatever that one is "against" the thing not chosen. 

***


The Body of Christ is the Body of Christ no matter who you receive Him from.

Of course. Not the issue at all. I simply want to receive my Lord from the hands of the person who presided over the consecration. As a priest stated above, the Church says this is the "ordinary" way of receiving Holy Communion. I could see that offense could rightly be taken if I were bashing Extraordinary Ministers, but I'm not, as reiterated about 3,863 times by now. To criticize an abuse of a practice is not to criticize the practice.

It's also against the rubrics to raise hands during the Our Father or hold hands during it. But that is rarely ever taught, for some reason. It's harmless, yet the Church has the rubrics for good reason, I assume. 99% of the congregants who do it don't know it is against the rubrics.

Either the priests who allow it don't know what the rubrics say about that, or don't care, which I find disturbing. I think if they made a statement during the homily, 95% of Catholics would gladly obey the instruction.
 


***

"With over 2,000 people there is no way that I could distribute communion to even half of them."

Exactly, Father! That is a case where EMHCs are needed, and why the Church provides that assistance to the priest. Everything is great if folks will simply go by what the Church teaches, in its rubrics and in everything else it authoritatively proclaims.

If someone is completely against the EMHCs, they go against the Church. If someone rails against a person who simply wants to receive Holy Communion from a priest (the "ordinary" way), without being legalistic or spiritual prideful or disruptive, that is wrong, too: just as it was wrong to deprive Catholics of the right (by canon law) to receive kneeling and on the tongue: though many priests sought to deprive them of that.
 


***

Fr. Carlos (and to the other priests in this thread, on both sides of this issue),

There is no one I respect more than priests. You are extraordinary human beings, and my heroes. I immensely admire all the work priests do, and what you yourself (Fr. Carlos) do (reading your comments). I never claimed that any priest had to distribute Holy Communion to 2,000 people!

EMHCs FOR 2,000 PEOPLE IS NOT AN ABUSE OF THE RUBRICS. (I use caps because many people seem to be missing this elementary point in what I'm saying, or at any rate, have written elsewhere in other papers).

"You can decide that Communion should only be distributed by the priest because he is the most worthy person to distribute Our Lord."


That's not my reasoning at all (I can't speak for all others in the thread: they may have some erroneous thinking). My reasoning is that he is the alter Christus, and presided over the consecration. His personal holiness is technically irrelevant to this particular discussion, on the basis of the notion of ex opere operato. That was all decided definitively back in St. Augustine's time.
 


***

The Church does not forbid a Catholic from receiving from a priest if he or she wants to do that. It would be as legalistic and wrong to frown upon that or forbid it as it would be to do the same towards the EMHCs. Legalism can be present in either side of an issue. 

***

"getting into the other line to receive Communion from the priest is not criticizing the abuse of the practice: it is criticizing the practice."

It's not criticizing anything! It's a personal preference in good faith, just as how we receive Holy Communion (standing / kneeling / hand / mouth) is: one acknowledged by the Church. There's really no argument against it.

I'm sure that some who do this
are legalistic, prideful Pharisees, because legalism can be found in any belief-system or practice: we being sinful human beings. If a person is plainly being disruptive or has spiritual pride, then I am against that as much as anyone. But that has to be determined.

In any event, the simple preference to receive from a priest is not legalistic or prideful at all, in and of itself. Priests are the dispensers of the sacraments. They grant absolution. They baptize.

I received from the deacon in our parish last time I went to church. I'm not legalistic at all. He's not an alter Christus. And his being at the Mass was not an abuse.


***


"I am a Byzantine (Eastern) Catholic. We never use EMs - our priests don't seem to mind serving a lot of people."

This is another indication or continuance of the traditional way of doing that. Eastern Catholics comprise many many millions of Catholics. It was this way for a reason. So the Latin Rite now allows EMHCs. That's fine. The Church can do whatever she wants, and I defend her, and do so here.

At the same time, those of us who want to receive from a priest should not be insulted and frowned upon simply because we prefer to receive the way the Church dispensed Holy Communion for 1950 years. That's ludicrous. If the Church had said we must receive from the EMHC or never can receive kneeling or on the tongue, that would be entirely different. But of course that is not the case. Thus, legalism on either side of this is uncalled-for.

We've been through all this sort of argumentation regarding the TLM / EF. People who preferred that have been pilloried and insulted. Then all of a sudden JPII and BXVI started allowing it more widely. I had always advocated freedom of worship, since I became a Catholic in 1990. So I was ecstatic about all that. I myself prefer the OF. I want folks to worship as they prefer for themselves and not to be run down for it.


***

"I am more focused on WHO I am receiving, then WHOM I am receiving from...."

GOOD. SO AM I! The insinuation is that those of us who prefer to receive from a priest somehow think we get "more" of Jesus in doing so. No one I'm aware of is saying that, and it would be ridiculous if they did. No one is denying that Jesus is received, either way, and that that is overwhelmingly more important than any other consideration. That's not at issue. This is a question of liturgy and personal preference and piety (and what the Church allows).
 


***

"My position is if someone chooses to ONLY receive from a priest it is an act of pride."

I agree if they did that and decided never ever to receive otherwise, and/or blast the Church for allowing otherwise. But I'm not doing that, and I don't think most or all of the others on the thread who prefer the priest think that way, either.
 


***

"Life for Catholics would be a lot happier if everyone would just follow what the Church teaches."

Oh, I agree 100%. Now, can you be so kind as to tell me which Church teaching or canon law or rubric I violate for wanting to receive Holy Communion from a priest? Thanks. [it never came]


***



"One thing I've never understood, is why some people feel the need to publically state that, "I only go to a Latin Mass", or "I always receive Communion on the tongue", or "I prefer to receive Communion only from a Priest." What is the purpose in making these public declarations?"

Fair enough; a fair question. Some people do do it in a prideful way, I think (I'm not saying who: God knows), because that is the human condition. Every good thing is corrupted by the devil. I agree that there is no particular reason to state this out of the blue. It usually comes up in discussions of liturgy.

It's not just a matter of some prideful bigot wanting to receive a certain way or else they'll condemn everyone including the priest, pout, and take their bat and ball and go home. It's a serious consideration regarding the Eucharist.

I've condemned legalism and pride and insults on both sides. All I'm doing is practicing my faith as I see fit, in good conscience, not trying to make any scene or disrupt anything or condemn anyone else.

***


"Why the need to stir up controversy with particular topics that we know will produce controversy?"

1) I think all topics regarding the Catholic faith are worth discussing.

2) Heaven help me, I am an idealist and will be to the grave, and I actually think that anyone ought to be able to discuss anything rationally, without rancor and acrimony, and that Christians should be able to do this and edify and learn from each other. The reality is often otherwise, but that is the cross we idealists bear. We keep trying.

3) Simply disagreeing is not the problem. Rather, it is when accusations of interior dispositions get slung around.
 


4) It's worth discussing, because there is a lot of erroneous thinking in this area about why people are doing what they do: the rationale for it, alter Christus, etc. 

***

I agree that there have been some attacks on EMHCs too. I oppose those, not because they are never true, but because it makes the argument turn emotional, and folks get defensive. We must take pains to say that we're not against all of them because some do a lousy job at it.

***


"I don't think anyone is learning anything here, feelings are just being hurt."

I can't control how people behave. I expect adult Christians to conduct themselves with charity and sensibility.

But I will not refuse to have a discussion because certain folks get all in a tizzy about it. If a controversy is present, generally in my experience it is because of massive misunderstanding and/or ignorance. That's why people are getting mad. They say something about the other side that betrays their lack of understanding, then the other side gets insulted and hurt (since it misrepresents them) and it escalates.

The way to get beyond that is not to put our heads in the sand and go throw a Frisbee and sing Kumbaya around the fire, ending the night with a group hug. It's talking it through: listening to each other; interacting with opposing arguments. That's how adult Christians should be able to resolve things. But if some people want to manifest that they cannot engage in a discussion without getting angry and insulting, then it's a free country. All I can do is delete the worst offenses.

I refuse to give into the lowest common denominator. I'll keep being the biblical idealist and try to call people to a higher behavior, not give up and in effect admit that we are incapable of it, like we're a bunch of first-graders: not a whit different in behavior from the world we are called to be a witness to: offering something better and different, because of God's grace and the Holy Spirit in us.

According to 1 Corinthians 13, love "believes all things." That's part of love. I believe we can do better in talking about this.


***

One of the problems here is that people (on all sides of any issue) tend to think in terms of "either/or" or back and white; oppositional thinking, or what Louis Bouyer calls "dichotomous thinking": the incessant and annoying tendency of pitting one thing against another when there is no need at all to do so.

So if a person simply says, "I prefer to receive Our Lord at Mass from the priest" other people hear or think that means, "I am condemning all of you morons who receive from the EMHC and I'm spiritually superior to you."

One doesn't follow from the other. It's sort of like someone saying, "I prefer chocolate ice cream." Then the next guy says, "why are you condemning me for liking vanilla ice cream better? I'm not inferior to you!"


***

"Dave, you seem to ignore the fact that this approach causes division"

Jesus caused division. He said, "I came not to bring peace, but a sword; brother will be divided against brother . . ." Paul caused a big ruckus wherever he went (often riots). How is that any argument to not discuss something?

All I would have to do is delete comments from the folks who can't talk amiably to those with whom they disagree. I have deleted some, but generally I like to allow free speech as much as possible. I was a staff moderator of a forum for three years at The Coming Home Network, so I even have experience with that. We allowed absolutely no personal attacks. We were very strict about it. And I'm almost that strict on my Facebook pages.

"In fact the true Christian way, would be to be in the line least favorable, and let others receive the "best""

Okay; following that "logic" I'll seek out the crappiest, most insufficient Christian service I can find (with no sacraments, lousy sermon, ugly building, etc.), so I can be sure to exalt in my own humility in abasing myself and making sure that other folks get fed better than I do at a church service.


[That is what is called in logic, a reductio ad absurdum. Illustrating the absurdity of an opposing position by taking it to its logical extreme. St. Paul was quite fond of it.]

"I think switching lines is offensive...for any reason."

Why? Because you can't handle a person who believes in good faith in a thing you don't agree with? How does it affect you? Why must you be bothered by what someone else does? My view is, "worship and let worship." That's why I defend reception of communion in different ways, defend folks going to whatever kind of Mass they want, and now defend this choice if someone wants to make it, since the Church doesn't forbid it.

***

And another thing occurs to me. If this practice we are advocating is so extremely prideful: up there with the Pharisees: the most unimaginably wicked thing conceivable (receiving from a priest!), why is it that the Church doesn't simply forbid it once and for all: say that no one can choose to receive the Lord from a priest if they want to (where EMHCs are present)?

The Church has all kinds of other regulations, yet with this it says not a word (that I'm aware of). Instead we have folks condemning others for a thing the Church says nothing about.
 


***

"changing lines is not the answer to a problem."

It's not a "problem" at all: it's a preference.
 


"Does Jesus switch lines? no, He stays, so should you.....who is above the Master?"

Jesus didn't go to Mass; He started it. He didn't have to wait in any line. He served Himself.

***

Virtually all of us who do this, desire to do it "without causing a problem." Yet we're too often accused of being disruptive and raising a ruckus at Mass. People will believe whatever they want, if they have an emotional disdain of something and don't seem to even understand it in the first place. Clearly, people are out to sea on this, if they think we think it's because the priest is way holier than anyone else, or that we receive more of Jesus from him (as if Jesus can be quantified: that is rank heresy, denying His simplicity and self-sufficiency).

Nor are we saying that EMHCs are fundamentally evil and wicked and that the Church has no reason or right to allow them. Myths and fables abound.


***

We take three seconds max to get in one line rather than another, without causing the slightest problem. How does that somehow subtract from our adoration of our Lord?


*** 

"Maybe for the first time in their lives they feel needed? or welcomed by the church?"

Yes, maybe so. Wonderful! Good for them! Now kindly explain to me how that is any reason why I should be forced to receive Holy Communion from them?
 


***


Worship and let worship. I've never disrupted a Mass in my life. I've never personally criticized or have been rude to a priest, either in person or online (or an EMHC, either, for that matter). I always treat priests with the utmost respect and deference. I detest parish council meetings when they are filled with infighting, complaining, backbiting, trashing the priest (which seems to be, sadly, often), and refuse to participate in that (nor did I as a Protestant, with all their endless civil wars in congregations, etc.). I'm the last person in the world who wants to foster any division or bickering within a congregation.

Here is the simple solution, from m,y friend Patti Sheffield: "I just receive from whomever the Church says is okay to receive from, and don't mind if others prefer to go to a priest or a deacon. As long as nobody is disruptive it's no big deal."

The truth is so simple and right in front of us. Thanks, Patti! My variation of this would be:

"I prefer to receive from a priest whom the Church never says I should not receive from, and don't mind if others prefer to go to an EMHC. I'm not disruptive at all, so it's no big deal."


***

My friend Bret Bellamy wrote:
"When I was Latin Catholic, my preference was to receive Communion from the priest or deacon. However, if I happened to be in a line with an EM, I continued in that line. To me, disrupting Communion for others due to my personal preference tramples on an important virtue overlooked by some/many on this issue as well as on a related issue that shall never be named. That virtue is Charity."

I agree 100% Bret. Thanks! As I've said, if I'm at another parish (since this isn't an issue at my own), I try to get into the line where the priest is, if it causes no disturbance. If not, I receive from the EMHC in the hand with no attitudes whatsoever of hatred, derision, haughtiness, arrogance, etc.

There are few other situations where my mind, heart and soul are so wholly concentrated on our Lord and adoration than when receiving Holy Communion. Any insinuation that I am supposedly thinking of all this other rotgut during that time is severely offensive to me.


***Of course "switching lines" could be disruptive. No one denies that. What we're saying is that we who do this don't cause a disruption, so it's a moot point: criticizing a thing no one is doing in the first place. Several times, we have said (in the previous thread) that if it causes a disruption, we receive from the EMHC.

Some people say they would never receive from an EMHC. As long as they don't disrupt, that's fine, but if they do cause a disruption or "scene" in order to receive from a priest, I say that that is wrong and inconsiderate of others.


***"on a personal level I am sure the vast majority [of EMHCs] are sincerely trying to serve the Church and do a good job."

I've said the same many times, too.


***

I'm not against the thing itself (EMHCs); I am for reform of the abuse of the thing. Huge difference . . . I don't say, "ditch all the EMHCs and what the Church wants; be gone with all of 'em." Rather, my view is: "there are widespread abuses; those should be reformed, and I personally prefer to receive from a priest, without judging anyone else, which is not my business to do."

This is completely sensible and can hardly be argued against.
 


***Someone also mentioned how if someone was at a Mass with the pope, wouldn't they try to receive from him? That would take it to another level still. It's still the same Jesus, but people want to receive from the pope, and there isn't one thing wrong with that.

***

There were actually three issues simultaneously being discussed (in the now-deleted, often acrimonious Facebook thread), and that confused things all the more:

1) Abuses in the practices of using EMHC (i.e., too many for too small of a crowd). That is the priest's fault: who should know better.

2) Abuses of some few individual EMHCs (clothes, demeanor, irreverence, ignorance of communion on the tongue). This is the individual's fault.

[neither #1 nor #2 implicate EMHCs as a class or a whole, because the fault lies with a priest or one EMHC, not the Church or the whole group]

3) The preference of an individual to receive Holy Communion from a priest. This is a permitted preference and it's no one's "fault" and does not inherently correspond with alleged pride or other unsavory dispositions. Nor does it automatically imply disdain of EMHCs.
 


***

Our reasoning is that the priest is the alter Christus who presided over the Eucharist in a way that the EMHC has not done. Thus we prefer to receive from him, as was almost exclusively done till Vatican II, still is among Eastern Catholics and Orthodox and even Anglo-Catholics.

It is not "anti-EMHC"; it's "pro-priest as the alter Christus." It's not running down EMHCs as a class or as individuals, as just clarified. They have their place. But it's often abused in numbers, and poorly trained ones do the whole valid ministry a grave disservice.
 


***I don't personally receive from the priest (if possible) because of any abuses among EMHCs because I have never personally been confronted with that. I go to the priest because he is the priest. Period. Its a very simple thing, really. The priest is a special person; he dispenses sacraments as part of his main duties. We want to receive our Lord from him.

***In one place I said that this perspective is not so much eucharistic (since the same Lord is received in any case) as it is liturgical and symbolic. This is why it is so misunderstood and pilloried, because traditional liturgical sensibilities and outlooks are so poorly known, primarily because many millions no longer practice them, and we are less familiar with what we have little or no personal acquaintance with.

***Another thought I have is that we shouldn't run down the special, extraordinary nature of the priest in emphasizing a greater role of the laity. As always in Catholicism, it's a "both/and" proposition." The priest remains special, while we figure out that the laity should have a greater participation, too.

I'm all for lay involvement and ministry, obviously. I've been a full time apologist for twelve years now. When it comes to EMHCs, however, that is part of the Mass, so there are obvious limitations. They can't perform the Mass, they can't consecrate (even a deacon can't do that). They can't give homilies. They can't hear confessions before Mass, or absolve. They can't give blessings. They are supposed to be used only in "extraordinary" circumstances, with large numbers, but we all know that is often (if not usually) not the case.

Quite obviously, then, they remain vastly different in status from priests, and so many of us prefer to receive from the priest. I'm truly sorry if someone is offended by that or imagines that it is "anti-EMHC." It's not.

There is also the fact that in the numerous cases of overuse of the EMHCs, partaking from them is literally participating in the abuse; knowing it is an abuse (if a person is aware of the provisions concerning them). Thus if one was trying to follow Church rubrics, there would be all the more reason to receive from the priest.


***

If we point out what the Church actually teaches about the use of EMHCs, all of a sudden some folks say we are disobedient to the Church? Huh? That's not even logical, let alone sensible. It's like saying that someone who loves the Bill of Rights is anti-constitutional.   

***

If someone points out the abuses of those who do apologetics (which are many, usually in inverse proportion to how much a person knows about theology and apologetics, and how experienced they are), I readily agree and concur that it is a shame, and shouldn't happen. I don't fight against it and make out that the critic is "anti-apologetics" or hates me as a person. I don't get angry and defensive.

I join them in desiring to reform the practice that I love as my profession. I don't want to see it besmirched. Apologetics has always had a PR problem and is subject to many bum raps, so I think the less nonsense in the name of apologetics, the better.


***

My friend Paul Hoffer wrote: "The abuses you categorized above in 1 has as its effect a residual clericalism that improperly denigrates the importance of lay participation from the pews in the Mass."

Yes, unfortunately, any abuse gives a thing a bad reputation or name among many (we have seen the terrible tragedy and aftermath of the sex scandals in the Church). It's unfair but that is how it is. It's irrational, too, because if one notes, e.g., a bad teacher, clearly this has no implication as to all teachers or even all teachers in one school. All it proves is that that teacher was a bad apple.

The abuses you categorize in 2 is in effect a lack of theological understanding of what the Eucharist is. When I take the Eucharist to nursing homes, the home-bound sick and to hospitals, I still wear a suit and tie out of respect for the sacrament and I still pray that I am worthy to carry out this sacred office before I receive the hosts to be distributed. At Mass, when I am EMHC, I make the effort to spiritually prepare myself for the immense privilege to actually touch Our Lord and carry out His Command to take and eat. I could not even imagine irreverence before Our Lord like what you speak.

Well, I'm quite sure (because I know you) that you perform the ministry with the utmost diligence, reverence, and dignity.

That is why EMHC are only supposed to be appointed to that office for two years and receive additional formation and training to before being allowed to participate in that ministry in the future to remind of them of the awesome and humbling duties we are called to carry out.

Then how can it even be possible for an EMHC to be so ignorant of canon law and the rubrics, that they would roll their eyes at someone wanting to receive on the tongue? I guess it's clearly improper formation somewhere down the line (or screening as to character and qualifications).


Because, most parishes or dioceses for that matter do not follow the two year rule or require their EMHCs to read up on the Eucharist~Fr. Rolheiser's book "Our One Great Act of Fidelity" or Saint Augustine's sermons 227-229A, 272 or your "Biblical Catholic Eucharistic Theology" for example or encourage them to distribute communion outside of the Mass setting which impresses better the theology of 'missa' or mission or going forth to proclaim the Gospel which is why the Church used EMHC in the early Church in the first place.

Like I said, abusive practices lead to ignorance of theology or a failure to create a spirit of faith seeking understanding.
[ . . .]

As for 3, I think it is all about attitude. If one wants to take communion from the priest to honor the mystery of the priesthood as spoken of by BL. JPII in Dominicae coenae (1980), that is laudable; but if one is doing it because one denies that EMHC's are a legitimate expression of our participation in Christ's priestly office, that is not.


I agree. My reasoning is not to deny the legitimacy of the EMHC; it's based on the undeniable fact that the EMHC is not a priest, and preferring the latter for the purpose of reception of Holy Communion.

Bottom line is this, the office of EMHC is subject to abuse like all ministerial offices, but if nonpriests did not have a legitimate role in the distribution of communion we would have no St. Tarcisius after whom I try to model myself after when I am called to carry out the office of EMHC nor would we have deacons distributing communion.

I think they do "have a legitimate role". Holy Mother Church has said so and I follow and defend her at all points. The biggest abuse by far is overuse, which is not the fault of the EMHC at all. They're gonna do what the priest tells them, and they should. But someone somewhere down the line has to communicate with the priest that there is such a thing as overuse.
 
 


if I switch lines at Communion because of my dislike for a priest or deacon, what message am I sending?

One that says you harbor sinful ill will. Of course most people wouldn't know the interior disposition, but I'm going with your example. That's not a theological or liturgical argument (at least not regarding the priest) but a personal grudge.

Does it not give the appearance that the mystical Body of Christ is not a reality?

It indicates a sinful attitude.

Switching lines because one does not want to take communion from a EMHC is no different.


One thing is sin and the other is a mere preference based on the status of the priest. We simply can't be forced to partake from the EMHC. No canon law that I'm aware of forbids a preference for the priest. Preferring one thing does not automatically entail disdaining the other: which I have constantly disagreed with as illogical and not necessarily following at all, using the (trivial but analogous) example of being in the line for chocolate ice cream and then someone else saying, "why are you against vanilla ice cream?"

Like a deacon expressed in my newer thread on this topic, there is nothing whatever wrong with that as long as it is expressed as a preference and not as a dogmatic or legalistic thing. The preference itself is for the alter Christus over the one who is not.

If the office of the EMHC is being rejected altogether, on the other hand, then your point is a valid one in that instance.

Such an attitude was declaimed by St. Paul at 1 Cor. 12.


That chapter is about different parts and offices of the Body of Christ all being valid and important. I have not denied that the EMHC is a valid office or ministry. I commend all who undertake it, provided they do so properly (as you, no doubt, do). Your argument would only hold for one who is doing that (and I think that was probably your intention).

St. Paul is teaching there that God distributes gifts as He wills. He also "distributes" various differences in how Catholics (in all good conscience) prefer to worship; differences in liturgy: what rite; various options within rites (and we must respect those, too, by the same token). Thus, this is one of those things. To simply prefer one way has no direct relationship to what our opinion of another way is, or of those who choose it. If we can choose entirely distinct Masses to attend, certainly we can choose one communion line over the other when they lead to those who hold different offices in the Church.

As another analogy, many people don't care much for apologetics (in fact, I know that for sure!). Some of them may be legalistic or biblically ignorant enough to actually say it is a worthless endeavor altogether (just because they don't like it). But most people, I think, would recognize that it is valid and important and modeled in Scripture: but just not their cup of tea.

That isn't sinful, if it is in the second, non-legalistic sense, nor is it running down altogether what one personally doesn't engage in.

Neither is the preference of receiving Holy Communion from a priest. The only argument that can be made against it is where disruption or excessive legalism are present, too, or, as you have been arguing, if the very role and office of the EMHC is "dissed." I heartily condemn both attitudes / actions, with you.


***It is clearly an abuse if use of EMHCs is seen as permanent and ongoing, regardless of how many parishioners are present. That's simply an abuse. It's supposed to be "extraordinary" use. Words ought to mean things. I don't think Paul defended that, or would agree with the scenario one person mentioned where there were 25 people at the Mass and three EMHCs were still used. That is plainly an abuse.

I can see three different scenarios where it would be perfectly acceptable to not receive from an EMHC:

1) Due to far too frequent experiences of abuses in the past (such as Michele was recounting). One is entitled to remove oneself from such annoying abuses; nothing wrong with that. That is a result of poor formation or selection of those EMHCs. No Catholic need be subjected to such unnecessary annoyances during this holy and sacred moment of the Mass. Thus, it is avoided by going to the priest.

2) Refusing to participate in an abuse (too many EMHCs being used, contrary to the rubrics). That is being obedient to the Church, by refusing to engage in acts that imply consent to an abuse.

3) Simply preferring the priest, as I have argued in various ways.

That's not just one good reason; it's three, and I don't see any way to refute or overthrow them. Abuse is abuse: the first two are two different abuses that occur, and the third is a perfectly valid preference.
 


*** 

 The entire related earlier thread on my personal Facebook page, originally from August 2013, has been taken down, because:

1) The meme offended several people and doesn't adequately or accurately express my actual opinions. No sense offending so many people; and at the same time what they are offended by isn't even (at least based on one report of someone highly offended) my true opinion.

2) The thread itself was a free-for-all. I am fessing up to my part in causing that by an overly harsh and provocative meme.

3) I'm sorry that all the comments (450!) had to go with it, but I think, overall, it was best to take it down. I want good discussions to take place on my pages: not hurt feelings and rancor and misunderstandings all around.
 


***

Deacon Sean Smith:
I guess I have a preference, too. In my view, it isn't about what we "prefer" and more about how we act. If our actions in service of our preferences are disruptive, then that seems to run counter to the very idea of "Communion". If our preferences are based on poor theology, then the theology should be reconsidered, and then maybe the preference.

I agree; as I stated over and over: there is to be no disruption of anything. Alter Christus and the special, extraordinary status of the priest are very good and true theological positions to hold, as far as that goes. 

If we can act on our preferences in a manner that doesn't make them any more than preferences (I prefer Pepsi to Coke), then go for it.

I like that way of expressing it. Thanks! It's being overly dogmatic or legalistic from any perspective, or falling into dichotomous, "either/or" thinking, that creates problems and ill will.  

I suspect a big reason this topic generated so much attention is that too many of us have experienced people absolutely being disruptive. If people acted as you described, then there really wouldn't be much to discuss.

I'm sorry to hear that. People fall short in any way that they possibly can, so it's no surprise that this happens (how often it does, I don't know), and I condemn it wholeheartedly along with you. 

***
I've never "switched" lines. If I can get in the priest's line, without making the slightest disturbance, I do. If not, I go to the EMHC (and receive in the hand) without the slightest disgruntlement, etc., or any other negative emotion or distraction from adoration of our Lord. I have no problem receiving in the hand because I know that it was very common in the early Church; in fact, it seems to have been the norm then, for some six centuries. Thus, I feel that I am participating in an equally valid liturgical tradition in doing that.

In my own parish, it is at the altar rail kneeling, on the tongue, which 95% of us do: all at the rail: some few in the hand.




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