Monday, May 05, 2008

Little Catholic Annoyances

Yesterday at Mass we had a guest priest - he was actually the former priest of the parish, semi-retired, but I have never seen him. I went forward to receive Holy Communion, bowed my head and said "Amen" to the proclamation, "The Body of Christ." I opened my mouth to receive the Host on my tongue.

For a bit of background, you may be interested to know that receiving Holy Communion on my tongue is not a special devotion for me. I've gotten in the habit of it, however, since I'm usually carrying a child with me. (Though I was not carrying a child yesterday.) And I've come to like it better. Receiving the Eucharist on the tongue is the ordinary way in which Catholics, the world over, participate in the Mass. In the United States, we have a special dispensation to also receive Christ in our hands.

Anyway, as I opened my mouth to receive Holy Communion, the priest, with some vigorous head shaking, murmuring, and gesturing, made it clear that he would only give me Communion in my hand. I was taken aback. I began the interior struggle with my reaction. But I calmly received with my hand, tried to refocus on Christ, and then went to receive the Cup.

Now, I'm not a big critic of how Mass is done, or keep track of where priests falter. It would only make me miserable in the very place where I need to be worshipping. And proud. But telling someone they may not receive the Bread of Life one way, when it is the communicant and not the minister who decides this (per the bishop), is generally disruptive for the communicant. I wanted to sidle up to the native Dubliner and in my finest Irish brogue (which is crap) whisper, "Na sure if you're aware, father, but I'm tryin' to receive Holy Communion in the proper spirit. You're na helpin' matters."

And then this morning St Silouan, an Orthodox monk who lived at the turn of the last century, instructed me:

"Isn't it the Lord himself who has said: 'The kingdom of God is among you' (Lk 17,21)? Eternal life begins even now... Oh my brothers, I beg you to put it to the test! If someone should offend you, detract you, take away what belongs to you, even if he should be a persecutor of Holy Church, pray to God and say: 'Lord, we are all your creatures. Have pity on your servants and draw their hearts to repentance.' Then you will feel grace in your soul. It is true that, to begin with, you have to force yourself to love your enemies. But when the Lord sees your good will, he will help you in it all, and experience itself will show you the way. On the other hand, those who plan evil against their enemies cannot have love and, therefore, cannot know God.

Never be aggressive with your brother; never judge him; overcome in gentleness and love. Pride and harshness take peace away. So love him who does not love you and pray for him. In this way your peace will be undisturbed.


alison said...

"Eternal life begins even now" Yes.

How good that you read this just when you needed it.

Thanks for posting it.

Hope said...

A few years ago I had a conversation with a couple from church who were convinced the church was going to hell in a hand basket if people didn't stop receiving the Eucharist in the hand. I judged them harshly for their attitude. The next time I received the Eucharist I was on my way back to my pew when I felt this sharp pin prick on my palm. I opened my hand to see a miniscule, and I mean miniscule, piece of the Eucharist on my skin. I was instantly humbled. That pin prick has been there several more times since. Sometimes I can barely make out the particle and I am always humbled.