Summary: Sacrament of Healing and Eucharist; when to approach communion and when to pray in the pew

Monday of 5th Sunday in Course

9 February 2009

Sacramentum Caritatis

The Gospels give us a real, human Christ to worship, emulate, and follow. This is a Jesus who was far more than a spiritual master. He ate and drank and slept and wept, and He had a physical presence so attractive that people from surrounding territories came just to touch the fringe of His garment. There was power in Jesus, and touching Him or being touched by Him was healing. The disciples, too, were sent out with little vials of olive oil to anoint the sick and cure them; this sacrament of healing continued through the time of the Apostles until our day. Jesus touches us; we feel His touch; His power is activated by our graced faith, and we are healed. We are always healed spiritually, often healed emotionally, and sometimes healed physically. When we are in our last hours, the connection between the Blessed Eucharist and the sacraments of healing become even clearer, as the Host becomes our viaticum–our way-bread for the last journey.

All of this flows from our communion in Jesus and with each other. In connection with this, I would like to comment on a Protocol from the Congregation for Divine Worship, dated last year on the Feast of St. Cecilia. Two men wrote them asking if a priest, deacon or extraordinary minister of communion could give a blessing to people who come in the communion line with their arms folded. This is being studied now, Father Ward answered for the Congregation, but he gave some guidelines. There is one blessing, right after communion, given by the priest. The priest is, then, the only one who gives blessings during the Mass. Moreover, the laying on of a hand or hands has its own liturgical significance in Confirmation and Holy Orders, and is explicitly discouraged in the Protocol. There are other issues that suggest that the practice of coming up for a blessing if one is not in full communion with the Church should be discontinued.

If we have a proper understanding of the act of receiving communion, this development should neither surprise nor offend us. When we come to communion, we are saying that we need the grace of Christ because of our venial sins and our moral weakness. But we are also declaring that we are in full communion with the universal Church. It’s an act of piety but also a prophetic profession. If we are not admitted to communion, the Church encourages us in our pews to make acts of repentance if we are in mortal sin, and get to reconciliation as soon as possible. The Church asks all of us to make an act of spiritual communion if, for instance, we have eaten something within the hour, or, if we are out of communion with the Church because of a divorce and remarriage without a declaration of nullity and convalidation, or if we are a member of another Church not in communion with Rome. All of us, whether in communion or not, should pray frequently that all Christians may work and pray toward the day when we are all in communion with each other, as Jesus prayed for us at His Last Supper.

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