Updated: Jan 9, 2020
Dear Friends in Christ:
This is big! I mean really big! I want to write about something that is such a big part of our faith, but I think so often it is taken for granted. That is the Gift of the Eucharist! The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Sacraments. The Holy Eucharist is a perpetual miracle and it is a miracle that happens every day under our eyes. It is Jesus Christ Himself who comes present among us, who works among us, and who takes care of us.
Sadly, so many take this for granted. Many of us, so called cradle Catholics, were brought up knowing that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. It is very normal. To me it was a fact, and there was no argument from me. It is akin to saying the sky is blue.
But what about the awesome reality that this is miraculous? What about the reality that after the consecration it is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ? For me it was not until I went to a holy hour and spent time in Eucharistic Adoration, that it came to me how awesome this treasure is. It was not until that time in Eucharistic Adoration that I realized not just what the Eucharist is, but WHO the Eucharist is. After that experience going up for Communion was not just what we did at that point in the Mass as a family, but it was NOW the highlight for me. The Second Vatican Council rightly proclaims that the Eucharistic sacrifice “is the source and summit of the Christian life. For the most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ Himself, our Passover and Living Bread. Through His own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit, He offers life to men.” WOW! That is the treasure we celebrate at each and every Mass, every Sunday and in fact daily! Think about that!
As if that was not enough to help us comprehend the treasure of the Eucharist here is another important reflection for us to consider: Saint John Paul the Great wrote in Ecclesia de Eucharistia “the Eucharist, in short, changes us. We do not just receive a symbol of our Lord. We receive Him in actuality. He then lives inside us!”
“The Body of Christ.” “The Blood of Christ.” The Priest, Deacon, or Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion speaks these phrases often. It is said hundreds of thousands of times in churches throughout the world every Sunday. The danger is that these words can just become part of the routine of our lives. And yet, even if that is the case, there are special moments in our lives when these words take on greater significance like one’s First Communion, one’s wedding, or at the funeral of a loved one? What do these words mean?
They are a statement of belief that the gathered Church makes in Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. It is further an acknowledgement of the presence of Christ in the faithful and union with Christ in His Body, the Church. Saint Augustine framed both of these aspects of the mystery of the Body of Christ in the early 5th century when he wrote: “If you wish to understand the body of Christ, listen to the Apostle as he says to the faithful, ‘You are the body of Christ and His members.’ (1Cor 12:27) If therefore, you are the body of Christ and His members, your mystery has been placed on the Lord’s table, you receive your mystery. You reply “Amen” to that which you are, and by replying, you consent. For you hear, “The Body of Christ,” and you reply, “Amen.” Be a member of the body of Christ so that your “Amen” may be true.” But, why in bread? … Let us listen to the Apostle who said, ‘We though many, are one bread, one body.’” (1Cor 10:17) [Augustine, IIA6.1 Sermon 272]
Here is the reason why ministers of Communion are instructed to say, “The Body of Christ,” and not “This is Jesus,” or “Receive the Body of Christ,” or “Take and eat the Body of Christ.” This brief and humble acclamation, The Body of Christ, invites all of us to recognize the Body of Christ in the consecrated bread, yes, and in the People of God receiving Communion!
AMEN! Saying “Amen” means literally “I do believe.” But it is more! It also is an assent of faith, a way in which we acknowledge that not only do we believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, but we also commit ourselves to living and acting as Jesus did and does.
Now I would like to speak about something that may seem rudimentary for some, but I can tell you it's something we need to talk about. I don't think it matters where you live, the problem is the same- some Catholics simply don't know the right way to receive the Eucharist.
To be clear, the Church desires that everyone receive Holy Communion. (Wait, don't call me a heretic yet.) However, the Church wants everyone to receive Holy Communion the right way. (See, I'm not a heretic.) Receiving the Eucharist is a big deal. It's such a big deal, that there are all sorts of rules about it and we don't just let anybody do it.
Before talking about how to receive Holy Communion properly, let's talk about being properly disposed first. If you're not properly prepared, then you shouldn't receive Communion. This means being free from mortal sin and having followed the communion fast (in addition to being a practicing Catholic).
Being free from mortal sin is self-explanatory: don't commit grave sin. If you happen to, then refrain from receiving Communion until you've been able to make Reconciliation (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1415). An extra reminder of this is needed in the United States where the tendency is for everyone to automatically get up and go to Communion. It's rare for someone to stay behind in the pew- they might even get funny looks if they do.
In many other parts of the world, not everyone goes to Communion and it's more common to see people remaining at their seat. Is it because there are more sinners in other countries? I doubt it; I think they are just being more mindful about being properly disposed.
So now let's talk about how to receive Holy Communion. First, make a Sign of Reverence as the communicant in front of you receives Holy Communion. The sign of reverence from the instructions of the USCCB is that we are to bow. This is done while the person before you is receiving.
As a Priest I can tell you that it is gut wrenching when the sacred host is snatched out of my hand, or if the communicant casually shuffles the sacred host from the palm to the finger tip of the same hand like a poker chip before they put it into their mouth. I have seen some occasions where the person takes communion in their hand and walks away without consuming it right away, NO! One must consume the Eucharist in front of, or next to, but in the eyesight of the priest, deacon, or Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. Please if you are receiving on the tongue be sure to extend your tongue so the one distributing Communion does not have to touch your face.
With the decree Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the United States of America, the USCCB, in addition to receiving on the tongue, permits the reception of Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue is traditional and can be an act of humility for some, but receiving on the hand can make one feel more connected to Jesus so happily here in the United States you have the choice. The decree of the USCCB refers to St Cyril of Jerusalem who wrote:
"When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost." (Paragraph 41)
There's much more that could be said, but I’ll conclude by talking about the appropriate response to the prompt, "The Body of Christ" or "The Blood of Christ." It isn't silence. It isn’t closing one’s eyes. It isn’t “Thank you.” THE APPROPRIATE RESPONSE is to look at the One you are receiving and say “Amen.” I do believe!
PARISH PICNIC…Don’t forget our Parish Picnic is next SUNDAY! Picnic sign-ups continue this weekend. You will find sign-up sheets at all the doors of both churches for you to register you and your family for our picnic. Your signing-up helps to ensure we properly prepare. REMEMBER IT IS FREE TO ALL PARISHIONERS!!! The cost of the picnic falls in part to our parish budget, in part to in-kind donations of food, flowers, and other items from local businesses, and in part to the financial donations of generous parishioners. If you are able to help in any way to keep the costs of this picnic down by making a personal donation please contact me or simply put it in an envelope marked “Parish Picnic” at any Mass. Make sure to join us for this spectacular afternoon of faith, food, fun, and fellowship!
Please note…while we hope everyone will come to the Parish Picnic we are also aware that some people are creatures of habit and only go to a particular Mass so we will be having the 10AM that morning at Saint Thomas Becket Church but it will be without music as all our musicians will be preparing for the outdoor Mass.
FAITH CELBRATED DURING OUR OUTDOOR MASS…PLEASE join us for an outdoor Mass at 11AM on the patio at the baseball field behind Saint Bridget School. We ask that you reserve the seats on the driveway behind the school near the altar area for the outdoor Mass for our “aging parishioners” and those who may not be able to make it down to the field. ALL are encouraged to bring your family blankets, and lawn chairs and set up on the field just in front of the patio area where Mass will be celebrated. At Communion time we will have volunteers with golf umbrellas accompanying those distributing Holy Communion.
FUN, FOOD, and FELLOWSHIP!!!
FUN— During the afternoon we will be entertained! We will have a CUPCAKE CONTEST open to the first 25 participants to sign-up. Father Federico is going to be one of the judges and he is SO excited. We will also have a DJ, in addition to bounce houses for the children, various sports and activities on the field, arts and crafts, and an information area where you can learn more about the many ministries in our parish!
FOOD— we will have hotdogs, hamburgers, barbecue chicken, pulled pork from two pigs that will be roasted on Church property!, peppers and onions, potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, tomato and cucumber salad, Italian Ice, various deserts, and water!
FELLOWSHIP—DON’T MISS OUT ON THE FUN AS WE GROW TOGETHER IN FAITH!!! What a great opportunity for parishioners of all ages to come together and get to know one another! IT REALLY IS AN AWESOME DAY, PLEASE COME!
Lastly, and most importantly please remember to pray! Pray for good weather that day and pray for all those who donate their time, talents, and treasure to making our picnic a tremendous success. Without them we could never have such an awesome event, I truly hope to see you and your family there!
DON’T FORGET THE WOMEN’S SOCIETY MEMBERSHIP DRIVE IS HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND...Members of the Society will be at all the doors after the Masses to introduce themselves, answer any questions, and even enroll you into membership! The Women’s Society is OPEN to all Women of our Parish Family. I am personally inviting all women of the parish to consider becoming a member of our Women’s Society, or if they are one already to become active in the Society once again! To have an active group of women in the parish who come together regularly for spiritual and social activities provides such a wonderful resource for our parish family. I am confident that we can accomplish much more for our Parish, our School, and the community with more members in the Women’s Society. Won’t you consider joining?
As always, remember to pray for vocations, pray for our young people, pray for our parish families and ask God’s blessings as we strive to build His kingdom here. Please know that I am praying for you, and I ask for your prayers for me, that together through the intercession of Saint Bridget of Sweden, our Patroness, and united in the Eucharist, we will reflect the presence of Jesus to the world.