Sitting in my pew for a few minutes as the Priest gives out Communion to the 137 extraordinary ministers, readers in shorts and sandals, and altar girls I often have some time to reflect before the priest gets around giving out Communion to the rest of us.
Sometimes I even reflect upon the concept of "the rest of us." It really means all of us, every last dang one of us. Occasionally, the thought has popped into my head, I wonder if ALL these people have gone to confession? I mean when I go to confession, held once a week for 45 minutes, the lines are just not that long. How is it that all these people are prepared to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist?
Well, as we all know, many of them are not but they go anyway. A good deal of the fault with this lays squarely on the offending receiver, but I can't help wonder if we are all collectively guilty to some degree. These days, there is almost a culturally enforced mandate to go up and receive, prepared or not. I have written before (See The Case for Chaos) that I think that usher enforced orderly communion is partly to blame. However catechesis, personal responsibility, a mind your own business mentality (namely don't give the person next to you the once over if they choose not to receive) and a well formed conscience are also critical elements.
With all this as the background, I was moved by a story relayed by Fr. Ray Blake pastor of St. Mary Magdalen in Brighton UK. Fr. tells us of a man, who is in an unfortunate irregular situation, who attends the TLM because as he says "...because I don't feel forced to come to Holy Communion." Out of respect for the Eucharist, he will not receive unless properly prepared. Fr. Ray relays some details followed by some comments.
"I come to Mass every Sunday," he said, "I am living with "M", she is divorced. Most Lents we have determined to live as brother and sister, sometimes it works and I go off to Confession, receive absolution and receive Communion, normally a few weeks after Easter our resolution breaks down. The last couple of years we haven't got very far, so I haven't been to Holy Communion for three years. I want to come, of course I do, but I know I know what Jesus said about the permanence of marriage and marriage to divorcee. It would be hypocritical to receive Him and not live by His teaching."For certain, the man and the woman should do what is right and at least attempt to fix the situation if it possible and refrain from any further sin. But it does my heart good to see a man honest enough with himself and respectful enough of the Eucharist not to receive. Thanks for Father Blake for sharing this.
I of course suggested looking at an annulment, he said he had tried that but "M" just couldn't bring herself to go through the procedure.I was so impressed by this man, so impressed by his extraordinary love for the Blessed Sacrament, impressed by his honesty and the heroism of his Christian life.
There was a time in my life many years ago in my early twenties when I was not properly prepared for communion. Unfortunately, I would just avoid mass altogether so as to avoid the embarrassment of not receiving. I cringe now when I think of it. I think that this fear of embarrassment kept me away a lot longer than I otherwise would have.
The culture of "everyone goes" is detrimental to the faith, especially to those in most need of reconciliation. We should do what we can to eliminate this phenomenon. Again, I say let's start with dumping orderly communion.