Sunday, July 23, 2006

So how do we treat the Blessed Sacrament?

Terry from "Rome-ing Catholics" has a very important post today on how Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion who have been authorized by their pastor or Bishop to bring Holy Communion to home-bound or hospital or nursing home residents should treat the Blessed Sacrament, before and after Communion is given.

In 1982 I had the priviledge to carry Communion to my mother every day for the three months that she was ill, dying of cancer. A local pastor gave me this permission, and I kept the Sacrament with me after Mass to have available when I left work at lunch to bring her Communion. On week-ends Father allowed me to have enough hosts to give her Communion each day. I had an antique tabernacle type repository at home, decorated with icons that I placed the pyx in when at home. I kept a candle burning day and night. Although I had not been deputed by the Archbishop to reserve the Blessed Sacrament privately. I sometimes had to go out to dinner with the Blessed Sacrament in my watch pocket because I couldn't get home right away to reserve it. I often worked with the Blessed Sacrament in my pocket. After the mourning of my Mother's death, I realized how often I had unknowingly profaned the Blessed Sacrament through my insistence of bringing my mother Communion each day. My actions were an abuse and a sacrilege, unbeknownst by me at the time. I would never do such a thing again. My confessor told me I was ignorant of the rubrics and therefore not as culpable as the people who permitted my actions. Small consolation there, I still shudder when I think of how casually I treated the Eucharist in those days.

I wonder about others, do people do what I did? Maybe some have this permission, I don't know. I've been in rectories where the priest comes back from a sick call with the Blessed Sacrament in a pyx or a case, sets it down with his keys and goes about his business, without returning the Sacrament to the tabernacle. If a priest does this, I wonder if other lay Eucharistic Ministers who have permission to take the sacrament to the sick do likewise? We the sell pyx in our Store for those ministers to bring the Sacrament to the sick. We always wonder how they will handle the Eucharist and if they may reserve it in their homes. As a business, it is not our place to inquire into these things however.

Is it appropriate for priest or laity to stop on the way to or from their Communion calls with the consecrated host on their person or in their purse? Should they just run into the market to pick up something, or stop at a fast food restaurant because they are hungry? I don't know the answer to these questions, although it does seem to me to be at least irreverent.

The real question ought to be, are we way too familiar and casual with the Eucharist? The answer is yes, yet supposedly the recent instruction on the Eucharist has been implemented, but little seems to have changed. In some parishes it still looks as if a third of the congregation gets up to distribute Holy Communion under both species to an entire assembly. People sometimes grab the host and take up the cup, often with very little noticeable reverence. If they do not get to drink from the cup, many think they have received an incomplete Communion - perhaps never knowing that Communion under one species contains the entire, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ.

In the very old days, especially in small towns and villages in Europe, the priest would carry the Blessed Sacrament as viaticum to the sick and dying, accompanied by an altar boy, with candles and ringing a bell to announce Our Lord's presence. Bystanders would kneel or bless themselves as the priest passed by, paying homage to the Eucharistic King. We need this reverence back. It was so powerful for the Anglican Elizabeth Ann Seton when she was in Italy that she was drawn to the Catholic faith.

O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine! All praise and thanksgiving be every moment thine!
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