(Written by Melrose)
You may have already seen or heard about how the Communion Hosts were passed from one person’s hand to another during the Pope’s concluding Mass in Luneta. This has earned a number of criticisms from some Catholics who were dismayed with what had happened during the largest Papal Mass in history.
Let me make this clear that I do not hold any degree in Theology nor have I taken formal religious studies (though I plan to do so in the near future). I may have attended quite a number of formation programs and seminars but I must say I am but a tiny speck in the large population of the Catholic laity, though I know my Bible and am very much into reading books about our faith.
This incident at the Quirino Grandstand where the consecrated Hosts, the precious Body and Blood of Our Lord were distributed to the rain-soaked people was branded as sacrilegious by many. As Catholics, we are taught to give the highest reverence to the Eucharistic Lord. The catechists encourage us to be properly disposed before receiving Communion. That is why we are told to observe an hour of Eucharistic fast. An old folk once said that during their time, they were not allowed to receive Communion unless they were able to take control of their appetite for 3 hours or more!
Saint Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians said,
“Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:27)
This may well be the verse that we can refer to in order to stress the importance of having a well disposed state when receiving Communion. This could translate to one as being in the state of grace to be called worthy.
I am writing my opinion on this issue and I am hoping this will not ire the strict apologists out there. I have already admitted as to not having any formal background on Theology or Liturgy for that matter. I am but expressing my idea as a Catholic Christian from what I understand of the Lord’s teachings and actions in the Gospels.
This may alarm you but the incident did not alarm me at all. And before you could voice out your objections and chastise me for not being a “well-catechized” Catholic, let me enumerate my points:
First, it was a huge gathering, a large crowd assembled for that historic Papal Mass. If such distribution of Holy Communion happened during an ordinary parish Mass, then that’s what can be considered irresponsible. But that event with a huge attendance is one exception to the rule. Those lay ministers could never have gone all the way around the Grandstand to give Communion to everyone. Obviously the faithful eagerly wanted to partake of this Banquet and the lay ministers simply wanted the Host to reach them.
Second, weren’t those lay ministers trained? Of course they were. Can’t you believe the affirmative? But perhaps all they had in mind was for the people to receive the Bread they hungered for.
Third, were those people uncatechized? Maybe they were, maybe they were not. There is no way for us to know exactly. But why judge? Wasn’t there enough spiritual preparations for the faithful months before the Papal Visit? Have you forgotten a part of the National Prayer for the Papal Visit, “that we may frequently and devoutly receive Holy Communion”? The common people understood what this meant, I believe. Can we not just have this confidence in the Church and that Her children truly listen to Her?
Fourth, sacrilege. Yes, those on the borderline of the holier-than-thou attitude are crying sacrilege! But will you calm down for a moment and ask yourself and meditate on what possibly be more sacrilegious, that sight of a spiritually hungry crowd given Holy Communion in a most unprecedented manner or you who keep bashing your brothers and sisters without even knowing the sincerity of their intentions toward receiving our Lord? Yes, the manner may be totally uncalled for but how really can you respond to situations such as that?
Doesn’t the episode between Our Lord and the Pharisees and his warning against hypocrisy in Matthew 23: 1-36 ring a bell to you? The Lord admonished the Teachers of the Law because they have become so stuck with the rules and rubrics they have totally forgotten about the things which are more important in the eyes of God: Love and Mercy.
I uphold the Church’s Catechism. You may condemn me for my seemingly lack of proper understanding of what it teaches. But what was the Pope’s visit all about again? Mercy and Compassion. What has transpired has already transpired. If you feel there is a great need for Catechism on the appropriate manner for which to treat the Lord in the Eucharist, then it is something we all must work hard to accomplish in the following days, months, years. Let us not point fingers and search for someone to blame.
Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life (Jn. 6:48) And He IS the Bread we eat during Communion. We will not know for sure how many, if there are any Sacred Hosts that have been trampled upon during that “bayanihan”. Yet even when His earthly Body was desecrated by sinful men at Calvary, He prayed for their forgiveness. (Lk. 23:34).
He is also the one who said,
“But if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Mt. 12:7)
Lord Jesus, have mercy on us sinners. Amen.