Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Most Pastoral of Popes

Sacraments I am sure are supposed to be life changing events, rather than a simple reward for turning up. From very early on until that old modernist Pope St Pius X changed things - those people who are anxious about Francis would have been  apoplectic about Pio. He not merely  changing the Apostolic order of the sacraments - Confirmation after Communion - but wanting to introduce not merely frequent but even daily Communion. Communion not just for Holy monks and hermits who had proved themselves in ascetical discipline, in long vigils and depth of prayer but on a regular basis for those who had only recently attained the age of reason and probably hadn't yet learnt to use it. It was madness!

For almost 1,800 years, ever since Paul had written to the Corinthian suggesting that the Holy Eucharist kills, and is dangerous, and indeed can both give Salvation but also Condemnation and death, Communion was something which most sane people took part in rarely, to the point where the Council of the Lateran made annual reception a precept of the Church, even then pastorally minded bishops seemed not to insist too strongly, except in the case of imminent death.

One of the nonsenses spread abroad by those 1970s liturgists is that in that mythical period ‘the early Church’ people were receiving not merely regularly but frequently, in all probability every Sunday, I think the evidence for that is very flimsy!

The point is of course that the sacraments are Life Giving Events including, maybe especially so, Holy Communion, Pius’ reforms made them mundane and lead to the abuses we have today where just because you are whatever years old or in Miss X’s class, or at Mass you receive the Communion, Confession or Comfirmation, So now the Sacraments are received frequently they have come to mean very little in the life of the Church or the spiritual development of its members, their power to impart Grace or Salvation hardly figures in contemporary catechesis, the liturgy has become not so much a mystical meeting with Heaven but 'a celebration of the community'.

So many of the ills of today’s Church can be laid directly at the door of this most interfering of Popes, the most important being that Sacraments do not change lives. Of course in the teeth of all that his predecessors had upheld down the ages, he thought he was being 'pastoral' - God preserve us!


Joe Potillor said...

Although I don't think he changed the order for Confirmation then Holy Communion....The point stands.

Sometimes very well meaning ideas, don't always work out quite so well when they're implemented.

I'm sure back in the days of Pope Pius X, he couldn't have imagined the abuse that we've seen with the Sacrament that we've seen today.

Pope Benedict XVI was absolutely right in calling our woes due to the crisis in Liturgy.

philipjohnson said...

Fr.Yes, everybody now goes to Holy Communion but nobody goes to Confession!!If we are in a state of Grace,and free from mortal sin, we are free to receive the Blessed Sacrament.Pious x meant this -did he not?Surely frequent Holy Communion, in a state of Grace,is good for our spiritual life?However sanctifying and actual Grace is never spoken about and abuse of the Blessed Sacrament abounds.God Bless.Philip Johnson.

Noah Moerbeek said...

I can think of two texts write off the top of my head that commend frequent reception of Holy Communion, The Imitation of Christ and Introduction to the Devout Life. Both texts were written long before St Pius X reforms.

Mike Hurcum said...

Did PIUS write as well those who communicate daily should confess daily?

Andrew M. Greenwell said...

Here's the flaw in your argument, Father: abusus non tollit usum.

Pelerin said...

Father, are you suggesting that it would be beneficial for us not to receive at each Mass we may attend?

Fr Dickson said...

Thank you for an excellent post, Father.

Sadie Vacantist said...

I take from this that regular reception of communion should be quietly discouraged. I support this initiative and note the Bishop of East Anglia highlighted the tendency to regard communion as a "right" rather than a gift. I may attend the Louvre in Paris to both admire and appreciate the Mona Lisa as a masterpiece but I do not have the right to take it back home with me. A sad but fair reality which in no way diminishes its magnificence.

Fr Ray Blake said...

The discipline is now to receive unless there is a grave reason not to do so, I am merely suggesting a change came because of Pio X's 'pastoral' sense.

Deacon Augustine said...

"their [the sacraments'] power to impart Grace or Salvation hardly figures in contemporary catechesis"

This is so true. Have been involved in discussions about exactly this recently with respect to preparation for marriage. Do you have any idea how much reference is made to Grace or Salvation in the most widely used marriage preparation material in this country? Nada, zip, zilch!

Jacobi said...


His intent was good. He wished more frequent reception but by a growth in holiness and always in a State of Grace, not from routine or vain glory or human respect, which latter I suspect figures quite highly with today's laity. He made that very clear in Quam Singulari (1905).

He must be turning in his grave today at what has happened.

As I understand it, whatever the discipline is, the Church still requires us to receive Holy Communion only once a year!

The only way to break from the now widespread abuse of the Holy Sacrament, by peoiple who are in a state of grave sin is to break this habit of receiving Holy Communion, regardless.

John Nolan said...

Yes, Pius X's liturgical meddling was not always felicitous, but although he encouraged more frequent Confession and Communion he did not change the Eucharistic fast which was nil by mouth from midnight. His successors Pius XII and Paul VI relaxed this to the extent that in practical terms it no longer exists.

RichardT said...

Excellent, Father. You combine two points that I have long believed but have never seen written; avoiding frequent reception, and the innovative modernism of Pius X.

Bob Hayes said...

An interesting and informative post Father. A few months ago, in an idle moment, I wondered whether Pope Francis might surprise us all by signalling a shift away from what seems to have become 'habitual communion'. We shall see...

JARay said...

I think that I am correct in stating that in "The Book of Margery Kempe" (born 1373) she received special permission from her bishop to receive Holy Communion daily.
That said, I do so often look at the large numbers of children who turn up with their parents to receive their First Holy Communion only to have me notice that they hardly ever turn up again at church except for their reception of Confirmation. I see these simply as "rites of passage" events which are simply put aside after the "special" day is over.

umblepie said...

I'm sorry Father but I totally disagree with you. The abuse of the Sacrament of Holy Communion has nothing to do with St Pope Pius X, but everything to do with the 'cheapening' of the divine spirituality of the Holy Eucharist, encouraged immediately after Vatican2, by the introduction (insistence!)of Communion in the hand, the removal of Communion rails, receiving Holy Communion standing up, the abandonment of the traditional liturgy, etc, etc. The failure to properly teach the Faith in Catholic schools, false ecumenism, downgrading the role of the priest and usurping his authority by excessive promotion of laity, loss of sense of sin with wide acceptance of contraception by many in the Church, etc, etc. Rather than blaming St Pope Pius X for the sickness in the Church today - specifically the unworthy reception of Holy Communion by so many, I would suggest a programme of catechesis from every pulpit in the land, promoted by the diocesan Bishops, emphasising the teaching of the Church respecting the Holy Eucharist, and making clear to everyone the conditions necessary for a good Communion.

Fr Ray Blake said...

What do you think I am saying?

I am suggesting that people ought to be as horrified by the innovations of Pio X as some are with Francis, that Pius started a trend for change that was unprecedented, that he disrupted, the order of sacraments which was Apostolic.
What do you disagree with?

Mark said...

Father Ray,

With respect, I don't think you made a convincing case that so many ills of the current church are due to this most interfering Pope? Regular communion should bring people closer to God - should it not? I don't follow how one of our most Traditionalist Popes can be branded a Modernist? Your evidence is flimsy. I await further details. God bless, Mark

Anil Wang said...

I disagree. There is nothing wrong with lowering the age of communion. After all, new born infants receive the Eucharist in the Eastern Rite. The problem is that most bishops didn't correspondingly lower the age of confirmation.

The key issue is, bishops have turned confirmation into the Catholic version of bar mitzvah, so they didn't lower the age of confirmation. The meaning of the sacrament has been distorted. Similarly, first communion has been tied to having a knowledge of the meaning of the sacrament and first communion will be denied if you are mentally retarded. That is nonsense since infants could receive the Eucharist from the earliest days of the Church.

The sacraments were overly intellectualized and tied to catechesis. The result is many Catholics today think they've graduated when they are confirmed and either disappear or stop learning. Or for one reason or another, never get confirmed, and thus enter adulthood without the full graces of the sacraments. Learning about the faith is a life long process and adult Catechisis must be a part of Church life.

Frequent communion is similarly a good practice since it forces you to go to confession frequently or live a holy life so you do not need frequent confessions. There are no down sides. The key issue with the modern age is confession no longer happens for the bulk of Catholics. That could be said to some extent even pre-Vatican II since far fewer people went up for Holy Communion that today, but at least back then people respected the Eucharist to know they should abstain because they haven't confessed.

NBW said...

We have a saying here in the U.S. "If ain't broke don't fix it." Why do Popes tinker with things they shouldn't be tinkering with?

Sadie Vacantist said...

Within context P10's inititiave makes sense but his project has run its course and it's time to take stock. The present Pope has been elected to bail out the Second Vatican council with bishops playing the role of bank CEOs to F1's Fed chairman. The current structure is bankrupt and nobody will admit it.

Kevin O'Donnell said...

One issue with this argument is the frequent tendency to conflate the 'early Church' into the first few centuries rather than rooting back to the apostolic era, if not the sub apostolic. It seems that receiving communion was more frequent from reading St Paul and others. If you belonged and gathered you received so long as you were not catechumens or excommunicated. But then it was more serious to actually belong in those days! Pius X desired a return to the most ancient practice perhaps but with laxity and poor catechesis since the 70 s his wholesome desire was undermined. ( How many FHC programmes talk only about sharing a family meal, for example?)

Fr Ray Blake said...

Any documentation Kevin?

1Cor and I suppose Jesus' own statement about leaving your offering and being reconciled first, would both suggest that some did not receive Communion, even if they were not cut off by the Church and that individual conscience also came into play.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Mark, Pius X you describe as 'Traditional', in what way?

Paul Hellyer said...

Don't blame Pius X for the reduction of piety. Blame Vat2. Before vat2 we were very conscientious about approaching the Body of Christ. We prepared ourselves beforehand. Us oldies still do so. Surprised you call him an old Modernist.

Paul Hellyer said...

I agree entirely with your comments. Can't see our bishops instigating the programme you outline. That would be too much to expect.
Sadly. Very sadly.

Timothy Graham said...

I think Fr Blake is very right to point out that Pius X's reputation for being "traditional" is not deserved; in addition to what is written here about the sacraments, he chopped up the Breviary in a drastic way, introducing the idea that papal authority could legislate for a radical discontinuity. The 1970s were possible in part because of the precedent that he set.

George said...


I'd like to attend daily Mass more often and not feel the need to receive Holy Communion.

I have a hard time wanting to go to Mass if I'm not receiving.

I guess I haven't learned the value of attendance at Mass, versus the value of receiving Communion.

Could you recommend, or offer personally, some teaching on this subject?

Nicolas Bellord said...

I think Father Ray was being somewhat ironical. The point is surely that there should be no conflict between the doctrinal and the pastoral. There was none in what Pius X did. The problem to-day is that pastoral solutions are being proposed that are in conflict with doctrine and that is unacceptable. They are not mutually exclusive opposites but two things that are in harmony. If they are not then something is wrong with either the doctrine or the pastoral.

Nicolas Bellord said...

A recent issue of "Faith" magazine explained the role of doctrine and pastoral working in harmony in an editorial:

Mark said...

Dear Father Ray,

Pius X was Traditional because he was particularly devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the specific title of Our Lady of Confidence; his papal encyclical Ad Diem Illum expresses his desire through Mary to renew all things in Christ, which he had defined as his motto in his first encyclical.
Pius X was the only pope in the 20th century with extensive pastoral experience and implementation at the parish level, in the sense that he favoured the use of the vernacular language in teaching catechesis while the encouragement for frequent reception of holy communion became a lasting innovation of his papacy. His immediate predecessor, Pope Leo XIII, had actively promoted a synthesis between the Catholic Church and secular culture; faith and science; and divine revelation and reason. Pius X defended the Catholic faith against popular 19th-century attitudes and views such as indifferentism and relativism which his predecessors had warned against as well. He followed the example of Leo XIII by promoting Thomas Aquinas and Thomism as the principal philosophical method to be taught in Catholic institutions. Pius X vehemently opposed modernism, which claimed that Roman Catholic dogma should be modernized and blended with nineteenth-century philosophies. He viewed modernism as an import of secular errors affecting three areas of Roman Catholic belief: theology, philosophy, and dogma.
Personally, Pius X combined within himself a strong sense of compassion, benevolence and poverty, but also stubbornness and a certain stiffness. He reminds me of you Father in a very positive sense. He wanted to be pastoral in the sense that he was the only pope in the 20th century who gave Sunday homily sermons in the pulpit every week. After the 1908 Messina earthquake he filled the Apostolic Palace with refugees, long before the Italian government acted. He rejected any kind of favours for his family; his brother remained a postal clerk, his favourite nephew stayed on as village priest, and his three sisters lived together close to poverty in Rome. He often referred to his own humble origins, taking up the causes of poor people. I was born poor, I have lived poor, and I wish to die poor. During his papacy, some of the world-renowned Marian images were granted a Canonical Coronation, namely the Our Lady of Aparecida, Our Lady of the Pillar, Our Lady of the Cape, Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá, Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos, the Our Lady of La Naval de Manila and the Immaculate Conception within the Sala della Immacolata inside today's Vatican museums were granted its prestigious honors.
He is considered a holy person by many, public veneration of Pope Pius X began soon after his death. Numerous petitions resulted in an early process of beatification which started in the 1920s, and which resulted in his canonization on 29 May 1954.

Cosmos said...

This is an interesting argument.

My problem with it is that even if Pius X was a tinkerer, tinkering is not the heart of modernism, even if it is one of its calling cards. Pius X was so clearly motivated by inherently Catholic motivations which clearly emerged from Catholic first principles (whether or not they were prudent) that no one (including Archbishop LeF.) was worried about them. It shows that the today's traditionalism was not some ideological attachment to the ways things were, but has grown from experience that detachment from a consistent and tested tradition leaves the Church vulnerable to innovation and outside influence.

The issue with so many of the external reforms we have gotten since the 1960s is that they have no clearly discernible, organic connection with Catholic tradition. That is why we need a hermeneutic of continuity. We literally have no idea how to justify these "developments." The modernist reforms have been exposed as naked attempts to import non-Catholic theology and practice into the Church.

And many of those in key positions of the Church, many of our best theologians, seem to have take a kind of Pascal's Wager approach to the faith. They seems to be hedging their bets on eternity by reframing the faith to be all about Earth (sex, social justice, no take of last things). "Let's have the best of both worlds, just in case we were wrong about everything, because after Galileo and Darwin, you never know…"

In other words, it seems like the modernist reforms, in clear contrast with Pope St. Pius X's, resulted from some serious doubts about the validity about past claims to the Truth.

The knee-jerk reaction of "no changes, no reform" from the traditionalists is really just a pragmatic reaction to an era in which all reformers serve progressive. Maybe it is a good model to carry forward because, as your perspective illustrates and as history is starting to reveal, even well-meaning innovations can have unexpected consequences.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Cosmos wrote: "They seems to be hedging their bets on eternity by reframing the faith to be all about Earth (sex, social justice, no take of last things). "Let's have the best of both worlds, just in case we were wrong about everything, because after Galileo and Darwin, you never know…"

We tend to think that the present problem is the triumph of Secularism over Christianity. However I see it as the collapse of Protestantism, which is what Cosmos describes. St Augustine told us not to read Genesis too literally. Thus Darwin should not have given us any problems unless you believe, like the Protestants, in sola scriptura.

Unfortunately the Catholic Church, particularly in England, has adopted many Protestant attitudes so the collapse of Protestantism has affected us as well. It should not have done.

Kevin O'Donnell said...

OK, and I should have added that those with a troubled conscience should also not communicate. Yet there is no evidence of a communion only once a year or on high days and holy days. That developed later post Constantine, the rise of monasticism and so on. In the very early Church it seems you came and gathered and unless there was very good reason, you received.

Sixupman said...

Fr. What of clergy who confect The Sacrament in an off-hand manner? With them I despair and bleed for their congregations.

I speak of experience in France and in my parish church, the latter on the occasion of Mass being Celebrated by a stand-in priest. My PP exudes holiness, the locum almost disdain.

Woody said...

A good post, Father, with some very good comments. I love to learn from posts and comments like these.

Thomas Wood said...

Tradition is no enemy of reform per se, but only of vandalism.

To paraphrase Chesterton, if you want to keep your nice white gate post white, you have to keep painting it; that is, you have to keep having a revolution.

Encouraging frequent communion can only be good, if with it is also encouraged the proper disposition for communion. St Pius X devoutly wished both.

If we are well disposed to receive, and put the effort in to be so well disposed on a daily basis, this can never be bad.

God can never become hum-drum, except to the wicked, who receive unworthily, and consequently obtain no benefit, but rather condemnation.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Kevin, I am sure you are rightish but I think that there is little evidence to support an understandinng that Communion was received by everyone at every Mass, every week. I am no expert but it seems unsupportable to suggest that that wass so until Constantine, for example the evidence from the Donatist controversy doesn't support it, earlier local synods seem to prescribe exclusion from the reception of Communion for various sins as a penalty for sins but also if you were discharging blood, including menstruating women, those in debt or drunk.
The Orthodox would argue fasting and prayer before Communion was of Apostolic origin, it was certainly pre-Nicean, and the asceticism involved would suggest each reception of Holy Communion was carefully considered - as a life-changing event.

Aaron Sanders said...

The point about tinkering with practice (ENCOURAGING daily communion) is well taken. But St. Pius X was not an innovator concerning the age of First Communion (and, as stated first out of the gate, never told people to begin initiating out of order to accommodate that age). Instead he insisted upon following the law that was already on the books. See Dr. Peters,

A parallel to his actions on the age of First Communion, then, would be for Pope Francis to demand that the use of instituted lectors actually be normative or EMHCs not be used unless absolutely necessary - both clearly on the books and yet so universally ignored that they would be received as "changes" in discipline.

Mike Hurcum said...

I often wonder what does or how can the last few verses of Chapter one of Isaiah fits in here even in the great prayer of contrition the Miserere Psalm. They seem to say what makes us worthy to receive HIM. How does one conceive any kind of meaning to Paul's admonitions, when viewd through God's direct warning to Isaiah for what He wants from us at our sacrifice. Dance around all you like but God inspired David and definitely instructed Isaiah. If He did not then the Bible is a lot of hooey and may God forgive me for even saying so.

Mike Hurcum said...

I forgot to add to my last post. I ask where in canon law does it say we have to receive at every mass?
I was an altar boy in my youth at St Nicholas of Tolentine Bristol. Canon William Percival Hayes never gave communion at the High Mass on Sundays. He told me his reasons, told them to an eight year old boy and they were righteous in the extreme and a true defense of the Eucharist, not seen nor heard today.
Can you think Father what he told me concerning the congregation at that Mass

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt we have a problem with the casual and quite probably sacrilegious reception of communion by many in the shuffling bus queues and the perfunctory thanksgiving at most Masses. I agree with 'umblepie' about the multiple causes of this. However, the issue is not which Pope to blame for what or how far back traditionalist want to unravel the past. The real question is what should be the positive conditions required for the reception of Holy Communion. You can't just tell people to stop, you will have to first re-convince them of Catholic teaching about the Holy Eucharist (only a minority actually believe it any more), and then set out the proper dispositions required and desired for going to Communion (including restoring a meaningful fast). When these things are grasped, people will make their own judgements.

I would not welcome a return to Jansenist sense that communion is a regard for good behaviour and only for the super righteous. I don't think that is why Our Lord gave his Body and Blood for us to be our Sacrifice and our Sacrament of healing and sanctification. But there has to be a restoration of balance and spiritual sanity.

Kirt Higdon said...

I'm somewhat taken aback by the sentiment in these commentaries to discourage frequent reception of Holy Communion, not to mention the casual assumption that many if not most who receive every Sunday are doing so unworthily. What of those who attend Mass and receive daily or near daily? Worse still? I went through 16 years of Catholic school from 1st grade through my BA degree and was uniformly encouraged to receive frequently. And all but the last two years of that was pre-Vatican II. (My parish then was Blessed Sacrament and now I belong to a St. Pius X parish.)
I also don't know where the idea comes from that people no longer go to Confession. It depends on the parish, but lines for Confession generally involve at least a 20 minute wait and I recall one parish I went to which had a line that went out the door and down the street - and this was not before any major feast. It stands to reason, however, that usually fewer people will go to Confession than to Communion, unless you assume that practicing Catholics are mostly in a state of habitual mortal sin and refusing to confess.

Kirt Higdon

umblepie said...

Father, I have re-read your post and apologise if I misunderstood your meaning. Certainly Pope Pius X did introduce changes, among them receiving first Holy Communion at younger age, and encouraging frequent even daily reception of Holy Communion. However this happened over 100 years ago, during which time we have had seven Popes,two World Wars, Vatican 2, and technological and social revolution world-wide. I mention these because up to the time of Vatican 2, and in spite of intervening events, I believe there was generally great respect and honour for the Blessed Sacrament, people did not automatically receive Holy Communion at Mass, and when they did it was received reverentially, and the necessity for regular confession was fully understood. It was only when changes were compulsorily introduced after Vatican 2, including those relating to the liturgy, plus all the other changes, that things really started to go downhill particularly with regard to awareness and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. By the way I genuinely hope and pray that the pastoral approach of Pope Francis with regard to 'family' issues, does help to bring lost sheep back to the fold, although I do not think that such an approach is sufficient in itself.

Rod George said...

I have just read a decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Council confirmed by Pope Pius X dated the 20th
September 1905 on "What Dispositions Are Required For Daily Communion". It is too long to publish here but if its recommendations were put into place to-day then we would not be suffering from the dreadful abuses which are taking place in so many of our churches. St.Pius X is definitely not responsible for what is taking place to-day. That responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of the post Vatican2 Popes,Cardinals,Bishops and Priests who have introduced communion in the hand, communion standing and the use of lay people.This combined with watered down teaching in our schools and a lack of direction from the pulpit has got us into the situation we are now in. St.Pius X pray for us.

Fr Ray Blake said...

What I was hoping people recognise is that interfering with something, even for the most pious of reasons, and with what might be safeguards, often backfires and creates numerous problems down the line.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Thomas: You say that it will be necessary to teach people " the proper dispositions required " for receiving communion. The problem is that different priests give out different messages. Recently I attended a mass celebrated by a Benedictine monk from Ampleforth where a number of non-Catholics were present. He announced that anyone who could accept the Eucharistic prayer could receive communion. I am not sure which prayer he meant but it was a ridiculous statement. I could be in a state of unrepented mortal sin and still accept the prayer and therefore receive communion. Until priests start to do their job properly we will get nowhere.

George said...


In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, or that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion. We might even say that he is seeing things in a nightmare. This principle applies to a thousand things, to trifles as well as true institutions, to convention as well as to conviction. It was exactly the sort of person, like Joan of Arc, who did know why women wore skirts, who was most justified in not wearing one; it was exactly the sort of person, like St. Francis, who did sympathise with the feast and the fireside, who was most entitled to become a beggar on the open road. And when, in the general emancipation of modern society, the Duchess says she does not see why she shouldn't play leapfrog, or the Dean declares that he sees no valid canonical reason why he should not stand on his head, we may say to these persons with patient benevolence: "Defer, therefore, the operation you contemplate until you have realised by ripe reflection what principle or prejudice you are violating. Then play leapfrog and stand on your head and the Lord be with you."

Pelerin said...

Nicolas Bellord brings up a good point and reminds me of the leaflet given out before Mass in Notre-Dame Paris which contains the following instruction at Communion in five languages.

The English is as follows:

'The bread (sic) distributed during mass has a high significance for Christians: it is the body of Christ their Lord and God. If you do not share our faith in the living presence of Christ in the eucharistic bread, we ask you not to join your neighbour at communion time.'

From this it surely can be deduced that as long as you accept the 'living presence' then you may receive even as Mr Bellford says 'in a state of unrepentant mortal sin.'

I remember someone telling me once that even though she was not a Catholic she occasionally attended Mass when on holiday in France and always received Holy Communion then. Presumably no-one had ever told her that this was wrong.

Don Camillo SSC said...

I regularly use Fr McEvoy's "Devotions for Holy Communion" (published 1959 with a warm commendation from Cardinal Willam Godfrey). On p.61, and attributed to the Congregation of the Council of Trent (unfortunately with no further details), I read the following:
THE desire of Jesus Christ and of the Church that all the faithful should daily approach the sacred banquet is chiefly to this end, that the faithful, being united to God by means of the Sacrament, may find strength to resist their sensual passions, to cleanse themselves from the stains of daily faults and avoid those graver sins to which human frailty is liable. Its primary purpose, then, is not to safeguard the honour and rever¬ence due to Our Lord, nor that the Sacrament may be a reward of virtue to those who receive it... Frequent and daily Communion, as something most earnestly desired by Christ our Lord, and by the Church, should be open to all the faithful, of whatever rank and condition of life, so that no one who is in a state of grace, and who approaches the holy table with a right and devout intention, may be lawfully prevented. A right intention consists in this: that he who approaches, should do so, not out of routine, or vain-glory, or human respect, but for the purpose of pleasing God, of being more closely united with him by charity, and of seeking this divine remedy for his weaknesses and defects.

Although it is most desirable that those who commu¬nicate frequently or daily should be free from venial sin, especially from such as are fully deliberate, and free from any affection thereto, nevertheless, it is sufficient that they be free from mortal sin and have the intention of never sinning in future. If they have this sincere intention, it is impossible that daily communicants should not gradually free themselves from even venial sin."

I ask, in the light of other comments, did the rot of laxity begin even with the Council of Trent? And do priests who celebrate daily feel the need for daily confession? Or are they ex officio more holy than lay people? How can I tell if a communicant has even the intention required by Trent? And who am I to judge?

Ma Tucker said...

Fr Ray, I think your case is very poorly made. The most serious first -

Pope SAINT Pius X is not a modernist and was never declared a modernest by the Church. Modernism is a heresy. Are you not committing the sin of calumny and also of sacrilege by labeling him so?

Frequent holy communion does not encourage sacrilege but quite the opposite. Take a look at your week day Mass attendees - they are a disgrace aren't they- I think not, they are the most devout usually.

What you are protesting is the indiscriminate reception of Holy communion by those in mortal sin or casual reception without the proper disposition. The real culprits for this abuse are poor safeguarding of the liturgy by the Bishop, Father Faithless and his abuse of Our Lord coupled with a lack of catechesis and a deformed liturgy which encourages sacrilege. When there is a refusal to talk about sin how on earth do you expect people to understand what being in a state of grace means.

Jacobi said...

@ Kirt

I can only speak for myself, but I think the idea is to encourage holy, Holy Communion.

The assumption that many are receiving sinfully is based on simple unassailable logic. If the congregation is, say, 150 at Sunday Mass, and the reception is 98% (the 2% being non-Catholic spouses), and the Confession rate is zero, then, there are two possible explanations.

1. The present Catholic Church consists of a Holy Elite who are above sin


2. Alternatively, many in the congregations are receiving sacrilegiously (objectively speaking of course).

You don’t have to be an egghead to work that one out.

Additionally, the observable rate of reproduction, the TFR, I believe it is called, I usually put at 1.6, (although that’s me being a bit mean. It’s probably about 1.8) suggests that contraception, a grievous sin, is commonplace. And, there are still another six Deadly Sins plus four crying out to Heaven for vengeance to account for.

But perhaps you live in a somewhat unusual parish?

Anonymous said...

I was more asking the question, how should I positively decide when to go to Communion? I know the minimum and negative conditions when we shouldn't go. These are still clear in the Church's teaching, even if more than a few priests may contradict them locally. That is another problem that must be addressed. But, while I don't want Holy Communion to be an extreme rarity reserved for the ultra-elect or death bed desperation, I also don't think that it should be something done out of mere routine, unthinking peer pressure or just taken for granted.

Of course it is true that there are devout people who receive with real and humble faith, true devotion and a sincere desire to grow in holiness and union of heart and mind with the Lord. But there are also those who happily miss Mass when it is inconvenient, the semi-lapsed and perhaps fornicating students who come along to please Mum and Dad when they are at home, those who have fallen into other serious habits of sin of one kind or another, those who practice contraception, those who hardly if ever pray outside Mass etc. etc. all of whom happily go up to Communion just because that is what everyone seems to do. And before I am taken to task for being judgemental about other people's consciences, I know all this because I have been one of them in my time! I trust and hope in God's mercy upon my ignorance and carelessness, and I now try to take receiving the Holy Eucharist very seriously indeed, as it should be.

No, I don't wait to be perfect before I approach the Lord. He alone is prefect and He is the fountain of grace and the source of holiness that I need in order to grow and change. And repentant sinner that I am, He has invited me to approach that fountain and feed on His substance so that I may become more truly like Him little by little. But I do think I should be making a sincere effort to seek Him in all aspects of my life if I am to receive Him worthily in so intimate a way. I should prepare carefully, earnestly and eagerly before going to Mass, sharpening my spiritual hunger, preparing a place for him in heart. I don't do that nearly enough. And it does trouble me that so little time is given to thanksgiving and that everything seems so casual.

I don't have all the answers. As in so many things I long for a balance and a synthesis between the extremes of destructive relativism and mere rigid conservatism.

Patrick Langan said...

Another interesting and thought provoking piece which certainly rattled not a few cages! The sacraments are certainly not a reward for attending and I agree must be received seriously. This is obviously not the case as can be witnessed any Sunday even by the rump who still believe in honouring the sabbath. The lack of sanctity has probably been a perennial issue however since V11 this attitude has somehow recieved a nod and a wink from the shepherds of the flock "feed my sheep". The correlation of P X and P F seems dubious as one appeared to want to clean up the house and the other make a mess? Maybe you are looking at a Martha and Mary scenario? Good though and thanks again

Thomas Travers said...

Fr. Ray: the centrepiece of my father’s day was to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion. I do not understand why you attack this practice. Maybe I should not be surprised… Your blog is interspersed with criticism of popes, bishops, the Church, politicians etc, including those dead and unable to respond, but it is sparse on guidance about prayer, spirituality, and contains infrequent references to Our Lord. It gives no insights into the Catholic Faith but rather focuses on your grievances against the Catholic Church. I will cease visiting your blog, as it is not a spiritual comforter or nutrition for the soul, but I do so with the wish that you eventually find peace in your life as a man and a priest.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Thomas Travers: I do not know where you are based but Father Blake is in the diocese of Arundel & Brighton. I too am in that diocese. Over the years I have been confused and dismayed by the antics of our Bishop. He has now turned out to be a fraud and resigned. At the same time we have a new Pope whose utterances are hard to decipher. We are not alone in wondering what is going on. The disquiet has been encapsulated by the retiring Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago:

Many of the laity are thoroughly confused and events lead them to question the Faith. There are few opportunities for the orthodox laity to be heard. Blogs are shut down, letters go unanswered or at best receive some anodyne response etc. We have a metropolitan elite who seem to spend their denigrating the Christian religion and promoting sexual deviancy. One gets the impression that there are more than usual "wicked spirits wandering through the world for the ruin of souls". This blog enables discussion of these concerns which are high on the agenda and I think this discussion helps isolated souls to find a way through all the troubles. It would be tedious to go through all Father's posts but I can remember several inspiring ones that gave guidance about prayer, spirituality, and frequent references to Our Lord with insights into the Catholic Faith - all of which I have been thankful for. It is tough being an orthodox priest in the Diocese of A&B and we need to give them hope and encouragement in these dark times.

Nicolas Bellord said...

I have come to the conclusion that the 'pastoral' is often confused with the 'politically expedient'.

Kirt Higdon said...


Please. "The Confession rate is zero"???!!! What parish do you belong to and do you not go to Confession yourself? I have never belonged to nor visited a parish which did not have lines for Confession, occasionally quite long ones.

As far as your inference from the TFR is concerned, you're no doubt right that many Catholics use contraception. But are they the ones that show up for Mass and receive Communion? The young couples I see in church usually are accompanied by kids; this is especially true of the Latinos, who now make up the majority of US Catholics under age 30.

One of the reasons for the observation of a high percentage of Mass goers receiving the Sacrament may be that the percentage of Mass attendance (at least in the US) has fallen a lot since the highs of the '50s. This means that a lot of baptized Catholics have stopped going to Mass entirely or come only once a year, usually at Easter. Those who remain actively desire a closer relationship with Christ in the Eucharist.

Kirt Higdon

Cosmos said...

Fr. Blake is not saying that daily mass is bad!!! What he is saying is that when a practice that was intended for those who were very earnestly seeking holiness and piety on a day-to-day bases, was "normalized" through legal reforms, the sacrament was cheapened. By instuting aspirational reforms that intended to promote in everyone something that, in reality, was sough and/or achieved by very few(i.e., a state of holiness suitable for receiving frequent communion), Fr. Blake is contending that Pius X inadvertanlty lowered people's expectations of what constitutes acceptable preparation for the sacrament. The holy, orthodox Pope wanted holier Catholics more attached to the Eucharist, what he got was less respect for the Eucharist.

As for the larger point, Fr. Blake is pointing out that the need to tinker and push things along to an ideal, rather than faithfully hand down what was given to us, should be undertaken very cautiously. Even the reforms of someone with very "pious" intentions, like Pope Pius X, can have unexpected consequences.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If there is no need to change, there is a need not to change!

Sue Sims said...

In our parish (part of the Portsmouth diocese next door to Fr Blake's Arundel & Brighton diocese), approximately 500 adults receive Communion each Sunday, across four Masses (including the Saturday evening one). I would estimate that a maximum of 15 people go to Confession on Saturday (the only day it's offered). When I go (which isn't often enough, really), there are rarely more than three other people in the church.

I'm not trying to accuse anyone here, but I'd say that as far as England is concerned, Jacobi is considerably more on target than Kirt.

Anonymous said...

I have had the experience a number of times of turning up for confession at an advertised time to find that the priest has abandoned ship and gone off to do other things because he has got used to the fact that no-one turns up, or perhaps the one or two pious souls who do come regularly are over and done with in the first couple of minutes. If I manage to find the errant good shepherd, there is evident surprise and sometimes mild irritation exuded. The fashion for Penance Services means that many people confess at most once or twice a year. For the same reason individual confessions are almost never heard during holy week and the Easter Triduum. Practices may vary across the world, but regular confessions (once a month, once a week for example) are almost unheard of where I live. I was in Germany for a while (not at the moment) and asking a priest to hear private confession there was greeted with almost incredulity.I thank God that this does not appear to be the way everywhere.

James said...

A crucial difference between St Pius X and the Popes of Vatican 2 is that Paul VI abolished the oath that St Pius X had instituted. Blessed Pius X gave the Church the Syllabus of 80 Errors, & St Pius X gave the Church the Anti-Modernist Syllabus of 65 Errors.

V2 & Paul VI & his successors saw off both, thereby fostering a host of evils that these two holy Popes had fought against. To compare St Pius X to someone who did what Paul VI did is most distasteful. The post conceals the vast unlikeness between the Saint, and that more modern Pope. It's far from clear they even shared the same religion: one was resolved "to restore all things in Christ", the other was man-centred.

Fr Ray Blake said...

You are being unfair, pre 20th cent Popes codified the liturgy, Pius X changed it, he began what Paul VI finished.

Aneas said...

Fr., can you please show me where Pius X "changed the liturgy" of the Mass? Surely you realize that recommending more frequent communion and allowing children to receive is not a change in the liturgy of the Holy Mass (i.e. Pius X did not change any of the prayers of the Mass, rubrics, etc. that I'm aware of). He did reform the Roman Breviary, but not the Mass. I'm not a fan of his Breviary reforms, but I think it's an exaggeration to say that Pius X began what Paul VI finished, as Paul's reforms were done on a massive scale and guided by principles that Pius never dreamed of.

Fr Ray Blake said...

The liturgy is more than Mass!

Allowing Confirmation before Communion, a first since the Apostles, as I have said.
The reform of the Psalter ad the Divine Office.

These were radical changes that prepared the way for Pius XII and Paul VI.
Pius IX, like his predecessors, when asked to make the Pius X did make said it was beyond the competence of a Pope

Aneas said...

Fr., I am aware that the liturgy is much more than the Mass- that's why I was careful to say "the liturgy of the Mass" and "the liturgy of Holy Mass. " Perhaps it would have been more accurate to say "rite of the Holy Mass." My apologies.

Thanks for pointing that out, but my point still stands. Like I said, I don't like Pius X's Breviary reforms, or even the fact that he tinkered with the liturgy. But I think it's too far to say Paul finished what Pius started. Do you really think both reforms were guided by the same principles? Do you think Pius had an entire overhaul of virtually every aspect of the liturgy in mind when he did his reforms, as Paul carried out? I see what you're say an agree to some extent (yes, Pius started with the liturgical tinkering), but I think the way it is framed is an exaggeration.

I'm sorry, but I don't understand the last sentence of your reply- I think it might need revising. Please delete this portion of my comment before posting it, as I don't wish to draw any attention in this inadvertent error.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Pius IX, like his predecessors, when asked to make the SAME CHANGES Pius X did make said it was beyond the competence of a Pope

I can't delete portions of comments.

I am sure that Paul VI, thought he was doing exactly what Pius X did: making the Church holy, but as I say no Pope before had thought he had the power to change what had been handed on; it is the 'Spirit of Vatican I', a Pope have authority above Tradition.

Joseph Shaw said...

Her special permission was for reception fortnightly, at least that's my recollection

Joseph Shaw said...

There is documentary evidence of more frequent Communion in the first centuries. See the FIUV Position Paper on the Eucharistic Fast.