HE HOMILY given at Mass yesterday inspired me to write an article about Communion in the hand. Within a few hours of returning home from Mass, I happened to be reading a 1934 paper by Fr. Charles Dreisoerner of San Antonio. Amazingly, what do I happen to read?
For the chants of the Proper, he should prepare from an English translation of the Missal. Besides this it is almost indispensable to consult a book like the “Liber Sacramentorum,” or better for those who read German, Parsch’s “Das Jahr des Heiles.” With such a book the choirmaster or organist prepares the text of the Introit, the Offertory, etc., in order to have solid ground for brief translation and interesting remarks. For example when he rehearses the Communion of today’ s Proper (Put forth thy hand and recognize the places of the nails Alleluia, and be not faithless but believing), he would point out the beautiful allusions of this chant meant to be sung during the Communion Procession of the Faithful, who before the seventh century used to put forth their right hand crossed over the left to receive the Host and then communicate themselves: Put forth thy hand and recognize the places of the nails, and be not faithless but believing. If you want enthusiasm and understanding, prepare your text.
You already know what I’m going to say. I’m about to bring up the phenomenon I’ve written about over the years and referred to as “learn a new word, see it within 24 hours.” In a nutshell, this is when the human mind becomes alerted to some word or idea and is subconsciously “on the lookout” for it. Another example occurred yesterday afternoon, as our daughter was watching a pirate cartoon. Astonishingly, one pirate said, “Remember, Captain: with great power comes great responsibility.” That was derived from yesterday’s Gospel (Luke 12:48). Crazy, no?
ACTUALLY, I’M NOT A FAN of the statement by Fr. Charles Dreisoerner. For one thing, there is no historical proof that Holy Communion was universally received in the way he describes. Also, Bishop Sheen reminds us that Thomas probably did not place his hand in our Lord’s side — seeing Him appear was enough, in spite of his earlier incredulity.
More importantly, though, I feel more edifying words could have been spoken about John 20:27. Right? Let me see if I can do better of the top of my head:
Consider Thomas the doubter. All the other Apostles came to him and told him Christ was risen, but their words were not enough for him. What does that say about the relationship of Thomas with the other Apostles? What does that say about man’s stubbornness? Should we not kneel down and pray to God, asking Him to bestow upon us and our children (“who have not seen”) the precious gift of Faith? Why is it that we are so quick to believe wicked men, television commercials, and the lies of the devil, yet so slow to believe the words of God? Let us consider the faith of the Jesuit Martyrs of North America, and what they suffered for the Lord. Can we not ask for their intercession?
I’m not saying my thoughts are perfect, or even good. I’m certainly no Fulton Sheen. I just feel Fr. Dreisoerner’s image misses what’s truly important. If you disagree, let me know in the combox.
I ALMOST MADE A HUGE mistake above. I almost said: “For the sake of argument, let us assume Fr. Dreisoerner was correct about hand Communion.” Then I remembered this is forbidden. Such a phrase cannot be used anymore, because, unfortunately, many people no longer read with care. When the following statement is made:
“For the sake of argument, let’s pretend somebody breaks into your house and insults you by calling you ugly.”
Many people will immediately stop listening and complain that you just called them ugly. They don’t listen to what is said. Therefore, it is probably best to avoid making such statements, which is sad.
Let me give another example, specifically related to Church music. Many times, “progressive” liturgists will make the following claim:
“The church documents envision a balanced approach. They talk of a 50/50 split between contemporary styles (like Broadway and Jazz) and more traditional styles (like chant and polyphony). This is what we find when we read all the legislation.”
The “old” Jeff would have given this response:
For the sake of argument, let’s pretend you’re correct in your reading. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Church wants a 50/50 split. Are you doing Gregorian chant 50% of the time? Have you ever done polyphony? Have you ever used the organ? Have you ever had your congregation learn what Pope Paul VI called the “minimum repertoire” for the Reformed Rite? Have you followed the Second Vatican Council’s directives and given Gregorian chant “pride of place”? Let me know when you’ve done this, and then we can talk further.
What I have come to realize is that people come away saying, “He agrees! The Church wants a 50/50 split. He even admitted it!”