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About those pre-Communion announcements — Do them, but do them right

October 10, 2013

Dcn. Greg Kandra posts a letter from a deacon mentioning (and it seems, complaining about) announcements by priests just before Communion time as to who may approach to receive. Kandra says he’s never seen the practice (I have, several times) but he found and cites the appropriate passage of the GIRM calling for just this kind of admonition to be given. The passage will doubtless come as a complete surprise to many readers.  Assuming you’ve read Kandra’s post, I note here some concerns I have with what was presented as being announced by the priest:

We are about to .. offer Holy Communion [to] those that have received confirmation and first holy Communion, however…. if you would like to come forward for a blessing, or if you are not a Catholic in good standing, simply cross your arms in front of you….”

This language is a mess.

First, Confirmation is NOT required of Catholics who wish to go to Communion, nor for that matter is a “First Communion” (at least not in terms of a dedicated rite of same) required before going to Communion.

Second, one should NOT encourage, as an alternative to reception of Communion, “coming forward with arms crossed for blessing”. Receiving a blessing is not an “alternative” to receiving holy Communion (any more than being handed a raincoat in a hurricane is an ‘alternative’ to be admitted to a storm shelter) and, moreover, such a rite is an intrusion into the liturgy forbidden by Canon 846 § 1. I’ve addressed that liturgical abuse here.

Third and most importantly, a minister should NEVER use language about Catholics coming forward if they are “in good standing with the Church”. I have heard such language used and it is highly objectionable.

There are various reasons why one might not approach for Communion. One might not have fasted for an hour before Communion time or one might have already received that day. Granted, these are not likely reasons for refraining, and a few other rules apply even to them, but they are still on the books and would result in one’s not approaching for Communion despite being “in good standing with the Church”. On those grounds alone this language about “being in good standing” should be scrapped.

Of course there are Catholics who are not “in good standing with the Church” and who should not, per Canon 916, receive Communion. But outside of the cases covered by Canon 915 (wherein, notice, the Church makes such determinations), it is the individual’s responsibility to refrain from sacrilegious reception, not the minister’s duty to have Catholics line up according to, I dunno what, degrees of holiness. Terminology such as that outlined above makes Catholics appear to be singling themselves out as being or not being “in good standing with the Church” which sort of self-incrimination the Church strenuously avoids imposing on her members.

A much better announcement would be something simple like “At this time, Catholics prepared to receive holy Communion may do so in the usual way.”

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