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Sub umbra Petri! (Under the Shadow of Saint Peter)

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By Hugh McNichol

The Italian press is buzzing about the possibility that the Holy See will reevaluate the permission for Catholics to receive communion in the hand. It seems that there is a groundswell of opposition to the practice and a call to return to communion received exclusively on the tongue. The primary reason for this movement is to restore a sense of sacred and Real Presence to the reception of Holy Communion. Advocates of the movement maintain that reception in the hand has led to a worldwide diminishment of the belief by Catholics of Jesus Christ's True and Full Presence in the Eucharistic species.

Perhaps the issue needs further examination because the mode of reception in the hand is now considered the norm and not an option. This author has unhappily noticed in classes for preparation to reception of the Eucharist, the option of reception on the tongue is not even instructed as viable for young Catholics. The type of misinformation regarding the proper options available in the methods of the reception of Holy Communion is indeed part of the decline in the Catholic belief in Christ's Real Presence.

Frequently, the notion of a meal, a sharing or a communal gathering is frequently preached in Catholic parishes since the Vatican Council. Clearly, as a result the proclamation of the Eucharist as a Sacrifice and reenactment of Calvary in a bloodless manner is something that is glossed over in religious instruction, and perhaps is not politically correct. After all, it is more ecumenically appealing to participate in a meal of bread and wine with our separated brothers and sisters, rather than proclaim strongly a firm belief and commitment to Jesus Divine Presence in the Eucharistic species.

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Perhaps it is not unreasonable for Rome to expect a deeper understanding and appreciation by Catholics of the Eucharist as the source and summit of our Church's sacraments and divine mysteries. The trend towards ecumenical homogenization by making theological and liturgical concessions with our most sacred Catholic beliefs is over. Communion in the Hand is something that has not quite raised Catholic's theological appreciation towards a deeper understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Frequently, while attending Mass, I watch people going to communion that would be more at home, advancing towards the box office to purchase movie tickets. Some are chewing gum, others make no sign of reverence before reception of communion, while others just grab the species as if they were receiving a potato chip. The period has indeed come where the Church, through the example of the teaching of the Bishop of Rome, needs to eliminate trends that desanctify or diminish our Sacred beliefs and correct them.

The potential of the reception of communion on the tongue is not something Catholics should fear, rather they should welcome the opportunity for meditative reflection on the awesome gift of Jesus we have in the Eucharistic Presence. Regardless of the direction that is predicated by the Holy See, or the Bishops Conferences throughout the world or by local pastors there will always remain some opposition to the reevaluation of current liturgical and sacramental practices. However, Catholics should welcome this reevaluation of the manner of reception of Holy Communion because it offers all of us an opportunity to reexamine our most sacred beliefs in Jesus Real Presence.

The greatest dilemma Catholics should imagine is not the manner or mode of the reception of Holy Communion, but rather the total inability of Catholics to receive Communion at all. This would present the greatest tragedy for faithful Catholics on a universal basis. Hand or tongue, each offers a method of reception that is legitimately an option. Regardless of what the evolving practices of the Catholic Church determines, one should always recognize our prayer and methods of expression are reflections of what we believe. For the Church to restore and develop a renewed sense of Eucharistic solemnity and acknowledge Jesus Real Presence maybe the time is here to restrict reception to the tongue. Catholics should not see this as a reversal of innovation, but rather a restoration and new appreciation of our Most Sacred Eucharistic Sacrament.

Whatever choice the Holy See dictates, all Catholic need to be faithful followers to the teaching authority of Peter and remain...sub umbra Petri (under the shadow of Saint Peter)!

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