There’s a threat of rain all day today in Boston, so rather than bike out to the parish which hosts the Extraordinary Form Mass in my area, I attended the nearby parish church. Those of you who live near where I do know that you have to brace yourself before going to Sunday Mass at this parish, just in case some zany liturgical dance breaks out, or the lights dim and random noises begin playing during the homily. For the most part, it’s a safe place, but one never knows.
Today we made it all the way to communion before something illegitimate enough occurred to get me a little riled up. (Perfect place to get riled up, just before receiving our Lord.) A woman two places in front of me in line for communion devoutly kneeled at the feet of the alter Christus distributing communion. Rather than distribute the Eucharist to this woman, as is her “right” (relatively speaking. I’m tempted to call it a duty to receive this way. Tempted.), the priest motioned for her to stand. It looked like it took a moment or two for this to register in the mind of the communicant, but once it did, she sheepishly stood and received nonetheless, genuflecting afterwards, clearly discombobulated.
After the dismissal, I searched for the woman, who was kneeling with her husband consoling her, clearly upset or embarrassed after the encounter at communion (note to priests: one should not be crying tears of embarrassment but tears of joy after the encounter with the Lord at communion). After waiting a few minutes for the husband to calm her down and then find the priest to talk to him about this problem, I spoke with the woman myself, just to see what happened from her perspective. She related basically what I saw, adding that the priest said “wake up” while motioning for her to rise to receive. I’m suspicious if this is actually what the priest said. The woman’s first language was not English, though she spoke it quite well, but nonetheless she might have misspoken about what the priest said. However, if that is what the priest said, how rude of him! It’s embarrassing enough to be essentially called out in front of the rest of the congregation right at the front of the communion line – why would one do this? – but also to be told to “wake up,” as if one were living in the past by receiving kneeling? Tsk tsk.
I have attended Mass with this priest before, in fact many times, and have been both delighted and frustrated with him. Hey, we’re all human here, so I understand. However, there’s really no excuse for denying a member of the faithful one of her fundamental rights as a baptized Christian in a state of grace. It’s even harder to get away with this monkey business now, considering the Holy Father has been promoting the distribution of communion kneeling and on the tongue for a few years now by himself only distributing it to people receiving in this way. Hello! Wake up! Get with the times – communion kneeling and on the tongue is in!
Anyways, the point here is, first, that a priest should not embarrass one of the faithful at perhaps the culminating point of the Mass, the glorious moment when man and God become one, and second, that a priest cannot deny a communicant the right to receive kneeling or standing, on the tongue or in the hand. If you see this happen yourself, I would try to talk to the priest after Mass and, if he is not compliant, write a letter to the pastor. If the priest in question is the pastor, then write the bishop. If, God forbid, the bishop is also of no help, one may write the Holy See, who I am sure will take care of the matter well, though perhaps not until 2020.
Happy Sunday, everyone.