Q. I have a question, after having been, shall I say, “detained,” while receiving Holy Communion in Falmouth, Mass. Is the reception of Holy Communion contingent on the priest’s hearing the recipient say “Amen”? Indeed, is “Amen” even required if the recipient bows before the Eucharist and receives on the tongue? Is “Amen” ever required, or is any sign of respect sufficient? I would appreciate your answer and any source reference. — A.G., via e-mail.
A. Yes, it is required that the communicant say “Amen” when receiving either the consecrated Host (on the tongue or in the hand) or the Precious Blood. In the words of the Vatican document Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America: “The act of Communion, therefore, is also an act of faith. For when the minister says, ‘The Body of Christ’ or ‘The Blood of Christ,’ the communicant’s ‘Amen’ is a profession in the presence of the saving Christ, body and blood, soul and divinity, who now gives life to the believer” (n. 14).
This document was issued in 2002 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
When the communicant approaches the minister of Holy Communion, he or she should bow as a sign of reverence and the minister should hold up the Host (or chalice) and say, “The Body of Christ” (or “The Blood of Christ”), without, by the way, adding the person’s name since that is not part of the rite.
When functioning as an extraordinary minister, we don’t have a problem with trying to elicit an “Amen” from the communicant to remind the person that they are about to receive the Son of God, especially since some persons seem to have no clue as to what they are doing.
We have received Communion from ministers who say “The Body of Christ” so softly that we’re not sure they even said it. Nevertheless, we always say “Amen.”
Q. In his homily today, our young priest addressed the problem of people arriving late for Mass and leaving early. He made the comment that “to intentionally arrive late and leave Mass early is a mortal sin,” and that “to harshly judge such people is an even greater sin.” Please separate the two comments.
As to the sad practice of arriving late and leaving early, I think we need a clear understanding of what constitutes “late” and “early.” Not to be legalistic, but we were always taught that you have met your Sunday Mass obligation if you are present from the Gospel through the distribution of Holy Communion. If that is the case, we wonder whether a habit of just meeting such minimal core requirements could or would constitute a mortal sin.
As to the seriousness of being judgmental, I guess we have to understand exactly what constitutes “being judgmental” and how it could or would be a mortal sin. I am afraid this is something that is so common in our lives and, while we know that being judgmental was often condemned in the Gospels, I fear that it is something that not many of us think of as a mortal sin.
In this regard, we think that there would be a difference between just thinking judgmentally and pointing this out to others so as to incite their condemnation. We would very much appreciate your views on these matters. — D.J.D., via e-mail.
A. We don’t agree that intentionally arriving late for Mass and then leaving early is a mortal sin. It is surely a sign of disrespect for God and would probably be a venial sin. But we would surmise that most of those who engage in this behavior do so out of carelessness or laziness, and not out of deliberate contempt for God. If the latter were the case, why would these folks even bother coming to Mass?
The ironic thing is that these late arrivals and early departers would never act that way at a dinner party or a movie or a sporting event. It shows how out of touch these people are as to the awesome significance of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It also demonstrates the failure of their pastors to instruct them about the wonder of the Mass.
Maybe these are the people who were told that the Mass is only a meal, and it’s no big deal if one is not present. When was the last time you heard a priest say that deliberately staying away from Mass on Sunday, without a good reason (e.g., illness, care of infants), is “a grave sin” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2181)?
As for whether harshly judging these people is “an even greater sin” (greater than a mortal sin?), we think that the priest was engaging in a little hyperbole. He was correct to point out in his homily that the latecomers and early leavers are wrong and that they should change their bad habits. It is his responsibility to point out such things and to judge the conduct of these parishioners without speculating about their motives. Only God knows their reasons and He will judge them accordingly. The rest of the folks in the pews would do well to focus on improving their own participation at Mass and not dwelling on what time some people arrive and leave the church.
We agree with D.J.D. that judging someone in your own mind is less serious than pointing out what others are doing in an effort to incite condemnation of them. You also have to make the distinction between judging actions and guessing about motives. For example, it is not wrong to condemn the act of abortion as a grave evil, but it would be wrong to condemn the person who had the abortion since there may be extenuating circumstances (age, ignorance, pressure from others, etc.) that would lessen that person’s guilt. We are content to leave that kind of judging to God.
Q. My wife and I recently attended an excellent presentation by Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis., at the Institute of Catholic Culture. During his talk, the bishop commented that the state/government can tolerate evil, but it cannot promote it, while the Church cannot even tolerate evil. My question concerns the Church leadership. It seems to me that a large portion of Church leadership has publicly promoted government-legislated health care which directly promotes contraception and abortifacients. I wonder if those who publicly promote such legislation are guilty of tolerating and promoting evil.
I ask the above knowing that some believe it’s okay for non-Catholics because they don’t believe it’s sinful. However, I am reminded of Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s comment that heathens are no more free to disobey the natural law than Catholics are. — D.M., Virginia.
A. The official Church hierarchy in this country has opposed sections of Obamacare that compel Catholics to pay for contraception and abortifacients, but some of those in leadership positions in the Church are wishy-washy on these issues and find themselves backing health-care legislation that would undermine Church teaching on these moral evils. If there were united Catholic opposition to contraception and abortion — by bishops, priests, theologians, educators, and lay persons — these evils would not be as prevalent in our society today. But too many Catholics have abandoned or so compromised their religious beliefs that they are indistinguishable from their peers in our secular culture.
As for Archbishop Sheen’s statement that heathens are no more free to disobey the natural law than Catholics are, St. Paul was the first to make this assertion. In his Letter to the Romans, Paul said that “the wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness. For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.
“As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes” (1:18-23).
Or in modern-day parlance, they have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the false idols of money, power, sexual pleasure, and hedonism. St. Paul might have been talking about the 21st century when he said that God handed over the heathens of his time “to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (1:24-25).