The Novus Ordo is Mean to “Remarried” People
“One of the problems with the way the Mass is presented in the Novus Ordo, e.g. as a very weird kind of family dinner, is that the emphasis is on ‘goin’ up for communion.'”
In Poland I went to Mass, as you do, and at a Novus Ordo Mass I noticed two things: 1. that those who received communion went up in no particular order, knelt on the altar step and stuck their tongues out and 2. that less than a third of the congregation went up to receive.
At the Tridentine aka Traditional Latin aka Extraordinary Form of the Mass, one barely notices who receives and who doesn’t, but this is partly because Traddy Masses tend to be in old-fashioned cruciform churches with a lot of pretty or awesome objects to distract one’s wandering eyes from one’s neighbours.
Post-war round churches, on the other hand, encourage the congregation to look at each other, and we are often more interesting than the priest, or the altar, or our extempore prayers, especially when we are doing something unusual, like staying put during the Communion of the Faithful or biting the hand that wants to give us the handshake of peace.
The cruciform congregation resembles an assembly, the circular congregation a herd. And, for some strange reason, in the Novus Ordo ushers herd up communicants row by row, as if fearing a stampede. The impulse just to follow the herd to the altar is very, very strong, as I have noticed when I have uneasily pondered my sins or frame of mind and wondered if I really should be receiving Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It takes moral courage to stay praying in your pew, especially when by so doing you discommode those neighbours who must climb over your legs. Come on, come on. Let’s go! Usher’s here. Move it!
Possibly realizing the intolerable pressure on congregants, some of whom may not even be Catholic, to receive communion, a novel rite has been introduced: that of the arm-crossed blessing. In this rite, those who feel compelled to go forward but do not want to receive the Eucharist may approach the altar, arms crossed, and receive a blessing. It always does my heart good to see the Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, usually a woman of a certain age or a layman of some pomposity, giving a priestly blessing. Actually, no, it doesn’t. But at least it acknowledges that receiving Communion is supposed to be a free choice, not the price of admission to Mass.
Meanwhile I would be very surprised to hear that the vast majority of Mass-attending Canadian or American Catholics who live in a perpetual state of sexual sin refrain from receiving the Eucharist. My surprise would spring from the knowledge that although 99% of Catholics in Toronto churches queue up for communion, the percentage of communicants in other countries, e.g. Jamaica, Poland, is much smaller. A Jesuit priest once told me that at the Jamaican parish at which he served, very few congregants received the Eucharist because the vast majority of his congregants were in, shall we say, irregular unions. As for Poland, at this church-in-the-round Novus Ordo, I could not help but notice that of those few who received, the majority had passed reproductive age.
Because I go to the Tridentine aka the Traditional Latin aka the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, I can think of all kinds of reasons why a Catholic would not receive the Holy Eucharist. The first one, stemming from a sad reflection on my social life, is that he is still drunk from the night before. The second is that he has an upset tummy. The third is that he habitually fasts three hours before Mass, but decided that day that he had better have breakfast instead. The fourth is that he habitually fasts the new minimum of one hour before receiving communion, and communion time came five minutes earlier than he anticipated. The fifth is that he has spent Mass in a terrible mood of anger or annoyance or impatience and when the moment comes, he just cannot bring himself to receive the Lord in such a state. The sixth is that he lost a battle with the devil that week but did not get to Confession. Meanwhile, it is none of my business, and thanks to my cruciform church and the total lack of ushers, nobody makes it my business.
But I think we can all learn from communities in which people who are under the sway of serious sin nevertheless go to Mass and admit to Our Lord Jesus Christ that they are not worthy to receive Him because they have not yet accepted the Word that will heal their souls, and therefore they do not receive His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity that day. A Pole or a Jamaican in a state of mortal sin does not compound his sin by receiving the Eucharist so as not to feel embarrassed before his neighbours or to convince himself that God doesn’t mind his sin. At least, I hope not, and most of the time, I suspect not.
Catholics who allow themselves to notice things have noticed that a number of liturgical abuses have been accepted merely because they have persisted. And naturally the acceptance of these liturgical abuses have eroded those matters of faith their prohibition was meant to protect. The nod to altar girls has, naturally, eroded the masculine nature of priesthood, and made it less attractive to manly boys. The overuse of communion-in-the-hand has, naturally, eroded belief in the True Presence. The overuse of Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharists has eroded both the priestly character of the priesthood and belief in the True Presence. Heaven only knows what encouraging those in a state of mortal sin – many of whom humbly admit that they are in a state of mortal sin – to receive the Eucharist will do.
But let us return to my theme of how mean the Novus Ordo is to people in irregular unions or on the Pill or whatever else is keeping them slaves to serious sin. One of the problems with the way the Mass is presented in the Novus Ordo, e.g. as a very weird kind of family dinner, is that the emphasis is on “goin’ up for communion.” (Gotta go up for communion. What’s the matter? Why aren’t you going up for communion? You in a STATE OF MORTAL SIN OR SUMFING?) Although receiving our Lord in the Eucharist is indeed a wonderful blessing, it is not the be-all and end-all of Mass.
Archbishop Gądecki, one of the Synod Fathers who believes the Roman Catholic faith, has provided the following reflection on behalf of those chained by sin. It is by Father Dariusz Kowalczyk, who also believes the Roman Catholic faith:
God’s Grace, Sacramental Grace, Sanctifying GraceGod’s grace is basically every saving action of God for man. We can therefore say that grace is one, just as there is one God. However, taking into account changes in circumstances as well as in the modalities and the consequences of God’s action, we distinguish different types of grace, including “sacramental grace” (gratia sacramentalis), “the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1129).The Council of Trent teaches that through the sacraments “all true justice either begins, or being begun is increased, or being lost is repaired” (Denz. 1600). Therefore, sacramental grace is essentially sanctifying grace (gratia sanctificans). It should be noted that the concept of “sanctifying grace” is much broader than that of “sacramental grace.” For, God can come to sanctify human relationships outside the sacraments. In other words, God also saves non-sacramentally, as the Second Vatican Council stated: “we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery” (Gaudium et Spes, 22).The situation of divorced persons living in new unions would then be a situation in which they are deprived of the sacramental grace linked to the sacrament of marriage, the sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion, but they should not be, by definition, deprived of God’s grace in general, of this sanctifying grace that God can give—as we said—non-sacramentally.This is why John Paul II was able to write in Familiaris Consortio:“They [divorced and remarried divorcees] should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace [our italics]” (No. 84).Divorced persons living in new unions can therefore truly ask God to grant them His grace, which, although it is not and cannot be sacramental grace without the fulfillment of certain conditions, is nevertheless a true grace of God that restores a saving relationship with Him. However, this does not open the way for sacramental Communion for divorced people engaged in new unions. On the contrary, if this were so, they would turn away not only from the internal logic of sacramental grace but also risk to eliminate the grace received non-sacramentally.
My Dorothean solution to the problems of the “Remarried” Catholic at Mass is fivefold:
- it should be made clear at all Masses in communities where this has clearly been forgotten that although God’s grace may be obtained from assisting at Mass, the sacramental grace of the Eucharist may be received only by Roman Catholics who are not in a state of serious sin
- the fast should be emphasized, and perhaps returned to the three hour minimum, which will not only re-emphasize the sacredness of the Eucharist but will give those suffering in a prolonged state of mortal sin an alibi in the minds of their fallible, easily-distracted neighbours
- the People of God should not be herded and bossed about by ushers but allowed to consult with their own consciences, free from coercion, if they are in a fit state to receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist
- it should be made clear at all Masses that Sunday Mass worship is obligatory for every Christian, whether or not they wish to receive the Eucharist or are in a fit state to receive the Eucharist.
- churches should be built, ordered and decorated in such a way that people may unobtrusively worship God in concert with their neighbours but not distracted by, or distracting, their neighbours.
In an ideal world, the whole congregation would be in a state of grace at any given Mass. However, we don’t live in an ideal world, but in a fallen one, and in an age where the vast majority of Catholics do not make use of the Sacrament of Penance. Therefore, it would be a lot more honest, and perhaps a comfort to the so-called “remarried”, if those others not in a state of grace did not fall into the temptation of, or pressured into, making a sacrilegious communion.