Sunday, October 31, 2010


I promised you a continuation of my response to the Email about the pope’s requirement that people should kneel and take communion on the tongue when he presides at the Holy Mass.  I am going to tell you what I carry in my heart about this posture.  So, here's part 2

First, it is the posture of dignity.  It is the part of our prayer that thanks God for the cooperative responsibility that He gave us right from the first pages of the Bible.  Do we remember that we have been given dominion over His creation?  Do we remember that He commanded us to never take the life of another human being? Do we remember that He entrusted His very own Son to the procreative process of one of us?  Do we remember  that He entrusted our ability to communicate His divinity and love of us through our human effort, written and oral?  (The Prophets; The Bible; The Apostles; The Saints of the Church)  Do we remember that He entrusted us with His community of chosen people, the Church? 

Second, it is the posture of readiness.  It is the part of our prayer that shows us ready to act according to His orders.  To Noah He says, “Build me an ark.”  To Abraham He says, “Offer Isaac, your son, to me in sacrifice.” To Moses He says, “Take my people to the land of Milk and Honey.”  To Samuel He says, “Go to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse and find Me a king.”  Need I say more?  Maybe I should remind you that Jesus didn’t ask anyone to kneel and pray.  He asked a lot more than that…”Sell all you have to the poor and follow me; Clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the prisoners, etc.”  It is significant that the Jewish people do not kneel to pray.  They stand, ready to move in case they be invited by the Heavenly Father to do something for Him.  Shouldn’t we, the Chosen People of the New and Everlasting Covenant do the same in the dynamic presence of the very one who invites us to follow Him every moment of every day?

Third, it is the posture of presence.  It is the part of our reverent prayer of adoration.  What greater praise can we offer to Jesus than to show up?  What better behavior can we practice than to walk with God?  Think of the great blessing of walking with God, close, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand in His divine company.   We all know that we can’t walk while sitting or kneeling, so Enoch “walked with God, and he was no longer here, for God took him.  (Genesis, 5;6)
How can we do better than to imitate Isaiah standing in the Temple before the Holy of Holies and telling God, “Here I am.  Send me.” (Isaiah, chapter 6)  Read the sixth chapter of John and see what it means to be with Jesus during the most challenging moments of life.  Listen to Him saying that if we don’t eat His flesh and drink His blood we will not have eternal life.  Many there are who can’t stand in the presence of this awesome commandment.  We can! We do! At communion we are present to Him as He is present to us.  Stand up and be counted while the weak walk away.  This is not the time to be meek and humble.  This is the time of strength and backbone.  When He asks us, “Do you want to leave too?” We don’t back down, we stand there and fearlessly state, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."  (John, 6:68-69)
Finally, how much more present can we be than Mama Mary standing at the foot of the  Cross, participating in the Sacrifice of her Son for all of us.  Shouldn’t we be standing there too?

Fourth, it is the posture of resurrection. This is the part of our prayer of humbling hope as we stand in the breathtaking aura of the living, resurrected Christ.  There is no room for despair in our Catholic life.  There is only hope in the by the side of the Son of God. As we accept His challenge to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, there is only room for driving hope.  The Greek word for resurrection is an interesting one.  It is Anastasia and its literal meaning is “stand again.”  Just as Jesus stood again, so do we when we follow Him and celebrate His total sacrifice which brought us our salvation.  Most Catholics participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass once per week.  It is therefore essential for the faithful of the Catholic community to celebrate the resurrection by “standing again” with Jesus, our Lord and Savior on Sunday.  (Time for an unnecessary bit of trivial, but historically factual, information: The council of Nicaea [325 AD] forbade kneeling in Sunday liturgy because kneeling was the posture of penitents and Sunday is the day of the Resurrection.  So, to celebrate the glory of the Resurrection, standing was for everyone.  The penitents remained outside.)  It is therefore especially appropriate to stand as we celebrate the Resurrection at the moment when we approach the sacred table of the new and eternal covenant.

Fifth, it is the posture of faith.  This is the part of our prayer where we express the depth of our belief in God.  We stand for the sign of the Cross, we stand for the Kyrie, we stand for the Gloria, we stand for the CREED, we stand for the Our Father and we stand for our personal encounter with the living Body and Blood of Christ.  This is our personal proclamation of our relationship with Christ. This is our place at the foot of the Cross and around the altar of Sacrifice.  This is our confession of unity with the Communion of Saints. 

This is who we are as Catholics.  This defines us. If we can stand proudly around the altar, we can stand proudly in the world.  If we can stand proudly at the foot of the Cross, we will have no fear of the street missionaries who knock on our door.  When they come they will find someone strong in the faith, strong in discipleship and unwilling to be swayed away from our beloved Church.  Standing at Communion is a brave participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Good News Sacramental Banquet that it contains. 

One final note for your information.  Our brothers and sisters in the faith and the apostolic succession, the Orthodox Communions, do not kneel to pray.  They have other gestures and postures of reverence.  Remember, they've been around as long as we have.  Also, they know St. Paul as well or better than we do.

Now that I have gorged you with all these thoughts about a subject that you never thought could so spiritually important, I just know that you are waiting for me to say something about the posture of kneeling.  Believe me, I have plenty to say about that too.  That will be part three of this teaching.  In the introduction to part three, “Fall on your Knees”, I will make some tough remarks about the two biblical quotes that the sender of the original email included in the presentation.  When I am done with this, there won’t be a single one of you who will have the slightest inclination to cry at my funeral.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


A lengthy two-part response to a lengthy email making the rounds on the Internet.
As usual, when someone writes a lengthy email to make a point, and a bunch more forward it around the world, there is some truth and a lot of error in the message.  The second installment of the response will talk about why we stand for communion.  So, here we go. 

Let’s read the email, first.

Pope Benedict to Catholics: Kneel and Receive on the Tongue Only
Pope Benedict XVI does not want the faithful receiving Communion in their hand nor does he want them standing to receive Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. According to Vatican liturgist, Monsignor Guido Marini, the pope is trying to set the stage for the whole church as to the proper norm for receiving Communion for which reason communicants at his papal Masses are now asked to kneel and receive on the tongue.
The Holy Father's reasoning is simple: "We Christians kneel before the Blessed Sacrament because, therein, we know and believe to be the presence of the One True God." (May 22, 2008)
According to the pope the entire Church should kneel in adoration before God in the Eucharist. "Kneeling in adoration before the Eucharist is the most valid and radical remedy against the idolatries of yesterday and today." (May 22, 2008)
The pope's action is in accord with the Church's 2000 year tradition and is being done in order to foster a renewed love and respect for the Eucharist which presently is being mocked and treated with contempt. The various trends and innovations of our time (guitar liturgy, altar girls, lay ministers, Communion in the hand) have worked together to destroy our regard for the Eucharist, thus advancing the spiritual death of the church. After all, the Eucharist is the very life and heartbeat of the Mystical Body around which the entire Church must revolve.
Kneeling also coincides with the Church's centuries old ordinance that only the consecrated hands of a priest touch the Body of Christ in Holy Communion. "To priests alone has been given power to consecrate and administer to the faithful, the Holy Eucharist." (Council of Trent) This teaching is beautifully expressed by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica: "Because out of reverence towards this sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hands, for touching this sacrament."
It is for reason that Pope Paul VI in his May 1969 pastoral letter to the world's bishops reaffirmed the Church's teaching on the reception of Communion, stating that: "This method on the tongue must be retained." (Memoriale Domini) This came in response to the bishops of Holland who started Communion in the hand in defiance of the centuries old decree from the Council of Rouen (650 A.D.) where this practice was condemned as sacrilegious. "Do not put the Eucharist in the hands of any layperson, but only in their mouths." To date this prohibition has never been overturned legally.

Today Communion in the hand is carried on illegally and has become a major tool of the enemy to destory the Faith throughout the world. For this practice serves no other purpose than to warp our conception of Jesus Christ and nourish a contempt for the sacred mysteries. It's no wonder St. Basil referred to Communion in the hand as "a grave fault."

That is to say, Communion in the hand is not tied with Catholic tradition. This practice was first introduced to the Church by the heretical Arians of the 4th century as a means of expressing their belief that Christ was not divine. Unfortunately, it has served to express the same in our time and has been at the very heart of the present heresy and desecration that is rampant throughout the universal Church. If we have 'abuse' problems today it is because we're abusing the Sacrament - it's backfiring on us!
Thanks to Communion in the hand, members of satanic cults are now given easy access to come into the Church and take the Host so that they bring it back to their covens where it is abused and brutalized in the ritualistic Black Mass to Satan. They crush the Host under their shoes as a mockery to the living God, and we assist it with our casual practice? Amongst themselves the satanists declare that Communion in the hand is the greatest thing that ever happened to them, and we do nothing to stop it?

Hence, the Holy Father is doing his part to try to purge the Church of abuse and we as members of Christ are called upon to assist him. For your encouragement we include the following quotation from Cardinal Llovera, the new prefect for the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments speaking to Life Site News on July 22, 2009: "It is the mission of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments to work to promote Pope Benedict's emphasis on the traditional practices of liturgy, such as reception of Communion on the tongue while kneeling."
Also worth considering is the recent decree from Cardinal Caffarra, the Archbishop of Bologna Italy, forbidding the practice of Communion in the hand: "Many cases of profanation of the Eucharist have occurred, profiting by the possibility to receive the consecrated Bread on one’s palm of the hand... Considering the frequency in which cases of irreverent behavior in the act of receiving the Eucharist have been reported, we dispose that starting from today in the Metropolitan Church of St. Peter, in the Basilica of St. Petronius and in the Shrine of the Holy Virgin of St. Luke in Bologna the faithful are to receive the consecrated Bread only from the hands of the Minister directly on the tongue." (from his decree on the reception of the Eucharist, issued April 27, 2009)
Technically all bishops and clergy are bound to follow the Holy Father's directive on this issue, but in the meantime the faithful are not obliged to wait for the approval of their bishop in order to kneel for God. The directives of the Holy Father are not subject to the veto or scrutiny of the bishops and therefore all pastors and laity have a right and duty to put these directives into practice for the edification of their communities.

Now, it's my turn. 
The first error is in the headline: “Pope Benedict to Catholics: Kneel and Receive on the Tongue Only”  The pope actually said that when he is presiding at the Mass, he wants those participating in the Holy Mass to receive communion this way.
 It is true that the Pope is working to get this practice universally adopted.  The pope’s liturgist was correctly quoted as saying,  “The pope is trying to set the stage for the whole church as to the proper norm for receiving Communion for which reason communicants at his papal Masses are now asked to kneel and receive on the tongue. “  Because that is true, it does not mean that all the rest of the statements in the email are equally true.  Just because the pope has this way of thinking doesn't mean that all of the other  “abuses” mentioned in this email are factually and morally wrong and are going to have to change  by going back to the Church behaviors of the past..
To be honest to the line of thinking of this email, that is, "so many things are wrong that we have to follow the pope back to what we had before",  the Church would have to go back to Latin, all male servers, altar rails, communion under one species only, no more extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist for the good of the homebound and hospitalized, enclosed confessionals, restoration of minor orders, after midnight fast before communion, return to the full Lenten fast and the seasonal ember days not to mention the meatless Friday.  This is also the kind of thinking that, if followed to its logical conclusion, would go back to the banning of archeological investigations to support Biblical studies and the deepening of our knowledge of the ancient languages.  It would also go against the teachings all the popes since Leo XIII.  

The deep problem with this kind of thinking is that it defies the pedagogy of God.  It defies the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church.  Instead of keeping our minds open and going forward deeper onto the mysteries of faith, as Pope Pius XII teaches us to do in Divino Afflante Spiritu, we run back to the comfort of the behavior that we regret leaving.  This is true of the present pope as well as other human beings.  It is always possible in the Church to find arguments, many of them compelling, to support both sides of any discussion.  It is also always possible in the Church to make assertions that appear to be compelling, but that are in fact, outside the bounds of logic and defy the truly essential activity of the Holy Magisterium.  In this email, for instance, there is a reference to the council of important see in France of old (7th century).  This was not an ecumenical council, but a local one.  To make a decision of a local council a definitive article of universal church discipline nearly 1,500 years later is to negate all the doctrine that was built on the promulgation of Rouen during the ensuing centuries.  The Church doesn’t follow that process, why did the author of this email do it?  That is not good process.  It would be easy to go back and invoke the power of law and faith into the Old Testament and insist that it be practiced as the Sacred Scripture defines it.  We don't do that because we know that God, through the Holy Spirit continues to enlighten us in our practice of discipleship.  It would be good for you all to read the argument that St. Paul had with the Church leaders of the first century regarding the need for circumcision for converts.  What was illegal then does not always rule with the same force now.  Thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, the decisions of the past have the virtue of helping us to understand why we have deepened our understanding of the doctrines of our faith.
What permits the author of this email to say, "Today Communion in the hand is carried on illegally...?"  That is a totally false statement and it cannot be logically deduced from the decree that came out of Rouen.  It is false because today we have the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, approved by the powers that be in Vatican City,  that describes the behavior that we follow in our liturgy. That behavior includes the posture that we assume at communion time.
It is intensely doubtful that the statement "The pope's action is in accord with the Church's 2000 year tradition..." is correct. In the very first place, the liturgy of the Eucharist in its present form is not 2,000 years old. The history of unleavened wafers serving as altar bread is not even 1,100 years old.  When people write and make doctrinaire statements, they should at least take the precaution to be factually correct.
Here’s another daring statement, erroneous, of course: “Technically all bishops and clergy are bound to follow the Holy Father's directive on this issue, but in the meantime the faithful are not obliged to wait for the approval of their bishop in order to kneel for God. The directives of the Holy Father are not subject to the veto or scrutiny of the bishops and therefore all pastors and laity have a right and duty to put these directives into practice for the edification of their communities.
     1.     The communities in the universal Church are not bound to follow the Holy Father’s directive
           on this issue, except when he is the one presiding at the Eucharist out of respect for his
           personal opinion.  
     2.   It has now been a long time since the directive to the universal church has been to respect
           the desire of the individual who indicates by his/her posture how he/she wants to receive 
     3.   The bishops, pastors and laity don’t have the duty to put these directives into practice for
            the edification of their communities because the communities will not be edified by such a
            reactionary return to the past and a flaunting of the now in force General Instruction of the
            Roman Missal.
If this email was written to convince the readers to kneel at communion time, it is a failure.  Arguments based on a recital of negative, anecdotal, non-documented “facts” are not compelling.  Every age, believe it, every age, has a barrel-full of bad and irreverent church behavior.  If you want to read about some from back in the 40’s and 50’s, just ask and this writer will oblige with a rather lengthy list.  You might want to start with the 20 minute Sunday Mass, including three altar rails full of communicants.  Then, as now, there were people of bad faith, ordained and lay, who contributed then and who now contribute to the “abuses.”  Human behavior in the palaces, the rectories, on the altar and in the pews will not be made holy by an edict dictating that the Church should back up into the past.  Those who want to try it that way will perhaps try, but they are doomed to fail. 
Finally, there is an attitude present in the message of this email that shows that it is more guided by emotion than by systematic argumentation based on a simple fact, the pope has made it clear that when he presides at the Holy Mass the faithful should kneel to receive the Body of Christ on the tongue.  That’s it.  He has his reasons.  His personal reasons do not compel others to fall in line when he is not the presider at the Eucharist.  It also has to be said that the pope’s liturgist has no compelling authority to change universal Church behavior.  If the pope wants to make his personal opinion dictate universal church behavior, he must follow the official procedures to do so.  Until then, no one has any obligation to change anything, especially something that is present in the official documents presently in force.
I am not going to change my faith convictions in this matter because I believe in the Holy Spirit’s work through the Second Vatican Council.  I’m going to my grave filled with holy joy with this faith in my heart and soul, so don’t cry at my funeral.

Part two coming soon: Stand up at the foot of the Cross.

Friday, October 15, 2010


October 15, 2010
Saint Frances Cabrini Church
Yucaipa, California

The young man in the middle, Father Alex Gamino, is smiling because he has just been ordained a Roman Catholic priest.  He stands there, strong and proud between his mother and father plus Bishop Gerald Barnes (left) and co-adjutor bishop Rutilio del Riego.  Everyone in attendance (well over 1,000) is smiling too.  Father Alex is a special person, not only to God but to thousands of people in Southern California, mostly in the areas in and around the great Mojave desert.  His is a story that few young men have, even those who enjoy the crowning of their call to the Vineyard of God.  I like to write about it because Father Alex is close to our family and because I have written so many things about death and dying over the last few months that it does me some good to write about a renewed life, a flowered call to mission.  
Some four or five months ago Father Alex missed his scheduled ordination.  He was not far away from having his hands anointed by God Himself.  He fell gravely ill just a few weeks before "O" Day and spent a goodly amount of time in ICU in the great state of Texas where he was attending the seminary.  It was not the news that family and friends were expecting.  But it did have the effect of galvanizing those who love this young man into action.  I know that God had His hands full with all the prayers that were flung at Him from all over Southern California, some parts of Mexico and most of us do not know where else. Well, far be it from me to accuse God of caving in, but the fact of the matter is, that we now have Father Alex Gamino, alive and well, whether or not God had to change His mind to match ours.  Let's just say, as good Catholics always do, "Our prayers were heard."
Tomorrow, Belle and I will kneel before Father Alex and he will bless us.  It will be special for us because we know that this will be a blessing soaking wet with holy tears of gratitude for life, for a vision of holy work pruning the Lord's vine, feeding His sheep, protecting His lambs and spreading His love all around the Southern California desert towns where Father Alex will walk firmly, gently, bravely and with a purposeful gait.   He knows that he has been blessed with renewed vigor for a reason that only God knows.  Father Alex will not let you down, Lord.  You'll be glad You kept him around.  He will be with You working so hard for so long that he will not have time to cry at my funeral.