In all parts of the world Jesus Christ is truly and substantially present in the most Blessed Sacrament of the altar. Wherever we go, we can pay Our Lord a visit in the Blessed Sacrament. Wherever we go, we can receive Our Lord corporally in Holy Communion, to refresh and sustain our souls. When we visit a town or city, we should first of all pay a visit to our Eucharistic Lord.
Holy Communion is the receiving of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
"Communion" means a uniting or sharing together. In Holy Communion Christ and our soul are intimately united, and we share the banquet of spiritual nourishment at the Lord's table.
(cf. John 6:54). It is the food of our souls. [Note, this 'uniting or sharing together' means with Christ. It does not mean the 'banquet' concept of sharing with our neighbors which diminishes the True Presence and allows Protestant thinking and practices to seep in as has been done in the Novus Ordo.]
Holy Communion increases in us the life of grace. During the persecution against Christianity in China, the grace given to the martyrs was noticed by the pagans themselves. The victims were cruelly scourged and tortured, but they continued firm in their faith and professed it openly and fearlessly. The infidels, amazed at such fortitude, said, "Truly, these people have been eating of that Eucharistic Bread which they partake of in their assemblies. It casts a spell upon their souls."
It is not necessary for us to receive Holy Communion under both kinds: under the forms of both bread and wine. It is sufficient to receive Holy Communion under one kind, for Christ is present whole and entire under each form of bread or wine. According to the Latin rite, which we follow, the laity is permitted to receive communion only under the form of bread.
As this is a matter of discipline, and not of doctrine, the practice of the Church has varied. In the Oriental rite, both kinds are still administered to the laity. Our present usage is more convenient and practiced.
[Though modern Rome has now permitted communion, even encouraged under both species in the latest norms, that is not necessarily a good thing or right in that it confuses the faithful. This is because it easily gives the impression that by only receiving under the form of bread they could be led to think they are only receiving the Body of Christ and not the Precious Blood unless they also partake of the wine. This thinking is wrong, and yet it is what so many Catholics think today. That is why - what was observed for so many centuries - well, to tamper with that, only has contributed to the loss of reverence, respect and belief in the True Presence.]
Spiritual communion is a fervent desire to receive Christ, when we cannot do so sacramentally. It may be made at all times and in all places.
It should be made at Mass and in visits to the Blessed Sacrament. It merits graces for us, and unites us with Christ spiritually.
We are obliged to receive Holy Communion during Easter time each year, and when in danger of death.
Easter Season extends from the First Sunday of Lent to Trinity Sunday.
Our Lord commanded us to receive Holy Communion. The Church enforces this command by requiring us under pain of grievous sin to communicate at the Easter time.
This is called the Paschal Communion, part of our Easter duty. However, the Church desires us to go more frequently to Holy Communion.
The obligation of Holy Communion begins when a child comes to the use of reason. Children generally come to the use of reason in their seventh year.
The seventh year begins on the sixth birthday, when the child completes six years of life. The full use of reason is not required for the first Holy Communion.
The child should be properly prepared to receive the sacrament. He does not need to know the entire catechism. It is sufficient for him to have a general knowledge of the truths necessary for salvation, and a becoming devotion.
Pope Saint Pius X is called "the children's Pope" and the "Pope of the Holy Eucharist" because he revived the custom of the first Christians of allowing children to receive Holy Communion when they came to the use of reason. In some countries the practice had been introduced of making children wait until they were twelve years old before they were permitted to receive Holy Communion.
Those in danger of death are bound to receive Holy Communion. If a person is seriously ill, the priest should be summoned at once. Children in danger of death should be given Holy Communion, provided they know the difference between common food and the Eucharist.
It is well to receive Holy Communion often, even daily, because this intimate union with Jesus Christ, the Source of all holiness and the Giver of all graces, is the greatest aid to a holy life.
Good Catholics should go to Holy Communion at least once a month, or better, every time they hear Mass. Fervent Catholics communicate daily. If the body cannot do without food, how can the soul?"
A young man once was known to be extremely attached to his father. Several times he asserted that there was nothing he would not do for his father. He even said that if necessary, he would die for his father, just to please him. One day, a friend said, "Your father is in the next room, waiting to see you. He has waited there a long time." And the young man answered, "Oh, I am too busy. I just saw him last week. Let him wait a year; then I shall visit him."
What would you think of such a young man? He is the type of many Catholics today, who receive Communion only at Easter.
If we have the proper dispositions, we may communicate daily. Early Christians communicated daily.
Persons who are accustomed to communicate daily do not need to go to confession daily. They should go to confession weekly, or twice a month, unless they fall into mortal sin, when they should be sorry and go to confession at once.
Some persons say that they are not good enough to go to daily communion. They should remember that the Eucharist is not meant as a reward of virtue, but as an aid towards the attainment of virtue.
So long as one is in the state of grace and has the right intention, he should receive Holy Communion as often as he can. The Holy Eucharist was not instituted for angels, but for men.
Holy Communion may be received only once a day except when one happens to fall dangerously ill, and receives Holy Viaticum.
Holy Communion is usually distributed at Mass, or immediately before or after it. It may be given at any hour at which it is permitted to say Mass - whether in the morning or in the afternoon - provided one observes the Eucharistic fast.
Next Issue: Dispositions for Holy Communion
For previous installments, see APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH Archives