On a Sunday in December 2014, my wife had a stomach virus attack and had to stay at home. Late in the morning her condition allowed me to leave, so I could go to a church that had a noontime Mass.
I sat at the far end of a back pew. Right in front of me there was a young lady flanked by a girl about six years on her left side and a boy, two years or so, at her right, but mostly on her knee or in her arms. The children were quiet and well behaved.
The Mass was offered by an old priest, who is a friend of mine. At Communion time, a young priest came and helped with distribution, at our side of the church.
Generally, I receive Communion at the Traditional Roman Mass (known as Tridentine), or the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (Byzantine). Since I did not go up to receive at that Mass, I could see from my place how the lady in front of me went to take communion with the little boy in her left arm and the girl in tow. She took the Host in her right hand, turned, and walked to her place in the pew, where she seated herself and gave the Host to each child to touch, feel, and play with.
As the ceiling whirled over my head, I groaned:
“- In God’s name, Madam, what are you doing?! What are you doing with the Holy Communion?!”
I cannot report what she did then. I did not register.
At the end of the Mass, I went to the vestibule, where my friend priest was greeting people as they were leaving. When all were gone, I went with him into the sacristy and related the incident.
“ – Tragically,” –he replied – “that’s the risk when one allows communion in the hand. This is why I watch the communicants and if anyone steps away or turns around with the Host in his hand, I call him back.”
At that point, the young priest came in; I repeated to him my account of events. He became flustered and asked the older priest, haltingly, whether this is permissible.
As a first reaction, I charged him in my mind with unbelievable ignorance. Then I realized that his bewilderment was generated by the paralyzing fright that some new directive had legalized even that transgression.
I distributed the above lines to a number of friends and acquaintances. The correspondence generated was most interesting; I am copying it below.
– Karen Knoll (VA): Oh! How unnerving! A similar situation occurred at my parish here in VA several years ago. I was at a funeral and several pews behind a mother with two small children. I noticed that the little girl was given communion along with her mom. When they arrived back at their pew, the mom held her head in her hands while her daughter examined the host, tapping it on her seat. As I passed by their pew, I reached down slowly and took the host from the girl, saying, “That is Jesus. You must not do that with Him.” I proceeded up the aisle and just bowed to the priest as I had consumed the retrieved host a few moments before I passed him. Later, I explained to my pastor why I had not received communion from him that day.
– Debi Vinnedge (TN): I have seen the same thing happen in my own Church – twice! One time I was able to confront the woman and her child who she told me was preparing to make her First Holy Communion. I told her she already had. The woman tried to tell me that’s how they do it in her parish back north – the children get to taste the Eucharist before their First Holy Communion. I told her they used unconsecrated hosts! She didn’t have a clue… In the other incident, the woman took the Host, broke it in two pieces, gave it to her child and then walked out the door before I could catch her. (I told my pastor who was absolutely livid, by the way.) Very sad that so many are so uneducated about the Sacraments!
– James Likoudis (NY): Sad to say, I can perhaps top that one. Recently, I saw someone take the Host in the hand and walk out of the church with it. To view such abuses is simply an extra penance.
– Don Pranzo (NY, age 80): It seems absolutely outrageous to me, as well. However, be careful how to judge that young mother. She delivered the children; she brought them to church; she may well have been in the state of grace. We really don’t know what precipitated her actions. We can attempt to educate both the people (and the clergy), but we should be very careful to judge the young mother. I think Pope Francis said it best: “Who am I to judge?” Only God will make the final judgment.
My reply: Thank you for your message. The guilty parties are those who have destroyed the catechesis in the Church. Of course, the one who allowed communion in the hand bears a great guilt.
Don Pranzo: And who did allow the reception of Communion in the hand?
My reply: That I don’t know. I suppose it must have been Paul VI or John-Paul II.
– Elena N. Suciu (WA): See the attachment, Liturgical Abuse at Largest Papal Mass in History.
The little film captured a mob scene in which Hosts were frantically passed from hand to hand, above heads, some of the Hosts ending in the mud and trampled. In a commentary on the incident, Steve Kojec wrote: (F)aith alone is not a safeguard against error or sacrilege. Catechesis is. . . . Simply stated, the issue is this: the Church has created strict rubrics to protect the Most Holy Sacrament and to enhance our belief in it; any Catholic with true faith in the Real Presence will honor those rubrics, because the nature of the sacrament creates in those who understand it a sense of profound reverence and awe.”
For his part, the Archbishop stated: ““Under normal circumstances, this should not have happened, but the situation in the Luneta was extraordinary, six million people.” He added: “On this occasion, it was necessary to help each other receive communion (italics are mine).”[1a]
In my opinion, this is the crux of the matter. The Archbishop thinks that receiving Holy Communion at the Mass celebrated by the Pope meant so much, that risking its desecration was warranted. Thus, a Host consecrated by the Pope is by implication special, or, conversely, a Host consecrated by a simple priest is somehow inferior. It is, however, a fallacy, also a heresy, to hold that clerical rank can add quality to the Body of Christ. The Pope, like and equal to the parish priest, prays at the altar: Suscipe Sancte Pater, omnipotens aeterne Deus, hanc immaculatam hostiam, quam ego indignus fmulus tuus offero tibi Deo meo vivo et vero, pro innumerabilibus peccatis et offensionibus et negligentiis meis . . . (Accept, O Holy Father, almighty everlasting God, this immaculate Host, which I, Thine unworthy servant, offer unto Thee, my true and living God, for my innumerable sins, and offenses, and negligences . . )
The proper way to organize a papal Mass was to have each parish in the country select one representative (or each diocese, two dozen) to receive Communion there. They would be seated all together, perhaps wear some sign, a pin for instance, which they would deposit in a basket before receiving Communion. All others could receive Communion in their parishes. All the faithful could listen to the sermon given by the Pope, which is the only personal thing that the celebrant brings to the Mass.
It was said, and rightfully so, that the sad spectacle in Philippines comes from deficient catechesis. But how can the faithful be educated when the Archbishop himself does not grasp the basic tenets of his (and our) faith?
About the same event, I also found a note:
06 Feb. 2015. If you could, please help us get the word out that we would be having a First Friday Traditional Latin Mass and Holy Hour as a Solemn Act of Reparation for the sacrilege that occurred during the Papal Visit here in the Philippines . . . 
(In the words of the French writer Maxence van der Meersch, we should not despair; there might still be enough good men to save us.)
 Steve Skojec, (a) Blessed Sacrament Profaned in Manila: Archbishop Villegas Responds, Jan 21, 2015, http://www.onepeterfive.com/blessed-sacrament-profaned-in-manila-archbishop-villegas-responds/ ; (b) personal communication.
 Maxence van der Meersch, Corps et Âmes, Paris, 1943.com
2 thoughts on “A Shattering Experience”
I’m afraid you misread something. The statement you attributed to the Archbishop was from me. The Archbishop made an excuse for why the passing of communion through the crowds was acceptable, saying that the circumstances made it necessary.
I’m left wondering if they believe.
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