Cindy Wooden of the Catholic News Service was quick to rush into print a very facile and ill-considered story about the faithful who knelt to receive Communion on the tongue from the Holy Father at Rome’s celebration of Corpus Domini on May 22. “ Vatican: Receiving Eucharist Kneeling May Not Be Permanent Change” read the headline of the story which sought to discourage any of the faithful from their logical response of learning from the Pope's encouragement to use this ancient Catholic custom.
Anyone, at any time, may kneel to receive Communion and may do so on the tongue. No one may justly on his own authority deny the right of any Catholic to choose how she or he wishes to receive the Lord in Communion at Mass. The Vatican statement was intended only to affirm that this one instance at the liturgy of Corpus Domini may not be interpreted to mean that any and all liturgies in the future will closely adhere to it as a precedent.
The rigid progressivists of the failed modernist agenda, still at the helm of so many bureaucracies in the Church and her support structures, chancery offices, and religious education offices, continue to use all the means at their disposal to spin every event to serve their agenda. It is quite a twist to say that kneeling and receiving Communion on the tongue is a passing fancy and won’t be around for very long. It is, in fact, the modernist aberrations which have been around for a very short time, 40 or 50 years at the most, and which will in fact, sooner rather than later, be buried unceremoniously in the dustbin of liturgical history. It is to kneeling, receiving on the tongue, the customs of eucharistic processions at Corpus Christi and patens for Communion and other immemorial practices of devotion that young people are more and more attracted.
I had a discussion recently with the young men of the The Liguori Society about the logic of liturgical piety in the Holy Mass that recommends kneeling for receiving Communion. I asked, if by our immemorial practice it is our custom to kneel in the Mass when the Lord becomes present upon the altar, is it not simply consistent and entirely appropriate to kneel also when not merely adoring but in fact receiving God Incarnate in the Eucharist? And, if we bow when we recount the words of the Creed which merely mention the fact of the Incarnation of the Word, how much more ought we kneel when receiving the Word Incarnate truly present?
One young man responded enthusiastically to the logic of this reasoning and declared his intention to begin kneeling to receive our Lord in the Communion of the Mass. I warned him that it must be his decision alone in conscience to do so, and not merely because I provoked the discussion.
As a priest and celebrant I will never pretend to have the authority to deny any of the faithful the right to receive their Lord on their knees at Mass, while continuously encouraging those who have lost all practice of our Catholic customs of adoration and reverence to bow before approaching the Eucharist as our bishops have asked us to do.
Cindy Wooden refers to a response from Rome about reception of Communion both kneeling and on the tongue by the four dozen people who received the sacrament from the Holy Father on May 22. “ In a brief e- mail to Catholic News Service May 23, Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, said the decision ‘ was a solution adopted for [ the Feast of] Corpus Domini,’ but as for the future, ‘ We’ll see’.” The Holy Father may choose in the future to speak at length about this topic, but his example remains far louder and more effective than any words.
Regardless, Catholics remain free to express their personal piety using any of our Catholic customs. Vatican II guarantees nothing if not endless “ options.” These options always and in every circumstance include the most ancient and immemorial of our traditions.
Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told CNS that the “ gesture of the Holy Father” at the May 22 Mass “ is to be appreciated. It brings out in a better way the fact that we adore the Lord whom we receive” in the Eucharist.
Tradition is not simply a ghetto within the Church. Rather, the Church herself is Tradition and without tradition there is no Church. All that we have, are, and believe in Christ has been handed down. Continuity with the tradition, the “ handing on,” is continuity with Christ Himself who Himself hands it on through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our customs surrounding the most sublime Sacrament of the Altar are among the most important, concerning themselves as they do with the True Eucharistic Presence of the Divine Lord Himself. Let us each follow our consciences as we seek to adore the Lord in word and action especially as He is truly present, the Bread of Life.
A sample of Father Cusick's column "A Leaven in the World" appearing weekly inThe Wanderer Newspaper.