"When I call you for dinner,
stop playing ball with your friends and come home immediately."
"Sit up straight in your
"Don't put your water glass
too close to the edge of the table; if you do, you might knock it onto the
"Finish everything on your
plate or no dessert."
"You do not leave the table
until I or your mother give you permission to leave."
Those, my brothers and sisters,
were some of my earthly father's "dinner rules."They were never written down anywhere, but
they were verbally promulgated quite often.And whenever they were violated by yours' truly or his little sister (as
happened on more than one occasion), an appropriate punishment was assigned and
there was no “court of appeals” in the Suriani household at the time.In matters such as these, my father was the Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court—like it or not.
This morning I'd like to review
with you some other dinner rules: the
ones given to us by our Father in heaven.They're given in reference to the meal his
Son died to give us, the Holy Eucharist.And they're given through his Son's mouthpiece on earth, the Church.I decided to deal with this issue in today's
homily for two reasons: first of all, because it's Corpus Christ Sunday; and,
secondly, because many of our heavenly Father's children seem to be unclear
about some of his dinner rules, even though these are written down for us in Scripture, in Canon Law, and in various
So here they are . . . (This, by
the way, is not an exhaustive
list.These are just some of the more
Rule # 1: When we come into the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, we should
always genuflect (unless we are physically unable to do so!).As it says in the document Eucharistiae
Sacramentum: "Genuflection on one knee is prescribed before the Blessed
Sacrament whether it be reserved in the tabernacle or exposed for public
adoration."We should also
genuflect whenever we pass in front of the tabernacle or monstrance.This is a sign of our recognition that we are
in the presence of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Do you genuflect before you enter
your pew for Sunday Mass?
Rule # 2: Under ordinary circumstances, Protestants cannot receive the Eucharist
in a Catholic Church.And the
corollary here is also true: Catholics
cannot receive in a Protestant church—and that includes Christ Episcopal
Church down the street!(I mention
Christ Episcopal because I've heard stories over the years about some of our
parishioners receiving at funerals and weddings there!)
Why these restrictions?Is the Church being mean-spirited?No, the Church is simply asking us to be honest.In 1 Corinthians 10: 17, St. Paul says, "Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body,
for we all partake of the one loaf."When we share Eucharist with others we are making a public statement
that we are one in faith with them.That's what Paul is telling us in this
text.But, unfortunately, we are not one in faith with our Protestant
brothers and sisters.Yes, we share some elements of belief in common,
that's true; but not enough such that we can come together and partake of "the one loaf."
We’re working toward that
unity—and hopefully someday it will be attained.But we’re not there yet.And we need to be honest about that.
Rule # 3: As we are told in Canon
919 of the Code of Canon Law: If we want
to receive the Eucharist, we must fast for one solid hour from all food and
drink (except water and medication).That includes gum, by the way.Obviously, if you are sick or unable to fast for a medical reason, then
this rule does not apply to you.
Although not chewing gum at Mass
does still apply!
Rule # 4: Under ordinary circumstances, if we have committed a mortal sin we must
not receive Communion until we have gone to Confession.At the risk of offending some, I will now get
specific, because when I make a statement like this in a homily, invariably
some people will ask me later on: "But Fr. Ray, what sins would fit into
that category?"Well, here are some
of the more common ones (I base this on my 26 years of hearing Confessions):
missing Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day without good reason; deep hatred for
another person (remember St. John in his first letter equates hatred with murder); adultery, fornication,
masturbation, homosexual activity, artificial contraception, sterilization—and
procedures like IVF.
And, of course, if a person is
involved in an invalid marriage, he or she must not receive until after the marriage is validated.Now if that is your situation, please do not
despair or get angry; simply make plans to see a priest or deacon, to discuss
what needs to be done to straighten the matter out.
We deal with these situations all
"Fr. Ray, these are very
radical ideas."No, they're
not.In fact, almost all of them can be
found on the inside front cover of your missalette!There you will find the official guidelines
for receiving Communion given to us by the Catholic bishops of our
country.And please notice what they say
about those who are unable to receive the Eucharist for one reason or
another.This is important, and can be a
source of some consolation.They say,
"All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in
their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one
another."In other words, they are
encouraged to ask Jesus into their hearts so they can have a "spiritual
communion" with him.They cannot
receive him eucharistically, but they can (if they choose) receive the Lord in
another way.Here at St. Pius I also
encourage those not receiving Communion to come up to me or Deacon Fran with
their arms crossed over their chest in order to receive a blessing.(But please keep in mind, this last one is a local dinner rule.This type of blessing is not mandated by the
Church, so it's not offered everywhere.)
Finally, a few quick rules on
Number 1: When we approach the altar, we should do so with reverence.I suggest folding your hands in this
fashion; unless, of course, you have a bambino in your arms.In that case, please do not fold your hands and drop your baby!(Common sense should be your guide here.)
Number 2: Our focus should be on Whom we are about to receive, not on those who
have already received—or on anything else, for that matter.We should be preparing for our encounter with
the King of kings and the Lord of Lords!
Number 3: Before we receive we are supposed to make an act of reverence.Here’s what it says in the General
Instruction to the Roman Missal: “When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows
his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the
Body of the Lord from the minister.”(GIRM 160)
Number 4: If we choose to receive in the hand, we should make a
"throne" for the Lord in this fashion.(No “coin slots” or “slides” or picking the
host out of the priest’s hand, please!)
Number 5: When the priest or deacon or extraordinary minister says, "The
Body of Christ," we are to say, "Amen."Not "Thank you."Not "Have a nice day, Father"—or
anything else.Nor are we to do an
impression of a mime, and say nothing at all!
Number 6: If we receive in the hand, we are to take one step to the side and
consume the Eucharist right there at the foot of the sanctuary.We are not to take Communion back to our
pew—or home to our sick relatives.If
someone at home is unable to come to Mass and wants to receive, let us
know.We have extraordinary ministers
who take Communion to the sick of our parish every Sunday.
Now I must admit something to
you: In all honesty, when I was growing up, I didn't always like my earthly father's
dinner rules.At times they seemed
unreasonable, arbitrary, and just plain unfair!But looking back on it now, I realize he was right.My father wanted our suppers to be pleasant
experiences for everyone in the family.And his rules—when they were actually followed by my sister and me—helped
to make it happen.Our heavenly Father's
dinner rules are given for a similar purpose: so that the Eucharistic banquet
which we celebrate here will be a spiritually profitable experience for
everybody involved.May our observance
of these rules help to make that happen.