”Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven.” ~ Saint Pius X
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:27, 30
I had the opportunity - the privilege really - to attend the 1st Communion of one of my Goddaughters this weekend. In fact there were upwards of 35 children poised to receive this most intimate and divine Sacramental Gift, of which Saint Francis of Assisi once said “In this world, I cannot see the Most High Son of God with my own eyes, except for His Most Holy Body and Blood."
Nowhere is God’s love for us more apparent, other than in the gift of His Son Jesus, than in the people that he puts in our lives, especially our children. Someone once told Saint Teresa of Calcutta that abortion was a “necessary evil” in light of the fact that without it, the world would simply be far too populated. “To say that there are too many children,” she replied, “is like saying that there are you many flowers.” In this respect, to witness the first Holy Communion of God’s children combines his two greatest gifts.
There was a celebratory sense of anticipation and genuine joy in the air, many of the children dressed in white to represent the purity with which they would approach the Eucharistic Table. For faithful Catholics, Communion is not merely a quaint ritual. It is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ and the ultimate sign of our desire to encounter Him and to be incorporated into His Mystical Body, the Church.
Not everyone believes in this true presence of Jesus in the disguise of bread and wine, the “fruit of the vine and work of human hands” as the Catholic Priest says during the Consecration, wherein the Holy Spirit comes upon these simple gifts and turns them into the Son of God. “This is a difficult teaching,” said the Pharisee member in John Chapter 6, a passage we read just last week at Daily Mass. “Who can accept it?” he goes on to ask aloud https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Who-Can-Accept-It . With only one in three Catholics believing in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, this according to a recent poll, his words would be prescient, his question legitimate even in the year 2021. Especially in the year 2021. As such, First Communion is a powerful sacramental and familial event. No one who has been present can miss its importance for the children taking part.
In stark contrast to the purity and innocence of this celebration is the recent politicization of the Holy Eucharist as our Nation looks back on the first 100 days of President Joe Biden, a man seemingly intent on re-framing Catholicism via the influence and authority he brandishes by way of his current residency at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“For the church to live in eucharistic coherence, we must be willing to challenge Catholics persisting in grave sin.” These were the words of Archbishop Samuel Aquila, who recently explained that “Eucharistic coherence demands that those who partake of the Eucharist, including Catholic politicians, are to be in communion with the Church, that is, they must adhere to the Church’s fundamental doctrinal and moral teaching.” It’s hard to argue with Archbishop Aquila’s sentiments. Or so you would think.
Yet within a matter of hours, Cardinal Blase Cupich wrote a letter to Archbishop Aquila criticizing him for his remarks. Some bishops argue that Catholic politicians whose policies are clearly in direct violation of church teachings should not be refused Communion, for to do so would politicize the Eucharist. To “weaponize” it, as another member of the church hierarchy, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, recently and rather dramatically said.
Denial of Holy Communion to dissident Catholic politicians who support the pro-choice agenda, all the while lining their campaign coiffeurs with Planned Parenthood donations, promote gay marriage (or in the case of our current president, preside over the “marriage” of two men as he did a number of years back) and indulge those who pursue the transgender lifestyle ~ just to name three of the more popular and obvious issues up for debate - would certainly be front-page news. Yet scandal and sacramental integrity are weighty matters that must be considered as well.
Adult Catholics, those who are baptized and in most cases even confirmed, are marked with an indelible seal. This seal claims you as a member of God’s Holy Kingdom, not the wayward Kingdom of this world where sin and vice reign and run rampant, a fickle cesspool subject to the whims of, in this case, nine individuals in black robes who one day about 48 years ago ruled that it was suddenly legal for certain people to decide who was allowed to live and who was not. World War II was barely in the books, a war that was fought against an enemy whose goal was to do the same. When Jesus says “Follow me,” as he does oftentimes throughout Scripture, perhaps most famously in Matthew 16:24, he calls upon us to defend and care for the marginalized, the orphaned and the widowed. Under no circumstances is the destruction of innocent life part of his loving and merciful plan for humanity. This shouldn’t be controversial. Yet it is.
The ravages of abortion on demand as made horrifically manifest on the heels on 1973’s Rowe v Wade verdict are no secret https://discover.hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/And-Now-Here-We-Are. Every thirty six seconds in this country, a baby is aborted. To refuse to give Holy Communion to recusant Catholic politicians is not to politicize the Eucharist. To the contrary, the politicizing of the Eucharist in fact occurs in the act of the Catholic politician presenting himself or herself to receive Communion even though he or she is well aware that to do so is contrary to what the Church teaches. Through their disobedience, they have made themselves unworthy to do so.
Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone, an American prelate of the Catholic Church and the archbishop of San Francisco, recently said “It is fundamentally a question of integrity: to receive the Blessed Sacrament in the Catholic liturgy is to espouse publicly the faith and moral teachings of the Catholic Church, and to desire to live accordingly."
To be “religious” in America is still a good thing – it wins votes. But votes are also garnered by holding and promoting non-Catholic policies. Such is the needle that these politicians seek to deftly and dishonestly thread, a contradiction to be sure, yet few seem to notice . . . or care.
Saint John Bosco once said “We do not go to Holy Communion because we are good; we go to become good.” To become good we must adhere to all of Christ’s teachings, not merely those which are convenient or favorable to our cause, whatever that cause may be. I ask you to pray for our politicians and our bishops. But even more importantly, please pray for our First Communicants. And pray that we too can and will aspire to possess their childlike faith and purity.
For “blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8).