Priest challenges parishioners with homework assignment

By Linda Andrade Rodrigues, Anchor Correspondent

ASSONET, Mass. — At the conclusion of Mass on the feast of Corpus Christi, Father Michael Racine, pastor of St. Bernard’s Parish, blessed the people and sent them forth with homework.

The assignment included the viewing of a short video posted on the parish website on how to properly receive Holy Communion.

In his homily Father Racine taught about the significance of the 750-year-old feast.

“I spoke about how fortunate we are as Catholics to have the Eucharist available to us every day of the year and how the Eucharist strengthens and nourishes us as food for the journey,” said Father Racine. “I also talked about the importance of reverence to the Eucharist and how we receive Holy Communion with love and respect.”

Earlier, in preparation for the feast, Deacon Paul Levesque had mentioned to Father Racine that he had seen a video posted by a priest on Facebook that explained in a light-hearted manner how to receive Eucharist in a proper, reverent manner.

“Father Mike and I watched the video and agreed that we should make it available to the parish,” Deacon Levesque said. 

“The video was humorous, but it was sad because the message of today’s society existed,” added Father Racine. “We forget the beauty and the reverence of Christ in the Eucharist, and we treat Communion as something unimportant. That’s when I challenged the people to watch the video.” 

Sponsored by a grant from the Catholic Communications Campaign and presented by Busted Halo, the five-minute video, “Sacraments 101: Eucharist,” offers an important message with a humorous approach. 

“So at Mass we see people receive Holy Communion in their hands or on their tongue,” a young woman says. “Is there a certain way you are supposed to receive it?”

“Ah yes, Communion the Sacrament of the Eucharist,” says Father Dave Dwyer, CSP. “For many of us the last time we learned about it was in first grade, and who can remember that far back; so how about a refresher on how to receive this most Holy Sacrament?”

The Church gives us two options. According to Roman Missal No. 60, “The Consecrated Host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand at the discretion of each communicant.”

“Sounds simple, your choice,” says Father Dwyer. “But you may be surprised at how easy it is to get those wrong. We are not taking — snatching — or biting.”

This is where the video highlights communicants actually snatching and biting the wafers. 

“We don’t take the Eucharist,” adds Father Dwyer. “Rather all we can do is make ourselves completely open or receptive to this beautiful gift of grace that God is offering us.” 

St. Cyril of Jerusalem who lived in the fourth century said, “Receive Communion by making a throne — one hand under the other — ready to receive our great King.”

These beautiful words also remind us of the reverence needed when receiving the Sacrament. As Catholics, we believe that Jesus is truly present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist. 

“We express our reverence first with a simple bow of the head as we approach the minister,” says Father Dwyer. “That’s not a full body bow or genuflection or curtsey, but it should be more than perfunctory motion.”  (Again we watch the demonstration as communicants fully bow and curtsey. Hilarious). 

“Be careful not to get too close when you bow either,” he adds. “Many people make it when they are next in line for Communion.”

The priest also offers some practical considerations when receiving the Blessed Sacrament.

“If you hold your hands like a trapdoor, there’s likely to be an accident; and if you have stuff in your hands, how much room do you have for Jesus?” asks Father Dwyer. “If your hands aren’t clean, it’s probably best to receive on the tongue that day. In receiving on the tongue, try not to make it difficult for the minister to place it there. You really need to open your mouth and stick out your tongue. And when you receive the precious Blood of Jesus, take the cup in your hands and drink as you normally would.”

The simple words — “The Body of Christ. Amen.” — exchanged between the communicant and the priest, deacon, or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion are important. Here we watch communicants respond with “Thank you” and “Cool.” (Silly). 

“When we say, Amen, we say, “Yes truly, this is the Body of Christ,” says Father Dwyer. “I will take Jesus into my heart and into my life this week.”

Finally the priest warns not to be afraid to get close enough for the Communion minister to actually reach you, but not so close as there are personal space issues. 

“Having said all that don’t be overly concerned with getting it right,” adds Father Dwyer. “You can prayerfully appreciate receiving the Lord into your life. The whole point of our faith is that even when you’re not perfect, God’s grace makes up for that.”

According to Father Racine, the incidents that prompted the video assignment are many.

“And that’s the lack of respect that is given for the Eucharist and lack of knowledge of how to receive Communion reverently, and it’s everywhere in society,” he said. “I want to emphasize, however, the good in people, particularly parents who come to church weekly and teach the beauty of the Eucharist to their children.”

“We have received a lot of great positive feedback from parishioners who have watched this video,” Deacon Levesque added.

To view the video, visit www.stbernardassonet.org and click on the link at the top of the page.

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