Sunday, August 19, 2007

Valid Matters

From time to time, the Vatican finds it necessary to remind the universal church of liturgical norms which should be observed in uniformity. Such was the case in when Redemptionis Sacramentum was issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship in 2004. There was nothing particularly new here, but Cardinal Arinze apparently saw the need to pull in the reins a bit. At the time, I tried to charitably point out a few things we were not doing quite properly at our parish, but my observations were not welcomed by our pastor, so I backed away.

Years ago, such Vatican pronouncements went largely unnoticed by the laity. Today, the Internet allows us to view Church documents at will. Catholics in increasing numbers are being invigorated in their Faith through the various apostolates which have sprung up over the past couple of decades. Many participate in blogs, message boards, and other discussion groups on a daily basis. The result is a renewed interest and awareness in the matters of the Church. This knowledge can also result in consternation among members of the Body of Christ when certain abuses are recognized or perceived on the local level.

Of course, some abuses are more serious than others. While troublesome to those familiar with the rubrics, we have to decide when it is better to avoid confrontation and keep silent. A few weeks ago, our pastor allowed a lay person to speak in the place of the homily at Sunday Mass. While not permitted by Canon Law, this is a fairly rare occurrence, and probably not worth questioning. Other issues are more problematic.

Our pastor has recently taken a fancy to making his own Eucharistic bread. When asked by a parishioner as we exited Mass, he said it was made with wheat flour, water, and a bit of honey. Redemptionis Sacramentum (48) specifically mentions adding honey is a grave abuse. Judging from the consistency of the bread, I would think it contains more than those three ingredients. The bread is chewy and sticks to the teeth. The question is whether this bread constitutes valid matter. That may depend on the degree of corruption which, I presume, is precisely why the Church prohibits such enhancements.

In our parish, conventional wheat hosts are consecrated at the same time as the homemade bread. The bread cubes and unleavened hosts are arranged side-by-side on the Communion plates for distribution. Which kind one receives is up to the discretion of the priest or extraordinary minister. I have been given the bread cubes for three Sunday liturgies this month. Only by consuming the Precious Blood do I know with certainty that I have received the Real Presence of Our Lord. Even if the bread is validly consecrated, the laity should not be burdened with unnecessary doubt whenever we receive.

I fail to understand why our priest sees the need to introduce such nuances into the liturgy. He is not receptive to anyone questioning what he does, so there is a certain frustration among those parishioners who find this troubling. I am not mentioning the name of my pastor because this problem is not unique to my parish. My son attends another parish in this diocese where similar abuses take place. We sometimes hear of so-called cafeteria Catholics who like to pick and choose which Church teachings to which they adhere. Our parish priests set a poor example when they essentially choose to do the same.