Holy Communion & Un-Holy Catholics – Ordained and Lay… How Does This Work?editor
John Farrell, a reader from south of the border, in England, Our Lady’s Dowry, has submitted the following article for our consideration – he’d like some answers: some editorial comment has been injected, but all insights gratefully received…
Validity of Mass and Sacraments
I believe that the Son of God, Jesus, is truly both man and God. God is Love and is in his all, Merciful. God has guided his people with Prophets, Patriarchs and in these latter days, His Son and His Priests.
The gift of the Eucharist is made to enable all to share in the salvation that Jesus brings to us. My being and all human being is still prone to sin and Jesus creates for us a means to be cleansed of sin and thus grow in holiness, closer to the Eternal Being, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It is recorded in the New Testament that Jesus singled out from all his disciples 12 men who at the meal before his agony and death were told the words which form the consecration of the Catholic Mass. These words have been preserved in all the languages of the world for this is the sole purpose of the Eternal Word entering into time. The words of authority were not scattered but targeted, the Last Supper was not one of the communal meals attended by Jesus recorded in the Gospels. It was indeed the first eternal mass for it happened in time before the historical events it recalls. Even the traitors present at that meal became priests. They were called by God to administer the source of all his sacraments his gifts to fortify his people in their commitment to Holiness.
The above is the reason we have a Church to be the earthly structure to protect the divine gifts granted by God’s inconceivable love and humility. It is right that we understand and believe the Church’s claim to be the valid channel for the distribution of Grace. It is our God-given right to demand that the Institutional Church act in a Christ-like manner and does not give scandal to us the little ones called by God.
If I know a priest to be living a sinful life how can I believe in the validity of the Sacraments he administers; and is not attending such an event in itself sinful?
I have been asking myself this question for some years now and looking all over for a satisfactory answer.
Nobody has treated my question as the fundamental issue it seems to be to me. I know of nothing more important than the sacraments but I have been unable to find anyone willing to recognise either the truth or sincerity of the question posed.
I am an “oldish” Catholic born and baptised 1941. I have recently been utterly shattered in my faith which has been for me the only way to make some sort of sense about my existence. I have always lived as a sinner and at times reaching out for the grace promised by the life of Jesus and the subsequent teachings of St Paul and the other disciples. If I questioned something I have always sought to find the Church’s answer. Basically my belief and relationship to God is the same as it was when I was a sinful altar boy in the 1950s. I have always loved the Church and known that the Liturgy is the service and prayer of humanity to its Creator. I was taught to respect the holiness of the Priesthood and not to question the authority of a priest.
What I know now about the Clergy is known to the whole world; but it is not these abuse scandals and dissolute clergy that have rocked my faith. All clergymen are only human. But I am shocked as by an earthquake by what is the black and white teaching of the Church, in her infallibility, about the Sacraments.
The following is from the Vatican Website’s Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The Sacraments of Salvation
#1127 Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify.48 They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies. The Father always hears the prayer of his Son’s Church which, in the epiclesis of each sacrament, expresses her faith in the power of the Spirit. As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power.
#1128 This is the meaning of the Church’s affirmation49 that the sacraments act ex opere operato (literally: “by the very fact of the action’s being performed”), i.e., by virtue of the saving work of Christ, accomplished once for all. It follows that “the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God.”50 From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.
#1129 The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.51 “Sacramental grace” is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature52 by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Saviour
#1127 [in this paragraph] there is a powerful explication that all the graces are given by Jesus himself working through the priest; that the Holy Spirit touches us all and ensures that grace is poured into our hearts. I have never found it necessary to either question or really think about this. But now I have noticed the qualifying phrase with which it starts “Celebrated worthily in faith” which is given as a condition for Jesus to be present with us in the celebration. The phrase can only mean that the Celebrant has to be holy and fully believing.
Editor: this is a misreading of the paragraph which refers to the fruits, graces conferred. Transubstantiation takes place whatever the disposition of the priest. Here’s the Council of Trent, to clarify:
The Unworthiness Of The Minister Does Not Invalidate The Sacrament… What, however, has been already said of the other Sacraments, holds good also with regard to the Sacrament of the Eucharist; namely, that a Sacrament is validly administered even by the wicked, provided all the essentials have been duly observed. For we are to believe that all these depend not on the merit of the minister, but are operated by the virtue and power of Christ our Lord. Click here to read, online, the Catechism of the Council of Trent
John appears to understand the above, but continues…
#1128 shows that authors of these canons are not stupid. They are fully aware of the questions raised by “Celebrated worthily in faith”. But avoid the “going through the motions” and magical implications of “ex opere operato”
[Ed: “magical”? You kidding?] by turning the “deed” from not that of the ordained minister but into the saving grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Which is independent of the spiritual condition of the minister. Of course it is! Then why does the efficacy of the reception of the Sacrament depend on the spiritual condition of the recipient? For this canon closes with another condition “Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.”
Editor: the efficacy of the reception of the Sacrament doesn’t depend on the spiritual condition of the recipient. We all receive the Blessed Sacrament no matter our spiritual condition. That’s why sacrilegious Communions are such a grave scandal. However, the more disposed we are to allowing God to work in our souls, the more open we are to His grace then, obviously, the better the fruits, the more we benefit from the sacrament. That’s no doubt why some of the great saints and mystics experienced visions after receiving Holy Communion. Very recently, April 2021, a priest, clearly very disposed to the graces of Holy Communion, offers an example of this in practice – click here…
The message that I see here is “we clergy do not need to be holy to confect the Sacraments but to receive them you must be”! Sin is all right for us but not for you. Is that the message of the pulpit? Is it for this that the Incarnation Crucifixion and Resurrection had to be undergone in all its painful humility and humiliation?
Editor: It seems to me that you have misunderstood the Catechism teaching. I have a vague memory of having made this same mistake myself in the past, on this blog but I’ve been unable to find the thread. On the other hand, if I’m wrong on any of this, I’d urge our bloggers to point it out. Then run 😀
I have always believed #1129’s “the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.” What am I to do if I cannot find them in the Church founded by Jesus?
Editor: You won’t find them anywhere else, John, that’s for sure… Hopefully, you are now realising that you have unwittingly confused the action of Transubstantiation, the action by the priest of effecting the Real Presence on the altar, with the graces given to us (priests and people) when we receive the Eucharist. The more open we are to pleasing God, to receiving His grace, the more we will benefit from our reception of Holy Communion – which IS Christ truly present, whether the priest is open to God’s grace or not!
Would that our Overseers do their duty and remove from office those priests who openly flaunt their disordered persons and those many who do not even try to follow the rules for the distribution of Sacraments. In the past the Church was almost broken by the sinful vanity and greed of its prelates and the ignorance of its clergy. We the laity were here to do what we were told but it is for us all both clergy and laity that the Love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit was incarnated, lived, suffered, died and resurrected so that there might be a Church to receive the only source of Grace and share it with all mankind.
Editor: nothing with which to disagree there. Well said.