Holy Communion in the Time of Coronavirus

[written 3/10/20]


Our bodies include 30 to 40 trillion cells. Each of them requires oxygen. They receive oxygen from our blood.

So: Someone alive has flesh and blood together. The separation of someone’s body and blood is a leading cause of… death.

Do we Catholics believe that the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is a symbol?

Correct. No. But, actually, in one way: Yes.


When the Lord offered Himself for us in His bitter Passion, He bled. The violence of his executioners separated His blood from His body.

When He rose from the dead, though, His Body and Blood resumed their proper proximity: together.

Christ abides with us, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. That is, Christ alive. The living, divine man.

The Mass symbolizes the death of Christ by the separate consecration of His Body and Blood. The separation of Christ’s Body and Blood is the symbolic aspect of the Mass.

The significance of this for us, during the coronavirus outbreak:

You don’t have to receive Host and chalice in order to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Anyone who receives the Host receives the Body and Blood of Christ. Anyone with celiac disease who receives only from the chalice receives the Body and Blood of Christ.

At a Mass, the only person who must receive both Host and chalice is the priest. Everyone else can receive both Body and Blood by receiving the Host.

Since germs can spread quite easily by the sharing of the chalice, we will cease that method of receiving Holy Communion at our parishes for now.

First-Holy-Communion Homily

Raise your hand if you will receive your first Holy Communion at this Mass…  What did we just hear the Lord Jesus say?

The Father and I will come and make our dwelling in you. (John 14:23)

God coming and dwelling in us.  Dwelling in us, as our food for eternal life.

baptism-holy-card1It all begins with Holy Baptism.  The water of baptism cleanses us of original sin.  The Blessed Trinity–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit–the divine Trinity, God, becomes the furnace of our souls, when we receive baptism.

Baptism begins something that only Holy Communion can sustain and complete.  Because the furnace in our souls needs fuel.

Jesus Himself received baptism–to begin His mission.  Then He proceeded to undertake a long and hard pilgrimage, traveling from town to town to teach and heal; walking to Jerusalem to fulfill the ancient religion; and ultimately giving His life for us.

The Lord Jesus kept a fast, at one point. But He didn’t fast His whole life.  We read in the gospels that He often ate.  Eating is a crucial part of living, after all.  And He ate not only to sustain His strength, but also to share HIs love.  He shared festive social dinners with His friends.  Every time, it meant not just bodily sustenance but also a foretaste of heavenly communion with God.  “I drink this cup with you now,” He said to the Apostles.  “Next time we will banquet together in the kingdom of heaven.”

It’s no accident that our little ones receive their first Holy Communion right at the time of life when our minds become our own.  Right when we start to realize:  I can decide to pray myself.  I can say to God, and ask God, what I choose to say and ask.

Ecce Agnus DeiOur little ones receive Holy Commuion at the time of life when everything stops being just a haze of sensory stimuli and starts being an on-going engagement with the reality of God and His plan for me.  Jesus is becoming a real person, in the mind’s eye, for our little ones receiving Holy Communion for the first time today.

The real Person, born in Bethlehem of a beautiful, kind, prayerful mother named Mary.  Raised by her, and by her hard-working, gentle, strong husband, Joseph.  Jesus, Who studied, grew up, and did His mission in life.  A mission that involved the cross.

It’s no accident that our little ones receive Holy Communion for the first time right at the point in life when the love of Christ, crucified for me, becomes something upon which to meditate.  A lot of us have memories of how we started to think about Jesus, and what He did on the cross–when we were seven, eight, nine years old.  When we, each of us, realized: He loves me.  So let me love Him back.

“Do not be troubled or afraid,” He says.  “I give you My peace.” “Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” (John 14:27)

Christ doesn’t give us His peace as something that inevitably will get old and decay.  He doesn’t give us His peace for now–but we will soon get bored with it.

No.  Receiving Holy Communion means that we can have the peace of God Himself, as our food.  His peace is perfect happiness that never ends.  Like a beautiful afternoon, with no homework.  No rain, no fights, no problems of any kind.  Just pure fun.  I remember when I was seven or eight, I went over to a friend’s house.  His father served us a snack.  Toasted bagels, with butter melting in every little fluffy bite.  I had never had a bagel before.  It tasted like heaven on earth!

At every age–from seven or eight on up–we have responsibilities.  Which means we can suffer anxiety.  But Jesus has done everything so that we can have interior peace.  We can have within the peace that He had within–the peace He had, even when He stretched out His arms on the cross.

Now, of all the things Jesus did, what’s the biggest of them all?  He died…then He rose again!  When we receive Holy Communion, eternal life is our food.  The undying life of Christ dwells within us, and feeds our interior furnace.

Congratulations to you!  Now let’s pray hard through the rest of Mass…

Inner Eyes


Not everybody knows this, but we have two kinds of eyes.

We have the eyes we use to catch and throw a ball, to go looking for seashells at the beach, to watch the teacher write things on the board, and to drive a car—once we have a license.

These are our outer eyes. They help us enormously, of course. We tend to take them for granted. Until we come across someone who suffers from blindness. Then we thank God that we have the great gift of sight in our eyes.

But if anyone has ever really gotten to know someone who is blind, whose outer eyes don’t work; if any of us have ever read a book written by a blind person, or listened to a blind person sing, or tell a story—then we realize: these outer eyes are not the only eyes that we human beings have.

We also have inner eyes, spiritual eyes. With our spiritual eyes, we can see things that our outer eyes can’t see. Like memories. Like things we imagine. Some of us just used our inner eyes a moment ago, when I mentioned the beach. We imagined it, and we could see the ocean with our inner eyes–even if we do not find ourselves anywhere near the beach at this moment.

First HC in the cluster!
First Holy Communion in the cluster!
Like I said, we thank God for the blessing of our outer eyes. But the truth is that our inner eyes are even more powerful and important. Let me tell you why.

Lord Jesus walked the earth for a particular period of time. He died and rose again from the dead. For forty days after His resurrection, He continued to walk the earth and talk to His friends. They saw the risen dead man with their outer eyes, and He looked even more wonderful than before.

But then the time came for Christ to ascend to heaven. He told the disciples that He would pass away from their outer sight. But don’t worry. Don’t fear. ‘I will remain with you always,’ He promised.

When He said that—Don’t worry, even though you won’t see Me anymore—when He said that to them, did they take it in stride? Did they say, ‘Got you, Master. No problem.’

No. They did not say that at all. They whined; they complained. ‘Why can’t you stay visible forever, and make yourself visible to everyone? Why do we have to live by faith and not by our outer eyes?’

Now, if I might put His response in my own words. He replied:

“I understand why you panic like this, my children. But you fail to grasp that your inner sight is a million times for important than your outer sight. I will go to heaven, and from there I will send the power of love into you, inside you.

“Your outer eyes can see baseballs and squirrels and gas stations on the highway. But all these things come and go.

“With your inner eyes, you can love the holiness that lasts forever. With your inner eyes, you can see God, and you can see the true beauty of another person’s soul.

steviewonder“Not only that. With your inner eyes, you can see that heaven is always right in front of you. All you have to do, to step into it, is: love. Step forward in love, and you will enter heaven.”

We do not understand all these mysteries. At least I don’t. But I know for a fact that our inner eyes see more than our outer eyes. Because, for now, only our inner eyes can see Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Using the unworthy voice of His priest, Christ says, “This is my Body,” and “This is my Blood.” We do not see Him with our outer eyes. But we do know He is here. We see Him with our inner eyes, our eyes of faith. He beckons us to come to Him, to receive Him, to unite ourselves with Him.

Believing and Doing the Works

“Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do.” (John 14:12)

Returning from Mass by Francisco Gras
Returning from Mass by Francisco Gras

First-Holy-Communion Day! A day of young faith in Christ. We believe in Him, the Son of God. May it please the Lord to give all of us childlike faith–childlike faith in Jesus, our Savior, our Master, our Model, our Teacher, our Lord. May we all have the feelings for Him that a child has.

I can remember pretty vividly how much I loved Jesus when I was little. I admired Him without even thinking about it, spontaneously, and I wanted to be close to Him. Perhaps many of us can remember meditating on Christ’s Passion in our young minds, marveling at His courage, His clarity of purpose, His sincerity, and, above all, His genuinely selfless love. I spent a lot of time when I was a boy thinking about Jesus’ cross, about how He suffered and died.

Continue reading “Believing and Doing the Works”

In Here, Lord?

The Lord be with you… (et cum spirituo tuo)

Weddings in ancient Israel involved a number of customs we do not observe. The business in the parable about virgins waiting into the night with lighted lamps may leave us a little confused. When we go to weddings, we don’t usually see that.

But the end of the parable touches a familiar chord: At a wedding banquet, you want to be inside, as opposed outside. The food, music, and dancing take place inside. Outside, it is either cold, or there are a lot of gnats, mosquitoes, and crickets.

Or—even if it is a beautiful, crisp fall day, and the wedding banquet takes place on the lawn or in the garden—you still want to be inside the hedge or the fence, not outside it. You don’t want to show up at the garden gate and have someone say, “Ah. No dice. Take a walk. I never knew you.”

When the Lord Jesus walked the earth, He wound up inside sometimes and outside sometimes.

Continue reading “In Here, Lord?”

God, Christ, Mass

Three years ago our Holy Father made a quiet visit to the World Trade Center site in Manhattan.

Click HERE to read the prayer the Pope recited quietly…

…Interested in a sermon for First Holy Communion?

Here you go:

Last Sunday, when our Holy Father Pope Benedict preached at the Beatification Mass at St. Peter’s, he emphasized Blessed Pope John Paul II’s heroic faith.

John Paul II is blessed because of his strong, generous, apostolic faith…With the strength of a titan, …by his witness of faith, John Paul II helped believers throughout the world not be afraid to be called Christian…He gave us the strength to believe in Christ.

When the Lord Jesus walked with Cleopas and the other disciple on the way to Emmaus on Easter Sunday, He chided them for their lack of faith. “How foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe!”

Continue reading “God, Christ, Mass”

Arch-Conservatives and Whoopi Together

Boy am I out-of-it. Did you know that they made a movie about Dr. King’s speech? Apparently, it is really good, won an Oscar, and stars someone named Colin Firth, who I don’t think is even black.

But I am not completely out of it. I do know that last week Whoopi Goldberg opined on the subject of Governor Cuomo of New York receiving Holy Communion.

But look. This is a golden opportunity for a metaphysical analysis of a moral choice.

For obvious reasons, I will approach it here from the point-of-view of the person giving out Holy Communion.

Crucial point #1: Whenever moral evil of any kind presents itself, perhaps the first question a person should ask himself is, “Whose conscience is this going to be on?”

Aha! We have found the Original Metaphysical Principle for morals: I am morally responsible only for those acts or omissions which are imputable to me.

(In my limited experience with helping people exercise moral discernment, the clarification of who is morally responsible resolves the matter 95% of the time.)

Let’s apply this to the matter at hand. If I am giving out Holy Communion, there are various ways I could do evil. Interiorly, I could doubt the Real Presence or fail to adore the Lord in the sacrament. I could let my mind wander. If I weren’t a priest, I could absurdly think of what I am doing as “my” ministry, rather than as a simple act of charity to help Father in the interest of time or convenience. I could vainly focus on myself instead of trying to disappear behind Christ.

Exteriorly, I could imprudently misjudge my physical or psychological capacity to perform this ministry. I could be negligent in my handling of the vessels. Probably the gravest evil I could do—short of intentionally desecrating the sacrament—would be to act out of human respect in giving out communion. It pretty much goes without saying that the duty of a minister of Holy Communion is to minister the sacrament to those who approach to receive it, no matter who they are, what they look like, how they smell, how they are dressed, etc.

Continue reading “Arch-Conservatives and Whoopi Together”

Altars, Pagan and Christian

First of all, let me say this: To see LeBron get sat-down was…SWEET!

…At Holy Mass, after Communion, when the deacon or priest cleanses the chalice, he says this prayer quietly to himself:

Quod ore sumpsimus, Domine, pura mente capiamus: et de munera temporali fiat nobis remedium sempiternum.

The translation of this Latin sentence which appears in the current English Sacramentary is an utter mush.

But soon we will have a new English-language Missal! This is how the prayer will be translated:

What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what has been given to us in time may be our healing for eternity.

Beautifully put. Speaking of well-written sentences: I have seen Hamlet many times. I have seen all the movies, and I have seen it on stage probably a half-dozen times.

The other night I saw the best Hamlet I have ever seen. At the Folger Shakespeare Library. (Not the Folger Shakespeare Theatre Company downtown, which is to be avoided like a noxious cesspool.)

The Hamlet at the Library was great. Seeing it restored my faith in the art of Thespis. Ophelia stole the show. The play made sense to me in a new way–as the story of ruined love. Do whatever you can to get a ticket.

…Here is a short Ascension Day homily:

Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by hands, but heaven itself, that He might now appear before God on our behalf. (Hebrews 9:24)

St. Paul traveled the world to teach the Good News. When he went to the pagan city of Athens, he observed the many shrines to the many pagan gods. This moved him to explain the difference between pagan worship and Christian worship.

Continue reading “Altars, Pagan and Christian”

Holy Sacrifice

The Lord Jesus said: “I am the Bread of Life.” And He gave us the Holy Eucharist.

The sacred ceremony of the Holy Mass is the perfect act of religion, the perfect act of obedience and devotion to God. By God’s design, the Holy Mass is both the sacrifice of salvation and the feast of faith.

The Blessed Sacrament of the altar is the source of eternal life. It is the divine Body and Blood, the flesh animated by the undying life of God.

How do we mortals share in Christ’s immortal life? Through His death.

Continue reading “Holy Sacrifice”

Guest Bests

by Mary Ann
mary-ann1Best runner to cheer for during a marathon: a priest

Best lunch companion: a priest

Best trip abroad: pilgrimage with a priest (or two)

priesthoodBest life’s work: be a priest

Best GPS to Heaven: listen to a priest

Best prayer intention: protection and sanctification of priests

Best Blessing from God: the gift of our priests

Best place to hear the most beautiful words on earth (absolution): Confession to a priest

Best Lenten activity: Stations of the Cross led by a priest

Best Adoration moments: reverent Elevation during Holy Mass by a priest

Best gift: receiving Holy Communion from a priest