Thursday, December 11, 2008

Benedictus Qui Venit

picture: Life Magazine
When I take Holy Communion to the sick I always wear a stole under my coat or jacket, as a priest or deacon is supposed to. I hate those piddly little ribbons, I wear a normal stole.
A few weeks ago taking Viaticum to someone, two Anglican clergyman approached me, noticed the stole at my neck, smiled, made the sign of the cross and both knelt side by side on the kerb until I passed, one was saying "Benedictus qui venit in Nomini Domini".

A year or two ago the ends of my stole had fallen out of my pocket and were dangling around my knees, I hadn't noticed but a down and out Glaswegian had, he was selling the Big Issue, he fell to his knees and bent his head. I took communion to the sick person and on my return spoke to the man. He said to me, "Sr Marie Louise she always told us when you see a priest wearing a white thing over his shoulders, he is bringing God to a poor dying person, possibly for the last time, and we are supposed to kneel down, and we are supposed to pray, aren't we Father?" I know for a fact he hasn't been to Mass in 40 years.
Occassionally the spouse or a family member will still greet one at the house door holding a lighted candle, a laudable practice.
Compare and contrast this with the lack of preparation one often finds with the practising sick themselves, who are so often more concerned to give you a cup of tea than to express devotion to their Lord and God.

No matter how much catechesis we might give, it is meaningless if we haven't taught devotion.

24 comments:

gemoftheocean said...

"No matter how much catechesis we might give, it is meaningless if we haven't taught devotion."

This is the most succinct thing I've ever read about the faith.

George said...

Gem - I agree with your sentiment entirely. Isn't it all ultimately about devotion, which comes directly from the human heart.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

I agree with Gem

Jackie Parkes said...

I agree Karen...this post was very thought provoking..

Fr. BJ said...

I was pleasantly surprised to see a woman have a sick call crucifix out on the table on a linen cloth today when I brought her Holy Communion. It is only the second time that has happened to me. Some people still remember what they were taught.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Anonymous, I never read or publish anon comments.

Ma Tucker said...

Great post Father. All honour and glory to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Richard said...

Hurrah, there is still devotion, there is hope!

Father, this news has made my day.

the owl of the remove said...

Father, this is one of the most beautiful posts I have ever read!

JARay said...

As one who has taken Holy Communion out to many over the years, I often find that the recipient has no idea at all concerning the respect due to the One they are about to receive.
I have had almost hostile comments made to me when I have asked some to turn off the television. I always make a point of telling those who are ill prepared for Holy Communion that I expect a clean small white cloth, a crucifix and a candle on the table. As I say to them, this is but a mark of respect for the person of Jesus.
Unfortunately there are others too who take out Communion to the sick and have themselves, no idea of the protocol required.

JARay

...(I'm only an Instituted Acolyte so I don't have a stole to wear.)

Chris said...

Oh dear! I certainly wouldn't have the TV on, but I don't think I have got a suitable white cloth and, although we have a crucifix on our bedroom wall, we do not have one that would stand on a table!

Surely what really matters is not so much the outward signs of respect (important though they might be), but how prayerful and respectful you are within. Maybe the old lady who seems more keen to offer a cuppa might possibly have an interior attitude far better in God's eyes than the person who is so keen to provide all the niceties - which do not necessarily indicate the right attitude in their heart........

On a slightly more amusing note, when my dad was in hospital not long before he died a very old priest was dispatched to give him Holy Communion. I am afraid he was getting somewhat forgetful in his old age - and when he arrived, he had actually forgotten to bring the the Viaticum with him! He had to go back to the presbytery and return again later in the day!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Chris, you are right these things don't "necesarilly indicate" anything about the heart, but our faith in the incarnate God and in the liturgy, those signs and symbols perceptable, needs outward manifestations.
Sickness might mean the only sign of reverence is to be still and pray.

If I forgot the Most Holy, I think that would be a good indicator that I should retire!

GOR said...

Great post, Father! Years ago it was always the custom to kneel in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament. If you were distributing Holy Communion in a hospital, people would kneel in the corridor as you passed by.

If one arrived at Mass after the Consecration (not unknown in Ireland years ago - and probably still so...), a double genuflection was de rigeur.

Also a customary wedding gift back then was a 'Sick Call Crucifix' - one that opens up and has two small candles and a bottle for Holy Water inside. I don't know if that is still the custom but if not, it should be! Every Catholic home should have one.

pelerin said...

Beautiful - but can you really teach 'devotion?' As George says 'devotion comes directly from the human heart'. It is interior. It is surely the devotional attitudes which need to be re-taught? I learnt from watching others 'what to do' and found them completely natural - I don't remember ever being taught as such. Those were the days when you knelt if a Bishop or Cardinal passed by and of course always knelt for the Priest's blessing at the end of Mass.

When I was housebound some five years ago, I was brought Holy Communion each week. I had never experienced this before so of course had no idea of the formality. However I certainly would not have had the tv on and find it incredulous that this has happened. The Priest brought what GOR describes so I did not need to provide anything.

Chris' story reminded me of an incident 33 years ago when I had just been taken to hospital with complications in my pregnancy. Having been told of the seriousness of my condition my husband informed the hospital Priest who duly arrived shortly after my own arrival to offer me Holy Communion. The curtains were drawn and the candle and crucifix placed beside me. The priest then realised he had no matches! He peered through the curtains and asked another mum-in-waiting whether she had a match. Her reply was 'No - smoking is forbidden in here!'

gemoftheocean said...

Pelerin, I think what's meant by "teach devotion" is that it's best if this is learned from mom and dad when the child is very tiny. Some of my most precious early memories are of praying with my mother in the evening before bedtime. She'd teach me prayers and listen to my prayers. If children don't have this inculcated very young, many times it "never happens" because people make the mistake of waiting "until the child is old enough to understand." If you wait that long, you've waited too late. Did I "understand" the Memorare at age 2? No. But I knew Mary was also my mother too and loved me. I liked to ponder the words, even at that age and turn them over in my mind. By 7 or 8 I could have given you a good explanation! But had she waited until then - the tenderness and giving all that a chance to percolate would have been lost. When I was a bit older we'd often pray a full rosary before bedtime. I won't say we did it everynight, because we didn't. But several times a week. My grandmother also had a hand, and the example of all my aunts. When I was 5 we lived with my grandmother a bit, after my grandfather had died (she'd just been home from the hospital after recently breaking her hip.) When she was better, as a treat I would get to sleep with her, and at night before falling asleep she would have me repeat the Our Father in Ukrainian after her. She'd do a few words, and I'd repeat after her. Even the word "God" sounded more intiimate to me in her tongue. "Bujah." My mother and her 3 sisters always carried a rosary. I didn't used to all the time, but now I always have one with me now.

Sad to say I know children in the parish who though they are sent to Catholic school, do not seem to have this basic home incubation in devotion. Wait until school age, and it's a fight uphill.

My grandmother grew up in a peasant home in central Europe, and for that I am most grateful. Her faith was not "modern." But it was timeless. And she passed it on to her family and her children passed it on to us grandchildren. Not all of us practise, sadly, but most of us do, and those with children have passed it down to that 4th generation. The problem becomes, however, with each new generation, the people THEY marry must ideally have been inculcated with similar values, and it is a sad state that you find this less and less.

I know and meet too many "cultural Catholics" these days. And often times it's the culture at large which undermines. We all know many parents with children. Who all try to raise the children the same way, and there are always the "black sheep" we pray return to the fold. So sometimes no matter what parents do, the intended wish that the children grow up to maintain the faith doesn't always happen. And then there are those who are brought up by atheists, who reject atheism and allow God to find them! For these we should be most grateful.

But it all starts in the home.

Rachel said...

Father,
Did Saint Thomas say something about grace building on nature? Forgive me if I am understanding that wrong but I think that if a guy hasn't been to Mass in 40 years this poor old man's knees are telling his heart about something he has been missing when our Lord passes by with His priest.
I am a convert. My first experience of conversion that stayed with me for 8 years until my baptism day was all of the faithful at Mass KNEELING in front of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, something in my heart could not deny the importance of that moment. I will be forever grateful to all of those people for kneeling at that moment.
There is such beauty in the humble act of kneeling before our Lord. Think of how many people may inquire about this devotion!
Thanks for the post Father.

George said...

'But it all starts in the home'

Couldn't agree with you more Gem!

Devotions in the Catholic home are 'caught' not taught, from the earliest age and then you reap the rewards when you see your teenagers kneel down with you for the family Rosary in the evening and who attend Sunday Mass even when they are away from home at University.

Parents - you have one chance and one chance only to raise your children right. Don't expect anyone else to do it for you.

Paul, Bedfordshire. said...

One thing that this also shines a light on or is the validity or otherwise of Anglican orders.

I do have some doubts about that circa 1890 bull invalidating the lot. Now I know that many anglican clergy have since "got round it" by getting themselves ordained by bishops who have old catholics in their ordinial lineage, however the bull came before the terrible events of the 20th century and the persecutions in eastern Europe and China.

Given how terrible the penal situation was in England, it is quite amazing that catholicity was never quite extinguished in the C of E. Ask a devoted anglo catholic why they don't come across and they may not want to abandon their flock who, since the reformation, have continued to come and worship at the village church to this day, just as they always did.

Now I know hard line protestants were appointed Bishops to deliberately break the chain, but all sorts of people were secret catholics, and it is surely not impossible that valid ordinations of some C of E clergy were secretly carried out in England in those times.

I realise that womens ordination has made things much more difficult since then but, while many anglicans may disagree on precisely the exact nature of transubstantiation (consubstantiation/transubstantiation arguments - I dont know enough to know exactly what that means), and some are undoubtably protestant in belief, there are many Anglican clergy who are just as sure as we are that our Lord is made physically present and real when those words are said - as witnessed by Father on the streets of Brighton.

Jackie Parkes said...

Well George..we must do our best! So far all 10 of my children practice their faith. They do see their father & I on our knees praying. But there are different temperaments & everyone has free will no matter how they are raised. I don't think it's simple 2 plus 2 = 4. St Maximillian Kolbe's brother was a right one, St Therese's sister Leonie was a right pain in the butt, one or two of my kids are right pains...saints can come from an atheist home..as I said we do what we can & God will help us..but I really don't think there are guarrantees. Btw my grandmother had a complete home Mass kit in silver. How I wish we still had it. I am determined to get another. My PP brought everything out when I was ill..yes the cloth would have been nice Fr Ray, but when you are sick enough to warrant a visit from your priest, take it from me you are very sick indeed & the fineries are gone..Our Blessed Lord suffices in one's agony. The lady who wanted to make tea may have been uncomfortable having a priest visit..not everyone has lots of priest friends!

Ttony said...

Dear Father, you're on the money here!

It could be the theme for your Ordinary's next Pastoral Letter.

gemoftheocean said...

George, if you're lucky, they're reinforced in school too.

When I was in 1st grade (age 6) our nun taught us that when we heard a siren go by to say a prayer for the one(s) who needed the help and for those going for the rescue. We used to say it out loud when we were small in the classroom. Now I still say a quick prayer when I hear a siren.

Mark said...

Mass attending Cradle Catholic (60s generation) and never taught this. No really never heard of it before. We have the usual crew of EMOHC at mass every week, they are given the Pix (or is the Pixs’) to distribute. So Fr I ask who is to blame?

georgem said...

I know what you mean, Gem. We were also taught to say “Eternal Rest” whenever we saw a funeral cortege and to make a small sign of the cross over the heart whenever we passed a Catholic church. We also had it drummed into us that we should kneel whenever the Host passed by and to double-genuflect at Exposition. Two telling events saddened me.
I was working near Westminster Cathedral till close to midnight on millennium New Year’s Eve and on the way home popped into the cathedral where I knew there would be Exposition. As soon as the priests left the altar people got up, turned their backs on the Host and started hugging and kissing, wishing each other Happy New Year and generally chattering. Amid the clamour, it was impossible to pray so I got up and left (double-genuflecting!).
More recently, I went to the funeral in a convent school chapel of a much-respected Rev. Mother I had known as a child. There was dancing (gallumping) on the sanctuary after the Mass (gaaaaargh). But most noticeable was that the senior girls seated on benches along the side aisles did not kneel for the Consecration or after receiving Holy Communion.

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