Saturday, October 9, 2010

Daily Mass

It has become an important part of my life, and the history of communion frequency is an interesting one, as this article from The Catholic Thing notes.

An excerpt.

“In the sixteenth century, the Council of Trent – in addition to addressing problems connected with the Protestant Reformation – also focused on some internal problems caused by over-zealous Catholics intent on preventing disrespect for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Over-restrictive beliefs and/or customs prevailed in many places: for example, that Communion should be received only once a year, or only after confession. Accordingly, the Council issued decrees opposed to such conventions, and explicitly allowed for the frequent reception, even daily, of the Eucharist.

“Pope Pius X, at the beginning of the twentieth century, wanted to carry these developments even further. A special focus of his papacy was to encourage frequent Communion for all, after First Communion. From 1905 to 1910, a series of decrees and clarifications were issued under his direction, emphasizing that no sincere person in the state of grace should be prevented from approaching the “holy table,” that it is not necessary to go to confession at specific intervals such as weekly or monthly before reception, and that children especially should be encouraged to receive frequently, even daily, after First Communion.

“Certainly, from our contemporary standpoint – at least as regards weekly Communion – Pius X’s wishes have been fulfilled possibly beyond his own expectations. Those of us who are old enough to remember going to Sunday Mass in the mid 1950s, when fasting after midnight even from water was required (with the exception of certain evening Masses), can recall the wooden kneelers typically being raised in our pews to allow a number of people to go to Communion. It was simply presumed that those who did not receive had probably not fasted sufficiently (maybe because they were at a party the previous evening that lasted into the wee hours of the morning). Then again, after Pius XII changed the fasting rules across the board to “three hours for food, one hour for liquids,” one could still make the same presumption about failure to fast (especially for late morning Masses).

“But when Pope Paul VI in 1964 reduced fasting from food to one hour, the idea was that now almost anyone, if not conscious of any serious sin, could approach the Holy Table. In the aftermath, in my experience (and I expect in the experience of other Catholics), in almost any Catholic Church, at Sunday Mass, almost everyone, pew after pew, proceeds to receive the Eucharist.”