Once upon a time: Keeping theology consistent

Faithful continue to observe the commandments of the Church

By Monsignor Xavier Mankel

Time to go to confession? Our theology has been pretty consistent over the years. Following the Council of Trent, Catholics pretty much observed the commandments of the Church: annual sacramental confession, followed by holy Communion. Favorite times for this were Christmas Day, Easter Sunday, and Trinity Sunday (the last day one should make the Easter duty in a given year).

Remember the eucharistic fast that began at midnight? As a result, about half of those going to early morning Masses received holy Communion, with about a fourth to a third receiving the Bread of Life at midmorning Masses and only a handful at Masses celebrated later in the morning.

Do you remember funerals? Only the priest celebrant communicated (those laypeople who wished received after Mass and before the absolution of the body). Before bination (one priest celebrating two Masses on the same day), the regularly scheduled Mass was dropped and the funeral Mass took its place. The “three-hour fasting” (and, later, the “one-hour fast”), coupled with more convenient time schedules, made holy Communion more convenient.

The biggest change in the 20th century came on Good Friday, when everybody there was encouraged to receive holy Communion. One of the problems faced (and this is a quirk of human nature) was that when something became easy, it was taken for granted. With all the solid eucharistic devotions available today, it would be a shame if availability caused a lessening of respect for the blessed Lord in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. To keep any lessening of respect from occurring, we suggest the use of the following prayers:

  • “Father, your Son accepted our sufferings to teach us the virtue of patience in human illness. May all who suffer pain, illness or disease realize that they have been chosen to be saints and know that they are joined to Christ in His suffering for the salvation of the world. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

  • “All powerful and ever-living God, the lasting health of all who believe in you, hear us as we ask your loving help for the sick; restore their health, that they again may offer joyful thanks in your Church. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

  • “All-powerful and ever-living God, we find security in your forgiveness. Give us serenity and peace of mind; may we rejoice in your gifts of kindness and use them always for your glory and our good. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.”

  • “God our Father, you have called us to share the one bread and one cup and so become one in Christ. Help us to live in Him that we may bear fruit, rejoicing that he has redeemed the world. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

  • “All-powerful God, we thank you for the nourishment you give us through your holy gift. Pour out your Spirit upon us and in the strength of this food from heaven keep us single-minded in your service. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.”

  • “All powerful and ever-living God, may the body and blood of Christ your Son be for our brother/sister a lasting remedy for body and soul. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.” 

(Readings: John 6:51; 6:54-58; 14:6)

Monsignor Xavier Mankel is a vicar general and historical archivist for the Diocese of Knoxville.

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