I just finished reading a very good book about the Church-approved apparitions of Our Lady in Akita, Japan to Sr. Agnes Sasagawa (Akita, by Francis Mutsuo Fukushima.)
There’s a statement about the breakdown in the Church that is often quoted:
From Our Lady’s third and final message from October 13th, 1973: “Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary pray for the bishops and priests. The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church. One will see cardinals opposing other cardinals… and bishops confronting other bishops. The priests who venerate Me will be scorned and condemned by their confreres.”
That’s quite something in itself, but not really what I’m posting about now. The book, unexpectedly to me, makes very strongly the case for Communion on the tongue. It does this first of all, amazingly, using evidence from the miraculous happenings at Akita itself, but backs up its claim with quotes from documents by Paul VI and John Paul II, as well as the observed behavior of these pontiffs.
Sr. Agnes received a stigmata on the palm of her left hand (where all true stigmata occur - never on the wrist) during Mass on several occasions that was so painful she was unable to open her hand to take Communion, as was the custom then at her convent. Because of this, she received on the tongue. When she reflected upon these things, she came to believe that what she experienced was evidence of a divine wish for Communion on the tongue. Eventually, her entire convent went back to receiving on the tongue.
A lot of the quotes in the book are from a Fr. Joseph Marie Jacq: “Fr. Joseph Marie Jacq of the Paris Foreign Mission Society was one of the eye-witnesses (to the miraculous tears) and a theologian who came to know deeply about the spiritual condition of the nuns at Akita.” Fr. Joseph was a devout missionary who served the Japanese people for 33 years.
A few more quotes will illustrate this thrust, one of the main topics of the book - pay attention especially to the passages from Papal documents of Paul VI and John Paul II:
“Mass started a little after 5 PM. Just as Sister Ishikawa was renewing her vows, my hand started to ache almost unbearably. I almost screamed. It was bleeding and ached just as if someone had pierced my palm all the way to the back with a nail. I tried with my whole strength to bear it. My forehead was in a greasy sweat. At that moment, clinging to Our Lady’s medal, I prayed, “Mary, help me!” I tried to endure the pain by thinking of the sufferings of Jesus on the Cross. This all took place in just a short time, but when I was bearing the pain, it seemed a very long time. I still cannot forget it. At Holy Communion, everyone received in their hands, but since I could not open my palm because of the pain, I received in my mouth.”
“Regarding this occurrence, Fr. Joseph said, “The episode on July 26th shows us that God wants lay people and nuns to receive Communion on the tongue, because Communion by their unconsecrated hands carries with it the potential danger of hurting and undermining faith in the real presence.” In backing up this argument, he quoted the pontifical pastoral instruction Memoriale Domini issued by Pope Paul VI on May 29, 1969, which tells us that the faithful should receive Communion on the tongue ‘in order to protect their sensibility and spiritual worship’ towards the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. This pastoral instruction explains why the Universal Church introduced and mandated the custom of receiving Communion on the tongue in early centuries.”
“Just as Pope John Paul II also stressed in his 1980 pastoral letter Dominicae Cenae, the custom was introduced for the spiritual ‘common good’ of the lay communicants and nuns, whose hands are not consecrated.”
“During her Mass appearances in Japan, Mother Teresa, probably unwittingly, demonstrated her deep reverence and keen spiritual sensibility toward the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist by receiving only on the tongue.”
“Fr. Joseph said one of his fellow priests confessed to him that he had suffered from a guilty conscience, as he is forced by his bishop to distribute Communion onto laymen’s hands.”
“Pope John Paul II visited Japan in February 1981… Fr. Joseph was happy to confirm, with his own eyes, that the Pontiff distributed Holy Communion onto Communicants’ tongues ONLY, even when Catholics thrust their hands towards the Pontiff… The Pontiff showed exactly the same example as in this case when he visited France and other countries.”
How did Communion in the hand end up winning approval? “Fr. Joseph replied that when an Episcopal Conference ignores the Pontiff’s teachings on this issue and pressures the Pontiff to distribute Holy Communion in a layman’s hand, the Pontiff has no other way but to comply with the demand. The Pontiff was forced to comply, because he did not want to risk antagonizing the Episcopal Conference in question and thereby trigger a possible schism.”