Question about receiving communion.

Why do people go to communion and cross their arms? Are these non-Catholics and those who should not receive communion? I thought people with mortal sin should sit at the pew.

God Bless

Crossing your arms means that you are wanting a blessing from the priest.

It’s possible that they are going through the RCIA and can’t receive communion yet, it’s possible that they’re Catholic but they didn’t have a chance to go to confession regarding a mortal sin before Mass, it’s possible they are simply not Catholic but would like a blessing from the priest. It could be for several different reasons.

People who are not receiving Holy Communion should remain in their seats and not enter the Communion line. Crossing arms so as to ask for a blessing seems to have wrangled its way into popular practice here in the US; it is not provided for in the liturgy and in fact, it is not permissible for these people to be blessed during Communion time.

Fish, the answer is plain and simple. The line is meant for only those who are Catholic and are properly disposed to receive Holy Communion. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued five observations back in November 2008 as to why this should not be done:

  1. The liturgical blessing of the Holy Mass is properly given to each and to all at the conclusion of the Mass, just a few moments subsequent to the distribution of Holy Communion.
  1. Lay people, within the context of Holy Mass, are unable to confer blessings. These blessings, rather, are the competence of the priest (cf. Ecclesia de Mysterio, Notitiae 34 (15 Aug. 1997), art. 6, § 2; Canon 1169, § 2; and Roman Ritual De Benedictionibus (1985), n. 18).
  1. Furthermore, the laying on of a hand or hands — which has its own sacramental significance, inappropriate here — by those distributing Holy Communion, in substitution for its reception, is to be explicitly discouraged.
  1. The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio n. 84, “forbids any pastor, for whatever reason to pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry”. To be feared is that any form of blessing in substitution for communion would give the impression that the divorced and remarried have been returned, in some sense, to the status of Catholics in good standing.
  1. In a similar way, for others who are not to be admitted to Holy Communion in accord with the norm of law, the Church’s discipline has already made clear that they should not approach Holy Communion nor receive a blessing. This would include non-Catholics and those envisaged in can. 915 (i.e., those under the penalty of excommunication or interdict, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin).

There are folks who will argue that since the matter is under “attentive study” by the CDWDS, we should continue to engage in this ilicit practice. However this is not what the letter states. The CDWDS has included references to pertinent Canon law and the authoritative documents that it has issued to substantiate its five observations.

My parochial vicar, in his homily (which he preached at all of the Masses last Sunday) announced that he does not and will not impart blessings in lieu of Holy Communion. He cited the observations of the CDWDS. The problem, as we both observed, is that there are well-meaning, but, misguided folks who feel the need to “improve” upon the Mass and make changes at will. The Mass does not belong to us. We are called to receive the Holy Sacrifice as a gift.

Furthermore, pastors (including priests and bishops) do not have the authority to make changes to the Mass. The bishop has limited authority and it is confined only to certain things. This does not include inserting and imbedding new rituals into the Mass. If the USCCB were to petition for an adaptation (a change to the GIRM), it would have to be with the apporoval of 2/3 of the Latin Rite bishop members and then, be sent to Rome. Rome would make the final decision as to whether or not to grant the recognitio (approval) to the adaptation.

Actually, it should not be done. There is nothing in the GIRM or in the liturgical Tradition of the Church that gives this ilicit practice any credence. In fact, there is nothing in the RCIA ritual that even calls for this to be done. I would direct you to read the observations that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has made regarding this matter. The quote is included in my initial post on this thread.

This ilicit practice is based on someone’s well-meaning, but, misguided attempt at improving the Mass to make it more inclusive. However, as I see it, the folks advocating this kind of practice have a poor understanding of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. When the priest issues the invitation: “Behold, the Lamb of God, happy are those who are called to His Supper”, he is inviting those of us who are properly disposed to come and receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. We form the line to receive Someone, not something (that is to say, a blessing). We are not called to make changes to the Mass based upon our own idiosyncracies. We need to humbly accept the magnificent gift that Christ has bequeathed to us, through His Church, and not make any feeble attempts at trying to make it better.

After I read your first post I learned a few things, hence me deleting mine. :wink:

What about children going up with their parents for a blessing? I don’t see too many adults doing it these days but I see a lot of little ones with their arms crossed. I suppose the answer just goes back to what you originally said, no matter if it’s adults or children?

The fifth observation also applies to children. My parochial vicar specifcally addressed that at the tail end of his homily He said that he is not against children, only that we are teaching them that it’s okay to receive something in substitute for Someone. He said that while he can understand a parent bringning a baby up to the Communion line, he is not going to bless the child because that is not the purpose of the line. People will cite Jesus blessing the children. However, that is taking the Gospel passage in the wrong context. When Jesus blessed the children, this did not happen within the context of the cultic worship of Ancient Israel. This actually occured away from the Jewish liturgy. The Church is the New Israel. Just like Ancient Israel had her cultic, sacrificial norms (dictated by God, Himself, to Moses), so does the New Israel, guided by Christ through His Church and Vicar (the Holy Father).

My parochial vicar reiterated that everyone will receive a blessing, but, at the appropriate time, the end of the Mass, as noted in the CDWDS observation.

I see, and thank you for answering so promptly. :slight_smile:

You’re welcome. No doubt, there will probably be a lot of activity in this thread wth well-meaning folks still adhering to this bad practice and trying to justify it. However, it all boils down to obedience. We need to obey what the CDWDS observes. The CDWDS is the Curial office charged by the Holy Father to oversee the liturgical matters of the Church. And, obedience is not just reserved to the laity. Pastors (and this includes priests and bishops) are obliged to obey the directives of the Holy See.

My parochial vicar and I had a long talk about this subject. When the observations came out, I gve hm a copy of it adn he stopped it right away. We also shared it with some priest friends of ours. Another priest, who saw the letter, put the kibosh on the practice right away. I was rathe pleasantly surprised when my PV announced it at the tail end of his homily. Methinks that this will probably come up at the next Priest’s Assembly, or, at least at the next Presbyteral Council meeting. My parochial vicar is a stickler for following the norms and rubrics of the Church. He told me that the ilicit practice had always made him uncomfortable and was grateful that the CDWDS confirmed his suspicions.

Where can one find out what the CDWDS states about certain (and/or all) issues?

Notitae is the official publication of the CDWDS; however, it is not necessarily widely available. However, publications like the Adoremus Bulletin (which is widely respected by the CDWDS, in fact, I heard the former Secretary to the CDWDS praise them right in front of me when I was at the Gateway Liturgical Conference) has a very good library of documents from the Congregation. You can find it by following this link:

Going back to the CDWDS statement, it is official. It has already appeared in Notitae and it bears a protocol number: 930/08/L. Thus, the document carries weight. There will be some publications and bloggers who will try to put a spin on it and claim that it really does not mean what it says, but, the CDWDS has already included pertinent Canon Law and liturgical documents to further substantiate it (even though, since it is the CDWDS, it really does not need to substantiate itself).

Thanks! I need all the education I can get! :slight_smile:

Could not the Orthodox go into the line since they are permitted to receive Communion in rare instances, I think?

Also, what certain things can a bishop change in the Mass?

God Bless

The Byzantine tradition directs that we cross our arms over our breasts, right over left, as we approach the Chalice.

Eastern Christians; Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental all receive Communion with arms crossed. This is their traditional posture.

Eastern Catholics can always receive Communion in a Latin Rite Mass (so long as nothing else prevents them); Orthdox may receive under certain circumstances. All will often do so with their arms crossed, simply out of habit.

That’s yet another reason why the illicit practice of blessings in the Communion line causes so much confusion. A priest who is distributing Communion doesn’t know if the person in front of him is an Eastern Christian ready to receive Communion, or someone else who for whatever reason is not to be admitted to Holy Communion according to the norm of law but is expecting a blessing instead.

The local bishop has wide latitude within his own territory to dispense from the liturgical law (he can dispense from the obligation to attend Mass, for example). However, when it comes to making changes to the Mass, the Holy See has reserved to itself the decisions to change or add anything in the Mass, unless the Holy See has specifically said that certain decisions may be made by the bishop or local pastor. Blessing in the Communion line is not something that the Holy See has left to the decision of the local bishop. The bishop can dispense from something that the liturgical law requires, but cannot dispense from the obligation to actually follow the ritual of the Mass.

Here’s a concrete example: The bishop can dispense a prison chaplain from the obligation to celebrate Mass with complete vestments (since this can be a burden in that environment), but he cannot dispense anyone from the obligation to use the actual rite of the Mass by permitting ritual to be added which the supreme authority of the Church has not approved.

He can dispense from, but he cannot permit additions or changes since these are reserved to the Holy See.

anyone who is not receiving for whatever reason should stay in their place unless they are a small child with their parent, or unless the priest specifically invites them to come forward for a blessing (not the proper usage, but his problem, not yours). Not everyone who does not receive is in a state of mortal sin and to presume so is simply wrong.

But, as you noted, he should not be issuing the invitation since it is ilicit, given the five observations that the Holy See made on the matter.


Does dis affect both the old mass and the new mass?

God Bless

Yes, without a doubt.

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