Thursday, 25 February 2021

Talks on the Sacramentals, by Msgr Arthur Tonne - Ceremonies of the Eucharist

"He had opened the doors of heaven, and had rained down Manna upon them to eat, and had given them the Bread of Heaven." Psalm 77:24.

In the early eighteenth century there were only three families in the mission station of Inverness-Shire, Scotland. Persecution, the murder and outlawing of priests, constant war and discord had forced the once Catholic community to take to other parts. Those who remained were indifferent to religion.

A zealous priest, Father John MacDonald, tried to bring them back to the faith. His efforts seemed in vain. They would neither listen nor follow. He decided to go to another field.

The very day chosen for his departure he was called to a sick person in a mountain village. When he arrived at the house he was not a little angered to find the patient seemingly not sick at all, for she was sitting in a chair dressed in her finest clothes. The priest expressed his impatience for making such a tedious journey apparently with no purpose. His surprise, however, turned to admiration, when the patient explained:

"Is it anything but right that I who so often tried to please the world in dress should do my best in ornament and attire to honor and welcome my Savior, the living God, when He comes to visit me? Please hurry, Father, hear my confession and give me the sacraments. My last hour is near."

Still unconvinced, the priest gave her the last sacraments. A few minutes later she died. Father MacDonald took this incident as a sign from God that he was to remain there. God blessed his forty years of effort. The mission became one of the most flourishing in Scotland.

This story offers several inspiring lessons. The one I would like to emphasize is the spirit which prompted that dying woman to show honor and respect to our Lord when He was brought to her sick room. That same spirit of reverence is the reason behind all the ceremonies of the Eucharist. We want to give our Eucharistic Lord the best we have, the best we can afford. According to our means we purchase the best altar linens, vestments, monstrance, chalice and ciborium. We want to worship our Lord in the Eucharist in the most fitting way by surrounding every ceremony with the most beautiful, the most precious, the most becoming adornment possible. In another series, TALKS ON THE MASS, we will speak of the ceremonies and articles used at Mass. Today we would like to explain some of the other ceremonies which honor Christ in the Eucharist:

1. At Benediction, as the priest and servers enter the sanctuary, we should stand in reverence to God's minister. Kneel when the priest kneels. Look up to the Sacred Host when It is enthroned. Bow your head with the priest when the choir sings, "Down in adoration falling." When the priest makes the sign of the cross with the monstrance, make the sign of the cross over yourself--it is our Lord's own blessing. Some strike the breast out of humility and in adoration. But do look up at the Host for a moment. An indulgence of 7 years is granted for looking at the Sacred Host at Benediction and saying, "My Lord and my God." That is why It is held up to your gaze. Join in the singing and in repeating the divine praises.

2. At the Communion of the Mass, after you have made as worthy a preparation as possible, look up and receive the blessing of the priest. When he holds up the Sacred Host, look up, because he is saying:

"Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins of the world."

Pray with the priest the words:

"O Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter into my heart, say but the word and my soul shall be healed."

When your turn comes to receive, raise your head, put out your tongue on your lower lip, as flat as possible. Don't reach for the Host. Remain steady and calm. The priest will place the Host on your tongue as he says:

"May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ keep your soul unto life everlasting."

Don't be a snapper and pull your tongue back quickly. Slowness helps reverence. Follow the custom of your parish. And do keep your eyes closed while receiving. In some places the communicants genuflect before leaving the rail. The more common practice is to rise, walk down the steps, and return to your pew. Going and coming do keep your hands folded and eyes cast down.

In your pew cover your face with your hands, or close your eyes, bow your head, and with folded hands talk to our Lord and listen as He talks to you.

3. Holy Communion is brought to the home as a Communion of devotion or as Viaticum. When you call the priest to the dying, let the priest know whether the patient is able to receive Holy Communion or not. When the priest brings Communion, meet him at the door with a lighted candle and greet him with the words:

"Praised be Jesus Christ."

Near the sick person prepare a table with a clean, white cloth spread upon it, two lighted, blessed candles, holy water, and a glass filled almost to the brim with hydrant water, and a spoon and a towel. The priest purifies the fingers which have touched the Host in a spoonful of water and gives it to the patient. The patient should have a white cloth under his chin to catch the Host in case it falls. Members of the household should kneel nearby. You may place flowers or other suitable decorations upon the table. As much as possible avoid unnecessary talk with the priest as he enters or leaves, and with the sick person immediately after Communion. Often the priest is taking Communion to others and is carrying our Lord with him as he leaves.

Holy Communion is truly Bread from heaven. And when the priest brings Holy Communion to you, whether at the Communion rail or to your sick bed, the gates of heaven are truly opened and the Lord comes to you.

Surround that glorious coming with all the cleanliness of soul and body, all the reverence, all the thoughtfulness possible.

These little ceremonies are sacramentals. They help us to keep our thoughts upon the great Sacrament--our Lord Himself. Amen.

EXTREME UNCTION, CEREMONIES

"Is anyone among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." St. James, 5:14.

In his young life as a soldier he had many narrow escapes from dangerous accidents. Brushes with death he called them. His plane had been riddled with flak. He had thrown himself into a ditch to escape a rain of machine gun bullets. Another time a bullet had whistled through his helmet But his most terrifying experience happened in an army hospital.

He was lying in a coma after his plane had cracked up. He was paralyzed. He could not move his lips or his eyes or a single muscle. He heard the doctors tell the nurse:

"He's finished. There's nothing more to do."

He heard them pronounce him dead. Yet, he was not dead. Fortunately, someone had summoned the chaplain. The priest took a last chance. He pronounced conditional absolution and quickly administered the sacrament of Extreme Unction. There might be a spark of life in this man.

And there was. Hardly had the priest completed the rite when the apparently dead man twitched a muscle. He revived. He recovered. It was just another of the countless proofs of the life- giving, strength-giving powers of the sacrament of the dying. Too numerous to question are the cases where a patient has been in a coma or unconscious only to revive upon the administration of Extreme Unction.

St. James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, has promised this:

"Is any one among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him." St. James, 5:14, 15.

The ceremonies connected with such a marvelous sacrament are interesting sacramentals. They help to put the patient and the people present in the proper disposition for the graces which the sacrament offers. These actions console, strengthen and uplift.

1. By the Last Sacraments we mean Confession, Communion and Extreme Unction. Should a Catholic suddenly take seriously ill, the priest is called. If possible, the patient makes a confession, receives Viaticum, and then the sacrament of the dying. On the table covered with a white linen cloth there should be a crucifix. holy water, two lighted candles, a glass of water, a spoon and a dish with a few snatches of bread, and a slice of lemon, and a dish of water and a towel. These are to cleanse the oil from the fingers of the priest. There should also be at least six small pieces of cotton on a dish.

2. As the priest enters the sick room, he prays:

"Peace be to this house....

"And to all who dwell therein."

He places the oil of the sick on the table. After confession and Viaticum he offers the sick person a crucifix to kiss, and sprinkles the patient and those in the room with holy water in the form of a cross.

3. After several beautiful prayers in which our Lord is begged to grant peace and health to the household and to defend everyone from evil, the priest proceeds to anoint the five senses.

4. He dips his thumb in the Oil of the Sick and traces the sign of the cross on the eyes, the ears, the nostrils, the closed lips, the open hands, and the feet. As he anoints each sense he says a prayer like this:

"Through this holy unction and of His most tender mercy, may the Lord pardon thee whatever sins thou hast committed by sight. Amen."

5. Immediately after each anointing the priest wipes off the oil, taking a fresh piece of cotton for each sense. It is proper for someone to hold the clean pieces of cotton on a plate and to receive on a plate the used pieces, so that later the cotton, together with the lemon, bread and water used in washing may be thrown into a fire. The priest will dispose of it, if you wish.

6. There follow several beautiful prayers, each one beseeching God to grant good health to this sick child of His.

7. In cases of emergency the priest may use a much shorter form for anointing. He simply anoints the forehead of the dying person. This is done when the circumstances prohibit the carrying out of the full rite.

8. Following this are a number of touching prayers for a dying person which the priest says when there is time for it.

9. At the hour of death the priest imparts the Apostolic Blessing with a Plenary Indulgence.

Again I urge that you call the priest in plenty of time to administer this consoling and strengthening sacrament while the dying person is still conscious. Don't wait until the patient in unconscious or scarcely able to know what is going on.

Should you be sick, have your relatives and friends, your doctor and nurse instructed to call a priest in ample time. You want to be fully conscious when these beautiful ceremonies and prayers are performed over and for you. You want to share fully in their power to lift your heart to heavenly things, their power to strengthen your soul, their unquestioned power to help you physically when God sees fit.

Think about this sacrament during today's Mass. The time for you to receive it may be a short or a long way off. Try to realize in your days of health the meaning and beauty and helpfulness of the sacrament you will receive before or on the day of your death. Amen.


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