This morning it was my joy to offer Mass with the students and teachers from both our grade and high schools. The younger ones come to Mass once a month, but the high school students only come a few times in the course of the school year. Because it's the ancient Christian feast of American Thanksgiving this week, we had a big Mass for everyone. It's good to see the church almost full once in a while apart from the Christmas Vigil and Ash Wednesday.
I really enjoy the kids, and I especially appreciate the preaching challenge at these Masses. Today I added an extra little homily. Normally I abhor the giving of instructions during Mass, but I just had to go over how to receive Holy Communion with the kids. We are blessed with some fine and diligent young people, but in my experience some of them receive Communion a little carelessly. I often surprise some kid who wasn't expecting me to 'go for the tongue' because they are holding their hands so low, 'do the pincers,' or present their hands with jacket sleeves over them. Inevitably I end up chasing some child or other down the aisle to make sure he has consumed the Host. Since this is embarrassing for the poor kid, and a little distracting for me--although I love having the reputation as a priest who does it when necessary--I wanted to give a little practical catechesis on being a good communicant at the end of my homily.
I meant to just give the practical expectations for those who choose to receive in the hand: how to hold up the hands, not to grab or pinch, and then to receive the Host before turning around, stepping to the side if one desires. But what I found was that it was hard for me to give purely practical directions; I couldn't do it without giving the theological catechesis that goes with it. I found myself explaining why we do what we do, what it means, and why it is critical to our Catholic faith and identity that we receive the sacraments diligently and carefully. This is, of course, a very Catholic way to experience oneself as a preacher; the lex orandi and the lex credendi go together. In Christ, God has emptied himself into our humanity and how we move and behave plays out who we are saying we are when each of us accepts our new Name from the minister of Holy Communion: "Body of Christ."
So there I was, committing one of the sins I hate most in preachers: giving two homilies at one Mass. But the experience confirmed for me what I am and desire to be: a catholic Christian.