December 9, 2009

Colligit Fragmenta

There seems to be a new genre of post developing, in which I confess to negligences and sins of which I often accuse others. May I be at work on removing the beams from my eyes!

It was a very quiet 8:30 Mass this morning, because of the terrible weather. I was enjoying it, and thought I preached well, if a little too long. At the fraction, though, something went wrong. I don't know if I forgot to do the bend-before-break, or failed to hold the top end, or was holding the Host too far above the paten, but as I fractioned the Host I thought I saw a small particle fly off the left. I looked, and I found what I thought was probably a particle on the corporal, but I wasn't sure if it was the one I had lost. Maybe it was from some other Mass. In any case, I rescued the particle I found, and even if it wasn't the one I had lost, the relative sacrilege in this world remained as it was under my watch.

Of course the comfort in such situations is that the Body of Christ comes to us under the appearance of the bread. Where there is no longer any recognizable appearance, or where particles have become practically invisible, there is no fear the Blessed Sacrament is being lost.

On the other hand, it makes me mourn all of the particles that must get lost every day. I used to worry about this--to myself--when I was a novice, as we celebrated Mass with our sweet, muffiny altar breads made by one of the old friars (who was a renowned baker, truth be told, and a dear and deeply fraternal soul, God be good to him.) They were so yummy that friars would eat them right out of the freezer instead of saving them for the Masses for which they were destined. When I was in studies at the theological school we attended, I wondered about the large amounts of crumby pita bread that was used for Mass, and what recognizable particles must have inevitably been lost.

There are those who say that the treatment of the Sacred Species in the older form of Mass was overly protective and fussy. Perhaps there is something too that. But it can also be said that in the course of the reception of the reformed liturgy, something of reverence, care, and salutary fear has been lost in many places. Perhaps the treatment of the Sacred Species is one of those areas in which we should take up the Holy Father's advice in the cover letter to Summorum pontificum and seek a "mutual enrichment" of what are now called the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Roman rite.

May God forgive me all of the sacrileges I commit against Him and his creatures each day. Amen.


Father Cory Sticha said...

Amen. I've been just as guilty of not being as conscious about the particles that come off of the host during the fractioning rite. Mea culpa, and may God have mercy on us.

Qualis Rex said...

I'm sorry you are both agonizing over this. I hope God will give you respite from your worries. And yes, following this particular Holy Father's words on this or any subject is always a good idea.

Warren said...

It is interesting to me that "altar bread" in the Eastern Rites, and the Orthodox churches is often leavened. They made a lot of yeasty frothing remarks about the Latins and their unleavened bread, a tradition the Orthodox greeks used as a way of calling us Latins Monophysites.

I think the lack of a "scholastic" western mind, would render questions about fragments not exactly moot, but something that was probably never brought up, in a way only the East can ever manage ... that sheer effort of sustained disinterest lasting centuries.



Brother Charles said...


The question of using leavened or unleavened bread for the Eucharist is actually very interesting to me.

At the Orthodox chapel where I sometimes go on my day off there is a mural of the Last Supper, with Matthias among the Twelve. It's the heavenly Last Supper, apparently. I don't think it's unrelated to the different approaches to altar bread!

Lee Gilbert said...

"There are those who say that the treatment of the Sacred Species in the older form of Mass was overly protective and fussy."

On the other hand, we had a Priest from Poland drummed out of the Archdiocese of Chicago because he objected at the top of his lungs to priests pouring chalices of the Precious Blood down the sacrarium after Mass.

No, the earlier generation was not overly protective and fussy. In fact, how could you be overly protective and fussy? One of the Fathers of the Church- I forget who- said that we should treat the particles of the consecrated host as if they were limbs of our bodies, an arm or a leg.

Undoubtedly one could become overly scrupulous, but that does not seem to be our problem generally. In too many of us the belief in the Real presence is failing, and our carelessness may be the cause. I don't mean a psychological cause, either, but that in being careless with the Eucharist, we are being careless with the gift of faith as well.

And careless with priestly vocations, too. Why should God give us priests, if we are going to be careless with the Eucharist and bring the guilt of sacrilege down on our heads? Perhaps we have reached the point where the Lord thinks it a safer thing to withhold the Eucharist from us.

Obviously your worries indicate you are a very conscientious priest, Father, but I wonder about the epistemological test for the Real Presence. Is it doctrine or opinion that when particles become unrecognizable as bread they are no longer Eucharistic? To me that idea seems like the intellectual underpinning for carelessness.