How many parishes have to live with the constant threat of having their Masses terminated?
The following notice is displayed prominently in the vestibule of St Vincent’s church:
It first appeared in the church bulletin for two weeks after Sunday December 16 2007, when the Neocats, their travesty of a “Liturgycal Committe” in tatters, attempted to stifle the Community’s input to the liturgy with the bully-boy tactics to which they so often resort (see The last straw?).
A few days later, the St Vincent’s pp met with the Cardinal, and coincidentally, Mendes and Pelle underwent some kind of transformation.
What could George Card. have said to his pet Neocats – and why?
At least outwardly most signs of hostility towards the Community disappeared, replaced by something that could almost be described as a spirit of cooperation. Apart from the usual mind-numbing sermons, could one dare to hope that the situation was about to improve?
In case you find this all bordering on the fantastical, gentle reader, let me put your mind at ease. After several weeks, the facade is crumbling. The Neocats are reverting to form – threatening denial of the Eucharist, denying the existence of Aboriginals in the community and criticising the community’s contributions to the liturgy.
Recently Pelle asked a regular attendee at weekday masses to see him in the sacristy after Mass when she went to receive the Eucharist from him. She had arrived quite late. Canon law, he assured her, dictated that one not present for communion if one arrives late for mass.
Again coincidentally, the following question and answer by Fr John Flader appeared in The Catholic Weekly a few days latter:
17 February, 2008
A friend of mine said that her parish priest has told the people that if they arrive late for Mass he will not give them holy Communion. I have also heard of a case where the priest indicated that he would not give Communion to anyone who arrived after the Gospel. Is this the teaching of the Church?
There are a number of issues involved in your question. The first is the integrity of the Mass as a single act of worship comprising the two principal parts of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Liturgy of the Word, preceded by the Introductory Rites which prepare us to hear the Word of God fruitfully, in turn prepares us for the Liturgy of the Eucharist in which we are present at the sacrifice of Calvary made present on the altar and we receive the “Word made flesh” in holy Communion.
For this reason it is easy to understand how the Mass forms one single act of worship and how important it is to be there for all of it.
Ideally, it is good to try to arrive some time before the beginning of Mass in order to recollect ourselves and to prepare for the Mass in silent prayer. The Mass is truly the highlight of the day, or of the week if we attend only on Sundays, and it is only natural to want to be there on time in order to prepare ourselves properly.
But what happens if, through no fault of our own, or even due to some degree of carelessness, we arrive late? Here it is important to distinguish between two cases: Sunday Mass and weekday Mass.
If it is a Sunday, when we are obliged to attend Mass, we should first consider whether it would not be better to attend another Mass, so that we can be there for the entire Mass. If this is the last Mass we can reasonably attend, we can stay for whatever part of the Mass remains.
At what point should we consider that we have arrived too late and have not fulfilled the Sunday Mass obligation?
It used to be said that as long as one was present from the beginning of the Preparation of the Gifts, or the Offertory as it used to be called, the obligation was satisfied. But if we consider the importance of the Liturgy of the Word and the unity of the whole Mass, ideally it would be better to put the cut off point at the beginning of the readings. Nonetheless, since there is no official teaching of the Church on this point, we can give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and draw the line at the beginning of the Preparation of the Gifts.
If it is a weekday, when there is no obligation to attend Mass and often it is difficult to attend another Mass, we can stay in that Mass even though we have arrived late.
As regards denying Communion to someone who has arrived late, there is no justification for it in the teaching of the Church. On the contrary, the “faithful have a right to be assisted by their pastors from the spiritual riches of the Church, especially by the word of God and the sacraments”. (Code of Canon Law, Can. 213)
With respect to denying someone Communion, the Code is very clear and very restrictive: “Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion.” (Can. 915) To deny Communion for any other reason would be an abuse. Clearly, arriving late for Mass does not constitute obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin! In any case, the priest cannot possibly know whether the late arrival is due to carelessness or to a very valid reason and he should presume the latter.
In summary, we should make every effort to arrive on time, even early, for Mass. But if we arrive late, we can still feel free to receive Communion, provided we are properly prepared. After all, attendance at Mass is not a requirement for the reception of Communion, which may be received even outside of Mass in a variety of circumstances.
c/- The Catholic Weekly, Level 8, Polding Centre,
133 Liverpool St, Sydney 2000,
or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Perhaps Pelle was referring to (Kiko’s) Kanon.