Peter Kwasniewski

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The spiritual danger of unworthy communions: a key point in the Amoris debate

Peter Kwasniewski Peter Kwasniewski Follow Dr. Peter

October 26, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — The Servant of God Mother Catherine Mectilde de Bar of the Blessed Sacrament (1614–1698), foundress of the Benedictines of Perpetual Adoration, is not yet a well-known spiritual author in the English-speaking world. This will undoubtedly change when translations of her profound writings, currently under way, are published. In any case, Mother Mectilde is a magnificent spiritual guide of the stature of St. Teresa of Jesus or St. John of the Cross, with a particular charism of insight into and love for the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, about which she speaks with tenderness and zeal.

I happened lately to be reading Mother Mectilde’s The True Spirit of the Perpetual Adorers of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar — a series of conferences she gave to her nuns — and was struck by the way she describes the horror of unworthy communions:

My sisters, let us continue to speak about the humiliations which Jesus bears in us, in our communions. How great should be our grief on account of ourselves and the many people who receive Communion unworthily and who make Jesus suffer such awful shame and insult? My sisters, we have the glory of being the daughters and the victims of the Most Holy Sacrament. Have we not great reason to weep? I do not even speak here of the external profanations which are committed by the wicked, a single account of which is enough to make one die of sorrow and fear. Sacrilegious communions, only too frequent among Christians—should we not be overwhelmed with shock?

Oh! Who can understand what injury the Son of God receives from such communions? I can say nothing to express such a deadly evil. It is the center of all evils, for Jesus in a way receives a kind of death, more disgraceful, more shameful, and crueler than that of His Passion. This evil is so terrible in its reality that it exceeds all human thoughts. It would be necessary to understand something of the infinite dignity, sanctity, and greatness of God to do it justice.

I am very certain, my sisters, that not one of us would want to fall into this disorder. I tell you this only to make you marvel at the excessive humiliations of God when He became man and how He subjects Himself in order to come into our hearts by Holy Communion. I know that you would not voluntarily allow a venial sin to enter your hearts and that you would rather descend into hell than insult your Spouse in this way; for if we were to be in that infernal abyss, God would not lose any of His glory. But to offend His Majesty in us by a mortal sin is the only evil on earth which a soul ought to fear.

Lest one think that the author of these words had an excessively severe view of worthiness, I hasten to add that Mother Mectilde was a veritable lieutenant in the charge against the Jansenists, who were happy when people did not go to communion because, as they said, no one could be worthy of receiving God. Mother Mectilde would have none of this false piety masquerading as humility; she knew that any soul in a state of grace, however imperfect and weak, desperately needs the Bread of Life in order to grow in holiness and charity. She was accustomed to say: “Why would you deprive yourself of the infinite Good?” Consequently, she encouraged her sisters, and by extension, all Catholics, to receive Holy Communion as frequently as they could, as long as they did so with proper preparation and good dispositions.

At the same time, however, and without the slightest inconsistency, she was inflexibly stern about the evil of going to communion when one is in a state of discord with the law of God. It does not matter what one’s subjective intentions may be; if one is living in a state that is objectively contrary to God’s will for man, one must never approach the communion rail. This would be no different from Judas betraying the Son of God with a kiss.

The reason for this is simple. God desires our love. But love — the rational, freely chosen love found in human beings — is not a feeling or an emotion; it is the conformity of our will to God’s will, which includes our repentance of sins that are contrary to His will. The ancient Roman Catiline once said: Idem velle atque idem nolle, ea demum firma amicitia est, which may be rendered “True friendship is willing and not willing the same things.” How can we be said to love someone when we are ignoring, contradicting, opposing, or scorning his will? Thus, Mother Mectilde encourages frequent communion for those who are striving to conform to God’s will for the very same reason that she forbids sacramental communion for those who are not willing to renounce their lack of conformity to God’s will — that is, their attachment to serious sin. The only one who may worthily approach communion is the one who also grasps how harmful it would be to do so unworthily. To go to communion casually, routinely, without a thought in the world about the infinitely holy divine Person we are receiving, is already to be unworthy and to receive in a sinful way; far worse, then, is it to approach communion in a state of objective moral disorder, when one is living contrary to God’s law, as given to us in Scripture (both Testaments!) and in the Church’s perennial Tradition.

This is why the worldwide debate over the issues raised in chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia is no mere scholarly diversion or pastoral skirmish. As has already been explained countless times by faithful sons and princes of the Church, it is a matter of fidelity or infidelity to the Son of God, the Word made flesh, the King of kings, the Judge of the living and the dead. Everyone who supports errors concerning admissibility to Holy Communion will have to answer on the dread day of judgment for their part in crucifying the Savior in His Eucharistic Body.

This article will be completed next week.

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Peter Kwasniewski

Peter Kwasniewski holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Thomas Aquinas College in California and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. After teaching at the International Theological Institute in Austria and for the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austrian Program, he joined the founding team of Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming, where he taught theology, philosophy, music, and art history, and directed the Choir and Schola. He now works as a freelance author, public speaker, editor, publisher, and composer.

Dr. Kwasniewski has published five books: Wisdom’s Apprentice (CUA Press, 2007)On Love and Charity (CUA Press, 2008)Sacred Choral Works (Corpus Christi Watershed, 2014); Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church (Angelico Press, 2014); and most recently, Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages (Angelico Press, 2017)Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis has also been published in Czech, Polish, German, and Portuguese, and will soon appear in Spanish and Belarusian.

Kwasniewski is a board member and scholar of The Aquinas Institute for the Study of Sacred Doctrine, which is publishing the Opera Omnia of the Angelic Doctor, a Fellow of the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies, and a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center. He has published over 750 articles on Thomistic thought, sacramental and liturgical theology, the history and aesthetics of music, and the social doctrine of the Church.