Supplying the Exorcism Prayers of Baptism

I have written here a few times about baptism in the Extraordinary Form, including making note of the powerful exorcism prayers included in it. I believe I have also shared the sentiment that I, like so many others, wish I could go back and be “re-baptized” using this form, since I was baptized in the Ordinary Form — without those powerful prayers.

Meanwhile, I have been told by various people that Dr. Taylor Marshall recently encouraged folks to approach their priests and ask that these exorcism prayers be “supplied” for them. “Supplying the rites” is something that is ordinarily done when someone was baptized in an emergency situation — i.e., the full ceremonies were not performed in their regard, only the essential minimum. Once the person reaches a more opportune condition, he or she can be brought to the church and all the other prayers that normally would have been said during a baptism are then said — without baptizing them again in the process. In other words, everything that was omitted is then completed.

Let us consider for a moment, however, the purpose of these various prayers of exorcism that are said — ordinarily — before someone is baptized (in either form, but especially in the Extraordinary Form, in which the prayers are more powerful and more numerous). These prayers are sacramentals of the Church. The exorcism and blessing they bring help to dispose the person who receives them to receive the grace of baptism more fruitfully. That is what sacramentals do: they do not give us sanctifying grace, but they help us to be more disposed to receive it in the sacraments. Sacramentals prepare and strengthen us to get more out of the sacraments.

Why, then, would the exorcisms be done for someone who had been baptized in an emergency? I would argue that it was more for the sake and consolation of the family: here their child had been baptized in non-ideal conditions, in haste; but now things are better, so we supply the Church’s full rites. Some might reject this as a superficial way of thinking, but it’s clear that in all of the Church’s ceremonies there are elements that speak to our psychological dimension, that are for our consolation. Also, we could argue that the Church herself had supplied for what was missing at the moment of the emergency, it not being prudent to include those prayers then; therefore, what was there only virtually then, we now do in fact.

(It’s interesting to note that in 1964, the rules for supplying rites were changed, to exclude doing the exorcism prayers. Incidentally, the 1964 rules largely do not apply now, as the instruction Universae Ecclesiae on the implementation of Summorum Pontificum reset most things back to how they were in 1962.)

For those of us who were baptized without the benefit of these exorcism prayers to prepare us for the sacramental grace, we need to realize that every good confession we’ve made post-baptism has renewed that grace in usThe sacraments are more powerful than the sacramentals, though the sacramentals certainly are powerful helps. If you’ve gone to confession, if you’re worn a blessed medal (especially a St. Benedict medal), if you’ve done something like a Marian consecration in the spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort (which is ordered to the renewal of one’s baptism), if you’ve made fervent holy communions, etc. — all these and other spiritual practices have powerfully disposed you to benefit from the grace of your baptism.

An analog here is what we do with someone who is experiencing spiritual affliction (possibly from demonic activity): we do not immediately go to the exorcism prayers. Rather, we find out: Are they praying? Are they going to Mass at least on Sundays and Holy Days? Are they striving to live a moral life? Are they going to confession? Etc. Exorcism prayers are usually the last resort, because we recognize that living a proper Christian life is itself very powerful, particularly the dimension of the sacraments included in that. In the sacraments, such as confession and Holy Communion, Christ himself reaches into our lives. Sometimes the additional exorcism prayers of a priest are necessary. But many people who experience affliction, upon improving their spiritual life, notice that the affliction leaves them.

Fr. Zuhlsdorf also wrote on this and counseled much the same thing: we should not go back and try to have the rites supplied. It would have been nice if we had been baptized using the old books. But we were not. However, we were still baptized. And we have not lacked in remedies since then to help us benefit from all that the Church offers us for our spiritual growth and protection.

There is a certain neo-pelagianism inherent in advice like Dr. Marshall’s (full disclosure: I have not watched his video; I am relying on second-hand reports): the suspicion is that one did not receive quite enough to be saved, that the Church has somehow left us just short of what we truly need — so we need to take matters into our own hands and seek out that which is not foreseen by the Church herself. Let’s be clear: the Church does not foresee our supplying rites of baptism in the circumstance described. Again, see what I wrote about exorcisms in general above: going to the exorcism prayers are usually our last resort; we usually have enough help in the sacraments and traditional spiritual practices.

I would also warn about an additional spiritual danger for priests who try what Marshall counsels: the Church is clear about the use of exorcism prayers. There is much confusion about this nowadays, and I need to do another post on it — many are simply ignorant of even recent documents in this regard. But the devil is a legalist. If you (a priest) are not covered by the authority of the Church and your bishop to do this or that exorcism prayer, you provoke the evil one. He is far more powerful than us and if we dare to speak to him “out of place”, we ask for trouble. Since the Church does not explicitly foresee our supplying the rites of baptism, including using those exorcism prayers, in the circumstance Marshall counsels, those priests who do it ask for more trouble — for themselves and for those they try to help. Let’s not mess around with exorcism prayers!

(I don’t want to hear about “minor exorcisms” vs. “major exorcisms”, either. Show me the documents where the Church actually uses those categories! I will show you the documents I have in return. There is much ignorance about all of this. I’ll do a post on it, hopefully soon.)

Yes, the changes made to our rites were drastic. Yes, we are rediscovering now what was lost and many are taking advantage of it. But God has not left us orphans. We do not need to scramble to somehow benefit “retroactively” from sacramentals that were meant to be done chronologically. Let’s focus now on living out our call to holiness and trust that by faithful reception of the sacraments and a devout life of prayer, we will have all that we need and more to be saved and be happy with God forever.

All of that said, I do encourage parents to consider having their children baptized in the Extraordinary Form!

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Difficulty Praying the Rosary Regularly?

The celebrated image of Our Lady of the Rosary at Pompeii.

For many people, praying the rosary regularly and consistently is a real challenge. Then, for many, there is the additional difficulty of getting the hang of meditating on the mysteries while going through the Hail Marys and other prayers…

Here’s an idea:

Whenever you do manage to pray the rosary, offer it for this intention:
For the grace to pray the rosary more consistently and more fruitfully.

I really think our Blessed Mother wants us to pray her rosary daily. All of the popes of the modern era have recommended it (rather a lot of times, in fact); and in every apparition of Our Lady that has been approved by the Church, Mary has told us to pray her rosary.

If she really wants us to pray it, I feel sure she’ll obtain the graces we need in response to the above intention. Pray for that, try to stick with it, and see what happens. Obedience.

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The Older Profession of Faith for Converts

When a person who is already baptized is received into the Catholic Church now, the ordinary profession of faith used is quite simple. The person states (without having to put his or her hand on a book of the gospels or otherwise in the position of taking an oath), “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.” That’s how they juridically and formally enter the Catholic Church.

I recently came across the older form of the profession of faith for converts. The difference is rather remarkable. It could, in a certain sense, be a standard against which an RCIA program is judged: do all these things really get taught? Here it is — it speaks for itself:

I, NAME, ___ years of age, born outside the Catholic Church, have held and believed errors contrary to her teaching. Now, enlightened by divine grace, I kneel before you, Reverend Father NAME, having before my eyes and touching with my hand the holy Gospels. And with firm faith I believe and profess each and all the articles contained in the Apostles’ Creed, that is: I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; He descended into hell, the third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty, from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and life everlasting. Amen.

Most firmly I admit and embrace the apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions and all the other constitutions and ordinances of the Church.

I admit the Sacred Scriptures in the sense which has been held and is still held by Holy Mother Church, whose duty it is to judge the true sense and interpretation of Sacred Scripture, and I shall never accept or interpret them except according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.

I profess that the sacraments of the New Law are truly and precisely seven in number, instituted for the salvation of mankind, though all are not necessary for each individual: baptism, confirmation, Holy Eucharist, penance, extreme unction, holy orders, and matrimony. I profess that all confer grace, and that baptism, confirmation, and holy orders cannot be repeated without sacrilege. I also accept and admit the ritual of the Catholic Church in the solemn administration of all the sacraments mentioned above.

I accept and hold in each and every part all that has been defined and declared by the Sacred Council of Trent concerning Original Sin and Justification. I profess that in the Mass is offered to God a true, real, and propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead; that in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist the Body and Blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ is really, truly, and substantially present, and that there takes place in the Mass what the Church calls transubstantiation, which is the change of all the substance of wine into His Blood. I confess also that in receiving under either of these species one receives Jesus Christ whole and entire.

I firmly hold that Purgatory exists and that the souls detained therein can be helped by the prayers of the faithful.

Likewise I hold that the saints, who reign with Jesus Christ, should be venerated and invoked, that they offer prayers to God for us, and that their relics are to venerated.

I firmly profess that the images of Jesus Christ and of the Mother of God, ever Virgin, as well as of all the saints should be given due honor and veneration. I also affirm that Jesus Christ left to the Church the faculty to grant indulgences, and that their use is most salutary to the Christian people. I recognize the Holy, Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church as the mother and teacher of all the churches, and I promise and swear true obedience to the Roman Pontiff, successor of St. Peter, the prince of the Apostles and vicar of Jesus Christ.

Moreover, without hesitation I accept and profess all that has been handed down, defined, and declared by the sacred canons and by the general councils, especially by the Sacred Council of Trent and by the Vatican General Council, and in special manner all that concerns the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. At the same time I condemn and reprove all that the Church has condemned and reproved. This same Catholic faith, outside of which none can be saved, I now freely profess and to it I truly adhere. With the help of God, this faith I promise and swear to maintain and profess entirely, inviolately, and with firm constancy until the last breath of life. And I shall strive, so far as possible, that this same faith shall be held, taught, and publicly professed by all who depend on me and over whom I shall have charge.

So help me God and these holy Gospels.

There is a short form, which was to be used in grave necessity only. This is much closer to what we now use:

I, NAME, reared in the Protestant religion [or other religion as the case may be], but now, by the grace of God, brought to the knowledge of the truth, do sincerely and solemnly declare that I firmly believe and profess all that the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church believes and teaches, and I reject and condemn whatever she rejects and condemns.

I am reminded of a dear priest friend who died, and who, before expiring, was able to recite a profession of faith (not the one for converts printed above). I posted a few months back about how I hoped to be able to have the use of my faculties till the end so that I might be able to offer my soul to God; I now add to that intention that I hope to be able to renew my profession of faith as well! What a beautiful way to die, if God so grants it.

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Can a priest offer Mass “privately”?

Me set up for daily Mass on a recent vacation, in the house I stayed in.

No Mass is truly private, in at least two senses:

  1. The Mass belongs to the Church and is celebrated only with her authorization;
  2. The angels and saints are present at every Mass, as well as whatever other faithful may be in attendance.

That said, May a priest offer a Mass with no one else in attendance — that is, “privately”?

The Code of Canon Law encourages priests to offer Mass daily — indeed, instructs us to offer Mass “frequently”. Yet, the only priests who have a duty (from Canon Law) to offer Mass at any time are pastors, who must offer Mass “for the people” on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and likewise bishops of dioceses (not bishops who are retired or in other positions), who also must offer Mass for their people on Sundays and Holy Days. All other priests could presumably just attend a Mass on Sunday and have fulfilled the obligation that binds all Catholics.

Nonetheless, we priests are encouraged to offer Mass frequently — even daily, when possible. Canon 904 says, “Remembering always that in the mystery of the eucharistic sacrifice the work of redemption is exercised continually, priests are to celebrate frequently; indeed, daily celebration is recommended earnestly since, even if the faithful cannot be present, it is the act of Christ and the Church in which priests fulfill their principal function.”

Our “principal function”! Yes — offering Mass and the other sacraments. Not pushing paper. Not sitting in meetings. Not designing capital campaigns. Not eating out. Not blogging or facebooking! Offering Mass! (And the other sacraments.)

So this canon already recognizes the possibility of Mass without any other members of the faithful present — a Mass celebrated “privately”, so to speak. But Canon 906 further clarifies this matter: “Except for a just and reasonable cause, a priest is not to celebrate the eucharistic sacrifice without the participation of at least some member of the faithful.” Here we see that the ideal is not a “private” Mass. However, it is permitted for a “just and reasonable cause”. In canonical language, this is the lowest bar there is. Some quip that a “just cause” means “just cuz”! In practical terms, there are any number of possibilities:

  1. It could be the priest’s day off and he is not scheduled for a public Mass;
  2. He might be on vacation (see photo of me, above) and be celebrating in his hotel room or AirBnB or similar;
  3. He might not have a parish assignment at present, being assigned to further studies or a chancery position or something; etc., and so forth.

The clause, “just and reasonable cause”, then, removes most every obstacle from a priest’s celebrating Mass daily. Apart from cases of sickness (e.g., being laid-up in bed) or being prevented by travel or other impossibility, for most priests, the only other thing that might prevent him from being able to celebrate Mass every single day would be if he should have the misfortune to fall into mortal sin — in which case he should not celebrate until he has gotten to confession (canon 916). The faithful should likewise never receive Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin.

Many priests today think that, if there is not some parish or other scheduled Mass they can at least concelebrate, they should not offer Mass. Some priests were taught that private Mass was not permitted. That could not be further from the truth. The Church desires that all priests renew the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary daily, if possible, so that in our world where sin abounds so greatly, grace may abound all the more (Rom 5:20).

I always warn people not to take a vacation from God when they go on vacation (e.g., by missing Mass or otherwise missing normal prayer times). For us priests, also, this is important: we should make plans to offer Mass daily during our vacations, insofar as possible, lest we lose sight of what our priestly vocation entails – lest we deprive the world (and ourselves) of graces that we so desperately need. Yes – in a church with faithful in attendance, if possible. But, if not – even privately, on some altar only seen by God or even on a table in our hotel room!

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Sufficient Confession Times

A priest-friend of mine has remarked that every priest should take his weekly confession time (in minutes), multiply by 52 weeks, then divide by the number of individual parishioners over the age of reason. The result is how many minutes each parishioner gets for confession each year. The answer in many parishes may be surprising and/or pathetic.

One of the precepts of the Church is that we should confess our mortal sins at least once a year, during the Easter season (part of our “Easter duty” — though, traditionally, the season of Lent is included in the time that we might fulfill this duty). This precept is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2042, and in the Code of Canon Law, canon 989. But confession once a year (whether we have mortal sins or not) is really a bare minimum — and do we really want to be “bare minimum Catholics” with the Lord? What would it look like if we were to take that approach consistently through life and, as a result, be unprepared for death (because we died before yearly confession time)? And how will our judgment go if – by some happy provision – we were to die in the state of grace (in spite of our overall lack of generosity with God), yet had offered God basically the bare minimum throughout our life up to death? To do the bare minimum is to aim low and very greatly risk missing the mark.

We should go to confession on a regular basis, even if all we have are venial sins. Those who confess regularly make true spiritual progress. They receive special graces to help them reach the state of perfection even in this life, before the Lord calls them to eternal life. After all, Jesus told us in the gospel, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Yet, do our parish confession schedules really help? Let’s take, for example, a parish that offers confessions from 4 to 4:50 on Saturdays and additionally has a Lenten Penance service with five priests there for 1.5 hours. Let’s further assume that about 2,500 souls above the age of reason attend that parish. So that’s 50 minutes per week times 52 weeks, plus 90 minutes times 5 priests for the extra penance service. Then, divided by 2,500 people. The outcome is 1.22 minutes per person for the year. Not even the most experienced frequent penitent can blurt out his or her sins that fast, recite his or her act of contrition, and receive advice, penance, and absolution in such a time – never mind someone who might go far less frequently!

The reality is that most of our parishes do not take the sacrament seriously, at least as far as the schedule that they offer goes. It doesn’t matter how good the priest is as a priest and as a confessor, if, at the end of the day, he does not schedule enough time for all his parishioners to go regularly. (I count myself in this critique — we do have confessions six days a week in my parish, but we could certainly increase our offering.)

Fathers, how can we preach better use of this sacrament, if we do not offer it? I know well what it’s like to “sit in the box” with no one coming. And yes, while some claim that if we but schedule it “they will come”, I know also that does not always happen. In some places it really is an uphill battle. I’ve also read many fine spiritual treatises that offer a spirituality to the priest who finds himself alone “in the box”. Armed with his breviary and mental prayer, he can still accomplish a lot for the Church, even if the overall traffic that day is light. So in any case… do we offer a schedule that is serious and shows that we are taking the sacrament that we preach seriously?

(Another factor to consider in the above calculation is whether it is reasonable for the majority of parishioners to come from 4 to 4:50pm on a Saturday — or whatever the weekly time might be, where that is all that is offered.)

Life today is overly complex and priests are too busy. I myself have far too much to do for one priest and regularly have to decide between tasks; I also have to live with my decisions and wonder if I decided well and if the Lord will forgive me for what I chose to set aside “for later”. It’s not easy. But there is a certainly priestly priority of things; we all risk losing sight of what is most important: the things that only a priest can do, namely, the celebration of the sacraments.

I liken this to the issue of Holy Day of Obligation schedules. Some priests, seeing that perhaps a certain Holy Day is poorly attended, offers a Mass schedule that might even be less than what is routinely offered to meet the Sunday obligation — or with Masses at inconvenient times. But for the five (generally speaking) Holy Days of Obligation, why wouldn’t we offer at least the same number of Masses as we have for Sundays? In fact, we may need to offer more, given that many people have to work on those days anyhow. In my parish, we have a Saturday anticipated Mass and two Sunday morning Masses; but as of last year I started offering both a Vigil/anticipated Mass for most Holy Days as well as three Masses on the actual Holy Day — in sum, one more Mass than we offer for Sundays.

There is a humorous meme that I have seen on social media, to the effect that no one on his judgment day thinks to himself, “I wish I had spent more time on Facebook”. I doubt there will be many priests on judgment day who think, “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time offering confessions”. The above simple calculation can help us start to set the right priorities. May our Lord help us, then, to carry them out.

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Is it OK to pray what’s on the St. Benedict Medal?

A question that I have gotten on a few recent occasions, including following the homily I preached this past Sunday about exorcisms (PDF download), is: Is it OK to say the prayer that is on the medal of St. Benedict?

Because of its length (and possibly to avoid having people actually pray it themselves, though I only speculate on that point), it is abbreviated on a traditional medal — just the first letter of each word (in Latin) is given. Spelled out, one of the prayers is: “Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas!” (Get behind me, Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer is evil. Drink the poison yourself!)

The concern that people have — and this goes back to my homily — is that, if recited by the person wearing the medal, he or she would be speaking directly to the Evil One. And that is not a good idea.

It is important to remember that the Medal of St. Benedict is a sacramental which itself is blessed using a prayer of exorcism. (See here for another post about who may do this blessing/exorcism.) As a sacramental, the medal is endowed with spiritual power by the Church to accomplish that which the Church intends by it.

Therefore, I would say that the prayer on the medal is not for us to say, since it is not prudent to speak to the devil or his demons. Rather, the Church, as it were, says the prayer on our behalf – since it is on the medal she endowed with special powers for our spiritual protection. The medal itself is the prayer, if you will. This is why it is so important to have a St. Benedict Medal properly blessed and exorcised by a priest who uses the correct formula. Many have spoken from experience of the power this medal has, when used with faith and trust in God and not superstitiously.

When we are tempted, we should ask God, the Blessed Mother, and the other saints to deliver us from the evil that threatens. Perhaps during that quick moment of prayer we might touch the medal that we are wearing to recall that extra layer of help we have assumed. In any case, we should never address the evil directly ourselves.

Incidentally, the Monastery of St. Benedict (Monastere San-Benoit) in La Garde-Freinet, France produces very fine medals of St. Benedict at reasonable prices, and it does not take forever for them to get to the US by the shipping method they use. Take a look at this page (or click the photo above) to see what they currently offer.

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The Seal of Confession

Non ut homo, sed ut Deus — Not as a man, but as God

The Apostolic Penitentiary – the office of the Holy See that handles matters relating to the internal forum – recently issued a “note” on the Seal of Confession. This was ostensibly done because of recent grave decisions of courts and legislatures in various parts of the world, including right here in the United States (in California, but not only in recent years), to enact or attempt to impose laws that threaten the privileged status the Sacrament of Confession has always enjoyed even in civil jurisprudence.

Such new “laws” cannot alter the law of God or dispense anyone from it; therefore, it is necessary that the Church’s pastors remind and be reminded of this fact. The Seal of Confession is an absolute secret and no human power can change that.

The document was issued in Italian; presumably it will be translated into English and other languages, but who knows when that will happen. I do not have time to translate the whole thing, but I do wish to share today one brief passage that I think is very important concerning the Seal of Confession (my translation, leaving in some of the funny uses of quotation marks in the original, follows):

The priest indeed comes to know the sins of the penitent “non ut homo, sed ut Deus — not as a man, but as God”,* to such an extent that he simply “does not know” that which was said to him in the confessional, because he did not hear it as a man but, truly, in the name of God.  The confessor could therefore even “swear”, without any detriment to his own conscience, to “not knowing” that which he knows only as a minister of God. By its particular nature, the sacramental seal even goes so far as to bind the confessor “interiorly”, such that he is prohibited from recalling a confession voluntarily and he is bound to suppress all involuntary memories of the same.

* See St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Suppl., 11, 1, ad 2.

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Prayer to the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph

This morning, while I was finally responding to some ancient correspondence from a dear religious sister friend, I came across a holy card that she had sent me, that I had forgotten about. It has a prayer to the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph on it. This is a good prayer:

St. Joseph, you accepted your mission from God: to be the husband of Mary and the foster-father and guardian of Jesus. In the home at Nazareth and in your most chaste heart, there was no place for sin. Help us to imitate that purity of heart and act with resolve like you, when God calls. May the power of grace transform us to accept the reign of Christ in our own hearts. Inspire in us a strong devotion to your most chaste heart. In doing so, you promise to safeguard us in this life and console and defend us at the moment of death. St. Joseph, we trust in your intercession. You wait silently, always at hand and pleased to assist those who dedicate themselves to you. And at the end of our lives, may we enjoy and share your most privileged intimacy with Our Lady and the Blessed Trinity in heaven. Amen.

* * *

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Midsummer: St. John’s Eve

Last night was the Vigil of the Solemnity of St. John the Baptist – St. John’s Eve. A traditional and lovely Catholic tradition for the occasion is to have a bonfire – and to have a priest bless it. Here is the prayer:

O Lord God, almighty Father, unfailing light and source of all light: sanctify + this new fire, and grant that, after the darkness of this life, we may come unsullied to you who are light eternal. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The history of this tradition is quite interesting — read some more HERE.

Hopefully, someday, I’ll have to make the rounds on June 23 to bless multiple fires for my parishioners. For now — just one!

This is one of the many beautiful Catholic traditions that make life interesting and sanctify the cycle of seasons. We need to recover a sense of liturgical living that extends beyond Sunday Mass. This is also a great way to evangelize the neighborhood — who doesn’t like to go roast hot dogs and marshmallows? What if the priest happened to show up and say a prayer!? So many of our Catholic traditions and devotions are wonderful means for drawing others to the faith.

St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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Corpus Christi 2019

Quantum potes, tantum aude

Happy Feast Day!

Sion, lift thy voice and sing;
Praise thy Savior and thy King;
Praise with hymns thy Shepherd true.

Strive thy best to praise Him well,
Yet doth He all praise excel;
None can ever reach His due.

— From the Sequence for today’s feast, Lauda Sion by St. Thomas Aquinas

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Teaching How to Receive on the Tongue

One thing I’ve encountered in various places is that there are people who wish to start receiving communion on the tongue (maybe when they made their first communion they were only given the option of receiving in the hand), but they are nervous about doing so. For many it’s almost like their second First Holy Communion: Will I do it right? Will I stick my tongue out too far? Etc.

Then there are those cases where parents may want to practice a bit with their children. This could be for any number of reasons. Perhaps Junior or Juniorina is a bit klutzy and mom and dad just want to be sure. Maybe the parish religious education program is pretty pro-communion-in-the-hand and doesn’t really teach about receiving on the tongue. Or, maybe the child already made his or her first communion but the family now wishes to change how they all go to communion.

Whatever the case may be, a little home-practice is sometimes a good thing.

I have suggested to many people that they get Necco® wafers and use those for practice purposes. I grew up with Neccos and know how wonderful they are, particularly the chocolate ones. They can be difficult to find, however. Also, there is the fact that they are a fair amount thicker than a host and do not dissolve easily; they are rather crunchy and need to be chewed. As good as they taste, they might not be the best material for practicing communion on the tongue.

Today I recalled another solution I once found.

Most Mexican stores sell a product called “obleas” (oh-BLAY-uhs). These are wheat flour wafers that have coloring added. They are only slightly larger than a typical communion host and have a similar consistency and taste. Here’s a photo of a pack I got at our local Latino mega-mart, Mi Pueblo:

The Spanish word “oblea” means “wafer”. It’s not the brand name.

In some places these are called, simply, “hostias” (hosts). In fact, I remember seeing in Mexico that a lot of convents that made hosts for Mass sold the “scraps” (cutouts remaining after they made the hosts, and also the “rejects” — misshapen hosts or whatever) in bags on the street. People enjoy them as snacks and might put cajeta (caramel made with goat’s milk) on them. I also saw these colored versions in Mexico.

Well, go to your local Mexican tienda and see if you can find these. I’ve also seen them sold loose in a bag instead of lined up in rows like in this pack. Here is another photo:

With a similar texture and taste as a Mass-host, these make for good practice. With color added, they also remind (especially children) that this is only a test.

For locals, I found these in the back-left of Mi Pueblo in one of the aisles where they have piñatas hanging from the ceiling. Mi Pueblo is a really fun store, by the way. Not only can you get these practice-host-snack things there, but you can pick up a rosary or brown scapular in the checkout line, buy an Our Lady of Guadalupe statue, or get just about any religious candle you could want. Oh — and they sell large tubs of lard! Here are just a few more photos — the whole store is eminently photographable and a really fun place to visit:

So I hope this idea is of use for families with children getting ready for first communion or for others who wish to start receiving on the tongue. A little practice can increase ease and confidence and ensure that communion is a prayerful experience of being fed by the Lord via the consecrated hands of His priest.

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For the Priest’s Parents

A friend of mine pointed out a votive Mass to me today that I had not seen before, which he found in his Extraordinary Form Missal. It is the Mass for the priest’s deceased parents.

(Thankfully, my parents are living. But I know many priests whose parents have already gone to God. What a grace for a priest to be able to offer Mass for his parents!)

A screenshot of the Extraordinary Form prayers is above. Now, my initial reaction upon hearing of this Mass was: bummer, another Mass that I bet did not make it into the Ordinary Form Missal. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found that not only was it in the section of Masses for the Dead, but it was translated verbatim from the Extraordinary Form – not the least bit of tinkering (unlike so many of the other prayers that “made it”)!

So priests may offer this Mass in either form of the Roman liturgy for their deceased parents. Here is a screen shot of the Novus Ordo prayers — which, for those who do not know Latin, faithfully translate the text that is above:


May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace! Amen.

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