Administration of the Sacraments
Second Meditation - Reasons for Administering the Sacraments Worthily
I. The Sacraments themselves demand it. - Things of their nature so sublime and worthy, and in their fruits so divine and salutary, must, by necessity, be handled with corresponding devotion and piety.
"That is how we ought to be regarded, as Christ's servants, and stewards of God's mysteries. And this is what we look for in choosing a steward; we must find one who is trustworthy." - (1 Cor. iv, 1-2)For a child to be admitted to Holy Communion the Church requires, as an indispensable condition, that he should at least know how to distinguish the Eucharistic from ordinary bread. Will it be asking too much of a priest that he should know how to distinguish between ordinary human actions and the most holy action that regenerates and sanctifies souls?
O Lord! We Thy priests can distinguish indeed, and discern; but how often, in administering Thy Sacraments and divine mysteries, we act with less respect, with more irreverence, with considerably less seriousness, than when talking to a beggar on the street. . . or playing a game of cards! . . .
II. The faithful demand it. - We are obliged, according to the Council of Trent, to instruct the faithful in the nature and holiness of the Sacraments and even in the rites and ceremonies with which the Church surrounds their administration.
But seeing that the frequent observance of this rule is very often either impracticable or, through our negligence, is allowed to become a dead letter, let us at least give the faithful an object lesson by the exact, devout and respectful manner of our administering the Sacraments, so that they may grasp the holy and divine reality beneath the outward symbols.
Could we swear, with hand on heart and mind uplifted to the God Who is to judge us, that the indifference, bordering so often on impiety, with which the faithful look around and talk and either receive or stray away from the Sacraments, is not a pallid reflection and rough copy of the rush, untidiness, frivolousness and lack of inward spirit which they are so used to observing in our manner of conferring them?
III. Our own self-respect demands it. - The administering of the Sacraments, whether out of charity or of justice, always turns out to be in some sense a work of obligation, a duty of office; therefore it is a work that pleases God more than any other of supererogation.
It is also a real act of piety, at least as much so as saying the Rosary, making a meditation, visiting the sick or reading a spiritual book. I say, at least; in actual fact it is much more a work of religion and holiness than all the aforementioned exercises, which can be performed and be good in themselves without sanctifying grace, whereas woe be to me if I dare to give any of the Sacraments without being in God's grace!
Is it not a fact that I have not always, or perhaps never, considered things in this light? Do I not rather look upon this administering of the Sacraments as something I am formally engaged to do, and something always untimely, troublesome, and completely without personal profit, except for the stipend that sometimes goes with it? . . .
1. Never, never to approach the administration of the Sacraments unless I am in the grace of God, and, if necessary, to make a most sincere act of contrition together with a real determination to go to confession that same day or before saying Mass on the following day. But the surest and most practical way will be to go to confession beforehand, if I am in mortal sin.
2. To administer them readily, as often as the faithful ask for them within the limits of reason and law and order; and to do so disinterestedly, decorously, piously.
3. Henceforth to consider their administration as my chief pious exercise, the most profitable to myself, apart from the good they may do to others. Is there any meditation more soul-satisfying and effectual than, for example, to give the Holy Viaticum and at the same time to consider attentively and religiously the words I say and the actions I perform?
Adapted from The Priest at Prayer
by Fr. Eugenio Escribano, C.M. (© 1954)
Translated by B.T. Buckley, C.M.
Please pray for our priests and pray for vocations to the priesthood!