Lots of Roman Catholics at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow today for the Papal mass – and no doubt many at home following it on TV or internet. When it came to the Papal blessing, did they make the sign of the cross at home?
‘Virtual’ Holy Communion via the internet is under debate at the moment: if worshippers are united in time but not in space, can they receive the grace of the sacrament through the Spirit? It raises all sorts of questions about the sacrament and matter – do we need to touch the bread and wine? How near do we have to be to each other to be a ‘congregation’? Could you have a ‘virtual baptism’, with e-power somehow charging the water like an electrical current (if that’s what electricity can do to water)?
I love the bit in Gabriel Chevallier’s novel Clochemerle, when Cure Ponosse needs to make his habitual confession of fornication to Abbe Jouffe and vice versa, but heavy snow makes it impossible for them to meet. The Abbe simply sends a reply-paid telegram to Ponosse, ‘Same as usual. Absolution and penance by return.’ The Cure replied , ‘I absolve you. Five Our Fathers five Hail Marys. Me: same as usual plus three. Deep repentance. Absolution and penance urgent. Ponosse.’