From the comfort of your home

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.’

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4 Responses to From the comfort of your home

  1. Sarah says:

    I noticed (on TV, not being there either) that the Papal aides held a plate under the Host while the Pope was giving it out – is that in case a crumb might fall to the ground? And if it did, is that wasting the holiness? And what do they do with any crumbs that fall onto the plate?or was the plate for something else entirely?

    • alisonpeden says:

      Yes, I’m sure it would be to catch any crumbs – the Orthodox hold a cloth underneath the spoon that serves consecrated wine with the bread in it, with much the same purpose. Dropping the elements would be more about sacrilege than wasting, I think.

  2. Ann Lees says:

    I think I’ve seen the plate in use before, on screen that is. It does link up with the question of ‘virtual communion’ as well – how important is it that just the right words and actions are used? By ‘authorised’ people? If someone misleads communicants and assumes an authority they don’t officially qualify for, are the communicants excluded from grace? Or the usurping officiant? Or does God just sigh and think ‘more work needed’?

    • alisonpeden says:

      It’s a bit like the question of the ‘unworthy priest’ that troubled medieval thinkers. Does it make the sacrament ‘invalid’ as a way of receiving God’s grace if the priest is in a state of sin? They thought no, it’s still ok: the sacrament would be valid if you have the right matter (e.g. bread and wine), the right form (words) and the right intention (i.e. it was not an ‘accidental’ use of the matter and words but a proper service). The person receiving also needs to have the right disposition for it to convey grace properly. I guess the problem with ‘virtual communion’ is whether you need to have all of these things in actual physical proximity, or whether our new quantum physics understanding of matter can overcome distance …

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