A controversy has erupted on a well-known Catholic blog concerning whether those who receive communion on the tongue are better Catholics than those who don’t.
It seems to me this is muddling the waters.
I would never dream of considering myself a better Catholic than others just because I never received the Holy Communion in the hands once in my life (and, just so you know, never will). I am sure there is an army of people out there who receive in the hands – as they are, alas, allowed to – and are far better Catholics than the wretched sinner writing these lines.
But you see, this is just not the issue.
It is obvious to everyone worth his salt that, whatever was practised by the “first Christians”, later Christians decided pretty soon that kneeling and on the tongue is the proper, because most reverent, way to receive Holy Communion. There can be no discussion about that, because this is a historic fact on which there is no controversy.
Therefore, he who decides that it is fine to receive in the less reverent way just because this is now allowed has not become a worse Catholic than myself, but he certainly receives Communion in worse way than I do. Apart from this, it is still rather difficult for me (my bad, no doubt) to think how one can be persuaded that the consecrated Host is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and still think the Protestants, who do not believe in it, had found a better way to honour this very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity than the Church of Christ, before she did or after she forgot it. The other matter – how many still believe in Transubstantiation after 50 years of, well, receiving Communion like Protestants – I do not even consider, because I am interested here only in the True Catholics, those who believe all that the Church believes and profess all that the Church professes; and who can be excellent Catholics in many ways.
Still, how they can seriously reflect on what Holy communion is and still prefer to… give God to themselves is beyond me.
“Memorare, o piissima Virgo Maria….”
It is sad to think that these words, once devotedly pronounced by countless faithful every day, nowadays rarely adorn Catholic lips. One cannot avoid noticing that when prayers where recited in the allegedly so tough Latin the faithful actually prayed a lot more than today that everything has been made easy for them. There is a lesson to be learned here, I think: you don’t do any favour to the faithful by making things shallow; you merely encourage them to become shallow themselves.
The neglect of the Memorare is particularly unfortunate, because this is a powerful prayer. I see in it the fundamental optimism and the simple but solid faith of the Catholic knowing that the Blessed Virgin will intercede for him without fail and just for the asking. This is not the prayer of one who hopes, but of one who knows that his prayer will go straight to the Queen of Heaven. The key words of the prayer are “non esse auditum a saeculo” (“that never was it known”) and “esse derelictum” (“was left unaided”). If you hear this prayer once or twice you will probably instantly remember this powerful statement and its far reaching promise: that given the proper attitude, the Blessed Virgin intercedes without fail for anyone who addresses her.
This is powerful stuff. This is the Catholicism of our forefathers, who were less used than us to rely on secular institutions to sort out their problems and rather accustomed to look heavenward in their troubles. The Memorare forces us to face the fact that Mary’s intercession is not something existing in an undetermined dimension somewhere between a child’s tale and a vague hope, but a very concrete reality in which we can take refuge every day.
Our ancestors – solidly rooted in Catholicism irrespective of their education level – were naturally familiar with such a concept, but the present generation vastly ignores the very notion of the Communion of Saints, nor will you find many priests willing to take care that such basics elements of Catholicism are universally and thoroughly understood. This ruthless massacre of everything specifically Catholic – and his substitution with a protestantised, simplified and banalised undersatanding of Catholic prayer and devotion – was perhaps not positively encouraged, but certainly made possible by the “aggiornamento”. Some fifty years later, Catholic desolation is what this passion for “change” has engendered: once commonly used devotions have disappeared, once beloved prayers are almost forgotten and mainstays of Catholic thinking, powerful tools in a world of insecurity and trouble, have been utterly and wilfully neglected.
I may be wrong, but my impression is that the rediscovery of this and other beautiful ancient prayers is the result of the rediscovery of Latin and of the growing awareness that together with Latin a rich patrimony of Catholic traditions and devotions has been thrown into the dust bin. I wonder how one can rediscover traditional Catholicism without recovering Latin, and vice versa.
The Enchiridion of Indulgences states that a partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who recite the Memorare.
You can find here both the Latin and English version, together with the most succinct and easy to understand historical information I could find.