holy_communionThe following article appeared in the  UK Guardian and was written by Riazat Butt, Religious affairs correspondent.  My remarks are in red.

In recent years the communion wafer has been made available in a variety of forms – including patterned, wholemeal, crumb-proof and gluten-free – to satisfy the demands of modern life. Soon, altar bread will become even more convenient and accessible with the advent of the “host in the post”. That’s right they are offering to mail your Holy Communion to your house!

The new service, from the Open Episcopal Church, (Thank God such a crazy idea would never be allowed in the Catholic where the True Presence is so powerfully experienced.) is aimed at people who either cannot attend Eucharist, through age or ill-health, or those who have drifted away from church. (What about visiting the sick? One of the corporal works of of mercy is to visit the sick, not mail them communion. A spiritual work of mercy is to correct the sinner not mail communion to drifters)

Although the pre-consecrated wafer is free, there will be a charge for postage and packing. Receiving one host costs £2; receiving 500 costs £10. (Oh come on, how stingy, can’t you afford the price of a little stamp to mail out Jesus?)

Jonathan Blake, the Open Episcopal Church bishop… said the initiative was also designed to reverse the way the church presented itself to people. “The sense they have to go to places to worship is something their parents did. The churches we work with have got respect for the fact that we’re taking the church to places it hasn’t been before. (No you aren’t. To presume that the Church is just some sort of mail list is absurd. Go to the sick, talk to them, listen to them, anoint them. Reach out to drifters and the unevangelized.  Actually meet them. Talk, listen, invite. Jesus said, Go into the town and villages, sure the sick and summon people to faith. Physical proximity IS important. Jesus didn’t say mail letters, he said GO (cf Matt 28)

“It is a mistake to locate a church as those who gather in a building. There is a large population who have haemorrhaged away from church but regard themselves as committed Christians.” (So mail Jesus to them? What about correcting their mistaken notions that Sunday communal worship isn’t essential to being a “committed Christian” ? What about teaching that God commands that we keep holy the Sabbath. Maybe people drift away because you don’t teach them anything or expect anything. Just a thought. )

He said the organisation was taking “care and concern” over appropriate packaging for the wafer, (well that’s a relief!) which is no more than a millimetre thick, to ensure it remained intact on arrival, before adding that anyone – including atheists and even satanists – could avail themselves of the service.  “Jesus did not make these distinctions. He gave himself to anyone and everyone. It makes no difference, the body of Christ is redeeming.” (That’s right, Jesus doesn’t care about desecration…uh wait a minute…maybe he does read Matt 7:6…. and while you’re at it read what his Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write: ! Cor 11:27-31)

News of Blake’s latest innovation did not elicit a response from the Church of England, which, as a rule, does not comment on the internal affairs of other churches. (sigh…)

_____________________________________End of Article

Well, there you have it. A horrible loss in sacramental theology as well as ecclesiology. Theoretically the Episcopal Church has some belief in the true presence, though we as Catholics do not accept that they have it…but set that aside for a moment. How can someone who believes in the true presence ever put the Eucharist in the mail.? It is unthinkable but the unthinkable has happened. As Catholics we are preparing to celebrate Corpus Christi Sunday wherein we reaffirm our belief in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and make atonement for disbelief in this sacrament. Consider well what you have just read and the thinking behind it. Reaffirm your faith in our Lord’s True Presence and pray for all to return devotedly to this most Blessed Sacrament found truly in the Catholic Church.

Consider too the faulty notion of the Church operative in this silly idea. To presume that the Church can or does exist only as a mail list is absurd. Christ wants to gather us together in a true communion that includes our physical presence to others in the Body of Christ. The Church does not exist in the “ether”  or in some sort of vague togetherness but in an actual communion of persons with each other and with Christ. The Church is gathered, not scattered. The Church may communicate to the broader world through mail or in other ways but ultimately a Church that does not gather is no Church at all. Communion CANNOT be received alone. It must be ministered to us and received in communion with others. Jesus celebrated the First Communion with the Apostles gathered. He did not tell them to go to their houses and there they would find a little gift he had sent them. He gathered them, prayed for them taught them and fed them. This is true Charity. To go out and gather the lost and the drifted, the unevangelized and gather them together in the unity Christ intends, and to feed them with his body and blood.

This video is a musical setting the ancient hymn “Ubi Caritas” by Durufle. The text is Ubi caritas et amor Deus ibi est. Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor. (Where there is charity and love, God is there. The Love of Chirst GATHERS us in one). So the love of Christ wants to gather us, not have us remain scattered. That is why he sent us out to gather in disciples of all the nations (not just send them mail).

15 Responses

  1. John says:

    Please use the correct term my friend – You are a ROMAN Catholic not just ‘Catholic’!!

    A typical Roman Catholic reply at what seems to me to be a geniune attempt at outreach – lets keep God locked up and only allow a Roman Catholic Priest to preside over the Mass….seems to be what is written above.

    I work with many housebound people who feel this is a good idea – non-profit making and how do you relpy to the charge that the Roman Catholic Church have been sending consecrated hosts (albeit in secret) to non-Christian countries for years, hidden in bars of soap, secular books?

    Kind regards
    J.

    • Hmm… you seem to fundamentally misunderstand my point which is NOT to keep God locked up. Rather we ought to be going out to the sick and to the unevangelized. That doesn’t sound like keeping God locked up. Mailing the Eucharist is to fundamamentally disrepect what Communion is. Communion is not just me and Jesus. It is celebrated communally. When some one is sick, there is still the obligation of a human minister. We do not keep God locked up but neither do we impersonally drop him in the mail so that he arrives between the JC Penny Bill, and the Sports Illustraed Magazine. Rather, Jesus is brought to those who cannot come to Church by a human minister who ministers Jesus to others.

      Not sure about your second paragraph. I don’t know if its true but lets suppose that it is true. It may be perfectly valid to secretly carry consecrated hosts to people in non-Christian lands IF this is done so by a human agent who then sees that the hosts are reverently stored and distributed by proper ministers. But even in a case like this we do not just drop Jesus in the mail. He must be carried by a person dedicated only to this task.

      Msgr. Pope – ROMAN Catholic Priest

      • John says:

        Sir,

        I fair reply and one which I do understand….however not everyone believes in transubstantiation. I, with my none conformist background do not see this breaking any sacrament – moreover I hope it makes Jesus more available to folks..

        Therefore could we not see this as supporting people to access Christ Jesus who may feel hurt or afraid of approaching any church?

        Of course its not for everyone, and if it ‘hurts’ Roman Catholics and their belief that is sad – but many Christians do not follow the see of Rome and perhaps Post the Host is for them!; Jesus did indeed celebrate with the Apostles gathered….but in the 21C maybe reaching people is not that easy and if this idea brings someone to Christ for the first time I for one will celebrate and pray it gives them the courage to then approach a church and celebrate Mass in all its fullness and joy.

        With regards

        • Yes, at one level maybe I shouldn’t care what goes on in other Churches. I guess I’d be less surprised if it was in a Protestant denomination that explicitly denied any notion of true presence. But Episcopalians (and I understand this is something of a splinter group) do confess some understanding of true presence (whether they actually have it or not is another question) and so this seems even more surprising.

          A second reason for my concern is that the denominations are not merely insular. Thinking in one place often influences others. The typically American notion that “it’s none of my business what other people (or Churches) do has led to a pretty confusing landscape in the moral climate of this country. A lot of bad behavior is tolerated and it begins to multiply and suddenly, for example, the whole definition of marriage is called into question and anyone should be able to do whatever they want no matter how it might negatively influence the overall moral climate. Mailing hosts is more of a sacramental and ecclesiological concern than a moral one but it tends to blur the understanding of what is meant by a sacrament, what is meant by communion and what is meant by the word “church.” It messes with the understanding of sacraments since sacraments are communal. We do not baptize ourselves, we are ministered to by another. We do not confirm ourselves nor should we commune ourselves. Further, Holy Communion is not just a “me and Jesus” thing, communion is with Christ and all the members of his body. To receive communion all alone, by yourself, without a minister or liturgical context is to “redefine” what Christians have traditionally meant by Communion. Lastly, the understanding of what is meant by the Church (ecclesiology) is tampered with. “Church” is not just a private me and Jesus thing. Central to being a member of the Church is to be gathered together with others who share belief. There are just some things you can’t have by mail or one the internet. For example, marriage by mail doesn’t work if that’s all it is. Marriage partners may communicate by mail, but they cannot have real communion that way if that is all it ever is. Similarly you can’t have “Church” simply by mail or internet. We are meant to gather, to influence one another, to correct, console and encourage one another. Those who mess with these basic notions of Christian faith ARE messing with me. As a Catholic priest I have to spend lots of time correcting false notions that are out there about things like these as well as false notions about morality and faith. So I cannot remain purely aloof from what goes on in other denominations and say, “Well, that’s their business.” Sorry it will eventually be mine too. “None of my business just doesn’t work.”

          Surely I have no power over what goes on in some other denomination but I do sometimes feel the need to speak out for the reasons stated above.

  2. Gail F says:

    I came over here from Father Z’s blog. A very good essay! I love the line “Jesus celebrated the First Communion with the Apostles gathered. He did not tell them to go to their houses and there they would find a little gift he had sent them.” Very funny, though of course this is a serious matter.

  3. John says:

    I understand you point and its a point well made…. I too have an ordained ministry; currently I’m a Deacon planning for Priesthood within the year.

    I (ask you may guess) take a more relaxed approach to Mass, thats not to say I do not take it or partake in Mass with the upper most seriousness.

    The best book I have read on the subject was ‘Mass Culture’ The interface of Eucharist and mission, Ed Pete Ward, published by brf press ISBN 978 1 84101 580 4

    This book is a serious of essays one of which is by Mike Riddell a former Baptist minister now a Roman Catholic layman. He writes about a radical approach to tradition and that we can not be faithful to tradition simply by passing it from generation to generation because by preserving something in a traditional form when everything around us is changing namely symbols and context will in the end only lead to the distortion of the ‘preserved tradition’ anyway – better to change with the times…

    Mike explains ff

    Moreover this is what Jesus did so well with the Jewish tradition – ie the Sabbath being made for humankind not humankind for the sabbath, thus to understand the communion of Jesus during the last supper can only be understood in the context of Jesus ministry; and here we would agree that the communion should be a communal event however here we will disagree when I say that few people feel comfortable at a stylized alter or table.

    Furthermore the fencing of the table is to deny people Christ’s Grace (I’m in the justification by faith alone camp)….. the book finishes on a wonderful story about one of Mike’s services when he is presiding over the Mass and hears one of his congregation named ‘Ian’ explain to his partner that this is the time that they have to leave the church! Mike then introduces the Mass explaining that the only qualification to come to the table of Jesus (NOT the table of the Church) is to know oneself to be a sinner….’Ian’ turns to his partner with the words ‘ That the first F…ing time I’ve ever been welcome in Church, he took communion and that was his entry into the Christian faith.

    I know its not the Roman Catholic way my friend but for many it really is that simple – and after 6 years training for my ministry I too feel it is wonderful that it is truly that simple.

    Yours ‘John’

    • Well, John, If you are going to be ordained a Catholic Priest and think it is OK to mail hosts I am most concerned.

      As for liturgy, there is a place for inculturation within proper norms. But remember when you are a priest that the liturgy doesn’t bleong to you. It belongs to the Church. The people of God have a right to Mass in the Roman rite. Do NOT stray from the Norms of the GIRM. Follow the liturgical norms carefully. You are not permitted to change them

      Further the people of God should not be subjected to theology that is not Catholic. Frankly, you quoting a Catholic layman who is in the “justification by faith alone camp” is not very reassuring. There is no “faith alone” camp in the Catholic Church. The Bible does not teach faith alone, neither does the Church. Be very careful not to subject the people of God to false teaching from the pulpit. Remember the pulpit does not belong to you, it belongs to the Bishop and the Church. St.Paul wrote long ago to Timothy “Loquare quae decet sanam doctrinam (Speak that which befits sound doctrine).

      Careful John. Be very careful

      • John says:

        Hi, thank you for your dialogue – you’ll be reassured to know that I’m not to be ordained into the Roman Catholic Priesthood, perhaps I should have made that point more clearly; sorry for the confusion… I don’t think I would get very far given my liberal views and passionate belief in ‘justification by faith alone’

        ‘Faith alone’ is interesting and perhaps going off the point but I do see it all through the Bible (perhaps that’s my proud Methodist upbringing)

        Therefore its about trans (con) substantiation regarding the Hosts and I have no issues at all with this project given my views. Yesterday whilst discussing Post the Host I talked with an Anglican friend who partook in a ‘Mass’ at a rock festival where water and bread were shared and prayers said…I’m again in favour of making the table of Jesus available to all irrespective of background, sin, views, theology – a turn no one away policy.

        I reside in the U.K and feel myself ‘catholic’ in its broad sense and have recently returned from Ireland where I visited Knock with my wife – a kind of pilgrimage. I mention this because I do have a lot of respect for the Roman Catholic Church and doctrine although I part on some quite fundamental issues; however what I get a sense of is that the Roman Catholic Church ‘over here’ is much more relaxed than ‘over the pond’.

        Of course Priests do adhere to the ‘party line’ (officially) but through my conversations whilst on pilgrimage I had many a talk about the need for closer cooperation with other denominations and a need to be more ecumenical in outlook and theology. In the U.K the Roman Church has been rocked by scandal, and as a result lost much respect, and those wishing for vocation is desperate (even in Ireland where most of the Priests are now over the age of 75)

        As with all faiths it does seem to be fare more conservative, even fundamental, in America; over here in the U.K and Ireland there does seem to be a more relaxed approach to scripture, this is in part due to the Roman Catholic Schools becoming more secular and the Roman Catholic Churches realizing that inculcation ( sorry but it is…) of the young is not producing steadfast congregations like it once did (even in Ireland its only cultural faith – as cultural as going to the pub, I know my family are Irish) – thus outreach is needed and people will no longer adhere to many of the Roman doctrines, society has moved on.
        ………………………………………..

        I have just read this back and I’m not in the process of criticizing the Roman Church – I feel I (liberal Catholic / Anglican) can learn much from the Roman Church – but to remain insular and separate will only lead to further falling numbers of people wishing to come to Christ. Therefore I’m in favour of learning and sharing of practices because to stay as we are we in the end benefit no one and to that end the Churches will remain empty, as are many already, so Post the Host will not curry favour with Rome but for me – to think ‘outside of the box’ is something the Church is sadly reticent to do – perhaps that counts for the empty pews in the 21st C

        As always best wishes and please don’t feel the need to keep the discussion going if you’re too busy, as we are not going to agree on this matter but perhaps on other we may – thank you for your time to date.
        J.

        • Ok John, thanks for the clarification. I guess you are right, we are not going to agree on some very fundamental points. I appreciate the discussion we’ve been able to have and your openness to spar in a manner that is friendly and respectful. CP

  4. Ignoramouse says:

    I’m sorry to see the Post the Host idea has had such a bleak reception
    We at
    http://www.hostinthepost.co.uk
    launched three years ago, welcome a bit of competition from the Bishop. We take a slightly different approach to the idea, and seriously doubt that the Open Episcopals will be able to match our “Pay in the Next Life” offer.
    I think you’ll find our little site worth a look.
    We take it as a compliment that the Most Reverend Bishop Blake has found inspiration at our modest website, and wish him well in his latest enterprise.

  5. Jonathan Chapman says:

    Dear Sir.

    If you had done any homework you would have found out that Archbishop Blake and the Open Episcopal Church does just that, ministered to the poor, the needy and the outcast, IN PERSON!.

    Please read Jonathan Blake’s blog page and see all the good work that he and the OEC does. They also minister to those who have been rejected by mainstream religions. They belong to the Old Catholic Church tradition, via the Matthew sucession and consider themselves as ervery bit as valid and Catholic with priests and Bishops throughout the United Kingdom.

  6. Roberta says:

    Thanks for finally talking about > Reductio Ad Absurdum – Host in the Post!

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