Communal sacrament

Question: I think that the reception of holy Communion is probably the most precious time a person can have to commune with the Lord. Why are we forced to sing hymns the whole time Communion is being distributed, making it impossible for us to converse with the Lord?  

David Tomko, Butler, Pa.

Answer: The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states, “While the priest is receiving the sacrament, the Communion chant is begun, its purpose being to express the spiritual union of the communicants by means of the unity of their voices, to show gladness of heart, and to bring out more clearly the ‘communitarian’ character of the procession to receive the Eucharist. The singing is prolonged for as long as the sacrament is being administered to the faithful” (No. 86). It also states, “When the distribution of Communion is over, if appropriate, the priest and faithful pray quietly for some time. If desired, a psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the whole congregation” (No. 88). 

Note then the emphasis on the “communitarian” nature of this moment. And while private prayer is not wholly excluded, neither is it extolled as the main point or purpose to be pursued at the time of receiving holy Communion. 

The liturgy is fundamentally a public and corporate act of worship of the whole Body of Christ together. It is not essentially a private devotion. The norms do permit a time after Communion for silent prayer.  

Your concerns are understandable, but they need to be balanced with what the Church teaches us the liturgy most fundamentally is. Consider that in the first Mass, at the Last Supper, the apostles did not go off and have private conversations with Jesus. Rather, they experienced him corporately and that after partaking of the sacrament, they sang a hymn (see Mt 26:30). If we extend the first Mass to the foot of the Cross, there too, those that made it that far, stayed together and supported the Lord and each other.

Homosexuality’s origins

Question: I think homosexual people are born homosexual. What is the Catholic Church’s theological or scientific position? 

Charles O’Neill, via email

Answer: The Catechism of the Catholic Church states regarding homosexual orientation: “Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained” (No. 2357). Hence the Church has no official doctrine that would either affirm or deny your assertion. 

The moral requirements for a person of same-sex attraction do not vary based on the origin of the orientation. Rather, “basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved” (ibid).  

It is not unlike a diabetic, who may be so for genetic reasons or may be by acquiring the condition. The bottom line is the same — they must regulate their diet. Thus, whatever the origin of homosexuality, the requirement is clear — one must embrace the life of celibacy that God enables (see No. 2359). 

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to msgrpope@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.