Part II of II of a meditation on the horror of unworthy Communions by Fr. Franz Hunolt, 1887.
There are many kinds of people who generally receive Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin; namely, the unchaste, the vindictive, the unjust, the culpably ignorant; I will say nothing of those who communicate through sheer malice.
First, with regard to the unchaste; how many are there not of both sexes, both married and single, and God grant that there may be none of this kind even among persons consecrated to God! who make a custom of this sin? For they sin either with themselves, or with others for years and years; and during that time their desires tend to illicit intercourse with others, and they either remain in the same house, or otherwise in the proximate occasion of sin with their accomplice, or if the occasion is wanting to them, they have at least a constant desire for sins of impurity, like invalids who, when they are forbidden certain kinds of food and drink, esteem those happy who are allowed to enjoy them. Meanwhile, they communicate several times a year, what are such people thinking of? Oh, they say, we go to Confession beforehand. God help them! what-a poor Confession theirs is! For they can have neither true sorrow nor purpose of amendment, since they remain in the occasion of sin; and thus they burden their souls with a new sacrilege. All their Communions are bad and sacrilegious.
Secondly, the vindictive. I mean those who for a long time have been at enmity and variance with their neighbor; and who, although they say with the lips, I forgive him, and bear no ill-will to him, yet avoid him through spite and refuse to salute him; burst almost with envy when they hear him praised, and exult with a secret joy when they hear of his misfortunes; and if they are in the same trade or employment, do their best to ruin him. Alas, how many people there are who communicate in that state! Neighbors, relations, sometimes brothers and sisters go every month to the Table of the Lord, and yet they hardly speak to each other once in the month, through hatred and ill-will. Is that the way to make a worthy Communion? Does not Christ expressly say in the Gospel of St. Matthew: “If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee: Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother; and then coming, thou shalt offer thy gift (Matth. v. 23-24).” If you do not accuse yourselves of those things in Confession, what sort of a Confession do you make? For you are acting in flagrant violation of the law of Christ: “But I say to you; Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you, etc (Ibid 44).” If you confess those sins each time, but without the intention of being reconciled to your enemy, and are nevertheless allowed to go to Holy Communion, what sort of a confessor have you ? You must know that all your Communions are sacrilegious.
Thirdly, the unjust, who possess wrongfully what belongs to others, and do not restore it when they can and ought to restore it. Alas, how many there are who know, or at least ought to know, that that piece of land, that house, that money, or whatever it may be, does not lawfully belong to them, and still continue to keep possession of it! How many also know that their parents, or ancestors, whose property they have inherited, contracted debts here and there, which have not yet been paid, and who do not pay those debts, because through mistake on the part of the creditors no demand has been made for them! How many who know that they oppress the poor unjustly, and wilfully cause them loss and injury; who know that they defraud their laborers and servants of their wages; either wholly or partially; who know that they have exacted an usurious interest from the needy on account of the distress in which the latter are! How many there are who are conscious of having tried to secure an unjust judgment by bribery and corruption, or otherwise to cheat their opponents out of their rights! How many who have knowingly bought stolen things, or kept what they found without looking for the owner, or cheated in buying, selling, or in other ways; and yet keep all they have thus unjustly gained without the intention of making restitution, or indemnifying the other for the losses caused him, and who remain in that state for ten or twenty years, or even longer, and go to Confession and Communion all the time on the usual days! O my God, what sacrilegious Confessions and Communions those are! who can count the number of them! Still these latter may yet open their eyes, see the gravity of their sins, repent of their unworthy Confessions and Communions and so obtain forgiveness.
But what hope is there for the fourth class, which is by far the most numerous? They flatter themselves when they go to Communion, that they are in the state of grace; and yet they are mistaken. They imagine they have no mortal sin on their conscience, and yet they have enough of them, and that through sheer culpable ignorance, because they do not want to know anything of the sinful lives they lead. They consist, first, of those who have become accustomed to a certain vice, such as drunkenness, detraction, cursing, swearing and other sins, which they confess each time, but never repent of. They think that it is enough for them to tell everything clearly in Confession, and that then they need give themselves no further trouble. They never think of the sorrow and purpose of amendment, which, humanly speaking, it is impossible for them to have with sincerity; at least, the fact of their continued relapses into their former sins shows sufficiently that neither their Confessions nor their Communions have had any effect on their souls; for these two Sacraments, if received properly, frequently, and with good dispositions, must necessarily purify the soul, and sanctify it.
There are others who live in a state of indifference; they trouble themselves little as to whether their actions are good or bad; they are culpably ignorant of the duties of their employment or state of life, or else they neglect to fulfil them, although they are bound both to know and to fulfil them under pain of mortal sin; and they never accuse themselves of these sins. To this class belong those who fill certain important offices and employments for which they know they have not the necessary abilities; so that they are the occasion of much loss and injury to others. To this class especially belong parents who teach their children nothing but the vanities of the world, and take no care about keeping them from evil, instructing them in good, encouraging them to piety and the fear of the Lord, and leading them on to Heaven.
Thirdly, this class consists of all those who live according to the manners and customs of the voluptuous world, and are addicted to many abuses that cannot always be excused from mortal sin, and although they now and then have a reasonable doubt of the lawfulness of their conduct, yet try to banish that doubt by all kinds of false excuses; so that they look upon those abuses as lawful, because many others are addicted to them also. All these people go every month, every fortnight, sometimes every week to Communion, and remain just as they were before; nay, as far as those worldly abuses are concerned, they come to the sacred Table immodestly dressed, to receive their Lord. Ye angels, what think ye of such Communions? St. Paul, whatf do you say of them? Are the hearts of those people properly disposed to receive the Flesh and Blood of the Most Holy? ” Let a man prove himself,” you say, to see if he be worthy, “And so let him eat of that bread . . . , for he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself (1. Cor. xi. 28, 29).”
Ah, whoever you may be, who are amongst the number of those of whom I have spoken, I have one request to make of you, by way of conclusion; and that is, that you abstain from Communion, even at Easter, even on your death-bed unless you intend to leave the proximate occasion of sin, to give up your illicit intereourse, to lay aside your hatred and ill-will against your neighbor, to restore what you unjustly possess, and to amend your sinful customs and unlawful abuses. Again, I entreat you, abstain from Communion! It is true that if you do not communicate at Easter-time, you commit a grievous sin against the precept of thc Church, which I do not wish by any means to advise you to commit; still you are guilty of only one sin thereby, and that a much less grievous one than you would commit by an unworthy Communion, in which you would offer a most grievous insult to Jesus Christ. If you have not a sincere purpose of amendment, do not communicate, even on your death-bed; it is true that you will then be lost for ever, and I do not by any means wish to advise you to incur eternal damnation; still your damnation will not be so deep as it would be, if you went into eternity loaded with the weight of an unworthy Communion. O my God, what a terrible situation ours is, if we are compelled to choose between one degree of damnation and another! It remains true, then, sinners, your damnation will be less grievous without, than with a sacrilegious Communion.
Reverence due to the most Holy Sacrament, to what dost then now compel me? To keep souls away from the Table to which our Saviour so lovingly invites all men. “Come to Me, all you that labor, and are burdened, and I will refresh you (Matth. xi. 28).” Come, eat my bread and drink the wine which I have mingled for you (Prov. ix. 5);” which I have prepared for you out of pure love. Come, and come often; the oftener the better. “My delight is to be with the children of men (Ibid. viii. 31).” To keep them away from that food which is the necessary nourishment and strength of their souls against all temptations; from that food, without which, according to our Saviour’s own testimony, we cannot have life in us: “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, . . . you shall not have life in you (John vi. 54).” Do I then wish to deter you from receiving this Food? No, my dear brethren, such is not at all my intention; I will forbid no one to approach this table; I say to you all: Come to Holy Communion, and come often; but at the same time I warn you in the words of St. Ambrose, “Let him who wishes to receive Life, amend his life; ” Communicate, but with a pure heart; communicate, but not in the state of mortal sin; communicate, but woe to you, if instead of life, you should eat eternal death with the Bread of life!
Still there will be many who will refuse to do as I say. They will go on as usual, and offer the most fearful injuries to our Lord by their unworthy Communions, that they may keep up the appearance of being Catholics. That is the way, O Lord, in which Thy Christians thank Thee, for Thy liberality towards them! Didst Thou not foresee it when Thou wast instituting this Blessed Sacrament? Certainly, Thou didst, and the future ingratitude of men was not unknown to Thee. Why hast Thou, then, given Thyself thus to a thankless world? Why dost Thou not withdraw from it at once? On account of the few souls who receive Thee worthily.
Pious Christians, this is the thought which, I leave you by way of conclusion. For your sake, to remain with you, to be your refuge, consolation and help, to be your food and drink in life, and your Viaticum in the hour of death; (oh love, who can understand thee!) the great God has been pleased to bear with the most outrageous insults from the wicked; He suffers them still, and will continue to suffer them to the end of time. Think now what a debt of praise, thanksgiving, honor and love you owe your God who loves you so much! Think and say with the Prophet David: “What shall I render to the Lord (Ps. cxv. 12)?” Is it not our right, O my God, that I should love Thee with my whole heart, in return, and should fulfil Thy holy will, as far as I know it, most exactly? That I should often visit Thee in this most Holy Sacrament, and adore Thee most modestly and humbly in Thy Church? That whenever I have the opportunity, I should accompany Thee through the streets, as Thou art carried to the sick? That, as often as my confessor allows, I should receive Thee, according to Thy wish and desire, with all possible devotion; and thus help in some measure to atone for the injuries thou sufferest, for my sake, from Jews, heretics and wicked Christians. Yes, that I will do with Thy grace. Amen.