When I read the late Fr. Richard W. Gilsdorf’s Sign of the Times there was one thing mentioned in the book that really stood out for me and something that he repeated. While in seminary he learned the phrase "You can tell a good priest by how he cares for the fragments." While this is of course a generality in my own limited experience it is something I found to be true.
One of my favorite parts of the Mass is the purification of the sacred vessels. There is just so much to love in the Mass, but there is a special joy for me to watch a priest take the time and care when purifying the sacred vessels. When I watch a couple of priests that I know it seems to me that when they are doing this that it reminds me so much of Michelangelo’s Pieta with Mary holding Jesus. There is such evident love and care in performing this seeming mundane action that it all the more brings to me the reality of Jesus being sacramentally present in the Holy Eucharist. The attention to detail to ensure that even the smallest fragment of Our Lord is treated with the reverence and worship our Lord deserves can say more than a dozen homilies on the Eucharist.
As I was heading into the direction of the Church one of the first doctrines that I believed in was the Eucharist. While I came to intellectually accept the reality of the Eucharist it was how the Eucharist was handled in what became my parish Church when I started attending Mass that I came to more fully believe. The use of Patens reinforced this reality to me that care must be taken to ensure that the fragments must not fall to the floor and way the priest would look at the host and into the chalice after the consecration in an obvious act of adoration also helped me to adore Jesus with them.
I truly wish I could say the same thing for other parishes I have attended. Where you hardly see a genuflection upon entering and leaving the Church and Patens are nowhere to be seen. It seems strange to me that even parishes that have introduced Eucharistic Adoration that there are so few acts of piety towards the Blessed Sacrament before, during, after the Mass.
A trend I have noticed in more in more parishes is that the sacred vessels are not being purified during the Mass. Now I am aware the that in the GIRM there is an option that if there are several vessels to purify that this can be done after Mass. Though what I notice happen is that the chalices and ciboriums are being taken by EMHC’s somewhere like a room behind the sacristy. The GIRM specifies that they when they are purified after Mass that they be taken to the altar or credence table. I suspect what is going on is that the EMHCs are then purifying the sacred vessels themselves in defiance of the fact that the indult for them to do so has been removed and are being rather sneaky about it. Besides the fact that their doing so is not allowed I think it also robs the faithful of the act of purifying the sacred vessels.
But then again often in the same parishes the purifications of the sacred vessels is not quite done as a sacred act and sometimes as if the priest was just going through the motions with no seeming care that a fragment of the Eucharist might end up on the floor. I think of how Saint Elizabeth Ann Seaton came into the Church partly because of her witness of Eucharistic piety and I wonder how the lack Eucharistic piety might affect others. If we truly believe that Jesus is sacramentally present in the Holy Eucharist shouldn’t we all act accordingly? Does the cacophony often present before and after Mass show this reality? Do people rushing to the parking lot right after Communion display this reality? Does our choice of clothing truly reflect that we will be witnessing Christ when we receive his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity? Are we growing in holiness and accepting the graces we can receive from the sacraments? This is an area we all must work on (especially myself) and just receiving Communion worthily is not enough. Before Christ we are never truly worthy and the Eucharist is a gift beyond are wildest imaginings and we all need to be acting accordingly. I thank God for the priests and laity who show this respect and I pray that more will do so.
"Lord, I am not worthy that thou should come under my roof but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed."