Although I am a presbyter, my full-time assignment is within academia. I do help out in my home parish on most weekends and often substitute when others need to take a vacation. However, I have never been actually in charge of a parish. Hence my liturgical opinions are sometimes discounted as being absolutely impractical and proof that I have never really be a pastor or parish priest.
A case in point is my opinion on the use of the reserved Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle during the celebration of the Eucharist. Church teaching is clear on this matter. Priority must be given to administering Communion that has been consecrated at the liturgy in question and it is much better not to give Communion from an earlier liturgy that is stored in the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle is to allow for easy access to the Blessed Sacrament for the dying, for the sick and to allow for prayer and adoration.
Number 85 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal tells us that “it is most desirable that the faithful, just as the priest himself is bound to do, receive the Lord’s Body from hosts consecrated at the same Mass.” Here the GIRM is echoing number 55 of Sacrosanctum Concilium, which says “that more perfect form of participation in the Mass whereby the faithful, after the priest’s communion, receive the Lord’s body from the same sacrifice, is strongly commended.”
This is not some new teaching of the twentieth century. In fact, Pope Benedict XIV devoted an encyclical to this topic in 1742. The full text of Certiores Effecti with an introduction is available here.
Yet many of my presbyter friends think that I am crazy to affirm the importance of this primary symbol of eating Communion from the altar at the Eucharist. They say it is impossible. Now I can say from experience that it is possible. Last year, I was asked to organize a daily Eucharist for our students at St. Patrick’s Pontifical University in Maynooth. The celebrations have taken place every class day for the last year. I have been very lucky to find many ordained colleagues who are willing to take turns presiding the Eucharist. There has been no difficulty organizing lectors and cantors. But I did not have much luck finding sacristans, with the result that I have served as sacristan myself and have concelebrated the daily Celebration. Admittedly we do not have a Sunday celebration. But our weekday Liturgies have an attendance of between 10 and 50 students. In this year we have not had to make recourse to the Tabernacle once. It is a relatively minor task to get the numbers more or less right. I put out a dozen individual hosts into the ciborium before Mass and leave the container with other hosts on the credence table. During the Liturgy of the Word, I do an approximate head count and add the hosts I need during the Preparation of the Gifts. I usually aim for about 2 or 3 more than I have counted and then I consume anything that remains after the distribution of Communion
So now I can say to my colleagues that it is possible to follow the liturgical precepts without causing any excessive tension. Maybe next year I will be able to change hosts to move away from the precut individual hosts and introduce the more significant broken bread into the liturgy.