Category Archives: Communion

Pastor or Chaplain, or Both?

Is There a Distinction that Needs to be Drawn Between a Practicioner’s Playing the Role of Pastor or that of Chaplain?

I was a bit bemused by the persistence of the tendency to Bible-thump one’s way through any such discussion

I recently engaged several colleagues on the question of chaplaincy or pastoring. I was a bit bemused by the persistence of the tendency to Bible-thump one’s way through any such discussion, while advocating an interfaith approach as advanced by the adherents of the CPE agenda. I thought I’d share my contribution to the discussion.

listen-with-heartIt is my contention that we should not advance the notion of a “versus” or “as opposed to” when discussing chaplaincy or pastoring. While it is true that some traditions, the Hebrew and Islamic, for example, eschew the notion of “pastor” or “shepherd” for cultural or traditional, even ethical reasons, in the broader sense all chaplains are in fact “pastors,” while all pastors (in the conventional sense) are not necessarily “chaplains” (or critically speaking, even pastors!). In fact, I object in principal to the biased terminology we so frequently use in our vocations, “pastoral care” department, because it tends to be exclusive. I personally prefer spriritual care provider (although in my professional materials I do use pastoral care). Moreover, most people, even those in the vocation, tend to associate pastoral with pastors and thus with some sort of clergy or ordained service provider (usually with no questions asked and we all know about the profanation of ordination); that in itself is a misfortune for all concerned. But the much-touted CPE doesn’t do much to clarify the issues for interns or residents, and we still see chaplains “certified” by the self-proclaimed arbitors of chaplaincy who are just as ignorant after several years of “education” as they were before.

A case in point is taken from the scenario presented by the initiator of the discussion who describes walking into a Jewish patient’s room with a Christian clerical collar, which I characterized as benign “ignorance” but in reality was outright insensitive and would indicate that the “chaplain” in question did not do any initial preparation before launching out on rounds or visitations.clerical collar pc I might fraternally suggest that in future, whether you are a chaplain or a pastoral care associate, to check the chart briefly or dialogue with the nurse assigned to that patient before you visit. The offending chaplain actually says that he was aware that the patient was dying and had no family, so it seems rather odd that the chaplain did not appreciate the patient’s faith tradition and, if it wasn’t in the chart, that he didn’t consult with the immediate caregiver (nurse or LPN).

I also questioned the fact that the visiting chaplain was aware that the man was “Jewish”. Being Jewish immediately identifies one as being associated with a certain cultural, socio-religious tradition, after all, one does not call one’s self “Jewish” except to identify one’s self as a Jew. So this also raises the question of whether the chaplain in question was indifferent to the possibility that this dying man might have welcomed a visit by a rabbi, or that the chaplain did not make or offer to make a referral. Such sensitivity may have been a great comfort to the man, who might have found great refuge in his tradition and prayers. So I identify a boundary issue in this behavior, too; an issue of knowing one’s limits.

This situation also sends up red flags in that it clearly indicates that the institution did not do a spiritual assessment of this patient, much less a spiritual evaluation or history, which also reveals a glaring ignorance of the now widely inaugurated JCAHO and HIPA scoring categories relating to patient spiritual care.

The scenario I describe above should be instructive to us all and I thank the so-called chaplain for the inadvertent teaching/learning moment he has provided.

Finally, in the dying process I don’t feel there’s a heck of a lot of “pastoring” left to be done, unless it’s for the survivors. In my experience, in end-of-life situations I am more of a presence and spiritual guide/companion. While that may arguably be part of pastoring in a general sense, I feel that the actual mission of pastoring contrasts in praxis with the mission of spiritual accompaniment at end-of-life or in an existential crisis.

plant in handIt’s rather like the difference between evangelization and catechesis, if you have that in your tradition. One takes care of the basics and gets the seed started (evangelization), the other (catechesis) ends in the care and nurturing to harvest time.

Listening to hearAnother colleague mentioned in a rather cliché fashion with which we are all familiar when listening to the CPE crowd, that CPE trains one to listen. I disagree with such responses such as “CPE “teaches” one to listen.” I’m not quite sure how that works but in my divinity training and three years of supervised pastoral formation, and my participation in and disappointment with a rather popular CPE program in a large trauma center in Albany, New York, which fell far short of even my minimum aspirations, I don’t think that people can be “taught to listen” they may listen, but they don’t listen deeply. I know that from experience the deep listening skill comes from deep within one’s self, once one is comfortable with one’s self, and can leave one’s self for the time it takes to absorb and process the patient’s narrative. It’s that kind of listening that might be part of qualifying an aspirant to be spiritual care provider but it certainly isn’t the be all and end all.

The serene face of the large Buddha his long wise curvaceous ears at once loving and open to the woes of the world: Compassionate.

The serene face of the Buddha, his long wise curvaceous ears at once loving and open to the woes of the world: Compassionate.

Deep listening is the act of sinking into a serene quiet place, and awakening a receptive awareness of the other. By entering quiet and becoming aware of the other, we move out of and beyond our ego-driven chaos to become open to the divine messages within us and shared with us by the other. Imagine the irony here is that we so often complain of the pain of not having been heard, but we are so guilty ourselves of being deaf to, not hearing the innate wisdom from within ourselves and shared with us by others. When we learn to accept emptiness, when quiet, we instinctively trust in the guidance of sacred voices far more profoundly than what our bullying brains and the busy buzz of life would have us hear. And we listen, respond with silence.

In fact, having examined quite a number of CPE curricula and having developed continuing quality improvement curricula for the healthcare chaplaincy department, I find that the current CPE programs and their associated certification elements serve only to promote a burocratic and very branded form of “pastoral” care, and that branded product falls short of most suffering persons’ real needs. helpingIt’s the proprietary nature and standardization (viz. uniformization, homogenization) of the learning that deals the death blow to an appreciation (1) of the universal truths and values shared by all human beings, (2) the beauty in the diversity of traditions and how to appreciate and be enriched by a certain mutuality, (3) the possible pitfalls of an interfaith approach to faith traditions that may adhere very loyally to their dogmas. There are other reasons I could enumerate but regrettably (or fortunately for the readers) space is limited.

I think that an overwhelming majority, too, of CPE students come with excess baggage and too little self-death–I’ve observed interns, residents, even certified chaplains who have a great potential to do considerable damage…and do. The situation is not unlike seminary, you can do much to scrutinize, to form, to standardize but Whoa! when you turn them loose on the world, watch out! (A Roman Catholic diocesan priest, who also serves in the chancery tribunal, remarked ironically to me one day, “They’ll ordain anybody these days.” Which is probably true given the shortage of priests today.)

The so-called supervisors of the CPE programs almost invariable have their own biases and agendas, and these tend to impair good formation.
In some, not all instances, too, CPE programs have become “pay-to-work” programs in which minimally screened individuals, wet behind the ears and green, are turned loose on the floors to deal with sophisticated staff and human beings in existential crisis. I don’t feel that’s right. And I have also observed that interns are exposed to the same curriculum content for three or four years, and unless they have the academic predisposition to independently advance their armamentarium of experience through narrative and study, many don’t build their foundations. Some interns do not have theology or pastoral studies to help them through the necessary processing, and almost all have a depraved Western bias to their spirituality that tends to act as a speed bump when offering care to Non-western recipients. These programs tend to be “chaplain mills.” CPE does not fit the bill on its own to form professional, well-rounded spiritual care providers, but does excel in churning out multitudes of volunteers for greedy institutions. That may be one of the reasons it has survived this long.

On another level, some practitioners involved in the discussion advocated that the “Gospel” or, by extension, holy scriptures, has no firm place in chaplaincy. I do differ in that the fundamental ethics of the “Gospel” (not as understood principally by the evangelicals or fundamentalist among us) is a major part of chaplaincy. servant leadershipI cite particularly the beatitudes and the teaching of discipleship and servant leadership (chaplaincy is certainly not limited to the sick and dying but to the suffering generally). While I abhor the notion, and even more so the practice of proselytizing to captive audiences, and would hasten to emphasize that evangelization and catechization is not a fundamental role of the chaplain, ethics, discipleship, and servant leadership all play a special role in the myriad activities of the professional chaplain. (Note also that I do distinguish between the “professional chaplain”, the pastoral/spiritual care associate, and the visitor providing spiritual support.) To advocate that the truths and values espoused by the “Gospel”, the holy scriptures of any faith or spiritual tradition might have no place in chaplaincy is to advocate a position, I believe, of a chaplaincy practice devoid of ethics (and religion) (I do realize that this is a particularly “Christian” approach and my Judaic, Islamic and Buddhist colleagues may not necessarily agree with the religion-ethics statement, but I make the statement here somewhat loosely for convenience sake).

I’m not judging colleagues in chaplaincy or Clinical Pastoral Education too severely at all. In fact, I’m simply sharing my own observations and opinions based on personal experience. I am not a bit surprised when some readers tend to take these observations personally, as if they were meant to make an ad hominem stab at the straw[wo]men of CPE; I usually anticipate that persons in our line of work have a bit more self-awareness not to take every facially severe remark as a lancet thrust to the heart, however.

Rather than play an offended person’s role, perhaps we all would benefit by admitting that we may have learnt something about one’s self as through another’s eyes.

We Respond, We don't React.

We Respond, We don’t React.

Our role is to humbly respond, not to knee-jerk react. After all, to paraphrase the prophet Martin Luther King, Jr.: ‘We are all wrapped in the same cloth…when we directly hurt another we indirectly hurt ourselves.” (I do hope I did that statement justice!). So, when one party to the conversation called such a response arrogant, and a failure to simply accept some responsibility in relationship to colleagues’ responses, I merely responded, “My point indeed. The mouth loves the feel of words.” Instead we minimize, rationalize and justify our behavior, making certain to protect one’s self. This particular correspondent insists that “our patients have thick enough skins to handle a collar.”panda overload My response was tantamount to the fact that I don’t think that we have any right to expect patients to have “thick skins.” Some practitioners in pastoral care seem to admit patients’ strengths but underestimate their sensitivity and vulnerability. Many of the patients I see have lost their thick skins and in fact are pretty bruised in terms of dignity, autonomy, fortitude, patience, etc. I see no reason to add another straw to the pile. And Yes! It’s not about us, it’s about patient-centered, family-focused, inter- and multi-disciplinary care.

bedside prayerWhen we adopt such an approach we appreciate that, whereas many of our colleagues practice their spiritual care ministry in acute care settings or in crisis settings, many colleagues may find themselves–particularly in the scenario of the long-term care setting–in the position of playing both the role of chaplain and pastor to some residents in those longer-term care facilities. Regrettably, many of these residents lived their lives unchurched or churched with infrequent interaction with their faith community; more regrettably, some faith communities have disappeared or simply no longer continue a ministry of visitation of the sick and homebound who were once part of their faith community. It’s in such situations that the chaplain may very well become the pastor, and have to function in both roles. I don’t feel that this should be a major stumbling block nor even a concern to the well-formed spiritual care provider, who is responding to a true call to spiritual care ministry.

We're all wrapped in the same cloth...

We’re all wrapped in the same cloth…


Liturgy: Epiclesis in Eucharistic Prayer I

Epiclesis in Eucharistic Prayer I
And More on Receiving Communion

Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university answers questions on the liturgy.

Q: As I have watched Pope Benedict XVI celebrate Mass on television, I have noticed that during the Roman Canon, he appears to perform the epiclesis twice: “Through him we ask you to bless and accept …” and “Bless and approve ….” Every priest I have seen pray the canon has simply blessed the gifts at the beginning of the canon and then performed the epiclesis later in the prayer. Is there a difference between these two gestures made by the Holy Father and by the priests .

A: Actually I think that the Holy Father is simply fulfilling the rubrics for the venerable Roman Canon, or Eucharistic Prayer I.

For your convenience you can read or download the entire article at Liturgy-Epiclesis in Eucharistic Prayer I.

Liturgy: Deviations In Holy Week

These are just a selection of many inquiries about blatant reordering of the liturgy in general and the Easter celebrations in particular. Why these things happen and why some priests are deluded into thinking that this is a more “pastoral” approach than following the prescribed rubrics, remains a mystery.

I remain convinced that the best and most effective pastoral policy is to offer Christ’s faithful the rites that his Church proposes. This is what has stood the test of time and of widespread use. Our personal tinkering can only impoverish and weaken their effectiveness.

From the legal standpoint, all of these initiatives violate Sacrosanctum Concilium 22’s basic principle of liturgical law quoted by our first questioner. This norm is not restricted to the Mass but to the entire liturgy, including all celebrations of the sacraments and also the sacramentals. In the case of the sacramentals and the Liturgy of the Hours the official books themselves occasionally allow for greater leeway in choosing texts and modes of celebration, provided that certain core criteria are always met.

As our first correspondent observed, they also explicitly violate many other liturgical norms. This is the case in Q2 where, effectively, the only occasions when laypeople are allowed to read the Gospel along with the priest is Palm Sunday and Good Friday. The other exception, foreseen in No. 47 of the Directory for Masses with Children, does not apply to Masses celebrated for the whole parish community.

Read or download Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara’s, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university,  complete responses at Deviations in Holy Week.

Liturgy: Denying Eucharist to Someone

This question doesn’t seem to want to go away and there’s a reason for its persistence: our bishops have not set the example is one reason. The other reason resides in the canon law on the subject. The priest is caught between Scylla and Charybdis.

Only God knows with absolute certainty a person’s state of grace. The individual person can reach a reasonable moral certainty as to the present state of his soul. The priest usually has no knowledge as to a person’s state of grace. Even if a priest knows that a certain person is an habitual sinner, he cannot know if, before coming for Communion, that person has repented, confessed and is striving to remedy his ways.

Even if the priest is practically certain that a person should not receive Communion and would be committing a sacrilege by doing so, he should not publicly refuse to administer the sacrament. No person, not even a grave sinner, should be publicly exposed for hidden faults. Everybody has a right to preserve his good name unless it is lost by the sinner’s public actions or in virtue of a public penalty.

This is a very difficult situation for a priest to be in, but in this way he also shares in that same attitude which the Lord himself adopts in making himself available in the Eucharist. Only rarely will a priest be placed in such a difficult situation; the Eucharistic Lord faces it on a daily basis.

Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law indicates the principal cases in which Communion may be publicly refused. The canon says, “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

Read or download the entire article on Denying Communion To Someone and more on ashes.

Liturgy Source of Life, Prayer and Catechesis

Numbers 1071-1075 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) treat sacred liturgy as source of life, as well as its relationship with prayer and catechesis. The liturgy is source of life first of all because it is the work of Christ  (CCC, 1071). In the second place, because it is also an action of his Church  (Ibid.). But, which is the  reeminent of these two aspects? Moreover, what does the word life  mean in this context?

Vatican Council II responds: From the liturgy, hence, and particularly from the Eucharist, grace flows in us as from a source, and obtained with the greatest efficacy is the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all the other activities of the Church tend as to their end  (Sacrosanctum Concilium [SC], 10). Understood thus is that, when the liturgy is called source of life, from it grace flows.

Already answered here is the first question: the liturgy is source of life primarily because it is the work of Christ, Author of grace.

Read more or download the entire article at Liturgy Source of Life, Prayer and Catechesis.

Paper Towel Purificators

Unworthy Purificator

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Our pastor has taken to using “high quality” paper towels instead of linen for purificators. This has some of the community very upset. Supposedly, the paper towels are burned once a week. At this point, the pastor is unwillingly to change this practice (both he and the priest responsible for the liturgy have been approached).
Is this practice licit? It seems, at the very least, to be insulting to Our Lord and, at the worst, not only wrong,but sending an incorrect message as to the value of the Eucharist. — T.A., New York

A: Although the General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM) does not give detailed instructions regarding the composition of altar linens, it enunciates the general principle involved in No. 348: “Besides sacred vessels and sacred vestments for which some special material is prescribed, other furnishings that either are intended for strictly liturgical use or are in any other way admitted into a church should be worthy and suited to their particular purpose.”
It is debatable, to say the least, that paper towels are “worthy and suited” to the purpose of touching the Lord’s body or that they could be blessed according to the Church’s rites. (Read or download the entire Paper Towel Purificators.)



Effectively there are two variants of this beautiful hymn. Most of the variations occur in the first two verses. The substitution of the words “posset omni scélere” for “quit ab omni scélere” in the second-to-last verse and “cupio” for “sitio” in the closing one are practically the only other changes.

This hymn is usually attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) even though the earliest extant manuscript hails from about 50 years after his death. References to Aquinas’ hymn in the writings of his

Franciscan contemporary Jacopone da Todi (1228-1306, author of the Stabat Mater) tend to confirm its authenticity.

In spite of its saintly authorship the hymn never entered into the official liturgy and was only saved from obscurity when Pope St. Pius V included it among the prayers of thanksgiving after communion in his missal of 1570. Paul VI incorporated it into the Roman ritual, using a critical text established by the liturgist Dom André Wilmart. (read the entire Adoro Te Devote + Blue Vestments).

In 2004, Father Cantalamessa began a series of Eucharistic reflections in the light of the hymn Adoro Te Devote.

Reflection on the Eucharist

First Sermon – Adoro te devote

To respond to the Holy Father’s desire and intentions to dedicate this year to the Eucharist, the preaching for this Advent — and, God willing also for next Lent, will be a stanza-by-stanza commentary of the Adoro Te Devote.

With his encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” the Holy Father John Paul II said he intended to reawaken “Eucharistic wonder” in the Church,[1] and the Adoro Te Devote lends itself wonderfully to achieve this objective. It might serve to give spiritual inspiration and heart to all that will be done during this year to honor the Eucharist.

A certain way of speaking of the Eucharist, full of warm unction and devotion as well as of profound doctrine, banished by the advent of so-called scientific theology, was preserved in old Eucharistic hymns and it is here that we must look for it today, if we wish to overcome a certain arid conceptualism that has afflicted the Sacrament of the Altar in the wake of so many disputes surrounding it.

Ours, however, will not be a reflection on the Adoro Te Devote, but on the Eucharist! The hymn is only the map that helps us to explore the territory, the guide that introduces us to the work of art. (Continue Reading the Reflections On Eucharist In Light Of Adoro Te Devote Part 1.)

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