INNOCENT XI 1676-1689
Frequent and Daily Communion *
[From the Decree C. S. Conc., Feb. 12. 1679]
1147 Although the daily and frequent use of the most holy Eucharist has always been approved by the holy Fathers of the Church, yet never have they appointed certain days either for receiving it more often or certain days of the weeks and months for abstaining from it, which the Council of Trent did not prescribe; but, as if it considered the frailty of human nature, although making no command, it merely indicated what it would prefer when it said: “The Holy Council would indeed wish that at every Mass the faithful present would communicate by the sacramental reception of the Eucharist” [see n.944 ]. And this not without cause, for there are very many secret recesses of conscience, various diversions because of the occupations of the spirit, likewise many graces and gifts of God granted to children, and since we cannot scrutinize these with human eyes, nothing can be established concerning the worthiness or integrity of anyone, and consequently nothing concerning the more frequent or daily partaking of the bread of life.
And thus, as far as concerns tradesmen themselves, frequent approach to the receiving of the holy sustenance is to be left to the judgment of the confessors who explore the secrets of the heart, who from the purity of consciences and from the fruit of frequency and from the progress in piety in the case of laity, tradesmen, and married men, will be obliged to provide for them whatever they see will be of benefit to their salvation.
In the case of married persons, however, let them seriously consider this, since the blessed Apostle does not wish them to “defraud one another, except perhaps by consent for a time, that they may give themselves to prayer” [cf. 1 Cor. 7:5], let them advise these seriously that they should give themselves more to continence, because of reverence for the most holy Eucharist, and that they should come together for communion in the heavenly banquet with a purer mind.
1148 In this, then, will the diligence of pastors be especially alert, not that some may not be deterred from frequent or daily partaking of holy communion by a single formula of precept, or that days for partaking be established generally, but rather let it be decided what should be permitted to each, or should be decided for themselves by themselves, or by the priests or confessors; and let this be prohibited entirely: that no one be repelled from the sacred banquet, whether he approach it frequently or daily, and yet let it attend that everyone taste of the sweetness of the body of the Lord more rarely or more frequently according to his measure of devotion and preparation.
1149 Similarly nuns who desire holy communion daily will have to be advised to receive communion on the days established by the rule of their order; if some, however, are distinguished by purity of mind and are so enkindled by fervor of spirit that they seem worthy of more frequent or daily reception of the most holy Sacrament, let this be permitted them by the superiors.
It will be of benefit, too, besides the diligence of priests and confessors, to make use also of the services of preachers and to have an agreement with them, that, when the faithful have become used * to frequenting the most holy Sacrament (which they should do), they preach a sermon on the great preparation for undertaking that, and show in general that those who by devout zeal are stirred to a more frequent or daily partaking of the health bringing Food, whether lay tradesmen, or married people, or any others, ought to understand their own weakness, so that because of the dignity of the Sacrament and the fear of the divine judgment they may learn to revere the celestial table on which is Christ; and if at any time they should feel themselves not prepared, to abstain from it and to gird themselves for a greater preparation.
But let bishops, in whose dioceses such devotion towards the most Blessed Sacrament flourishes, give thanks to God for this, and they should nurture it by applying to it the proper measure of prudence and judgment, and on their part they will especially prevail upon themselves that no labor or diligence must be spared to do away with every suspicion of irreverence and scandal in the reception of the true and immaculate lamb, and to increase virtues and gifts in those who partake of it; and this will happen abundantly, if those, who are bound by such devoted zeal, by surpassing divine grace, and who desire to be refreshed more frequently by the most holy bread, become accustomed to expend their strength and to prove themselves with reverence and love. . . .
1150 Furthermore, let bishops and priests or confessors refute those who hold that daily communion is of divine right, . . . Let them not permit that a confession of venial sins be made to a simple priest without the approbation of a bishop or ordinary.