A very factual and well-documented, well-researched book that is readable and respectful of the subject matter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bishop Juan Rodolfo Laise was born on February 22, 1926 in Buenos Aires. Feeling called to the religious life, he entered the Capuchin Order, in which he received priestly ordination in 1949 when he was only 23 years old. Later he obtained his licentiate in canon law from the Gregorian University in Rome, and his doctorate in civil law from the national university of Córdoba (Argenti - na). In 1969 he was named Provincial Superior of the Capuchins of Argentina.
In 1971 he was appointed by Paul VI coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of San Luis, whose bishop was seriously ill. The clergy of that diocese, although scarce, were deeply divided because of liberation theology. Due to the strong resistance of the ideological and rebellious sector, it was not possible to organize the episcopal consecration in what would be his Episcopal see, but 500 miles away, in the chapel of a Capuchin school near Buenos Aires.
As soon as he became bishop of San Luis, the reaction of the group of highly politicized priests did not delay, and they left the diocese, moving to a neighboring diocese where the envi - ronment was more akin to their ideas. Some went even further by directly abandoning the priestly ministry. This was a blow to the new bishop, who was before a diocese that already had very few priests (there had been no priestly ordinations in the previous 18 years, and at that time there was only one seminarian).
However, his courage and his gifts of government enabled him to find a way to reverse the situation. Since the beginning he made his priority the care of vocations: their num - ber, and above all their solid formation, creating in 1980 the diocesan seminary “St. Michael the Archangel.” Thirty years later, when he turned 75 and had to leave his diocese, there were more than fifty seminarians, and a young and numerous clergy who worked actively in the towns and villages of the province.
Similarly, he promoted the installation of various religious congregations. Since the beginning his activity has been multiple and incessant: the foundation of religious houses, of schools, of a Catholic University extension, nu - merous churches and chapels for the new districts of a province whose population is constantly growing, and the organization of congresses and conferences.
The apostolic directives followed one another, in the spirit and decisions of Bishop Laise, at a feverish pace. However, as a Capuchin religious he knew well that activity, even the most noble one such as that of the apostolate, is not fruitful if it does not nourish its roots in contemplation. That is why he also encouraged the establishment in the diocese of contemplative communities.
But if in anything he has stood out in a special way, it has been in his Eucharistic piety and devotion, which have been translated in a special way into the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament – which by his express will has been exposed throughout the day in the diocesan Cathedral since the ‘80s – and in his care for the organizing of the feast of Corpus Christi, with a procession of the Blessed Sacra - ment through the streets of the city, and in his homilies for the occasion.
For all these reasons it is understandable that when, in 1996, found himself confronted with a responsibility, that of making a decision about the possibility of resorting to an indult to give Holy Communion in a less devout manner, which makes less clear the Real Presence and the Priesthood, and which furthermore was obtained through a frontal disobedience to the Pope, he did not ask to avail himself of this, and, in the same way, he more recently has reacted to the possibility of giving Communion to someone who is not in the state of grace.
After his retirement in 2001 he returned to the Franciscan conventual life and he chose the Shrine of Padre Pio in San Giovanni Ro - tondo (Italy), where the Saint had lived and where is found his venerated tomb. There for years he has spent the mornings hearing the confessions of the pilgrims. He often agrees to travel to occasionally collaborate elsewhere, having performed numerous ordinations for various religious congregations, and accompanied pilgrims to Lourdes, Rome, etc., during these nearly two decades. In the two photos on this cover he is seen on one of those occassions, celebrating a Pontifical Mass on the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter in the Vatican Basilica on October 24, 2015.
The Church in our times has the urgent need of courageous voices in defense of her greatest treasure, which is the mystery of the Eucharist. Often today there arise voices in defense of the many human and tem - poral needs, but rare are the voices that defend the Eucharistic Jesus. With his book Communion in the Hand His Excellency Most Rev. Juan Rodolfo Laise, Bishop Emeritus of San Luis (Argentina), has for several years raised his voice in defense of the Eucharistic Lord, showing with convincing argumentation the inconsistency of the modern practice of Communion in the hand from a historical, liturgical and pastoral perspective...
I consider it an honor and joy to be able to present this book of the most worthy Bishop Juan Rodolfo Laise, “decus episcoporum Argenti - nae”. I hope this prophetic voice of an elderly bishop, who has retained his youth and purity of faith and reverent love for the Eucharistic mystery, may enkindle readers with the same faith and the same love and contribute to the universal restoration of the more sacred and reverent manner of receiving the Lord’s Body.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider
Since the feast of Corpus Christi in 2008 communicants at papal Masses who receive from the Holy Father kneel and receive the host on the tongue. According to his Master of Ceremonies this reform, which has drawn considerable comment, is intended by Pope Benedict "to underline the validity of the norm" of this practice “for the whole Church.”
The fact is though, receiving Holy Communion on the hand is the norm if by "norm" we understand what is the usual and widespread practice. The Holy Father's point, however¯made by means of personal example¯is that that the traditional practice is the liturgical norm, has continuing value and should by no means be left behind.
The history of the introduction of the “indult” or special permission to receive Holy Communion in the hand is interesting and is today largely forgotten. In the late 1960's some priests introduced the practice without authorisation as a supposed return to early Church custom and to promote a supposedly "more mature" attitude towards receiving the Eucharist. Paul VI ordered a survey of the bishops on the question: the majority did not want the practice introduced, fearing a loss of reverence and faith. Paul VI concurred and an Instruction was issued in 1969 insisting on the traditional practice, but allowing bishops to ask for the new practice to be authorised where they thought that it had taken root and could not be stopped. Disobedience was rewarded. Then other countries got in on the act, asked for the permission also, and the exception which so distressed Paul VI rapidly became the norm.
This book is a case study. Argentine Bishop Rodolfo Laise declined to introduce Communion in the Hand into his diocese when the other bishops of his country did so in 1996. This was seen as controversial and un-collegial. Bishop Laise, however, judged in conscience that it would not be good for his diocese. Here he presents both his reasoning and the relevant local and Roman documents bearing on his decision. Whilst his book may seem a little technical and certainly could have benefitted from more editorial work, it is both a testament to the faith and vigilance of one bishop and provides much material with which one can begin to understand Pope Benedict's reinvigoration of the traditional practice.
It could be called “an historical examination of conscience,” because it demonstrates the stampede of this fashion, originating in 1960's disobedience and based on a faulty understanding of the practice of the early Church (underlined so well by Bishop Athanasius Schneider in his little book Dominus est–It is the Lord), through the deep apprehension and disapproval of Paul VI, to its triumph by Indult but a decade or so later. I say “examination of conscience” because the 1969 Instruction (n. 12) warned that such a change was not just a matter of discipline, but involved the danger of a loss of reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament, the risk of profanation of the Sacred Host and of "adulterating" belief in the real presence. Whilst many today no doubt receive Holy Communion in the hand reverently and with undiminished faith, it cannot be denied that all three of these dangers have taken root. It is difficult to maintain that the new practice is, if not the cause itself, at least a significant contributor to the effect.
This explains Bishop Laise's stance. As the pastor of a diocese, realising that “the Holy See had never desired this new practice” and that it was never “a part of the liturgical reform”, and because his priests asked him not to introduce this practice “for the good of the faithful”, he reinforced the traditional practice. This is one bishop who thought, prayed, consulted and studied the question deeply before deciding on the matter. It seems that in many other countries the bishops en masse simply accepted Communion on the Hand as another integral part of the new liturgy. It has become that, even though in fact it is not.
That is the point behind the Holy Father’s practice, which is becoming more widespread, even in St Peter’s Basilica. Communion in the hand is very much a ‘live issue’ today, and rightly so, for how we pray, how we receive our Lord in Holy Communion, expresses and teaches what we believe.
Dom Alcuin Reid, OSB