The moments before the first Mass on the days during the spiritual retreat for deacons that were going to be ordained in a few days, were extremely stressful for Deacon Juan Pedro. But not because of the excitement over his upcoming ordination to the priesthood, but because the deacon never had felt himself caught in this dilemma up to that moment: He would have to go to communion queuing in the same way as the faithful did in his parish when he gave them Holy Communion.
And what did this mean? He wanted to receive the Lord, the King of Kings, with all reverence, internal and external, that is, kneeling and in the tongue, and he knew that all his companions would receive Holy Communion standing up and most of them in the hand; and the person in charge of the retreat was His Excellency the Bishop, a supporter of receiving Holy Communion standing and in the hand.
What should Juan Pedro do? Should he not distinguish himself from the others? Should he please his Bishop? Would he cause scandal if he was different from the rest? But the deacon could not think of receiving communion standing, even if it was receiving in the tongue. What to do? Should he give pleasure to others, including His Excellency the Bishop, or should he give glory to God even at the expense of some backbiting or criticism afterwards?
When the time came for Holy Communion, he placed himself at the end of the queue and during the seconds that it took to face the Bishop he kept asking the Lord and his Blessed Mother so that he wouldn’t lose courage to kneeling. At the same time when the Bishop lifted up the Sacred Host and said: The Body of Christ, the deacon fell slumped to the floor with both knees with such a strength and determination that took the Bishop, by surprise.
From that day on, and for the rest of the spiritual retreat, Juan Pedro continued receiving communion kneeling. No one made the slightest comment. But on the other hand, he noticed that he was treated by his peers with a kind of respect unknown to him up to that moment.
It did not take very long before the Bishop called the new priest to his presence and reproached him for not behaving like the other priests, or for wearing a cassock and not dressing like the others, or for officiating the Holy Mass in Latin and not in Spanish like the others, etc.
Father Juan Pedro never became a parish priest. All of his pastoral life was spent between nursing homes and hospitals. Today he enjoys a well-deserved retirement in a small village in the province of Tarragona, with some of his family members taking care of him.
The Lord rewarded his courage by strengthening him inwardly in such a way that he knew no fear of “what the people may say”, and never was carried away by a “silent multitude”, nor did he shared the view of “do what others do.” He did not mind standing out if doing so was for the glory of God. He never felt fear inside himself or gave in to threats.
Deacon Juan Pedro knew that if he gave in to intimidation, not doing what he really felt that needed to be done, the shadow of his cowardice would be hunting him for the rest of his priestly life.
Father was a late vocation. He was ordained when the “hard” period of the post-conciliar time was in full swing. When I visit him, once a year during the summer, he always tells me his personal history and gives me the same advice: Father Juan Manuel, the tares have entered the Church. We can’t trust our pastors, and we have to discern if what they say is in line with the faith of the Church. Many govern with worldly criteria and not divine. Be faithful to the received faith and never stop giving glory to God despite what people say, and please, Father, never pay attention to that evil slogan of “to do what everyone else is doing.”
After this personal experience, I am appealing to you, my dear female friend, I would like to tell you that if you like to wear the veil, or you want to bow, and for fear of the backbiting, or for fear to cause scandal –causing scandal, for Heaven’s sake! – you are producing neither one thing nor the other. And, also, I address to you, dear friend, if you would like to receive communion kneeling, but you don’t do it for the same reason, do you know that in the same way, whenever you have to defend the faith you won’t do it for fear of disturbing others or of causing scandal? Don’t you realize that you become a lukewarm catholic? The warmth is back in the faith. What is the Lord expecting of you? Are you asking this question yourself?
Father Juan Manuel Rodríguez de la Rosa
Translation by Miguel Tenreiro. Original post.