Catholic World News

Kazak bishop recalls Communist persecution, questions Communion in the hand

June 22, 2010

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the General Secretary of the Bishops' Conference of Kazakhstan recounted the persecution Catholics endured in the Soviet Union under the regime of Leonid Brezhnev. Between 1971 and 1973, when he was a child of ten to twelve, Bishop Athansius Schneider and his family would travel by train to the nearest church, which was 60 miles away.

“The Communist government forbade children from participating in the Holy Mass,” he recalls. “Only adults were allowed to go, but we were four children and therefore my parents chose to take the first train in the morning when it was still dark so we wouldn’t be visible to others to see us… And then we would return with the last train in the evening …The Sundays, we spent with our parish priest who had a little room only-- not a house, but just a little room; it was his kitchen, sleeping room, and library in this one room. We spent our time because we were the family who travelled from afar. There I made my first Confession and first Communion with this holy priest who was also imprisoned in Karaganda earlier.”

Bishop Schneider, the author of a book defending the traditional manner of receiving Holy Communion, added:

For me it’s not a new understanding, I, all my life, lived this because I received the Holy Communion in such circumstances of persecution, and this reverence; it was so natural for me as a child to receive; I was told this is God here present really, and it was so natural to kneel, and “This is the Most Holy," as we say ,“The Most Holy - Sanctissimum".

Even my mother who lived during this times of persecution; once she saved a priest from the police in the Urals where she was deported, and then her mother, my grandmother was very ill and when the priest was departing, my grandmother asked my mother to ask the priest prior to his departure to please ask the priest to leave a Holy Host-- consecrated host in case she [grandmother] died so that she could receive the Holy Communion and my mother told the priest this request. And the priest said: “Yes, I will leave you one consecrated host on the condition that you administer this Holy Communion with the most reverence possible.”

My mother gave her [grandmother] the Holy Communion and to do this my mother took a pair of new white gloves, to give, to administer the host so that she would not touch the host with her bare hands. She would not dare touch the Holy Sacrament with her bare hands and she took a spoon to administer it. And this was so profound and so natural for us, and therefore, when we came and saw this in the Western churches, I was not so astonished, but we felt so much sorrow in our soul. I do not judge the person receiving Communion with their hands, this is another question because they can still receive it with reverence and love, but the objective situation of distributing the Holy Communion; you can not deny this, that it has turned so banal, so less reverent, like distributing cakes.

This is the Lord; when the risen Lord appeared to the three women and they saw Him, they knelt down…they fell on their knees on His feet and adored Him. And even the Apostles did the same when the Lord went to heaven. Why should we not do the same?


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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: saviles218254 - Jun. 25, 2010 1:01 AM ET USA

    Bishop Schneider was interviewed by Fr. Mitch Pacwa on EWTN about a year or two ago. Ever since listening to the Bishop speak about his family's reverence for the Sacred Host, it has almost been impossible for me to receive in the hand. I don't think the Bishop thinks he's holier than anyone...but he does seem to know Who is holy!

  • Posted by: - Jun. 22, 2010 9:09 PM ET USA

    He didn't say it was "wrong".

  • Posted by: - Jun. 22, 2010 9:04 PM ET USA

    From my parish bullet: from priest writing his doctoral dissertation on the Eucharist a survey request for practicing Catholics with an experience at Mass that had "led them closer to the Mass" and "transformed the quality of their lives and relationships"; must be "sufficiently authentic in (their) religious and spiritual practices... evidenced in the quality of (their lives)... Must not be fundamentalist in attitudes toward faith and practices". No Mrs. Schneiders for him!

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Jun. 22, 2010 6:02 PM ET USA

    I agree with Bishop Schneider and mygreen that there appears to be less reverence for the Host when it is routinely received in the hand. But the fault is with the recipients, who often ignore the rules for its reception. The fact is, the Church officially permits reception in the hand, and it seems to me that to say that's wrong is to make oneself holier than the Roman Catholic Church.

  • Posted by: mgreen32234 - Jun. 22, 2010 12:01 PM ET USA

    Bishop Schneider leaves me in tears for the way we mistreat Our dear Lord.