Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Book Preview: Church Controversies under the Normans and Angevins

Grace and peace to you all, friends. For awhile I have been working on the manuscript of a book that will be on the subject of sacral kingship in the Middle Ages—the idea that the king, by virtue of his coronation, has a kind of sacred or theocratic authority, held directly from God, which enables him to exercise a trusteeship over the Church within his realm. I am super close to finishing the text and am quite excited with how it's turning out. 

I wanted to preview a section of one of the chapters here that I am very happy with. This chapter is on the ideology of the Investiture Controversy, but this sub-section deals with the theocratic pretensions of the Norman and Angevin kings specifically and their attempts to consolidate their power through turning the Church into an apparatus of the state. 

Also, I do have the text thoroughly footnoted in the manuscript, but the formatting did not transfer well into blogger so I omitted them here. But you'll have to take my word on it that I did my research : )

The Normans & Angevins

The Investiture Controversy was not limited to Germany and Italy. Ideals of sacral kingship were particularly strong amongst the Norman lords, who worked tirelessly to centralize Church and State under their command within their realms. While constraints of space do not permit an entire chapter devoted to the lords of Normandy, we will touch on some of the more important episodes of the 11th and 12th centuries germane to our discussion.

Consider the case of Roger of Sicily. Roger and his brother had conquered Sicily from the Muslims in a long war of attrition throughout between 1063 and 1091. In 1071 he was created Duke of Sicily, effectively creating his own insular kingdom on the island. Duke Roger’s power was absolute in matters of religion and politics. He personally established multiple dioceses and selected their bishops personally. He presided in liturgical matters, imposing the Latin rite in areas traditionally given over to the Greeks. Since the Normans of Italy were a counterweight to the Germans, the papacy tolerated Roger’s theocracy to keep him as an ally against Emperor Henry IV. Pope Urban II even made him Apostolic Legate in Sicily.

Roger’s son, Roger II was the first King of Sicily (1130-1154) and created the south Italian domain known as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies that would endure until the 19th century. Imitating Charlemagne, he was crowned on Christmas Day, 1130, in the Cathedral of Palermo. History does not record who performed the royal coronation, but a mosaic in Palermo’s St. Nicol√≤ dei Greci alla Martorana reveals how Roger wanted the event to be perceived. The famous coronation mosaic of the Martorana depicts King Roger in the garb of a Byzantine monarch. Bowing his head, his arms opened in the priestly orans posture, Roger receives his crown not from any bishop but from Jesus Christ Himself. Christ, hovering off the ground to highlight His divinity, gazes at Roger, while above the king’s head and paralleling the nimbus of Christ are the words Rogerius Rex in Greek letters. The particular bishop who crowned him is irrelevant; the royal authority comes from Jesus Chris, whose hand in the mosaic is still resting upon the crown. The royal crown forms a direct link from the person of Roger to the person of Christ, the royal office being that which invests Roger with the divine auctoritas of Christ. Such were the pretensions of the lords of Normandy.

By the time of Roger, England, too, had been overrun by the Normans. The first generation of Norman lords under King William the Conqueror (1066-1087) systematically replaced England’s Anglo-Saxon episcopacy with one from Norman stock in perhaps the biggest single exercise of lay investiture in the history of Christendom. Nevertheless, by the turn of the century many English bishops had begun adopting the tenets of the Gregorian reform, bringing them into conflict with the centralizing tendencies of the Norman kings. England had its own controversy over investiture from 1102 to 1107 and centered on the opposition of St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, to the policies of King William II Rufus (r. 1087-1100) and Henry I (r. 1100-1135). Both kings categorically refused to accept the principles laid out in Dictatus Papae. The former was guilty of pilfering Church properties while the latter insisted on Anselm receiving investiture at his hands. Anselm refused to be invested by a lay person, to the fury of King William Rufus. In the end, Rufus had Anselm dragged to his beside and forcibly shoved the episcopal crozier into his hand—and apt symbol of the Norman ideal!

There were other issues at stake as well, relating to William Rufus’ refusal to allow the Church to enforce certain precepts of canon law within his realm—most notably, Rufus refused to allow the English bishops to meet in independent council, asserting that issuing summons to gather in synod was prerogative of the crown. Anselm endured several exiles and journeyed to Rome in hopes of finding a compromise. A settlement was reached in 1107 in which the king gave up investiture, though the bishops were still permitted to do homage for their temporal possessions. This formula would be influential in shaping the Concordat of Worms fifteen years later.

The English Angevin dynasty (1154-1216) continued to assert the king’s supremacy over matters of the Church as a matter of divine right. The famous conflict between Archbishop Thomas √† Becket and King Henry II had begun over King Henry’s claims to have juridical authority over clergy in criminal cases. The resistance of Becket led Henry to push for a general affirmation of the traditional royal prerogatives of the king over the Church in a document known as the Constitutions of Clarendon (1164). The Constitutions were a sweeping assertion of royal dominance. They maintained the king’s sole right to fill episcopal vacancies, denied the sole jurisdiction of the Church over clergy accused of crimes, forbid clergy from leaving the kingdom without royal permission, forbid the Church from inflicting canonical punishments unilaterally on any of the king’s vassals, forbid appeals to the pope without the king’s permission, transferred the standing of all disputes between laymen and clerks to the royal courts, required all bishops holding benefices from the king to attend on him in court, assigned all ecclesiastical revenues from a vacant bishopric or abbacy to the king during the time of its vacancy, mandated oaths of fealty to the king before a bishop-elect could enter into his office, and forbid the ordaining of commoners without the permission of their lord.

Becket alone refused to sign the Constitutions and went into exile. From exile in France, he proposed use of excommunication and interdict against Henry, but Pope Alexander III preferred a more diplomatic approach. The papacy negotiated a settlement with Henry to allow Becket to return in 1170, but Becket was soon at odds with King Henry again over the coronation of Henry’s son without him, a breach of Canterbury’s traditional privilege of coronation. Another round of excommunications followed, which in turn led Henry to mutter his famous words while he celebrated Christmas in the presence of his knights: “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” Becket was subsequently assassinated in Canterbury Cathedral on December 29th, 1170 by four of Henry’s knights. Henry would do penance for the killing at Becket’s tomb, and the Church received a martyr in its struggle for liberty from lay interference.

By the reigns of Richard the Lionheart (1189-1199) and John (1199-1216), the medieval papacy was reaching the apex of its power, leaving sacral monarchy in retreat everywhere. Nevertheless, both Richard and John continued to assert the traditional rights of kings, by the power of God, to control the Church in their realms. Richard’s clerks adopted the phrase plenitudo potestatis (“fullness of power”) in describing the power within his realms, and this in direct imitation of the canonist popes of the 12th century who used the same phrase to denote the authority of the pope within the Church. Richard’s justices also declared in 1194 that the excommunication of a prominent royal servant was contra regale dignitatem et excellenciam, that is, against the dignity and eminence of the crown, and Richard complained that the excommunication was issued “to the prejudice of our dignity and to the liberty of our kingdom.” The Lionheart viewed the Church’s unilateral exercise of canonical penalties as a direct affront to the dignity of the royal power.

In fact, almost all conflicts with clerics during the Angevin period make reference to royal dignitas. The late 12th and early 13th centuries saw the ascendancy of systematized canon law—a movement which threatened to replace the king as the governor of ecclesiastical affairs. The Angevins consistently pushed back against the encroachment of canon law, arguing that canonical infringements on royal prerogatives were contra dignitatem nostrum (“against our dignity”). King John’s barons argued that the pope’s attempt to settle the disputed Canterbury election of 1209 would fail to respect his dignity; similarly, John’s letters to clerics complain of “any diminution of the right and dignity which our ancestors had”; or they defend royal interference in the Church “according to right and our dignity and old and approved custom” or “our dignities which our predecessors had.”

These references to “old and approved custom” or “dignities which our predecessors had” often contained appeals to old theocratic concepts from the Anglo-Saxon era. For example, in the disputed Canterbury election of 1205, John tried to force his candidate, John de Gray, against the consent of both the cathedral chapter and Pope Innocent III. The contest dragged out for years, during which John complained about the diminution of his prerogatives. He argued that “all my predecessors conferred archbishoprics, bishoprics, and abbeys in their chamber”, citing Edward the Confessor’s appointment of St. Wulfstan—who had recently been canonized—as bishop of Worcester. This very St. Wulfstan was the subject of a colorful legend, also alluded to by King John: William the Conqueror tried to remove Wulfstan from his bishopric. Wulfstan responded by thrusting his crozier immovably into the stone over the tomb of Edward the Confessor, where it remained miraculously fixed, and saying he would only surrender it to the king who had appointed him. This tale, according to John, affirmed the right of the king to appoint bishops and ratified this authority by divine intervention.

In 1212 John drafted a letter again protesting the Church’s attempts to rob him of his right to appoint bishops, again appealing to Anglo-Saxon tradition:

[I]t is notorious that in ancient times before the coming of the Normans, the kings of England, even those now canonized, granted cathedral churches to archbishops and bishops entirely at their pleasure. Since the conquest, elections have been subject to the king’s assent and hitherto have been carried out strictly in this form.

Though the Angevins drew appealed to older theocratic models to justify their attempts to hold onto royal control over the Church, King John was unable to prevail in his dispute with Innocent III. Stephen Langton was eventually installed as Archbishop of Canterbury over John’s protests (1207). John refused to accept Langton, and his obstinacy earned him an excommunication in 1209. John feigned indifference, until war with France seemed to be looming and he needed the pope’s support. Innocent III agreed to lift the excommunication in exchange for John offering England as a fief to the pope. John did homage to Innocent III in 1213, handing over England as a papal fief. Two years later he was humiliated before his nobles at Runnymede, who forced him to sign the Magna Carta. A year after he was dead, and with him died theocratic kingship in England—at least for a few centuries.


If you think you might like this book and would be interested in purchasing a copy, please email me at uscatholicam@gmail.com and I will make a note of it and email you when it is complete. I am anticipating the book to be ready for sale by April. Probably going to be close to 200 pages, hardcover. Pax.


Sunday, February 07, 2021

Leniency and Severity

Have you ever reflected on how your judgment of whether you are harsh or lenient with a particular sin is colored by your own experience?

We tend to assume that everyone starts on a level playing field—that when it comes to virtue and vice, we are all a blank slate. Perhaps this is true in the sense that nobody is born having committed any actual sin, nor with any particular virtue. But we must not forget that we all have certain natural dispositions inherent in our personality. These dispositions not only make us more or less susceptible to certain kinds of vices and virtues, but affect our culpability or merit respectively.

For example, a certain person by nature has an extremely gregarious personality: extroverted, talkative, sociable. Because of his gregarious nature, he is susceptible to the sin of gossip and falls easily into it. But another man by nature is reserved and solemn, not given to much talk in general let alone the sin of gossip in particular. The former can scarcely go a few days without gossiping, while the latter has probably never committed the sin in his life.

Now, the silent, reserved man might look at the chatterbox and feel irritated and judgmental about the latter's proclivity to gossip. From his perspective, it is not a difficult thing to refrain from gossip and he is annoyed that the other cannot exercise the restraint that he himself exhibits. He has no problems refraining from gossip, why can't the other?

What this man does not realize is that it is not his great virtue that restrains him from gossiping—he merely has a personality that is not disposed to it. Because he is not disposed to it, there is no struggle for him in refraining from it. Because he experiences no struggle, he can't understand that other people do. Because he can't understand this, he can't empathize. Because he can't empathize, he judges the other for his sin. And his assessment of his own virtue is distorted.

But what of his own sin? He may not be disposed to gossip, but he is certainly disposed to other sins. Perhaps because he is withdrawn he is often lonely, and turns to pornography now and then in vain hopes of consoling his loneliness. This is a struggle for him. He is deeply embarrassed by it. He understands the temptation and the difficulty surrounding this sin. Because it's hard, he wants empathy—and he easily gives empathy to others struggling with pornography as well. He is much less likely to judge himself or others for this sin. He is much more likely to feel like, "Nobody's perfect. I know I've got my faults, but I'm trying." He is more lenient.

In general, we are most critical of those sins we are not naturally disposed to commit anyway, while we are most lenient towards those sins we ourselves struggle with. Our own experience tends to be the lens through which we apportion severity or leniency to a particular sin. We think we are being fair, we think we are being level-headed, but really we are just justifying ourselves.

Of course, certain sins are objectively worse than others. Murder is worse than cheating on an exam, and I would argue pornography is worse than gossiping. But how much virtue we exercise in overcoming a particular sin is very relative to our own strengths and weaknesses. A man who struggles with a porn habit and, through prayer and much effort, manages to go three weeks without relapse may have exercised more virtue in this regard than a man who is not easily disposed to temptations of the flesh and has never looked at porn in his life. The man who, through grace-filled effort, manages to restrain himself from gossiping throughout Lent has exercised more fortitude than the man who isn't disposed to gossip to begin with. 

This is because virtue is not merely doing the right thing—it is doing the right thing habitually, because you have disciplined yourself to do so. A person who who has learned to be unperturbed through discipline has acquired the virtue of patience. A person who is naturally chill and unperturbed by things has considerably less patience, considered as a virtue.

Through the gift of wisdom, may we see with God's eyes and truly focus on removing the plank from our own eye.

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Book Review: Reclaiming our Roman Catholic Birthright by Peter Kwasniewski

In the 13th century, the Scholastic theologian St. Albert the Great was held in such renown that he was known as "the teacher of everything there is to know." One could say the same about Peter Kwasniewski's book Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass (Angelico Press, 2020), a book that truly teaches you everything there is to know about why Catholics should prefer the Traditional Latin Mass. 

The book is replete with useful information about the Traditional Roman Rite: prayers, liturgical structure, calendar, and even tips about introducing young children to the Mass of Ages. But the real strength of the work is not so much the information it provides—though there is a generous amount of it—but more so in the tone or "voice" Dr. Kwasniewski chose to address the reader. This book presents a forceful, cogent argument for the Traditional Latin Mass, yet without relying on the Novus Ordo as a punching bag to establish the point. The book is not about how the Novus Ordo is so badrather, it is a fulsome apologetic for the goodness, truth, and beauty found in the Traditional Latin Mass. In that sense its a very positive book, demonstrated by the beautiful prose Dr. Kwasniewski ascends into whenever he starts explaining the richness of the ancient liturgy. You can tell he is writing from a place of deep love and experience. This is the book you want to give your Novus Ordo friends who are sympathetic to tradition but aren't sure about taking the plunge into the Traditional Latin Mass. It will work wonders to clear up the fog. 

At 388 pages, it takes a bit of time to work through, but it's very much worth it. The brush strokes here are broad, yet targeted. The breadth of subjects covered is impressive in its universality, but it still finds time to dig down into specific concerns. Dr. Kwasniewski patiently addresses almost every objection to the usus antiquior with strength and clarity. Perhaps the line of thought here is so convincing because, as Dr. K himself explains, he has walked the long path from charismatic Catholic to "New Springtime" to Reform of the Reform to traditionalist. You can hear echoes of the author's own arduous developmental history as he patiently works through all the various facets of the subject, including very difficult personal issues people struggle with when contemplating going over exclusively to the TLM. 

I also enjoyed this book because it avoids what I would call the overly canonical/legalistic arguments many Trads tend to wallow around in. With this book you're not going to get egg-headed bloviating about 
Quo Primum, theological parsing of the phrase pro multis, dense elucidations on the authority of the Second Vatican Council, or any of the other standard fare of the Trad diet. Dr. Kwasniewski isn't here interested in talking about Masonic conspiracies or Vatican politics. Instead,  you find a common sense appeal to the superior quality of worship the Traditional Mass offers, what I would call a more hortatory approach—"Come to the Traditional Latin Mass because its simply better worship. Here's why." Not that problems with the Novus Ordo are downplayed or more weighty canonical issues ignored; rather, it's more that Dr. Kwasniewski continually focuses our attention on what is most important. The result is a book that not only educates but edifies.

I took a lot of time reading this book and pondering it. It's the sort of work you want to stew on and digest slowly. But that's appropriate; Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright definitely merits a slow and attentive reading. In my 13 years of blogging about traditional Catholicism, I don't think I could have done as good a job as this book does in making its case for the Traditional Latin Mass. If you are attending the Novus Ordo and contemplating switching exclusively to the TLM, this book is for you. If you have a friend who is curious about Traditional Catholicism and you want to give them a very positive, affirming introduction, this is the book you want. If you are a life-long trad and need to be reminded why you choose the Traditional Latin Mass, again, this is your book. This is going to be my go-to resource from now on that I will always be recommending to the liturgically curious. And the glossary in the back is great for people who aren't familiar with traditional liturgical nomenclature, as well as the plethora of links and references to other resources for those who want to do a deeper dive.

I highly recommend Peter Kwasniewski's Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright as a sure guide for those wanting to understand why the Traditional Latin Mass is the future of the Church. If you already have the book, I recommend leaving a positive review on Amazon. If you'd like to get it—and support my blog as wellyou can buy Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright here through my blog affiliate link. And, if you know Peter Kwasniewksi or follow him on Facebook, drop him a note thanking him for this valuable work.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Fasting from the Eucharist

Last year, I did a post called "Private Communion". The context of the article was about having to make an appointment with my local priest in order to receive Holy Communion during the suspension of public Masses. It was the first time I was able to receive Communion for weeks and took a bit of effort to arrange. The article is brief; I recommend reading it as context for this post.

Towards the end of that post, I made the following comment:
"It was certainly more of a challenge to orchestrate, but this communion meant a lot more. I was more prepared. My children were more prepared. The extra work made it more meaningful. And I started thinking there really is something to the argument that less communions can be more beneficial. Of course I've always known that it was superior to receive fewer communions better prepared than more communions less prepared, but until this present darkness I had no experiential knowledge of the fact. When this is all over, I think I may voluntarily receive Holy Communion less and spend more time in preparation. Maybe once a month or something."
Several of you took issue with this. One commenter said:
"Dear Boniface, Jesus established His Church for two reasons: Salvation, Sanctification. We are sanctified primarily through the reception of Holy Communion and so you may want to rethink your plan in the future to receive less often."
Another left a fuller critique:
"As noble as your intentions for less frequent Communion in order to make it more fervent may be, I would not recommend it. Saints have again and again stressed the necessity of frequent, even daily, Communion, both from the practical standpoint that man is in great need of the divine Food for his spiritual sustenance as also from the relational standpoint that Our Lord desires this union with us far more than we could ever desire it ourselves...The desire to be more prepared and more worthy is the right one. Communicating less frequently is definitely not. Grace builds upon nature, and strengthens and fortifies it. Nature alone is weak, and so long without Holy Communion it is bound to suffer both in the loss of virtue (that is good habit) and the development of vice. Build good habits; and the habit of frequent Communion (and confession!) is the best habit of all."

And, and even more in-depth disagreement, which called my line of thinking dangerous, emotional, and perverse:

Sacraments work ex opera operato. You might have *felt* like you got more graces this way. Your experience was different. But the Church doesn't gauge the graces received from sacraments based on the feelings it induces. Have you asked a priest or confessor whether your conclusion about infrequent Holy Communion is correct? The reason why this line of thought is dangerous is because there's a fallacy along the line somewhere. It's like saying this:

"My wife and I had to endure a separation because of a war. I was frequently out of country, serving my country. I came only one three times in ten years. My visits with her were more emotionally intense than any experience before, when we lived together. When the war is over, I think we're going to live in separate houses and get together only every few years."

It's one thing if separation with a just cause leads one to appreciate one's interaction with one's spouse more. It's entirely different to artificially reduce contact in order to "prepare" more.

The case with the Sacrament is similar. The Church encourages frequent reception. There's a cumulative effect here. Who's to say that frequent reception of the Sacraments doesn't have a net better effect, even if you don't do as intense a preparation for each reception?

It just seems that you're seeing this all through your subjective experience. It felt more special, so you're proposing "social distancing" from Our Lord in the Sacrament in order to make your less frequent Holy Communions seem more special to you. It's perverse.

I do thank you all for seeking the good of my soul and warning me against the error of my ways. However, I do think you were misguided in your comments. I hope to show by this post that there is nothing amiss about voluntarily depriving oneself of Holy Communion for a time in order to better prepare oneself for reception later. And that what I said has nothing to do with "feeling" better about Holy Communion (contra my interlocutor) and is certainly not perverse.

This winter I have been working through the excellent book Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius & Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass (Angelico Press, 2020) by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski. I was reading a section where Dr. Kwasniewski is discussing how our desire for the Eucharist is intensified by other extra-liturgical forms of prayer. After mentioning suggestions for daily prayer at home, he makes a suggestion of a "Eucharistic fast", voluntarily abstaining from Holy Communion in order to make a more fervent communion later:
"...in an era like ours, which is too prone to take Communion for granted and thus reduce it to a routine that lacks a deep hunger and thirst for God, we can benefit ourselves and make reparation for others by sometimes not going to Communion and by making an act of desire instead—a spiritual communion. It is a supernatural spin on "absence makes the heart grow fonder." (Peter Kwasniewski, Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright, Brooklyn: Angelico Press, 2020, pg. 285).
I was very happy to see this, because it gets to the heart of what I was grasping at in my original article: our tradition definitely sees a place for refraining from Communion for reasons other than mortal sin. 

The Eucharist gives us grace objectively, of course, but part of how it sanctifies us is our own preparedness. In the original article, my point was not about "feeling better" about receiving Communion, but about being better prepared, which in turn leads to a more grace-filled reception. That grace may or may not be sensibly perceptible. If it is not, I can still have faith that I was excellently disposed and rest in that. If it is sensibly perceptible, why should I be castigated for enjoying the fact?

In the Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas addresses asks "Whether it is lawful to receive the sacrament daily?" His answer acknowledges that the sacrament works ex opera operato, as the commenter above explained, but balances that against the grace given ex opera operantis (by the disposition of the communicant). His response is worth quoting at length:

There are two things to be considered regarding the use of this sacrament. The first is on the part of the sacrament itself, the virtue [power] of which gives health to men; and consequently, it is profitable to receive it daily so as to receive its fruits daily. Hence Ambrose says: “If, whenever Christ’s blood is shed, it is shed for the forgiveness of sins, I, who sin often, should receive it often: I need a frequent remedy.”

The second thing to be considered is on the part of the recipient, who is required to approach this sacrament with great reverence and devotion. Consequently, if anyone finds that he has these dispositions every day, he will do well to receive it daily. Hence, Augustine after saying, “Receive daily, that it may profit thee daily,” adds: “So live, as to deserve to receive it daily.”

But because many persons are lacking in this devotion, on account of the many drawbacks both spiritual and corporal from which they suffer, it is not expedient for all to approach this sacrament every day; but they should do so as often as they find themselves properly disposed. Hence it is said in De Eccles. Dogmat. 53: “I neither praise nor blame daily reception of the Eucharist.” (St. Thomas, STh, III, Q. 80 Art 10)

Commenting on this passage in an article in Crisis Magazine entitled "The Blessings—and Dangers—of Holy Communion", Dr. Kwasniewski again addresses the subject and the teaching of St. Thomas:

Thomas lays out the various aspects that we should consider and avoids a facile solution that comes down exclusively on one side or the other. He is clear that receiving Communion is vital for our spiritual life, but so is our preparation and readiness.
St. Thomas explains this in his reply to the third objection:
Reverence for this sacrament consists in fear associated with love; consequently, reverential fear of God is called filial fear, as was said above, because the desire of receiving arises from love, while the humility of reverence springs from fear. Consequently, each of these [love and fear] belongs to the reverence due to this sacrament, both as to receiving it daily, and as to refraining from it sometimes.

Hence Augustine says (Ep. 54): “If one says that the Eucharist should not be received daily, while another maintains the contrary, let each one do as according to his devotion he thinketh right; for Zaccheus and the Centurion did not contradict one another when the one received the Lord with joy, whereas the other said: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof’; since both honored our Saviour, though not in the same way.” But love and hope, whereunto the Scriptures constantly urge us, are preferable to fear. Hence, too, when Peter had said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,” Jesus answered: “Fear not.”

The saints encourage frequent reception of Holy Communion, but their idea of "frequent" was different than our own, and what constituted a frequent communion varied over the centuries. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton encouraged her sisters to receive frequent communions, but in her day a sister might be allowed to receive communion only every week, despite daily mass; for a lay person, this might be months. In her biography, you can read about how before she could receive communion, St. Elizabeth had to meet with her confessor and not only profess that she was free from mortal sin, but also that she had taken adequate steps to properly dispose her soul for the sacrament, talk about how she had been preparing for communion, and explain what graces she hoped to receive thereby. Then the confessor would give her permission to receive Holy Communion. She had to do this even as a lay person.

Similarly, in the Crisis Magazine article linked above, Dr. Kwasniewksi references Mother Mechtilde of the Blessed Sacrament (1614-1698) who encouraged her sisters to receive Holy Communion "frequently." But, as he also points out, in those days it was not common for even nuns to receive the Eucharist regularly. "Frequent communion" in 1698 may have meant a few times a month, with very intense periods of preparation.

The point is this: when the Church encourages frequent communion, it means "Receive communion as  frequently as you are rightly disposed." Let us turn to the pope of Holy Communion, St. Pius X, who in his 1905 Decree on Frequent and Daily Communion, Sacra Tridentina, said that the "Holy Table" (yes, even the great Pius X refers to the altar as a "table" occasionally) said that part of being properly disposed was to ensure that we are not approaching the sacrament from routine:
A right intention consists in this: that he who approaches the Holy Table should do so, not out of routine, or vain glory, or human respect, but that he wish to please God, to be more closely united with Him by charity, and to have recourse to this divine remedy for his weakness and defects.
One would assume, then, that whatever period of preparation was sufficient for a person to avoid routine would be laudable? After all, grace received ex opere operantis is important. Following St. Thomas, St. Pius X also stresses this point:

Since, however, the Sacraments of the New Law, though they produce their effect ex opere operato, nevertheless, produce a great effect in proportion as the dispositions of the recipient are better, therefore, one should take care that Holy Communion be preceded by careful preparation, and followed by an appropriate thanksgiving, according to each one's strength, circumstances and duties. That the practice of frequent and daily Communion may be carried out with greater prudence and more fruitful merit, the confessor's advice should be asked.
How many of you ask your confessor's advice before receiving daily Communion?

If my "careful preparation" takes three weeks, who is anyone to say otherwise? As Augustine said on the matter, "l
et each one do as according to his devotion he thinketh right," for the Church does not ask that I receive Holy Communion as much as possible, but that I receive it as much as I am rightly disposed and prepared to do so. And that is a matter for my own careful discernment. If I, being educated and discerning of what our faith teaches, and not afflicted by scruples, believe that it might take me longer than one week to dispose myself rightly for Holy Communion, that's perfectly fine and very much within what our tradition envisions.

If anything, Communion that is
too routine, too commonplace, too regular is more the danger today. And it is modernists like Cardinal Reinhard Marx who are prone to argue for MOAR COMMUNIONS for every class of people: “When someone is hungry and has faith, they must have access to the Eucharist. That must be our passion, and I will not let up on this" (First Things, "What Happens in Germany," May 2018)

One last pertinent quote is passage from none other than Joseph Ratzinger, affirming the concept of periodic "spiritual fasting" from the Eucharist as a means of enkindling greater love in our hearts for our Eucharistic Lord:

“Do we not often take the reception of the Blessed Sacrament too lightly? Might not this kind of spiritual fasting be of service, or even necessary, to deepen and renew our relationship to the Body of Christ? The ancient Church had a highly expressive practice of this kind. Since apostolic times, no doubt, the fast from the Eucharist on Good Friday was a part of the Church’s spirituality of communion. This renunciation of communion on one of the most sacred days of the Church’s year was a particularly profound way of sharing in the Lord’s Passion; it was the Bride’s mourning for the lost Bridegroom (cf. Mk 2:20). Today too, I think, fasting from the Eucharist, really taken seriously and entered into, could be most meaningful on carefully considered occasions, such as days of penance—and why not reintroduce the practice on Good Friday? It would be particularly appropriate at Masses where there is a vast congregation, making it impossible to provide for a dignified distribution of the sacrament; in such cases the renunciation of the sacrament could in fact express more reverence and love than a reception which does not do justice to the immense significance of what is taking place. A fasting of this kind—and of course it would have to be open to the Church’s guidance and not arbitrary—could lead to a deepening of personal relationship with the Lord in the sacrament. It could also be an act of solidarity with all those who yearn for the sacrament but cannot receive it. It seems to me as well that the problem of the divorced and remarried, as well as that of intercommunion (e.g., in mixed marriages), would be far less acute against the background of voluntary spiritual fasting, which would visibly express the fact that we all need that ‘healing of love’ which the Lord performed in the ultimate loneliness of the Cross. Naturally, I am not suggesting a return to a kind of Jansenism: fasting presupposes normal eating, both in spiritual and biological life. But from time to time we do need a medicine to stop us from falling into mere routine which lacks all spiritual dimension. Sometimes we need hunger, physical and spiritual hunger, if we are to come fresh to the Lord’s gifts and understand the suffering of our hungering brothers. Both spiritual and physical hunger can be a vehicle of love.” ( Joseph Ratzinger, Behold the Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 97-98.
I want to make one final point about the analogy the interlocutor made about marriage. To review, he said:
The reason why this line of thought is dangerous is because there's a fallacy along the line somewhere. It's like saying this: "My wife and I had to endure a separation because of a war. I was frequently out of country, serving my country. I came only one three times in ten years. My visits with her were more emotionally intense than any experience before, when we lived together. When the war is over, I think we're going to live in separate houses and get together only every few years." It's one thing if separation with a just cause leads one to appreciate one's interaction with one's spouse more. It's entirely different to artificially reduce contact in order to "prepare" more.

This analogy is flawed for this reason:

The structure of the analogy presupposes that Holy Communion is the only way I can encounter Jesus or receive grace from Him. If receiving Communion is likened to living with a wife, then not receiving Holy Communion is akin to physically abandoning ones wife. But I do not cut myself off from Jesus when I do not go to Holy Communion; Holy Communion is not my one and only means of encountering Jesus, nor my only access to grace. To be sure it is an exceptional means and our most intimate contact with our Lord, but it is in no sense our only encounter with Jesus. Abstaining from Holy Communion is not the same as abstaining from seeing my wife. Christ is with me always, His spirit is every around me and within me, His grace always accessible by many other means. And even within the context of the liturgy, the very idea of a spiritual communion is premised on the truth that we can have real access to the grace of Christ outside of the Eucharist, even sacramental grace itself.

What we have, then, is not about having access to God or not, but more about taking time preparing for a profoundly intimate encounter with God's love through other acts of love. Therefore a more appropriate marital analogy might be temporary abstention from sexual intercourse. A man and a woman may voluntarily abstain from intercourse, during which time they focus on showing each other love through different means. The husband has not cut himself off from the wife by any means—he is present to her continually, but he is showing her love by other ways than just intercourse. And indeed, this temporary abstention from intercourse will most likely make the sexual act more appreciated when it finally is time to be intimate in that way. I'm sure many Catholic married couples recognize this pattern.

Is not the same principle applicable here that St. Paul teaches regarding sexual intercourse among the married: 
"Deprive not one another, except, perhaps, by consent, for a time, that you may give yourselves to prayer; and return together again, lest Satan tempt you..." (1 Cor. 7:5). If one devotes himself to prayer, there is no reason one cannot voluntarily deprive himself of communion "for a time", just as St. Paul teaches of marital relations, which are ultimately a mystery of Christ and the Church.