Thursday, November 04, 2010

I will never understand...

... why protestants get so damn offended when they find out they can not receive the Blessed Sacrament when visiting a Catholic parish.

Guests I have invited to mass get indignant and feel slighted even after I warn them before hand explaining that we believe the Eucharist is truly Christ and not a symbol. They tell me it makes them feel unwelcome and they doubt they will return. When I ask them would they visit a mosque or temple and expect to participate with every ritual they respond they would never dare, opting instead to just quietly and respectfully observe. Yet, according to them, it's ok to risk offending your Catholic host who invited you to join them for mass.

Catholics are not deserving of the same respect according this logic.

However, pointing out the hypocrisy of their thinking does little for my ecumenical skills. How can I continue to invite friends to mass sharing my faith with non-Catholics and have them not be offended?

I'm curious to know how others handle this situation, especially since I will be having many non-practicing Catholics and protestant family members come to my son's first Communion. To be honest, I am tempted not to invite them all. If the sacrament holds no special importance then I see no reason for them to be there. Of course I risk offense by not inviting them... damned if you do, damned if you don't.


MommyMagpie said...

No real advice, but I do understand exactly what you mean. I know at least one person who has received Holy Communion at Mass despite not being Catholic.....the logic was "Jesus invited me, and who is the Pope to tell me I can't have it." I don't know what to do about such people, they strike me as very prideful. I will certainly keep you in prayer and hope that the Holy Spirit guides you in what to do.

Teena Blackburn said...

You explain to them that when you take Holy Communion you are also saying "yes" to being in communion with the Roman Catholic Church-that it signifies they accept the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the authority of its bishops, including the Pope. That should take care of it. They probably don't want to make that statement.

soonerscotty said...

You should have seen how offended friends of mine were when I declined to take part in communion at a Protestant wedding.

And these were my friends!

Anonymous said...

I have been told, "You're welcome to take communion at my church. It's elitist of your church not to let me take communion there, too." I think what Teena said makes a lot of sense. If I take communion at a protestant church I'm proclaiming a spiritual communion that doesn't exist. I'm lying. If they take it at the Catholic Church, they're doing the same thing. It has a lot to do with their doctrine of the invisible church.

PaxetBonum said...

Of course you should invite them. With your invitations, include copies of the blurb printed on the inside cover of most missalettes, "Norms For Receiving Holy Communion". This standardized statement briefly explains the conditions for worthy reception of Holy Communion for Catholics, and why non-Catholics should not receive under any circumstances.

This is a low-key, dignified way to fulfill your moral obligation to inform your guests about the nature and gravity of Catholic Holy Communion and caution them against receiving Communion unworthily. Any one receiving will then be making an informed choice, and any culpability will lie with them, not you.

Adoro said...

I've had to deal with this at work, professionally. I've had many conversations with people who may be parents of children they are raising Catholic and apply the "rules" to them, but not to themselves. They claim to believe the Sacrament is truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, but also claim themselves exempt, therefore, from Confession and in some cases, Baptism. They refuse to accept any authority outside of themselves.

The best explanation I ever heard is the one I use most often:

When we as Catholics go forward to receive, we do so having first ensured we are in a state of grace, we have examined our consciences and have eliminated mortal sin through the Sacrament of Confession, so that we do not bring eternal judgment upon ourselves. When we go forward, we are claiming not just with our "Amen!" but with our entire body and soul that we claim and hold dear and agree with ALL that the Church teaches. By taking this action, we are more culpable and therefore know we will suffer greater judgement if we receive through a lie against everything above.

When someone else comes to visit, if they are our own non-Catholic guest, we do not want them to suffer the indignity and jeopardy of going forward to claim, body and soul, that they agree with everything the Catholic Church teaches. Why would anyone set anyone they love up to lie in public, and with such an eternal testimony? A Baptist is not Catholic because they do not believe as we believe. A Methodist is not Catholic because they have differing beliefs. Choose a religion...if they truly believed, they would be Catholic. To receive Holy Communion in a Catholic Church, therefore, is a public lie so big they will never be able to erase it and it scandalizes not only the Catholic faithful, but also those of their own religion.

To bar non-Catholics from Holy Communion is an act of charity for all, for it is also an act of respect with regard to those who do not share our beliefs. We would never force someone to believe what we do, nor would we ever encourage them to enter in such a way into such a bloody lie.

Should they choose to lie anyway, that is their affair, and we'll just pray for their eternal souls.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

The way I explain it is that Communion represents more than simply a feel good moment of fellowship. It has immense sacramental importance but it also symbolizes full unity and agreement on all essential matters of faith and doctrine. To receive communion in a church means you are in complete doctrinal agreement with them. After which if they are still with me, I explain that the only things they still need to do are ...
1. Make the Profession of Faith
2. Get baptized.
3. Get Chrismated
4. Take Confession (the night before it at all possible)
5. And fast strictly from midnight until after you have communed.


Owen said...

@the kat - damned right {I have a dollar store diary drawing on that one just waiting to see the light of blog}

s-p said...

Hi Kat, we Orthodox have the same issue. I did a podcast about "closed communion" that I think covers both RC/OC diplomacy issues regarding those outside our communions receiving the sacrament.

Robert Kumpel said...

In college, they made me an EMHC at the Newman Center, a task I undertook two times before quitting when I realized I was superfluous. The first Communion I distributed was a sacrilegious Communion given to a Protestant, but I was instructed to refuse no one--one of the reasons I quit.

I knew who the person was and we talked about it a few days later. Every argument I gave was met with "Well, I just disagree and it's not fair." The argument that finally won her over was when I asked her if she thought it was appropriate to be a guest in someone's house and deliberately and flagrantly violate the rules of that house. She then started crying and actually sounded remorseful for going to Communion! She later became Catholic and we married in 1995.

Janny said...

Ummm...the Profession of Faith, Baptism, etc., is necessary. The fasting from midnight is not.

Just so we're clear. If you WANT to fast from midnight before receiving, that's all to the good. But to lay that out as if it's a requirement of being truly in communion with the Church, when it in fact is NOT...

...not such a good idea.

I like all the responses here so much that I have nothing else to add, other than that nit-picky correction above. :-)


The Ironic Catholic said...

I think it helps to understand that most Protestants see the Catholic Mass through Protestant eyes. The general Protestant position is that anyone who is baptized and wants to receive, can and should receive. It's about communion with each other, openness to God, and outreach. Everyone deserves to be there. While those are lovely and important things, the Catholic understanding of Eucharist is rather different. *No one* deserves to be there. It is a gift to be present, never mind to also receive!, and our Church places rules on proper respect and reception of that gift. I think it is almost impossible for Prots to overcome their perspective and see the Catholic one (if they truly do--they usually cease to be Prots!).

I like Robert's suggestion about being a guest in the house....

Anonymous said...

I'll be in a "reverse" situation at Christmas when I visit my gay brother, although it's probably a no-brainer to you all. I have to decide how to tell him I would rathar not go to his "church" for Christmas Eve services without getting him mad. And there is no Catholc Church near his home where he could drop me off to attend either. ( I don't drive). The ome good thing is that even if he came to Mass with me he wouldn't even think of taking Communion. I just wish I could get to Mass before I go. Anyway, good luck to you and congratulations in advance to your son!

Elise said...

Here's how I explain it: Imagine you're a guest in a married couple's home. They love you, care for you, pray for you and treat you like family.

Do you then expect to have sex with the husband/wife? Why not? You're feeling welcomed and loved? I suspect it is because you recognize that is a privilege that comes with the covenant of marriage - a right and privilege you DO NOT have.

The Eucharist is much the same. Those of us who are Catholic have a privilege through our public expressions of faith (Baptism, the proclamation of the Creed, etc.) to receive the Eucharist. When and if you are ready to make those same expressions, we will welcome you to the table.

It's not a perfect analogy, but it is helpful.

Fr. Christian Mathis said...

I hope you will continue to invite them. My response to those who tell me they want to be able to receive communion in the Church is to share my desire for them to be able to do so as well. Then I try to explain that for Catholics the Eucharist is a sacrament of initiation into the church. That is not only about believe in the real presence (though this is part of it) but of desiring communion with the Church, which would mean in essence joining the church. If they truly want to receive communion in this way there is a process of formation that happens before their being received into the Church. Most aren't yet ready to leave their own faith tradition, but I do hope one day we will have unity among Christians again.

Thérèse said...


John (AO)'s profile mentions that he's Orthodox (and several clues in his comment point to that fact as well). Hence the midnight fast. As with many things, the Latin rite is less strict on this point, though there is still a fasting requirement, of course.

nazareth priest said...

I have no advice, alas.
I'll just pray.
In my own experience (mostly Protestant family and relatives), they have not expected nor desired to approach Holy Communion when attending Mass.
So, it's never been an issue, for me, anyway.
That's why I have nothing really to offer except my understanding and prayer.

Owen said...

@Robert, thanks for sharing that. I am grateful I didn't miss your story

@Fr.Christian Mathis thanks for that further explanation of what you say and how you deal with the matter.

@Kat, how good it is that you blog eh?


It would be wonderful if priests were to take time during every single Mass (or at least weddings and funerals, Christmas and Easter) to *briefly* explain Church teaching on receiving Communion, the what, the why, even briefly along with the kind of invitation Fr makes above to explore Faith so it's not only a prohibition. Now, before someone says how time consuming and repetitive that could be consider the number of lameo practices that are *allowed* in the Mass now that are repetitive, irrelevant, time consuming and confusing at best. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Even when I was a Protestant, the pastor exclaimed before fauxmunion that it is not something to be taken lightly (even as they denied the Real Presence). Therefore if one does not believe as the (C/c)hurch believes, one should not commune.

The Crescat said...

Ironic writes; " The general Protestant position is that anyone who is baptized and wants to receive, can and should receive. It's about communion with each other, openness to God, and outreach. Everyone deserves to be there."

This does help my understanding. I received an email from a reader expressing this same sentiment.

It is my hope that reader will read the comments, LIke Fr. Mathis's reply, and come to a clearer understanding of why we do things.

I want to contniue to invite people to mass because I desire people to come into full communion with the one true church.

I think Robert's analogy above is the simpliest and clearest way to present the topic when it comes up again.

I love my insightful readers.

Kathleen said...

At our daughter's wedding, we printed an invitation in the program: If you are not Catholic, we invite you to come forward at Communion for a blessing. The priest also made that invitation, showing how to fold the arms over the chest. Most of the Protestant guests, and one of the Jewish guests, accepted that invitation. Stating the rule in a positive rather than a negative way is desirable, I think.

John said...

I would second Kathleen's suggestion. 7 years ago, my wife (raised Bhuddist) and I (seriously lapsed Catholic) attended the funeral of the infant son of a colleague. At communion, the priest explained that communion was only for Catholics in a state of grace, but invited everyone else to come up for a blessing and showed how to cross their arms. We both went up and received the blessing. When we got home, I went to speak to the priest at the local parish; my wife started attending RCIA. Within the year I had gone to confession ("ummm, forgive me father for I have sinned . . . ummm, its been 30? years since my last confession . . .") and received communion and my wife was received into the Church that Easter.

Weddings, baptisms and funerals are wonderful opportunities for the church to evangelize, not by beating people over the head, but just by creating the opportunity for outsiders to see us live our faith.

It can be a wonderful thing.

TCN said...

Well, there's always that line from Paul about heaping condemnation on yourself. Guess that's not very nice, but it is the Truth.

Personally, I don't try to explain why I won't "commune" in a Protestant setting. I have tried, and everyone gets all creeped out or thinks I'm being some kind of elitist. Better to let them think what they will than make it worse by trying to explain.

Gail F said...

I have had some success with the reasoning that the word "communion" means that we all agree on the same beliefs. I go to Communion because I am in communion with Catholics everywhere. If I am not -- if I don't believe what Catholics believe -- then I should worship God by sitting with and praying with the Catholics but not pretend that I am in communion with them. It's not true and so it's not good for me to say so by going up.

In general I don't think that going up for a blessing is a good idea, because it can confuse the issue, but the people who wrote about doing so at a wedding have a good point. If the priest invites people to do so sort of as a "special offer for our non-Catholic friends" in a special circumstance, then that can be a way of making them feel included in the celebration. It acknowledges that many of them are going to feel slighted if they sit throughout Communion.

Anonymous said...

My conversion was speedier than my wife's, and not being able to take communion was deeply painful. No ammount of finely-argumed catechumetically-correct responses can deal with the hurt. It's something that has to be filed under "division sucks".

therese rita said...

All great comments. Just wanted to say that the priests at our parish don't 'do' blessings when people come up their arms folded. They said that there's no canonical norm for this...that its just a custom that was started, I guess, so that nobody has to stay in the pew at Communion time. I'm old enough to remember when alot of folks stayed in the pew & it wasn't a big deal.

Lauren said...

I usually include in my explanation that not even all _Catholics_ are invited to Holy Communion! One must be in the state of grace, properly prepared, etc.

Andrea said...

I explain that you have to take classes to fully understand it all. We require that of our own children. We want you to fully understand everything before you "sign up" Most Christian communion services were closed up until recently.

Smiley said...

I dont have any advice,
In India however, many non catholics used to attend mass. Just before holy communion, the priest would say, Communion is for Catholics only. Non catholics may at this time pray to Jesus who is the holy communion. This is repeated in the national language.

This worked rather effectively in a multi religious country.

Katy said...

My sister wasn't offended when I said they couldn't receive at my Catholic church. However, she was very offended when I wouldn't receive at her Protestant church!

The Little Way said...

I ran into an uncomfortable situation a few weeks ago at a funeral for a co-worker's father. Someone I know is not a Catholic (because he's a minsiter in a non-denominational church) went forward for Holy Communion. I have not seen him since, but when I do, I plan to gently explain that as Catholics, we know we are receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, and before we can do so, we must make apppropriate preparations and it's not enough to be a good person. As Catholics, we know that even good people are sinners and for so great a privilege, proper catechism and the sacrament of confession are necessary before we have the audacity to go forward at Communion. I will also explain that since I witnessed this unintended profanation of the Eucharist, I felt compelled to do a penance in reparation but correcting the person in charity was also necessary.

I'll let you know how it goes for those who might consider saying something similar.

The Crescat said...

Romish, I remember all too well those months leading up to the Easter vigil when I would finally be able to receive. Yes, division sucks.

I think the longing we felt is entirely different bc we knew and *believed* in what we were missing.

Be a guest in someone else's house and not biding by the rules bc you think it's something you deserve is arrogant.

Incidently I had a LONG conversation with a priest this evening about this incident. He said I needed to work with Catholics Come Home.

He also said as a recipient of Holy Boldness [???? no idea] I need to try extra hard to command use of my words with prayerful guidance from the Holy Spirit.

Amy said...

I worked with someone who didn't have much use for the Catholic Church. Raised Lutheran and later UCC, she went to a wedding and was also offended she couldn't receive the Eucharist.

"So I just had some bread at the reception," she said snarkly. She would also rail about the priesthood and always attempt to silence my objections with a "I know you feel strongly about this, but..."

I no longer work there. In all other respects she was a lovely woman, but the things she said about Catholicism - things I would never say about the UCC even if I disagree with their theology -- were hurtful and hostile.

Sandy C. said...

I've been attending mass for over three years and am in RCIA and will be received in full communion and partake of the Eucharist at Easter Vigil. I'm anxiously awaiting that day, but I've never once felt offended that I couldn't receive. BUT, I was well on my way to understanding and accepting the authority of the Church when I began attending mass. Many Protestants have been taught the Catholic authority is illegitimate and they are so used to "protesting" the teachings and authority of the Church, they cannot understand why the Church has the "right" to tell them whether or not they can partake of the "communion" established by Christ Himself. Those who express their offense so strongly are surely those who hold most strongly to the erroneous "sola scriptura" and "sola fide" teachings of Protestantism. Don't stop inviting them! Pray for them to understand and for their hearts to be softened toward the Church and its truths.

therese rita said...

Sandy, You're right, we need to not stop inviting them, even when we have to speak up & tell them they can't receive Communion. I had to do this when a sibling decided to move in with their significant other & a "nun", of all people, said it was okay for them to continue to receive Communion (they were both Catholic grandparents!). At that point, I felt like I had to say something bc my sibling's soul was at stake but it caused a big family rift, as you can imagine.

Anna A said...


You don't mention just how Protestant your friends and family are, so this idea might not be appropriate.

If you have one who is a strict Southern Baptist, or other evangelical type, just ask if you could take communion there. Since the answer will be No, then follow up with, "If I can't take with you, why should you take with me?"

When I was received into the Catholic Church, I had two Baptist friends at the service. One listened to the priest and did not partake; the other did.

If some are determined to disobey Catholic teachings, then just pray that the grace that is in the Eucharist, works on them.

PaxetBonum said...

All great comments on a delicate subject.

@therese rita- "there's no canonical norm for it"... that's the best, most concise reasoning I've heard for discontinuing this annoying, confusing, time-consuming practice.

Non-communicants going forward in the communion line to receive a personal blessing is a very recent innovation which has no basis in legislation or the rubrics, and should be discouraged with sound liturgical explanations from clerics during their homilies, and then discontinued permanently.

Fr Z has had a number of good posts on this subject over the last couple of years, this is the best one I could find w/ a quick search-

Pax et Bonum ad omnes.

Thérèse said...

When we were planning music for our wedding, the choir director was trying to get a feel for how long Communion would take, so she asked us whether our celebrant would be inviting the non-Catholics to receive a blessing. When we said no, her reply was, "I like it better that way. My family's Methodist, and they would be extremely uncomfortable with the idea, and stay firmly planted in their pews." She went on to explain that 'blessing' has different connotations to Protestants, and they'd see it more like some sort of altar call. Since they weren't signing up to be Catholic, they'd just cling white-knuckled to their seats until that part was over.

Gentleman Farmer said...

I'm likely to have a great deal more to say about this from my own soap box but, in the meantime, let me say this:

Before we criticize our Protestant brothers and sisters for their reaction to being refused Roman Catholic communion, we would do well to consider what they see. YOU may see the body of Our Lord, but THEY see: communion handed out by priests disobedient to the plain teachings of the Church; communion being handed out by lay people; the Eucharist dropped into grubby hands to be noshed like a Ritz; communion being given to their twice-divorced neighbor who lives with her boyfriend.

Any Catholic attending Mass in any parish in the United States can provide their own examples, some more lurid than others, of course.

Badger Catholic said...

In past ages we had much more persuasive methods of dealing with heretics.... :D

Acolyte4236 said...

Well for the Orthodox, I jsut tell them that it could be worse and they could be kicked out when we close the doors in the back, like we used to do with catachumens.

That said, a few years ago, there was a guy who was not Orthodox presenting himself and during PASCHA of all times. So I confronted him. Eventually he stepped out of line and flipped me the jack and I had a joyous Pascha.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Pick better friends?

Ones who aren't looking for an excuse to insult you and the Faith?

Just putting it out there...

The Crescat said...

Hilary is so cuddly and ecumenical. By far my favorite contributor to the comments section.

What would you suggest I do with my family, the non-Catholic ones?

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Dunno. Don't have any family, personally. But my Auntie Gill once said she was annoyed by all that.

I told her that to a Catholic, receiving Communion (I explained that we never say "take) means you are in full communion with the Catholic Church, that it is a public statement that you believe everything the Church teaches about everything. That you are, in fact, Catholic.

Then I told her about the doctrine of the Real Presence, and she never asked me about it again, so shocked was she after that.

But I don't hang with non-Catholics in general. Makes life less complicated. And the one friend I have who isn't Catholic, isn't particuularly anything, and trusts that what I tell her about the Faith is true. Because she loves me and wouldn't dream of trying to insult me or anything I hold dear.

As I said, get better friends.