Jul 13, 2009


Over at iMonk, I came across an interesting story about (Protestant) Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper "controversially" receiving Communion at a Catholic Funeral Mass. Apparently it was originally thought that Mr. Harper pocketed the wafer, but thankfully the priest who delivered the homily at the Mass set things straight in a graceful interview for National Post.

Anyone reading this blog knows I'm probably not as zealous as most Catholics with regards to some of the Church's restrictions; and I have to say that I completely agree with the following attitude from Fr. Bourgeois:

Generally those who partake in Holy Communion are members of the Church, but in some circumstances if someone [who is not Catholic] participates in a respectful way, not making a mockery of it, and they believe at that moment it is a special kind of bread, then once in a while it’s acceptable. When the Pope comes out and says mass to 100,000 people we don’t ask for a certificate of baptism and first communion. We hope they believe what we believe, ... It’s not the custom that we do it all the time but when it happens we shouldn’t make a big, big deal out of it.

The Catholic/Protestant divide over Communion is a subject that hits close to home for me. Every week I encounter the tension first-hand in that I no longer "take" communion at Agora, though I accompany my wife as she takes it. At the same time, I anticipate and really really enjoy celebrating Communion at St. Benedict - or the cathedral, or St. Bernard's, or St. Pius X, or wherever ;)

The struggle is even doubly so because I appreciate and indulge the idea of God's Real Presence in Communion so much!

I remember at an Agora leadership meeting we once discussed changing the way we did communion and the option was considered that we could simply make the elements available and make no mention of them. I can't have that - if we're kind enough to acknowledge each others' presence in the room, we can at least be kind enough to acknowledge Christ who offers himself in this very special way. Sure, in a Protestant setting it's only recognized as a symbol, but even Protestants should maybe err on the side of over-emphasizing the importance rather than under-appreciating it.

Another story ... one of my best friends was raised Catholic but they, in their words, "have not really been working on any kind of relationship with god as of late." Without explaining what might be sensitive details, I'll just say my friend received Communion with the Catholic Church recently for the first time in a long time. (Coincidentally, also at a Funeral Mass) They said, "the taste and the whole motion of things brought me back to an interesting place. I am very excited to start exploring this new found, hope, i suppose is a good word, i seem to have stumbled upon." I don't know of many mere symbols that can affect a person like this. A symbol's power, like beauty, is only in the eye of the beholder. The power of sacraments seem to transcend that and to tap into the powerful, real, Tradition that God reveals.

Like I said, I'm much less zealous about legal rules - like those that might inhibit a Catholic from receiving Communion without prior Confession. And I think we as Catholics (especially laity) could maybe err on the side of being over-supportive rather than under-supportive towards Christians who have a real desire to experience Christ's presence.


Kristi said...

I was not raised in a church where communion was taken regularly at all. Actually, we monthly had "carry in dinner" where everyone brought a dish and all ate together. That was our communion. Now, I find the ole wafer and grape juice idea to be pretty important. But not in the sense that my week is ruined if I don't partake. It's more of an acknowledgement of Jesus' presence, as you stated.

It may also be that when I was about 7 or 8, I puked in front of the altar as I took a traditional communion of wafer and grape juice, and all down the aisle to the restroom. I left a trail. Ha! But honestly, following that incident, I don't think any of my family cared to take communion that way again for a long time . . .

So it has new relevance to me today.

Saint said...

What?! I don't have to take my Certificate of Baptism with me whenever I go to church?! All these years...

Yeah, I'm with you and the priest on that one. Though I don't see anything wrong on taking "communion" at Protestant church. It's just a symbol of Christ's sacrifice, after all, and it's an expression of being one with your Christian brothers and sisters.

luke said...

A visiting catechist to our RCIA class answered that Catholics should *not* receive communion at Protestant churches, which didn't sit well with me. :( Even if Protestants don't believe in transubstantiation, there's still value to be had in celebrating a "mere" remembrance or memorial of the Last Supper, I think.

I defer to his authority as an appointed teacher in the Church, but I wonder if I should speak to Fr. Joe about it? Maybe at next Confession.

+ Alan said...

Good thoughts, Luke. I'm not too excited about "legal restrictions" either. His Real Presence in the Eucharistic Sacrament is far bigger than any canonical rules we can come up with, I imagine. Peace to you.

luke said...

At the same time, I can understand and accept the need to prevent abuses of the Blessed Sacrament. I think maybe our scope of what is abuse could be narrowed a bit. I believe Jesus, while man, offered himself to those even who did not believe in his divinity. In a like manner, he can offer himself to in the blessed sacrament to those even who do not believe in his real presence.

But, I concede that the Church in its authority has more experience, wisdom, and truth than I have floating around in my 2 lbs. of grey matter. ;)

Jeff said...

Let us clarify that at Agora the elements of Communion are offered every week, and never (dangerous word) go without acknowledgment. :)