A Welcoming Eucharist

Written by Joel on April 17th, 2009

We were unable to attend our regular church for Good Friday because my wife had to work during their services. I found another local church with an evening Good Friday mass which we went to. It was absolutely beautiful. We decided to continue the Easter Triduum at this new church. So we went to the Vigil and Easter Sunday.

Easter Sunday. The sanctuary was already packed so we heading to the “overflow mass” in the social hall. This was monsignor’s first mass since he had had surgery. He preached on the Gospel text, John 20, when Mary and the disciples discover the empty tomb.

He said that Peter is a symbol of authority in this Gospel and The Beloved Disciple is a symbol of love. He recognizes that The Beloved Disciple gets to the tomb before Peter. The main idea of his homily was “love always trumps authority.”

Later, during the Eucharistic prayers, the priest broke from the liturgy and said a word about the church’s Eucharistic practice. I cannot give a perfect quote here, but I will try to remember. He said “I invite everyone here to come forward. If Eucharist is not part of your tradition I encourage you to come forward for a blessing so that we can welcome, accept and bless you.” And then he quoted Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.” We are all one in Christ.

There is more he said, and he said it quite beautifully. Eucharist is part of my tradition (even as a Protestant), and I understood it has an invitation. It was the first time at a Catholic church that I felt welcome and invited to commune. I heard a radical message of Christ’s love and welcoming.


7 Comments so far ↓

  1. Agellius says:

    Per your request, here is the comment I posted recently at “Protestant Catholic?”:

    That makes me mad. You’re happy that you found a priest liberal enough to be wishy-washy about who receives communion. But the Eucharist is not the property of liberal priests, it’s the patrimony of the Church: given by God into its custody and care, who knows when and how to offer it in sacrifice and when and who shall be allowed to partake of it.

    If that priest was inviting any and all present to receive communion, he was being disobedient. And you — I understand from what you say that you received communion but if I’m wrong please correct me — knowing the Church’s guidelines and requirements for receiving communion — since I have told them to you — if you did receive communion you were being disrespectful of the Church’s laws and ordinances and ultimately, whether you realize it or not, of the Sacrament itself.

    Urgghh! If I had been present it might have required an effort to restrain myself from punching someone.

  2. Agellius says:

    In response to my comment above Joel wrote the following:

    Agellius, can I have your permission to publish your comment to my other blog (to which I moved protestantcatholic)? It is now at theprophetjoel.com

    One word of clarification: The priest did not invite any and all to communion, but those “for whom Eucharist is your tradition.” That is, baptized Christians.

    Secondly, the Catholic Church does not have a 100% completely closed communion. Canon 844 subsection 2

    “Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.”

    We can discuss the implications of this canon, however it is clear that there is not an absolute ban on Eucharistic sharing.

    I welcome a discussion on this topic, and I would encourage you to post to the new blog.


  3. Agellius says:

    Joel also wrote the following in response to my first comment above:

    pardon me, I quoted the incorrect subsection. I meant to quote subsection 4

    “If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer these same sacraments licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”

    This one shows that there is not a 100% ban on Eucharistic sharing

  4. Joel says:

    Thanks for doing that Agellius. I don’t know why I was having technical difficulties on my side.

    I hope we can continue the discussion.

  5. Agellius says:

    OK, so let’s look at the Catholic Church’s “Guidelines for Receiving Communion”. The following is excerpted from those Guidelines, which were issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on November 14, 1996 (http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/current/intercom.shtml). Under the heading “For our fellow Christians”, the Guidelines state the following:

    “We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).

    “Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily *not* admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in *exceptional* circumstances by other Christians requires *permission* according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 § 4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 § 3).”

    As you pointed out, this indicates that exceptions to this rule are sometimes made. What exceptions are allowed and under what circumstances? Let’s turn to an article on the USCCB website titled “Can Non-Catholic Christians be admitted to sacramental communion in the Roman Catholic Church?” (http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/q&a/mass/communion.shtml)

    The article quotes the Catechism in saying, “Ecclesial communities derived from the Reformation and separated from the Catholic Church, ‘have not preserved the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Holy Orders.’ It is for this reason that Eucharistic intercommunion with these communities is *not possible* for the Catholic Church.” [Quoting Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 1400.]

    The article goes on to specify the Christian communions which are not in full communion with the Catholic Church, but whose members may nevertheless be allowed to receive communion, namely “the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church”.

    It then allows that other Christians too may be admitted to communion “in exceptional circumstances”. What is the criteria for determining which Christians fall into that category? They must be “Christians who believe what the Catholic church teaches concerning the Holy Eucharist”. Of these the article again quotes the Catechism, at section 1401:

    “When, in the Ordinary’s [the bishop's] judgment, a grave necessity arises, Catholic ministers may give the sacraments of Eucharist, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick to other Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church, who ask for them of their own will, provided they give evidence of holding the Catholic faith regarding these sacraments and possess the required dispositions.”

    So occasionally, when a grave necessity arises, the bishop may give permission to allow non-Catholic Christians to receive communion, PROVIDED they believe what Catholics believe concerning the Blessed Sacrament.

    Included in what Catholics believe concerning the sacrament, of course, is that it is the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ — not a symbol of those things; and that it is a true sacrifice which re-presents the sacrifice of Calvary, making it present to those assisting at Mass.

    IF you can give evidence that you believe those things about the sacrament, AND you present evidence of a grave necessity, AND you get the permission of the local bishop, you may be allowed to receive communion in a Catholic church licitly. Absent those conditions you are receiving communion illicitly.

    In your case you describe what you took to be a blanket invitation by the presiding priest to anyone present to receive communion (yes, yes, provided it is part of your “faith tradition”). Tell you what: Why don’t you give me the name of the parish and the priest who made the invitation, and I will write to the local bishop and see whether he gave the priest permission to make that invitation, based on the criteria given by the USCCB? If the invitation was licit the priest will have nothing to worry about from such an inquiry. What do you think?

  6. da best. Keep it going! Thank you

  7. Agellius says:

    Joel writes, “I hope we can continue the discussion.”

    Me too.

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