Next month our family will be getting together for a small private memorial service for our deceased parents and I’ve made arrangements for a special Mass to be said for them. There are several members of the family who are considered fallen away Catholics, in other words, they don’t attend Mass at all (some don’t even go on Christmas or Easter), they don’t go to confession or receive any of the other sacraments. However, on rare occasions when the family does get together for Mass, every one receives communion, even the ones who normally don’t attend Mass. I know the Church teaches that missing Mass (without a valid reason) is a mortal sin and one cannot receive communion in such a state. So, should I ask them to refrain from receiving Holy Communion or just let it go? I am reminded of the recent remark that Pope Francis said, “Who Am I to judge”. Also, if I say something, I know it will probably start a family disagreement and feelings may be hurt and that I am meddling in their private matters.
Mark, maybe you could mention, non-confrontationally, the teaching that one must be in the state of grace in order to receive communion.
When my mother died, I was shocked to see my siblings receive the Eucharist, knowing full well they do not live their faith and had not been to confession. When I mentioned this to them afterwards, the comment was, "Well, it just seemed “so right.” :eek:
You may not get them to understand, but it will help to plant a seed.
I don’t see how talking to them will do anything but cause division. If you all are otherwise close, do you want to risk causing a wedge in your relationship? If there are already problems, do you want to possibly lose them completely?
If you are really troubled by this, talk to the priest who will be saying the Mass and let him decide how to handle this.
I don’t think it is your place to say anything to them at this time. However, could you make arrangements with the priest perhaps to offer a special reconciliation a few hours before the service or the evening before? Then, you could say something like, “Father John said that he would be glad to hear anyone’s confession and offer absolution before the service. I know that I would feel better receiving communion at the funeral if I know I am in state of grace and I know that so and so (deceased) would want me to be in a state of grace as well. Would you like to go with me?”
Several of the missalettes and hymnals in the pews offer guidelines on receiving communion. Since the Mass translation was updated not too long ago (in the minds of those who attend Mass infrequently or not at all), you might offer to your relatives that they look in these for instruction on the new responses and the guidelines for the reception of communion. These guidelines are generally clear and non-offensive.
I like Abundant’s suggestion as well. This memorial service may be a good opportunity for these relatives to return to God.
I have the same problem. My family, as others on this forum may know, is completely outside Church doctrine by visiting mediums, believing in reincarnation, and other irrational New Agee nonsense. My mother has never been to Confession, and my father never goes anymore, even though both are in a state of mortal sin and I have invited them to confess when they drive me to the church to do so. I have told them about the “state of grace to receive the Eucharist” rule, and they didn’t even care.
Congratulation for even sensing this as something important upon your relatives’ lives. Such a feeling, concern and even this attempt to bring this up in CAF to me is a PRAYER already. God works in His ways.
I also agree with this:
Be intentionally polite, non-violent and not embarrassing, but do not fear whatever may come out of the concern. Your courage should be on the fact that this is what God wants us all to be by giving us the title of “Prophets” in our baptism.
This is the priest’s domain. You may ask him to ensure that an announcement is made before communion and/or put the standard announcement found in many missallettes in the program/
As far as confronting your family members, think how you would feel if someone came up to you out of the blue and said to you at a funeral/memorial service " I know you’re grieving and in pain, but the truth is you are in a state of mortal sin and if you drop dead right now you will certainly be spending eternity in hell … but please come and sit with me after the service and we’ll remember the good times we had as children."
Yeah, what a great family together that will be!! :eek:
Pray that the Holy Spirit will lead them to repentance and conversion of heart and that they will have a burning desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist in His Church and that they will have a desire to learn more about the privilege of being Catholic and the faith that was entrusted to them. Pray and pray some more and let God do all the heavy lifting. Also, when judging others by the law of Moses, be lenient, but when judging oneself according to the law of Moses, do so in the strictest sense.
You of course could say something or send an email but you will be met with resistance as I was. I sent this email explaining why and what do you know… no response and they continue to go up and receive but they obviously don’t understand. I turn the other cheek and just pray for them that God will have mercy on all of us.
Right. What I find interesting though is that this is not a new teaching of the Catholic church and I find it hard to believe that no one knows about “closed communion”. Most of my family are ex-Catholics and not practicing anything or are now protestant or even Catholic and say they don’t believe in the RP of Jesus in the Eucharist and go up anyway.
As others have said, their ‘state of grace’ is not yours to determine; it is the Priest’s, according to the guidance provided by their Bishop.
Additionally, you wrote:
I know the Church teaches that missing Mass (without a valid reason) is a mortal sin and one cannot receive communion in such a state
This is completely untrue.
While the ‘Precepts’ of the Church do ‘require’ attendance to mass on Sundays and “the principal liturgical feasts” (i.e.–‘Holy days of obligation’), failing to observe the ‘Precepts’ does not, in and of itself, place us in a state of mortal sin. Rather, the Precepts are the '…very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor". See Catechism, Sect’n 2041.
The point here, is that not attending mass regularly does not constitute turning away from God (sin), or rejecting God or His Church, or otherwise entail a ‘grave matter’ (mortal sin)–rather it amounts to stagnating, or failing to grow in love of God and neighbor (perhaps sin of omission/venial sin). Imho, not attending mass would have to be accompanied by something else–malicious intent, for instance–thinking along the lines of 'forget you, I’m not going to mass’, to amount to turning away/rejecting God–not simply being too busy, or failing to give it its due priority, or the like. And this is something you probably don’t know wrt your family. As far as I can tell, they’re still Catholic, and still show reverence to the Eucharist.
IMO, you (and Christ, for that matter) are probably much better served showing your own appreciation for the Eucharist, than judging anyone else’s lack thereof.
BTW: note the beautiful and telling words of the mass, prior to communion:
“***Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof (used to be: ‘to receive you’)–but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.***”
Pray that the Lord ‘says the word’, that all who receive Him, may be healed–though not a single one of us is ever worthy to receive Him, without the Lord deeming it so.
I take it that the Mass is not the memorial service, but a separate service that will be optional for people to attend?
Make sure people know it is optional. If these family members don’t consider themselves Catholic, they shouldn’t feel required to attend a Mass.
You should not say anything about who can and cannot go to communion, but the priest can make an announcement. Also, it is possible to hold Mass without distributing communion. Not common, but certainly possible.
I do like the idea of asking the priest to be available for reconciliation ahead of time. This should also be offered as optional. Even regular Mass-going Catholics don’t always like going to confession to a strange priest.
There are those who will remind you of St. Matthew and the Temple, and of His Holiness’s “Who am I to judge?”, but you are not judging. You are being spiritually beneficial to their souls. It would be cruel to not remind them that receiving in a state of mortal sin earns eternal damnation.
Part of being a Catholic family is helping each other out. That includes matters temporal as well as spiritual. You all want to see each other in heaven, right? Not helping an elderly woman cross the street so she can get where she needs to go is cruel, isn’t it? This is the same. You have a responsibility to help them get where they need to go, and part of that includes reminding them of their religious obligations and spiritual responsibilities.
I may get a lot of flak for saying this, but the right thing to do is help an elderly woman cross the street.
Agree with wanting to help, but this does not mesh with human psychology. No one is going to construe these suggestions as “help” because they obviously are not in a place where they understand the big picture of mortal sin, confession, and how it ties in with Communion. They are going to take it as scolding and it will push them away further.