We have a teenage son - high school senior, confirmed, went through 9 years of primary Catholic education (K-8th), and who is struggling with his faith. He is your typical teenager with playing the video games, attending Running Start, and working part-time.
Several months after he was confirmed, he expressed his doubts about believing God but continued to serve as an EMHC. About 6 months ago, he said he wants to quit serving because he said it doesn’t sit right with him serving the Holy Eucharist/Blood while struggling with his belief. My husband and i praised him for caring enough to express his doubts about serving and not being complacent with being an EMHC.
We are part of a huge faith community of 1600 households and don’t have enough EMHC to help amongst four masses in one weekend. My husband and I told him that we recognize his struggle with the faith and that it is very common, but would like for him to continue to serve even if it’s just in the spirit of helping/volunteering. We did instruct him to NOT take the Holy Eucharist/Blood but instead fold his arms across his chest for blessing when Fr. N hands him the ciborium/chalice.
We’ve had several discussions and have asked why the struggle, and his reply is he doesn’t feel God in his life. When we suggested reading more faith-based books and listening to faith-based themes, he just shrugs and never really took us up on it. My husband and I think that the struggle is sincere, but not wanting to search further/dig deeper is complacency/laziness, BUT enough conscience in him to want to step down from serving.
Our first instinct as parents was to give in and let him quit, but then we are often reminded that kids will skip doing a lot of things if we let them (e.g., eating their vegetables, going to Mass) and as parents we still push them to do it because we know what’s good for them. Once they leave home, they can do whatever they want. He confided that there’s a good chance he’ll be skipping Mass when he leaves home. We said, “As long as you’re home and part of this family, you will do family things including going to Mass.” Thankfully he hasn’t run away yet.
My husband and I are torn and want to make sure we are not committing grave sin by insisting he serves; we shared all this with our pastor who was empathetic that he went through the same thing as a teenager. He stated that searching isn’t a sin, and added that because our son is always respectful and reverent as an EMHC, he will allow him to continue to volunteer but to keep him abreast of any changes.
Last week we had a visiting priest and during the distribution of the ciboria, he noted our son/his arms folded over chest. The priest bluntly told him he is unfit to serve because he is not taking the Holy Eucharist/Blood for whatever reason. He gave him the ciborium anyway but my son was shaken by the exchange. My husband and I found out about it from another EMHC standing next to our son.
My question, is which priest is correct? I understand the mercy that our pastor has shown to our son by letting him continue to serve, but I also can respect the visiting priests’ reasoning.