How we could be less unwelcoming to public sinners

I have noticed that at the Spanish Mass, not many go up for Communion, but at the English Mass, almost everyone does. If someone does not go up, they are usually of Hispanic background.

So this makes English speakers feel awkward if they “can’t” receive–if they are not Catholic, if they are in some sort of possibly objectively sinful relationship. This feeling of discomfort and exclusion maies them feel unwelcome.

That’s what I suspect, at any rate.

Well, what about those of us who receive every week? Are we always that free from sin? Just because our sins are private, and we avoid Confession, means we can just follow the crowd like sheep. First, is this how we ought to be receiving Our Lord? Without serious consideration?

Secondly, however, if people are receiving simply because their sin is never pointed out, then that’s wrong. And it makes those with public sin feel bad.

I think we ought to examine our consciences and refrain from receiving more often. Priests ought to say this from the pulpit, and they ought to also point out that people ought to refrain when they have broken the fast, so no one should get any ideas because someone is not receiving.

Then we would always have people who are not receiving, so maybe that would be more welcoming to those who are known to be unable to.

I have heard from old-time Catholics that there were women who had no choice for survival for their children but to commit prostitution. They would go to Mass every week, but not partake of the Eucharist. They would pray that this bad life would end for them, so they could retuen to the sacraments.

If we are all on a journey, then maybe we need to think that for some, the first step is to begin to attend Mass, to pray. They may not be ready for the Eucharist yet, so we should make it easier for them to come to Mass and not feel like they are sticking out.

I’ve seen it suggested that we return to the three hour fast before Communion for just this reason.

With the one hour fast, it’s almost impossible for a person to break it on a Sunday unless they are literally walking into Church eating a sandwich. Thus, refraining from Communion because the fast was not met is a much less common occurrence. With the three hour fast, it would be much easier for people to fall into this camp and thus would make it less socially awkward for a person to choose not to receive.

Of course, this assumes that people will be cognizant and obedient towards the law. We may just end up with a lot of people still receiving every time because “that’s what we’ve always done” and disregarding the fast altogether.

I tend to waffle back and forth on this myself. I know that in the U.S., we definitely have established a culture of expectation with regards to receiving Communion. Very few would even consider not receiving. It’s just what we do. I think we would do well to move towards a greater intentionality about receiving the Lord with due consideration.

On the other hand, I would hate to swing back to the other end of the pendulum where reception of the Eucharist is viewed as something we really only ought do on rare occasions (probably immediately after Confession).

Finding the right balance is a tricky proposition.

I really don’t think one can judge the why or why not of receiving the Eucharist. I think the observation between Spanish and English is more culturally based. I’m not sure if anyone should start trying to judge or determine who should or shouldn’t receive. There is no way to mandate a 3 hour fast before hand. That isn’t going to solve anything and will furthermore drive people away.

Sorry, but I do not agree with you. At all.

Jesus*** thirsts*** for those in a state of grace to come receive Him. Are you saying we should deny Christ so those in a state of sin should not “feel like they are sticking out”? Are you saying those who are in a state of grace should forgo having their venial sins wiped out by receiving the Eucharist so some people will feel less uncomfortable? Should we bypass all the amazing love and grace Christ longs to give us in the Eucharist on account of the sins of others?

From what I have heard a number of Catholics do not even believe or don’t understand the Real Presence. So a good place to start as always is catechesis. Having said that your mentioning Hispanics is interesting because I have noticed in the Adoration chapel that many Hispanics bring the whole family to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

I agree that many would probably ignore a return to the three hour fast and receive regardless, but it would still make things easier for those who do not wish to receive for other reasons; being seen as an oddball for “following rules” is at least a lot better than the reactions you get if you tell people “I’m not in a state of grace”.

I agree that few can judge the why or why not of receiving the Eucharist, especially on behalf of others. However, in many cases, one will have a “gut feeling” as to when one should confess before receiving Communion, in addition to examinations of conscience and so on. But these are personal considerations, to be made together with a confessor - and the latter part should be emphasised. I’ve had my periods of thinking too many receive, but I have since realized that this is not my judgement to make. If anything, we should pray for a higher frequency of penitents, not a lower frequency of communicants.

I do however disagree that a three hour fast would drive people away. Most people would, sadly, ignore it. Some would obey without caring either way. Some, including myself, would appreciate it. I severely doubt that anyone would leave the Church because of it.


To add some of my own thoughts: Where I live, I don’t find it in any way challenging to remain in the pew during Communion if have not had the time to confess. People generally don’t even notice, unless I’m sitting next to people I know. However, as opposed to elsewhere (in my impression predominantly the States), we don’t have ushers to “organize” Communion. People simply get out of their pews, stand in line, and go back when they have received. This creates a certain chaos, in which it is perfectly possible to not be noticed for remaining in the pew. However, once there are ushers and ordered lines, not joining the line becomes a lot more noticeable. Combine this with the one-hour fast, and staying in the pew becomes a broadcast of your need to confess.

Now, I would not look at any particular person and say he is not in a state of grace, even if they were not receiving Communion. But we must admit that there are churches-full of people who all receive, and yet we must admit that some are not in a state of grace. *And this causes pain to Christ. *So I am saying we should have a greater awareness of Who we are receiving, and whether we are in a state, objectively and subjectively, to receive Him. If I am using birth control, I may not feel like I am in a state of sin, but objectively I am.

I just think if we are all more aware if our states and consequently abstain from time to time or more often, then those who come in who *cannot *receive will not feel excluded and thus unwelcome.

The ideas of lengthening the fast and doing away with the ushers would be very helpful!

I’ve been struggling with a few sins recently, and as a result have been going to Confession very frequently. Several Sundays this year, I haven’t gone up simply because I’m not quite sure when a particular sin crosses the line from venial but grave to mortal, and thus excludes me from going receiving. I was told by my priest that if I’m unsure and struggling with whether to go up, I should go up. I imagine his reasoning is that if it were a mortal sin, I would know. However, he also added that if I don’t feel comfortable going up for Communion one week, for whatever reason, I don’t have to go up, as Communion is only required on Christmas and Easter. I prefer to go up every Sunday, but I would rather refrain than receive unworthily, personally. That being said, I often find that going up for Communion helps me to deal with the problems life inevitably presents. Last week I didn’t go up, simply because I was sick with a cold.

I’m not sure restricting Communion would be beneficial. I think a better approach is to emphasize Confession, especially on Fridays and Saturdays, and to encourage people to examine their conscience before deciding whether to go up. Technically, this is what we’re supposed to be doing anyway, but I don’t think many people know that. They seem to think that because they’re Catholic, they need to go up for Communion. It is our most important Sacrament, but there needs to be more personal responsibility. That being said, the presumption seems to be that if a person came up, they are able to receive.

About Hispanics not going up for Communion on Sundays. I would guess that the reason isn’t dissimilar to what I brought up about Confession. I know of several people who try to make Confession every Saturday, or Sunday before Mass if available. If they aren’t able to, they don’t usually go up for Communion. It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s what happened in your case, St Francis, just on a larger scale.

I just want to clarify that I don’t want to *restrict *anyone from receiving the Eucharist!

I agree very much with everything you said. I too had the oppotunity to go to Confession frequently, and that was so good for me!

You’re not clear. Are you saying that those in a state of grace should abstain from time to time so others who cannot receive will not feel excluded?

No, I’m saying that people tend to receive when they are not in a state of grace and they should stop. If we were all more careful to abstain when we ought to abstain, fewer people would be receiving, and those who feel “excluded” because everyone else is receiving would not feel so excluded.

Right now, I think that people are thinking, well, there are major sins, like adultery, abortion, and homosexual behavior… but I don’t commit those sins, so I’m ok. And then they receive.

But those using abc, porn, and other less-understood sins, don’t abstain. If on the one hand we had instruction on abstaining from Communion, and on the other, showed that this would be helpful to others on their journey, and made it easier to abstain by things like not having ushers, etc., then I think 1. fewer people would “condemn themselves by partaking unworthily,” and 2. newcomers or returners would not feel singled out for exclusion.

I actually had realized that you were the original poster about halfway through typing, and part of my response was essentially agreeing with you against how I interpreted your first post. Then I reread it and got where I messed up. I probably should have reworded that part, but I figured I’d leave it in as a general statement. I completely agree with your points!

To add to your point, there are those like certain Orthodox and others who regard Communion without Confession a “decadent Western practice.”

orthodoxengland.org.uk/confessio.htm

I feel like this was brought up in another thread at one point. I actually started trying to go on Saturdays as often as I can, because of that among other reasons. Along with it just being good practice to go often.

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