Mishandled This Before - Need Help - re non-Catholic guest at Mass and Eucharist

I admit I screwed up. :frowning: This was at Easter vigil last year. I had a related thread a few weeks ago. Here’s that one:


What happened was, my friend from out of town wanted to go to Mass. She is not Catholic and I haven’t known her that long. She attends another Christian denomination but also has some unique beliefs, which I don’t totally follow and I guess I need to ask her to explain them - which I also am not sure I know her well enough to do - or how to approach it, I guess.

Well, I was concerned about the issue of whether she would want to take Communion, yet for some crazy reason I forgot that there was the USCCB statement in the front of the Missalette, and that I could have suggested she go up for a blessing.

Instead, it was Communion time and I wasn’t sure if she was just getting up to let me and my other two (Catholic) friends out of the pew. Instead, she went ahead and got in line ahead of me, and the line was moving, and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to, like, tackle her or something at that point. So, she received the Eucharist. I was in a terrible turmoil and went to the priest the next morning before Easter Sunday Mass.

These kinds of dilemmas cast a shadow for me over what should be a joyful occasion. I have suffered from scrupulosity - more in the past but it still crops up occasionally. What gets me are these conflicts when I feel awkward and worried that the other person will take it the wrong way if I tell them about Church teaching. On the other hand I feel like such a coward for wimping out on this. :bighanky:

The Triduum will be here before I know it. I want to crawl into a hole and not deal with it because it’s so painful and complicated. I know her family too and they are such nice and congenial Christian people and I don’t want to come off as . . . harsh? Is that the word?

It’s worse because I failed in the moment when it would have been - certainly not easy, but less difficult than it now is. Now I have to backpedal and explain all this stuff and apologize for being a wimp. I keep rehearsing all sorts of approaches in my mind, from “Keep it simple and cheery and they’ll surely be fine with it,” to “Grovel and beg them not to hate me and tell them this is all my fault and if they do reject me feel yucky for weeks and months, maybe years afterward.” Help! :eek:

Mistakes happen. There’s no point in beating yourself up about it. The only Catholics receive communion talk is very simple, I assure you.

This is what I do, and it works pretty well.

Ever so casually before you even get into the Church

“Have you attended Mass at a Catholic Church before?”

If the answer is “yes” (Answer no? See below. Hehe, that rhymes.)

“Ok, good. I was just checking. You know then, that only Catholics are permitted to receive communion, right?”

If the person answer in the affirmative, it’s all good. If they answer negative, you simply give a brief explanation, and make sure they know not to go up, even if they’re ushered up by an usher.

As for damage control, again, it’s really no big deal. Just pull your friend aside, and apologize for not telling her before Mass that only Catholics may receive communion, and then briefly explain way. I stress the briefly part, and don’t use the word, “transubstantiation” as it tends to give people glazed over eyes, and you don’t want to have to explain that.

Normal people don’t usually take offence to these types of things. Just this Christmas I was at my friend’s Christmas Party, and somehow we got on the topic of Catholic Church and communion. Her husband’s Catholic, but she isn’t. Every Christmas when they go to Mass, she has been receiving communion because no one told her not to. When I told her wasn’t supposed to, she called over to her husband. This was the conversation.

HER: Hey, you didn’t tell me I wasn’t supposed to eat the cracker at Communion.
HIM: It’s not a cracker, and no, you’re not supposed to eat it if you’re not Catholic.
HER: Well, I guess I won’t be doing that anymore. laugh

Really, it’s not worth beating yourself up over and getting stressed out about. These things happen.

You know, I imagine that many that aren’t Catholic end up taking communion. As they don’t know they shouldn’t, or they are doing it on purpose.

Anyhow, It sounds as though she may be going to Mass with you again. Personally, I wouldn’t get involved in what she did last time. I only occassionaly have a non Catholic with me. Usually what I do, PRIOR to Mass, is just say. “So, Mass goes in a certain order. I’ll let you know where we are by pointing to where I’m reading from so you can follow if you want. Oh, and during communion, you’ll notice a lot of people that don’t go either kneel or sit. Feel free to do whichever you want. I always tell my non Catholic FIL to just sit as his knees are destroyed… Or you can come up, cross your arms over your chest, and the priest will give you a blessing. Lots of people that haven’t had their first communion do this. It’s how they participate in this portion of the Mass” Usually the non Catholics that go to church with are the SAME people, and I tell them the SAME thing each time.

And IF they ask why they can’t take communion, I say, you have to have had your FIRST communion through the Catholic Church to participate. It’s a rule even for US Catholics. So, they know that even some Catholics are excluded from Communion until a certain time.


If she says, “Oh, I took communion last time I was at your church.” Just say, “Oh, well, you didn’t know, and I couldn’t catch you in time. Don’t worry about it. It was an honest mistake.”

One of my biggest hesitations in all this is that the young lady in question is very intelligent and I think has studied up on a lot of religions and may be kind of picking and choosing her beliefs in a unique way. This is what I’ve been able to piece together from remarks she’s made. Of course, I could be piecing it together wrong. My point is, though, we may be in uncharted territory here and the terms and conditions may not be the same with her as with your average Joe or Mary. :shrug:

Well, maybe, maybe not. Anyway, you should definitely explain to her that only Catholics should receive Communion. It will do no harm.

And if she wants to receive Communion, well, then explain that it is no use in receiving it if one is not prepared, and that this preparation involves some study and acceptance of the Faith and a good Confession, and you’d love to help her with that if she is interested.

You’re over-analyzing this. Really, it’s not a big deal.

Maybe explain the situation to your priest and ask if he could remind all visitors that only Catholics in communion may receive. Our priests regularly do this at times (holidays, funerals, weddings,etc.) when this could be an issue.

And who are in a state of grace. :wink:

Actually, with all due respect, it is not even your place to suggest that your friend go up to receive a blessing. Please read what the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments wrote back in 2008:

. The liturgical blessing of the Holy Mass is properly given to each and to all at the conclusion of the Mass, just a few moments subsequent to the distribution of Holy Communion.

  1. Lay people, within the context of Holy Mass, are unable to confer blessings. These blessings, rather, are the competence of the priest (cf. Ecclesia de Mysterio, Notitiae 34 (15 Aug. 1997), art. 6, § 2; Canon 1169, § 2; and Roman Ritual De Benedictionibus (1985), n. 18).
  1. Furthermore, the laying on of a hand or hands — which has its own sacramental significance, inappropriate here — by those distributing Holy Communion, in substitution for its reception, is to be explicitly discouraged.
  1. The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio n. 84, “forbids any pastor, for whatever reason to pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry”. To be feared is that any form of blessing in substitution for communion would give the impression that the divorced and remarried have been returned, in some sense, to the status of Catholics in good standing.

**5. In a similar way, for others who are not to be admitted to Holy Communion in accord with the norm of law, the Church’s discipline has already made clear that they should not approach Holy Communion nor receive a blessing. This would include non-Catholics and those envisaged in can. 915 (i.e., those under the penalty of excommunication or interdict, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin). **

Your friend would fall under the fifth category. I hope this helps.

The above posters are correct, you are over analyzing this, which is part of the problem. There would have been nothing wrong with tapping her on the shoulder in line and saying “ask for a blessing” or something. Ideally, you should explain it before mass, but it isn’t a big deal to let her know in the communion line.

If you choose to explain it to her just do it in a light hearted way. Just explain that you forgot and she shouldn’t have received and in case she went again, now she knows.

I don’t know if you read my post (just above yours), but, given what the CDWDS observed, we really cannot, in good conscience, recommend approaching the priest for a blessing. This is not called for in the rubrics. Everyone will get a blessing at the end of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In fact, it is the most universal part of the liturgy because everyone, Catholic or not, will receive it.

Well, darn. :frowning: I don’t mean that in a bad way and I can see how maybe the practice was liturgically incorrect or subject to abuses. I do still see kids going up who are too young to have made their First Holy Communion. And the blessing thing did provide me with a “fallback” if you will, something to offer those who could not receive the Eucharist.

So now I have to rethink (and yes, I probably will overthink because remember I battle scrupulosity so that’s just my tendency) this whole business. :o Even though I’m not scrupulous over the very petty things I used to be, when there’s this much at stake it does work on my mind. And there is a lot of anxiety, which makes my mind spin.

I wonder about the “Spiritual Communion” prayer - would that be OK to recommend to a non-Catholic, I wonder? :confused:

I talked to another Catholic friend about it all - a person who tends to worry about a lot of things in life - and even this friend was telling me I was being too scrupulous - but she also mentioned the idea of asking the priest to mention it at Mass.

Seems like I might have to make an appointment to talk to Father, find out if he’s willing to do the announcement, and either way, clarify what I’m morally obligated to do and where I have to let go and let God.

You see, in my ongoing recovery from scrupulosity, I have been able to deal with some things by following the Liguori “Ten Commandments for the Scrupulous” and trying to delineate what’s my responsibility vs. what’s the other person’s responsibility or what God has angels to take care of without my help. :angel1: So that sometimes I can breathe a sigh of relief and know I’ve done the best I could and it’ll be OK. :coolinoff:

But for several reasons unique to the situation and to where I’m at right now in my faith journey, somehow this one seems more tricky. Whether it really is or I’m overcomplicating it, and what to do next, that’s the uncertain part that’s troubling me. :sad_yes:

I apologize, as I did not know about the issue with scrupulosity.

Anyone can make a spritual communion. In fact, it is strongly recommended that those not receiving Holy Communion remain in their pews and do so, Catholic or non-Catholic.

Okay, thanks! :slight_smile: No need to apologize - my eccentricities are hard to explain without writing a Russian novel-length treatise, LOL! :smiley:

Sorry, missed that. The general point I was trying to make is that the OPer could have just done something quick to let her know not to receive.

This is what you should do. :thumbsup:

Well, here’s the scenario - I had 2 other friends I was attending that vigil with besides her, in all the kerfluffle of figuring out where to park, sit, etc. my ADD must’ve been the culprit making me forget all about the USCCB notice because I can think of no other explanation why it would’ve totally blanked out of my mind.

Then there was the anxiety that had built up by communion time because by then I’d had time to ruminate so much on the situation but I still - crazy as this sounds, it’s the truth - didn’t think about the USCCB piece in the Missalette! And it was getting awkwarder and awkwarder with people starting to get up and me still not sure if this friend was just going to get up to let me out of the pew and then sit back down or what. :eek:

Have you looked into Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for your over-thinking and anxiety/? Seriously, if you’re committed to putting in the effort, it works to change the way you think (ie: your cognitions) so you over-analyze things less, become less anxious, and scrupulous.

Actually, the OP’s friend cannot be in spiritual communion if she doesn’t believe what Catholics believe about the Blessed Sacrament. She would not understand the spiritual act of communion.

To the OP: if you’re driving with your friend to Mass this year, maybe you can suggest that she pray in her pew during Communion, and/or perhaps leaf through the missalette.

And also remind your non catholic friend that your priest will give her a blessing right before the end of Mass. No need to go up to try to get one during the Communion portion of Mass.

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