I am so glad that I chose to join the Catholic Church. But closed communion almost kept me from embracing Catholicism. (I have yet to make my first communion because my annulment has not yet been granted. I will admit, despite my comments that follow, that the postponement of the Eucharist for me increases my longing, which will surely enrich that first communion experience.)
I have a difficult time imagining that if Jesus were really present at the Table that he would deny me and my devout, non-Catholic, Christian friends and family this sacred meal.
And yet, the Catholic Church is the only one that claims He is Really Present there, which ironically, is the thing that makes me want to be Catholic the most!
I understand the transubstantiation and 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 argument.
But what I’m not ready to accept is that a protestant, who approaches the altar with a genuine desire to commune with Christ, would be receiving it in an unworthy manner.
Why would any Christian yearning for a Eucharistic relationship with Jesus Christ not have made the effort to formally avail themselves to the sacrament? That’s where we receive the formation and make the necessary commitments to God to receive the His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
If someone has not been through that journey (or is not at least in process) they not only lack the formation and professed commitments there is also the question as to why they lack them?
You mentioned Paul’s admonitions in 1 Corinthians, where he says that anyone who does not recognize the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist eats and drinks to his condemnation, so you get that the Church has a duty, in charity, to do her best to ensure that no one approaches Communion without understanding fully what he is doing.
Here is another way to look at it. Since you understand that the Eucharist really is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, you will also understand that the Church has a duty to protect the Eucharist as far as she is able. By ensuring, as far as possible, that no one approaches Communion who does not believe that It is what It is, and fully understand what he is doing, she is treating it like the priceless treasure that It is.
Did it ever occur to you that if a Protestant who does NOT believe that this is truly the Lord’s own Body and Blood would be eating and drinking damnation unto himself, PRECISELY because he did not recognize this as the Lord’s Body?
The Church is trying to protect such souls from further sin by so restricting Communion.
The Church does not have “closed Communion” There is no such thing. There is only Communion.
You say that you have a difficult time imagining that if Christ were personally present, he would deny anyone’s participation. Absolutely right. No doubt about it.
The Church does not deny anyone the Sacraments, least of all Holy Communion. Everyone, without any exception, may receive Communion in the Church.
Now please keep the above in mind as you (hopefully) continue to read:
Sometimes people deny themselves the opportunity to receive Communion–there are many ways that they do this. The Church teaches (as inspired by the Holy Spirit) that in order to be admitted to Sacramental Communion, one must first be a part of the communion (community) that is the Church. The Church welcomes everyone to be a part of that communion and then to receive the Sacrament; yet being part of the communion must come first. That’s what is happening in your own case. You first become part of the community, and then Communion follows (even if one receives 1st Communion on the same day, it’s still a matter of being part of the Church first). Everyone is welcome to join the Church. Everyone is welcome to be a follower of Christ in the fullness of the faith. Everyone is welcome to receive Communion–when that person is truly ready and is properly disposed. But if a person decides not to join the Church, or simply never makes any decision at all, that person is not yet ready to participate in Sacramental Communion. The door is always open.
In order to “commune with Christ” one must also be willing to be a part of Christ’s Body which is the Church. Receiving Sacramental Communion without accepting the Church is actually to reject Christ Himself because Christ and the Church cannot be seperated from each other. In order to accept the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, one must also accept and be a willing-part-of the Body of Christ, the Church.
FrDavid I liked what you wrote until the last paragraph. Baptism gives us membership in Christ’s Body. Our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters do not reject Christ. Yes,
until divisions cease, there will not be full unity, but we do share a partial communion with other Christians.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 1271:
Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church: “For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. Justified by faith in Baptism, [they] are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.” “Baptism therefore constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn.”
I agree. We need to continue to work for this unity.
Receiving the Eucharist is a statement of full unity.
Your post actually helps me explain why I cannot receive Communion when I share in worship services with my non-Catholic brothers and sisters. It keeps the explanation simple.
We do indeed share the same Baptism in Christ, but our unity as brothers and sisters in Christ remains incomplete until the divisions are healed.
The Mystical Body of Christ is the Church. The two are one-and-the-same.
We can’t say on the one hand that a person is fully a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, but not fully a member of the Church.
Non-catholic Christians are united to the Body of Christ, but not *members of *the Mystical Body of Christ. It’s an important distinction, and one which the Catechism expresses. There is some communion, but that communion is markedly imperfect. Only when communion is “complete” is it possible to have sacramental Communion.
Yes, Baptism gives us membership in Christ’s Body. But at the same time we have to accept the reality that if the visible membership in Christ’s Body (ie membership in the Church) is outwardly lacking by membership in an ecclesial community outside the Church, then an essential element of that membership is not actualized; membership in the Body of Christ is still incomplete.
When I typed about “rejecting Christ” I did not mean rejecting completely, of course, but of partially rejecting Christ.
This may cause some readers to bristle, and I don’t mean to be argumentative or confrontational. I’m only expressing my honest feelings here in an effort to learn and grow. Please keep this in mind as you read:
I guess I still have issues with accepting that a devout non-Catholic Christian is not a willing-part-of the Body of Christ, even though they don’t align themselves with the Catholic Church. I do believe that to practice the Catholic faith is to practice the fullness of the faith in Christ Jesus, but I don’t feel more a part of His Body today as a Catholic than I did when I was baptized at 8 years old in my Baptist church. Of course, my relationship with Him has grown in maturity, a maturity which I believe steered me directly to the Catholic faith. But it’s hard to think of my husband and son, both very devout Christians, as separated from the Body of Christ.
One thing to keep in mind is John 17:22-23: “The glory which thou hast given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and Thou in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me and hast loved them even as Thou hast loved me.”
Doesn’t perfect oneness require that His disciples be of the same mind? Not that everybody is the same, but that everyone is in agreement. How can there be true unity among people who can’t agree on the primacy of Peter, or the Mother of God, or the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, or the necessity of Baptism? Without agreement on all the doctrines of Jesus as handed down by the Apostles, everyone is at cross-purposes, pulling in all sorts of directions at once. Sad, but unfortunately true.
It’s not a matter of a genuine desire to commune with Christ; it is receiving the Eucharist with a different mindset and belief that is not Catholic. The Church has always taught that the bread and wine are the actual BODY AND BLOOD of Christ, and NOT a symbol or representation of such. Christ is present body, blood, soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. Desiring to ‘commune’ with Christ is not the same as accepting the Church’s authentic teaching on what is the Eucharist.
Most protestants I take to Mass complain about “closed communion”. They perceive Communion as an announcement that says “All Catholics please move to the front of the room, and leave all heathen and heretics in the pews to be shunned”. In talking to them, the reasoning for this seems to be that they don’t believe in the Real Presence, and thus view Communion as equivalent to a “secret handshake” of a fraternity that only members are allowed to know.
I try to explain that the requirement to receive Communion isn’t that you’re Catholic, but that you’re in a state of grace and have confessed your mortal sins. Non-Catholics that can’t confess and Catholics that haven’t confessed shouldn’t receive Communion because it physically harms their soul. Unfortunately, the modern “conveyor belt” style of Communion where everyone goes up solely because they’re Catholic undermines this argument.
I try to explain that the requirement to receive Communion isn’t that you’re Catholic,
But it is. You must be in Communion with the Catholic Church and accept her teachings to receive Holy Communion at her services. This is the teaching of the Catholic Church, and must be accepted by Catholics, even if it is difficult to understand. Non-catholics should respect the teachings, if they attend the services, just as Catholics should respect the teachings, if they worship at any other Church.
As Fr David explained all are invited. It is up to the person to accept the invitation. All are invited, but must be prepared—remember the parable of the wedding garment.
If Catholics realized that they should not receive Communion when they are not in a state of grace, they might understand the feeling better. Lots of Catholics don’t see receiving Holy Communion as a privilege… they see it as a right, even if they couldn’t care less about fasting or mortal sin.