Question for Catholics who used to be Protestant

Since I am not Catholic, I have never taken the Eucharist as it is known in Catholicism.

I have taken communion, but in my faith tradition it is more a symbol of Christ’s presence with us and a reminder of his supreme sacrifice for us on the cross for our sins. It is a solemn and sincere occasion, but I perceive that in the Catholic worship experience the Eucharist stands out as super special, based on repeated comments by Catholics on CAF.

I sense the sincerity of those who share this belief and I do not doubt it. However, I would like to better understand it from those of you who used to be protestants like me and what sets it apart from the typical non-Catholic church. I’ve witnessed Catholics take it but I rightfully abstained from getting in line to do so because I am not Catholic and I know I am not allowed.

Question:
Can you describe to someone who has never experienced the Catholic Eucharist before what it feels like to partake in it and put into words what it does* to *you and for you and how it compares to what you experienced when you took communion in your former protestant tradition?

I certainly can’t speak for Catholics who were once Protestants but the belief in the Real Presence compels a Christian toward a humble posture and reverence. I understand that many Protestants don’t accept that Christ is bodily present in the Sacrament so their outward response may be less demonstrative. My personal belief is that Christ is indeed present in the holy Communion of all Christians. So if I were to take communion in an Assembly of God church, I would likely bow, cross myself and meditate on the Gift of Life, forgiveness of my sins and eternal salvation.

Fantastic question !!

I used to be Protestant and took communion in Protestant churches. To me eating the cracker and drinking the grape juice did nothing. Any spiritual benefit came from prayer during communion.

I had a couple “liturgical” leaning Protestant communions that gave me more of a spiritual recharge.

I think that the liturgy is key to the Eucharistic meal. Surrounding it all in prayer predisposes one to receive the maximum grace from God. Like preheating an oven better cooks food.

I won’t say eating the host and drinking the blood physically feels different. It doesn’t to me, but spiritually it is so much more than any Protestant communion service I experienced. It makes me feel spiritually recharged and by the end of the week I can’t wait to get to mass again.

The belief in the real presence takes tremendous faith. Placing such a faith in God outside our own comprehension opens one up to the magnitude of Gods grace.

To end I will leave it on a note from Flannery O Connor:

“I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater. (She just wrote that book, A Charmed Life). She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual. We went at eight and at one, I hadn’t opened my mouth once, there being nothing for me in such company to say. The people who took me were Robert Lowell and his now wife, Elizabeth Hardwick. Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome with inadequacy had forgotten them.
Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the ‘most portable’ person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”

Read more here: catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2012/04/flannery-oconnor-on-eucharist-and.html?m=1

I am not Catholic, though I can not truly describe myself as Protestant anymore, since I am in the process of investigating what Catholics believe and so far am becoming more Catholic in thought day by day. So, I can’t answer what it feels like since when I’ve attended mass before I’ve asked for a blessing and not inappropriately taken the Eucharist, but I can share some thoughts.

The last time my protestant church celebrated communion, I almost didn’t participate. I go to a non-denominational Christian fellowship, and we rotate the person doing communion frequently. This last time, it was someone from a tradition that lays very heavy emphasis on how it was just a symbol. It just felt so hollow, especially after learning what God says strongly through both Sacred Scripture and Tradition about the Eucharist.

The Catholic view of Eucharist is much richer. It reflects the events of John 6 and the words of Jesus at his Last Supper more accurately. It doesn’t try to negate the words of Christ by adding a qualifier that Jesus didn’t really mean what he said. Spiritually, it’s a direct, physical connection to Jesus Christ. We Protestants always talk about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but the Eucharist is part of what enables Catholics to have a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. When a Catholic goes to Church, (s)he meets Jesus in the scripture readings but also has a personal, physical relationship with Him through the Eucharist.

I apologize if any of this is incorrect or incomplete from a Catholic P.O.V. Like I said, I’m not a Catholic, though likely one day I will be. Hope this was helpful!

Hi Sam. This was my experience.

I used to be Protestant and took communion about 4 times yearly, and there was no particular manner of catechesis, meaning that I’m not sure that anyone could tell you whether our tenet of faith held it to be a Real Presence, symbolic, or just some occasional event of obedience. Further, this was an open communion (everyone present is welcome, regardless). With that, there was no focus on discerning the body, effects (blessing or condemnation), nor any conversations about whether we were in a state of sin or whether anything should preclude us from participation.

None of this bothered me, because without this catechism, I didn’t know any better anyway; but there was something that always stuck in my mind and was unsettling, although I couldn’t articulate why at the time. It was the juice from the little cups; first, sloshed on the altar rail that were later wiped up some rag; then, the fact that there was always residual amounts left in these little cups all over; and finally (this is the image that stuck with me), the discarded cups in the hefty bag lined trash can with this juice streaming down the sides of the bag. I always knew that this bag would eventually be tossed in the dumpster with the rest of the trash and that bothered me a great deal, though as I say, I didn’t understand why for years.

As a Catholic, the reality that this IS the Blood of Jesus Christ is ever present. Eventually, I was able to realize why the former image etched in my mind of the saturated hefty bag had such an effect of me. With the realization that to profess to be ‘in communion’ with all others of the same faith, the realization that I am a sinner who is not worthy to participate but only by God’s grace am allowed, and that I need to remain daily vigilante of my conduct as a Catholic Christian, partaking in the Eucharist is a humble and solemn request for this gift from my Lord.

I would strongly recommend for anyone to print a copy of Sts. Ambrose or Thomas Aquinas or Bonaventure’s “Prayer before Communion” and meditate through it while waiting to receive. I have found that meditating along with these brothers from the past sets my heart to humbleness and thanksgiving to prepare for this wonderful sacrament.

Well, I qualify since I was a former Protestant that bounced around before becoming Catholic. The Eucharist gives me deep peace, help me refocus on what Jesus did for me. It is an intimate experience. For me now and looking back at the Methodist and Charismatic Churches, the Catholic Eucharist seem very real in comparison and the others are just imitation attempts. I hope this helps.

Receiving the cracker and grape juice was a nice symbol, but I could have lived without it.

I find I get a spiritual recharge receiving the Eucharist. Much more so than when I was at a “just a symbol” church.

I grew up in the episcopal church which is very similar to the catholic church. We had holy communion every sunday and there were also services during the week when we could receive communion. The liturgy was very similar and it was definitely very reverent.
During comnunion I believed it was a symbol.
Many altars had “do this in remembrance of me” carved into the altar.

In the catholic church, during the Mass you feel like you are ecperiencing the mystery of Christ’s presence in the Mass itself and the Eucharist. It is hard to explain until you experience its beauty.
I don’t understand how anyone who has been Catholic and decides to leave the Church could find any connection with crackers and grape juice. I don’t mean to offend any protestants because I am sure they still find some mesning during their communion but it is so much deeper for the Catholic mass.

I was raised pentecostal. It was offered most weeks at the majority of churches I attended.

Communion in the protestant churches meant nothing to me. It was something we did and I never put much thought into why. I knew it was an acknowledgement that we believed in Christ but it wasn’t special in any way. Showing up to church was an acknowledgement I believed in Christ. Joining in the singing of praise and worship was also an acknowledgement. It wasn’t personal in any way shape or form.

The Holy Eucharist has two sides for me.

One is that it is intensely personal. It is about me and God. God is truly present. Body, blood, soul and divinity. No body else matters because this is between me and him. He is present for me, regardless of everyone else in the room. It makes me evaluate where I stand with God in my Christian walk. It forces me to consider if I am really giving my all to God. It gives me the constant reminder of what Christ sacrificed for me and the chance to express my gratitude. As I prepare for communion, and after I receive the Holy Eucharist I am more focused on God than I am at any other time and that is such a blessing.

The other side is that I really do get a sense of community with my brothers and sisters in Christ that I didn’t have in the protestant churches. There it was supposed to be about acknowledging Christ as a community, but it didn’t actually bring out that sense that we were a community for me. In the Catholic Church it is emphasised that this is a sign for believers. We are all in this together, with our weaknesses and our strengths. We truly are a community focused on God.

This isn’t just true when I am able to partake of the Holy Eucharist. I get more out of been present for the Holy Eucharist even if I must abstain than I ever got out of communion in the protestant churches.

I would say that as a protestant taking communion it was just communion, here we are all together, taking a symbol of our union together. But as a Catholic Easter 2014, taking the Eucharist, I find myself in serious awe, I am on my knees, before my Lord, and I humbly find myself, very very thankful, for his promises. Words cannot really explain the difference.

Thanks to everyone for your replies. Very insightful. I appeciate it very much.

I remember talking about this in RCIA actually and the other former Protestants agreed with this:

I was former Anglican and once a month we went up to the front of the church to eat a piece of white sandwhich bread cut into a cube and drink a thimble size cup of wine or grape juice.

I felt nothing from it. It felt meaningless, so I actually didn’t go to church on the Sundays they did this.

Two years ago I started attending Mass and felt the presence of Jesus in the Mass. I could feel him in the tabernacle.
When I made my first communion the following Easter it felt amazing. I felt the presence of Jesus with me.
It strengthened me. It changed me. And it continues to do so every week.
I don’t always feel something obvious, such as a spiritual feeling or love (I do often though) I connect to God in prayer in the closest way there .
I look forward to receiving the Eucharist. I feel excitement in Mass just before I receive.

I never felt this as an Anglican.
I feel this because Jesus is truly present in our church.
:slight_smile:

I hope it’s okay to post this link. My conversion story was published on another Catholic website. The description you’re looking for is towards the end. There are many other stories on this website, too.

chnetwork.org/2014/07/taking-courage-god-drew-light-church-conversion-story-alicia-smith/

(formerly “lutheran farmer”)

I used to be in the UMC and I’m in RCIA now, so looking forward to first communion! We usually did communion once a week at the church I was in before. It was my favorite part of the service. Even so, it was treated only as symbolic so if the schedule wouldn’t acomodate communion they’d just not do it that week. This is something I am really wondering about as well; what first communion in a Catholic Church will be like. I won’t know until I get there and I won’t get there until (probably) next Easter. :o

I have to agree, as a recent convert, it is hard to put into words. But i will try

my heart still races as i approach our priest, i still have to hold my hands tightly together in front of me so no one notices my hands still shake a bit, i still worry continuously as to whether or not i have committed a sin this past week that i cant remember and that i should goto to confession for, i am still worried i am going to forget to say Amen, or drop the host (so now i receive on the tongue), then afterwards, i just hope i can get back to the pew so people dont see that i still cry after receiving, yet when i get back and kneel, i pray to the Holy Spirit to never let me get to where i dont cry anymore.
On a side note i was blessed with a very beautiful mystery revealed to me about the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, twice, when i was receiving in the hand, the hand i took the host with had a slightly sweet smell that i can only pinpoint as a marshmallow smell and no it wasnt something on my hands because after the sign of peace i discreetly use alcohol based hand gel which i also love to smell.

I was originally baptised Presbyterian, and spent about nine years in a Presbyterian Church when I first became Christian in the real sense.

For a short while I then joined the Wesleyan Methodists (partly on the testimony of one of my old pastor’s sons, who left the Presbyterian Church after he died, due to the ratbag pastor who quickly manipulated his way into a takeover bid, and managed to drive most of the faithful right out of the Presbyterian church altogether).

My wife is Baptist (we were both Protestant when we married), so I’ve got some experience of her church as well.

And I did a few Sunday School sessions in an Anglican Church when I was younger.

So I’ve had a bit of experience around the place.

Since I am now a Catholic (and will remain one, since I believe the Catholic Church is closest to the truth), I take it by faith that Christ is somehow present in the Eucharist, and that we, at least in a spiritual sense, eat Christ’s body and drink His blood at every mass, fulfilling His request that we do this in remembrance of Him, whenever we meet.

Prove it? No? No more that you can prove the Bible is God’s word to an unbeliever, or that Christ is the Son of God.

I can also say that these days there always seems to be something missing from Protestant services when I attend them. They might have better music, better sermons (or homilies as we call them); they might be more welcoming, more evangelistic, more active within their parish demography, more enthusiastic, more mission minded, more willing to donate time and money - all things we Catholics could take to heart frankly.

But there’s something missing and it’s the Eucharist.

When I was in the Presbyterian Church, we only had communion every quarter. It was also quite solemn, taken very seriously, and the communion hymn was always beautifully sung. In my wife’s Baptist Church, it’s every month (I try to avoid attending her church on those days, as I just can’t be bothered grand standing on the issue of not taking communion in a Protestant Church, and generating tension at home).

But it’s not the same. And the reason, to put it bluntly, is that they short sell the importance of the reality of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. The sanctified bread and the wine are more than just symbols.

But until they are consecrated by the presence of the Holy Spirit during the Eucharist, they are purely bread and wine, no different from the secular products.

I remember the priest joking about an altar boy getting into the wine cupboard when I was doing RCIA. He said it would be the biggest mistake he could make, not because it was consecrated (it wasn’t), but because it was poor quality wine.

In closing, some of the Bible passage which underline the importance of the Eucharist are shown below -

•Matthew 26:26-29 "And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

•John 6:52-53, “The Jews therefore began to argue with one another, saying, How can this man give us His flesh to eat? Jesus therefore said to them,** ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.’” **

•1 Cor. 11:27, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.”

As a Protestant, I think my understanding of Communion was a bit different from yours. Whether it was in line with the teaching of the Reformed Church or not, my understanding was along the lines of a ‘real presence’ - that Christ was there, and that receiving communion was a washing away of my sin and a renewal of sorts. So, my experience as a Catholic is somewhat similar. However, I have a hunger for the Eucharist, which I realized began 23 years ago when I attended a Catholic service in Argentina and was prevented from receiving. I don’t think I had that hunger in Protestant churches - at least not in the same way and to the extent that I do within the Catholic church. I also echo what others have said - going to a Protestant service now feels very empty to me. And it must be the Eucharist, because we know that whenever two or more are gathered in His name he is there - just not quite in the same way that He is physically present - always - in the Catholic church.

To explain what it feels like - that’s hard. I think it is very individual and depends on your understanding, the state of your soul, how you feel that day, etc. Sometimes it feels miraculous. Sometimes it feels ordinary. But no matter what the feeling - it is miraculous - every single time.

As far as what it does for you - the benefits to the soul are nothing short of amazing. Of course, it’s not the Eucharist alone - it’s also the graces that flow from confession and prayer, etc. But I have seen a change in my soul towards peace and tranquility. A change - not a complete transformation! But there has definitely been a change.

I was raised by my parents that went to the Presbyterian Church. My father continues to struggle to believe and have faith in God. I picked that up. My conversion to Christ through His Church has been a continual and gradual process. About 9 years ago, I went through the RCIA program and joined the Catholic Church.

First, not all people are the same. The way people experience simple things, like the taste of some fruit, is not always the same. So, entering into a special union with Christ through the Eucharist must necessarily also be an experience unique to the individual at that point in time.

Sometimes, I feel tremendous love. Sometimes, I don’t. Sometimes I just ask Christ to mend my brokenness. In any event, I know that I have entered into a tremendously intimate union with Christ - about as intimate as it can possibly get.

My parents went to church and did what they did so that they could have fellowship with people they thought were enjoyable to be around. But, I fell in love with a wonderful Catholic woman, and since I wasn’t attached to any particular religion, I made the commitment to go with her to church throughout our marriage.

17 years after marrying her in the Catholic Church, I joined the Church.

Before my coming into the Church, I wondered why so much time was spent on the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I figured they could just get that done before people showed up - and then we could have more time for singing or listening to a sermon.

It has taken a while, but now I have come to understand how the sacramental nature of the Eucharist is so similar to Christ himself. If we were to put Christ through all sorts of lab tests, he’d test out to be completely human with no “God-part” whatsoever. But, we know that Christ has two natures. One divine, and one human - and these natures are unified in the second person of the Trinity.

The Eucharist is the same way. It would test out to be completely normal bread and wine. But, it has a natural nature and a supernatural nature. One might expect that the sacraments created by Christ would mirror his own nature.

Today, I love with great passion any chance I can get to go to Mass and to be standing there and give thanks to Christ for the great gifts he gives to all of us unworthy children.

So, I’m not sure that the Eucharist does anything **TO **me, or anything **FOR **me - but I love the reception of the Eucharist beyond expression.

This is a reply to post 13 by blue rose.

I question the truth of your post. For one thing, communion would never be held only once a month in an anglican church and grape juice is not used during communion. Wine is used in both the episcopal church and the anglican church. Also they use wafers much like what the catholic church uses.

One item that episcopal and anglican churches have which I miss dearly is the altar rail. It was so much more reverent to approach the altar rail and kneel humbly with outstretched hands than to line up with many other people and receive standing. So I wish the catholic churches would return the altar rails.

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