Sticky in-law situation for First Communion


Hi all,

I have experienced tense moments with a MIL over communion in her Episcopal church. Being a coward, I want to completely avoid the topic when I can! :o

So, with my in-laws being very involved in our lives and the lives of our children, how do I handle their attendance at my son’s First Communion? I don’t think I can just not invite them. They will be hurt and recognize my cowardice from a mile away!

Plus, I want it to be special for my son, and their attendance makes everything special. (They are great people, in most ways.)

It’s also a time for me to flex my spiritual, psychological, and mental muscles, and not buckle to other’s ideas! Especially MIL!

Hoping you all will bolster me - I mostly know the answer to this question.


It isn’t quite clear what your question is. Is your worry about telling them that they may not receive communion in a Catholic church?

How does your pastor or the priest who will be celebrating the first communion mass feel about this? Is he someone you could ask to make sure to make an announcement explaining the “only Catholics may receive communion” policy at the ceremony? That way, it wouldn’t be you telling her, not personal, it would be the church.

Of course if your priests don’t really agree with this Catholic teaching and don’t really care whether non Catholics receive communion, which is the case in some parishes and dioceses, then you have to ask yourself whether you want to try to stop your mother in law from receiving communion even if your priests don’t care to do so and even if other non Catholic relatives will be receiving.

Some Episcopalians do have a very Catholic like belief in the real presence, and some people interpret the rules about intercommunion in exceptional circumstances to include weddings and first communions. This is closer to being within official guidelines than just not caring who takes communion. It is possible to make an argument for it, although I suspect the apologists here would not accept it.

If you can’t count on the priest to make such an announcement you can say when you invite her that the official Catholic rule is that only Catholics can take communion, If she objects or wants to know why you can say because we think it is a sign of complete unity which we think includes agreeing with all Catholic doctrines and being in communion with the Pope.

If she says something like “Communion is for all Christians” you can tell her that is one of the things we disagree about but you would still like her to attend. If she tells you that if she attends she will receive communion, I myself would not disinvite her. I would say , “That’s up to you, I am just telling you what we believe.” Once you tell her, you have done what you could. It isn’t your sin if she receives. I don’t think you need to feel that this is a great sacrilege against Our Lord that you have to prevent at all costs.

Susan Peterson


Hi -

You’re right, I wasn’t very clear. My thinking isn’t very clear on this topic!

Actually, she has made it quite clear that there is no one who can stop her from receiving communion at any church. So, short of tackling her in the aisle, when she comes to church with us, I often sit out communion as a sort of penance for her, which may not be the right thing to do. I also try to avoid going to church with her as much as possible.

Lately, the point of disagreement has been over my NOT receiving in her church when I go there, which is very infrequently. To her, the RCC is separatist and hateful, and I am engaging in such attitudes if I refuse communion at the Episcopal Church.

I dread having her here for son’s FHC. I don’t really think she will raise issues with the Church while she’s here for this sacred event. But it will be looming under the surface.

My question is not so much a question as a conundrum. I really would love to have a private celebration for my son with only his mom, dad, brother and sister present. But I know my MIL’s feelings would be very hurt. And I feel that her presence will add something quite meaningful to my son’s FHC.

I was hoping for insight and helpful words that will help me look forward to sharing this with her instead of dreading it. I know I need to pray unceasingly - and I will be asking St. Monica for her prayers.

I am also hoping someone will have faced a similar situation and can share their experience and wisdom.


My husband and his family are all Jewish, so when we have Baptisms or First Communions for our kids, my husband comes (thank God!) but I don’t bother inviting his side of the family, just my Catholic side of the family, plus godparents, etc.

Could you just invite your in-laws to a special meal (lunch or dinner) whatever you were planning after the Mass, and avoid inviting them to the Church at all? That would avoid the “she’s going to expect to receive Communion” discomfort on your part, but still have them be part of the celebration for your son’s sake. I know many churches have large group First Communions and space is really tight, so you couldn’t invite everyone you wanted to to the ceremony anyway.

Best wishes.


I don’t have a quite similar situation but I do have a similar MIL who rubs me the wrong way at every turn lol. I totally see what you’re saying - on one hand you’re telling your son how grand and glorious this day is and what it means. and then on the other hand he sees his non-Catholic grandmother receiving communion. Yes, you’re right to want to flex those spiritual muscles. But not on that day.

Despite what your mil will or will try to do on that day, remember that the day belongs to your son. Invite her, look the other way, don’t get into it with her that day. Make it a bit of education for your son but I’d just ignore MIL for that day.
Truthfully, I know many disagree, but it doesn’t take away from Communion nor your sons, if your mil receives. You still believe. He believes. That’s all that matter.

But I know I’ll be saying many many prayers before ours (may 3nd) I wish you lots of luck!!


I personally would not invite anybody to Mass that refused to have respect for my church and the way we do things. If their feelings get hurt that’s their problem.



When my oldest daughter made her First Communion space was very tight. Each child was allowed one row full of people. So we had to divide people into who was invited to the Mass, and who was only invited to the gathering at the house afterward. There were lots of people we wanted to share the day with, and who wanted to be able to congratulate my daughter and share in her special day, but might not have understood the total significance of it and be comfortable at Mass. Those people were fine with just coming to the party, especially when we told people about the space limitation.

So maybe you could pose the invitation as “Johnny would love it if you could make it to the house to help him celebrate the day of his First Communion.” He will probably love having grandma there to help him celebrate, but he is also old enough to know that grandma isn’t Catholic and doesn’t go to Mass.


Forgive me for asking, but where is your husband in this situation?

Whether he is Catholic or not, I would find it very disturbing that he would not deal with some firmness and finality in this matter with his mother as it is truly insulting a core belief of the faith of his wife and children. You should not be put in a position of defending the Holy Eucharist on this special day – or any day for that matter. She need not believe as you do, but she needs to respect what you believe as you seem to offer respect to her faith traditions.

(Having said all that, as long as you are not inviting others to the First Communion, I would probably take the cowards’ way out in this case and just have the immediate/nuclear family at the First Communion Mass, and then get together with the larger group later. It does appear you have let her get away with this nonsense for some time, and your son’s First Communion may not be the best opportunity to start laying down the law.)


I was thinking the same thing.

This is a job for the child of the mother-in-law, not the spouse of the child of the mother-in-law.


Not sure if this will help, but sometimes, when I am visiting my in-laws without DH, my MIL will attend Mass with my daughter and me. Now, she has never tried to receive communion at our church, but a few years ago, I told her that she could come up with her arms crossed to receive a blessing from the priest. She loved that idea.

Now I have since learned that this isn’t really proper practice, but I find that the pre-emptive invitation lets the guest know that he/she is not excluded, but also not able to receive communion without me telling him/her, “Don’t do it!”


I don’t understand why this is not the time to defend the Eucharist.
It is the perfect time to defend the Eucharist, as is every other time she goes to Church.
And if it is an issue that she recieves, don’t invite her to Church or accompany her to her Church (which we aren’t supposed to do anyway)
No- don’t invite her to the Mass, just to the celebration afterward. Your son needs to know exactly what the Eucharist is, why grandma cannot receive, and why it is a sin for her to receive and for him to allow it.
Being a Christian isn’t about family unity.


1.) I will be number three to ask why your husband doesn’t handle his mother.
2.) I wouldn’t invite anybody except the nuclear family and the boy’s godparents to the Mass, but everybody and their grandma to the party after.
3.) I would stop giving up the Eucharist to try to stop my MIL from illicitly receiving!!!

She is the one who is going to have to explain to God, someday, why she felt she was in charge of Catholic Eucharist, why she had no respect for the Church, and why she felt she was so much better than you. In the meantime, I would have a tet a tet first with your priest about her habit of receiving the Eucharist no matter where or what. And it wouldn’t bother me, if it was me, to drop a bug in the ear of MIL’s vicar. Perhpas he or she could fashion a sermon on respecting other denomination’s rules and regs, even if Episcopalians commune indiscriminately.


I had only just read that entry by Fr. Serpa the other day - previously, I had thought it OK to go to another church for purposes of keeping family peace IF we did not miss Mass and IF we did not take part in communion.

OK - thanks all for input! I definitely feel bolstered. Hearing straight up that I need to handle it is what I need!

DH backs me up, but this is an issue between me and MIL, no mistake about it. Believe me, DH has no problem putting MIL in her place. But he can’t make this argument for me.


Good for you. Stand up for yourself!


Glad to hear it. We are so used to hearing about DHs who don’t tote their end of the load when it comes to their mothers. It’s nice to know there’s a guy who will stand up to Mama when necessary.


Do you think you could tell her that she will be more than welcome to attend conditional on her agreement to respect the teaching of the Church re non-Catholics not being able to receive the Eucharist?


Good idea - I am considering approach! :slight_smile:


previously, I had thought it OK to go to another church for purposes of keeping family peace IF we did not miss Mass and IF we did not take part in communion.

Not to de-rail, but Fr. Serpa is completely incorrect on this matter and I have previously e-mailed him with no reply. His opinion that Catholics must not attend other services is only that- his opinion. There is nothing anywhere in any document that prohibits us from going to protestant services under specified conditions.


Personally, I am going to err on the side of caution and listen to Fr.Serpa on this one.
Plus, it gives me an excuse to give to my ILs and DH’s friends about why we don’t attend Church with them (above and beyond the fact that I find their services cheesy and boring)

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