Symbolic bread and wine in Catholic Men's Prayer Group


#1

In our parish Catholic Men’s prayer group, one of the men brought up the idea of sharing a loaf of bread and one cup of wine as a symbolic gesture of our unity as men in prayer and solidarity with each other. I thought,

“Warning Will Robinson! Warning”
“Danger alert!”

We already have enough problems with a certain percentage of Catholics believing that the Eucharist is only symbolic. They have not yet come to the belief of the full teaching that the sacrament that we receive is the true body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus.

Then I thought, “I’m being overly cautions.” We are in a meeting room and not in the church. This is taking place within the context of a prayer meeting-bible study. But then I thought, people are more psychological than logical. This practice might conflate the actual sacrament with the purely symbolic action taking place within our prayer group.

Some advice please.


#2

It was only brought up. If your parish is anything like mine you’ll probably never hear about it again.


#3

I totally agree with you. Far better for the Prayer Group to attend Mass together, as a group, every so often - once per month, or once per quarter. Having an actual meal together sometimes, also, will/can be a gesture of solidarity.

They should stay far from indulging in symbols that could suggest Holy Communion.


#4

If you are in the group, this is a good opportunity to discuss the suggestion and speak about the sacred gift that Jesus gave us in the Eucharist. To do what this person is suggesting reeks of Protestantism. Vote NO resoundingly. The group will have to reconsider the suggestion at this point and there are, hopefully enough good Catholics to overrule this idea. A similar suggestion came up in my women’s CRHP weekend. The young woman who made the suggestion was a fairly new Catholic who had yet to really understand the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. When no one else spoke up, I had to say something. Once I voiced my inability to participate in such a ceremony, a discussion ensued. I wound up with one person never speaking to me again, a couple more who told me how much I had hurt this person’s feelings, but in the end, there were enough faithful Catholics to see that this idea was a bad one. We found another way to show our unity and we shared a light meal in the church basement, including the four major food groups :smiley:


#5

This strikes me as confusing as well, and a mixing of priestly and lay vocations.

Already, “where two or three are gathered in my name I will be among them”.

If you might make a suggestion to them, it’s that they pray the Liturgy of the Hours. It’s a licit participation in the public prayer of the Church, even for the laity, and it’s a liturgy that laymen can licitly celebrate together, even if led by a layman. There are rubrics for the parts that are proper to laymen when clergy (deacon, priest, bishop) are not available.


#6

I would be concerned about this too. Your unity as a group can be expressed in prayer. I went once to a group that was supposed to meet weekly and they had this pitcher of water that we were each supposed to pour out into a cup and give it to someone else in the group who then did the same for the next person. I think these kind of rituals in groups are silly, so I left the group.


#7

Why not have the prayer group go to Mass before meeting? Then you can have your cake and eat it too.

-Tim-


#8

And everyone should wear paisley print clothing and birkenstock sandals.

This sort of thing was very common for teenage and young adult retreats I attended back in the 1970’s. (Although usually with grape juice rather than wine.) To their credit, the retreat leaders were always careful to make the distinction between this “Agape Feast” and the Eucharist.

I think such events are a bit worrisome for those who are not well catechized or who have weak faith in the Real Presence. They overemphasize the experiential at the cost of Faith.

The whole thing strikes me as childish. (And I don’t mean child-like.)


#9

I find your suggestions helpful. Our prayer group has not made any decisions about this symbolic action. I still remain concerned. Please think about this more and post on it-- Even if it is only a fragment of a thought. Thanks and looking forward to more posts from you or those in your online groups.


#10

And everyone should wear paisley print clothing and birkenstock sandals.

Don’t give them any ideas. :smiley:


#11

This doesn’t sound that much different than the Polish oplatki, except that they use wafers and without the wine. As long as people know it’s unconsecrated and is intended to express unity, what’s the problem?


#12

If it’s done within a cultural context I can see it. I believe the Orthodox have something similar. I don’t know if any Eastern Catholic Churches do. The retreats I attended were organized had had some oversight.

What the OP describes seems a bit ad hoc. It might be best if this group at least sought the guidance of groups in good standing with the Church who hold such meals.


#13

I am the OP- please note that one of the real problems is the amount of church attending Catholics who already think of the Eucharist as a symbolic gesture. I am concerned that if you tell the men that this is only symbolic, they might think at some level-- Oh just like the Eucharist in church except this tastes more like bread.

more thoughts please


#14

If there is any risk that the two would be confused (the Eucharist and the purely symbolic bread), then it should NOT be done.

However, oversensitivity can be an issue. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. You understand the dynamic of your group better than any of us. Take these principles (fear/risk of confusion, etc.) and apply them.

Another idea could be to have a priest come to your group and celebrate a Mass there with all of you.


#15

The Eucharist is the sacrament of your unity - BOTH its sign AND the unity with Christ it signifies. If there is a danger that the doctrine of the Real Presence will be diluted, this needs to be avoided.

Alternate suggestions are in order. What about a monthly holy hour together before the Blessed Sacrament? (monstrance or tabernacle.)


#16

OTOH, the exchange of symbolic bread and wine may be beneficial to those who are not predisposed to receiving the sacraments (divorced/remarried, etc.). I don’t think it’s any secret that a lot of people feel left out of the Church for one reason or another. This may be a positive thing. Just sayin…


#17

I’m surprised that you would take this position given the possibility of confusing symbolic communion with the Eucharist.

What do you mean by “beneficial?” What benefit would there be in the symbolic gesture of unity which that the prayer the men were going to engage in would not provide?

I see little difference between what the OP describes and what congregational Churches do. “Bread and wine as a symbolic gesture of unity” is tantamount to symbolic communion.

There are many other ways to express unity besides mimicking Protestant communion. I wouldn’t go near it and am quite surprised at your willingness to accept it.

-Tim-


#18

I have to agree. The men of my parish use things like whiskey and cigars. The OP’s Catholic Sense is strong. Too many of us have lost that.


#19

See post #10. It’s been done for decades, if not centuries. I don’t think Poles et al go around “mimicking Protestant communion” at the oplatki but what do I know? If the Anglophones get it wrong, then blame it on poor catechesis. :rolleyes:


#20

I see where you are coming from… I guess.

For those unfamiliar with oplatki, it is the same bread as communion wafers, baked into larger rectangles and usually imprinted with nativity scenes. My understanding is that the head of a Polish household will break off a piece and pass it around the table right before the Christmas Eve meal. He may bless the family, each may forgive another, and they will offer prayers. That is my understanding. There is even pink oplatki for pets.

catholiccompany.com/content/oplatki-christmas-tradition.cfm

The pastor of my parish is Polish and supplies oplatki wafers - thousands of them - to the parishoners every Christmas. I have several and often break off a piece and give it to my non-Catholic and Catholic friends when they visit, especially for dinner, as we say grace before the meal. Many are fascinated that it is the same bread as used in Catholic communion and I am very careful to briefly explain the difference between the Eucharist and the mere bread of the oplatki.

I also have to say that my girlfriend - not Catholic - brings oplatki with her to Mass and has her own little “Lord’s Supper” in the pew while I go up for communion. She absolutely knows the difference and is discreet so as not to cause scandal (or cause an overzealous usher to demand it back).

But I’m not sure that this cultural/regional use of oplatki in the family setting translates to use of bread and wine as a “symbolic gesture of unity” in a mainstream US Catholic parish setting. There is just too much risk of misunderstanding.

I get what you are saying, ProVobis, and I do respect your opinion here and see where you are coming from. I’m just surprised, that’s all.

-Tim-


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