When my MIL and step-FIL come for a visit, about Mass...?


Hi everyone,

Our family are new Catholics, and we are soon having my MIL and step-FIL to come for a visit. They are Lutherans, wonderful people, great parents and faithful Christians. But since they are non-Catholics, and do not understand the Real Presence, nor many of the teachings of the Church, I understand that they are not to receive Communion when they come to Mass with us. They are so supportive of our joining the Church, even though they are not willing or able to join (plus they are quite happy in their Lutheran church), so I want to be very careful about what I say and how I say it when preparing them for attending Mass with us. My husband is not as conversational in general as I am, and I usually carry the conversation with his Mom (his Mom and I love each other dearly, she is my Naomi!), so I suspect the bulk of the chatting about what to expect at Mass will fall to me, even though they are ‘technically’ my in-laws (though I don’t think about them as such).
Anyway, what do I do? I do not want to neglect to say anything, just in case they mistakenly believe it is the same as communion in their church. There are a number of obvious differences in the order of service, but they are very much the type of people that like to notice and comment upon the similarities and links, without much emphasis upon any distinctions. Great for building bridges with new family members, I might add! :slight_smile:
So, has anyone, as a new Catholic, or who has family members who may not be aware of the closed communion within the Catholic church, gone through a similar thing. I want to be charitable, and would never ever ever want to sound ‘holier than thou’ to these people who are so wonderful and encouraging. Any thoughts or advice would be welcome! Thanks!


My husband and I are converts, and there are no other Catholics in my family except my sister and her family, and she's only been to visit once.

When family members are coming, I tell them that we go to Mass at 10 a.m. Sunday. Would they care to join us, or would they like me to find a good church of their denomination to attend or maybe they'd just like to sleep in on Sunday?

If they elect to come with us, I take the time to go through the order of service, and when I get to Communion, I tell them that since they have a different understanding of Communion, they won't be able to receive, but they won't be the only ones because usually there are quite a few people who go to Mass without receiving. Depending on their reaction, I might re-offer finding a church of their own denomination.

It's worked out pretty well. My brother and his wife usually come with us and just stay in the pews with our youngest when the rest of us go up to receive the Eucharist. My parents, who typically watch a televised church service, just stay in their room and meet up with us after Mass for a meal. My husband's family refuses to set foot in a Catholic Mass, so I don't have to worry about it too much.


I think it is important to be very clear about the Eucharist - that it is only for Catholics in the state of grace. Explain what that means if they want more info. Since they are Lutherans that means that they believe in Real Presence, right? Emphasis on the importance of being Catholic could be important here. I’ve been to church with non-Catholics and there’s never been an issue. Good luck!


Sorry I wasn't more clear in my original post. My MIL and step-FIL are two who were very encouraging to my husband and I when they heard we were beginning the process of joining the Catholic Church. We had struggled spiritually for a decade at least, and my MIL prayed daily that we would find a church home and that we would heal from some of the wounds inflicted upon us by a, shall we say, 'misguided' youth pastor in the Baptist church where our families met.

They obviously left that church and became Lutheran, while we struggled for quite a while before coming to Catholicism late last year and joining the Church this Easter. The awareness that we had that MIL was praying daily for us gave us comfort, even though the answer to her prayer was so long in coming, and it has given us all great joy now.

So, understandably, they are so excited to come visit our church, meet our sponsors and the priest, and tour the school where our kindergarten-age daughter will attend this fall. It is not a question of whether or not they will feel comfortable going there or to the Lutheran church. Rather, it is a question of how I should explain the differences between a Eucharistic Mass and what they are accustomed to in their home church, which does not teach the Real Presence, nor is it a closed communion at their church.

As a baby Catholic, I don't want to get carried away with my enthusiasm or my own certainty that I end up offending the very people whose prayers carried us while we struggled spiritually. At the same time, it has been impressed upon us that only Catholics in a state of grace may present themselves for communion. So...?


I agree. It shouldn’t be a problem and I would have no problem inviting them to Mass.

Lutherans technically believe in the real presence. I say technically because it has been my experience that their knowledge varies LCMS vs. ELCA, congregation to congregation, person to person. It is a lot easier to become a Lutheran then a Catholic so their individual knowledge level varies more (particularly for those not born into the faith). Their formal belief, BTW, is that the bread and wine remain bread and wine but are also the Body and Blood at the same time. We call that consubstantiation vs. our belief of transubstantiation (they call it sacramental unity).

While we describe their belief as consubstantiation, our belief is that their consecration does not change the bread and wine as they lack valid Holy Orders.

Of course, since they do not share Catholic beliefs and are not in full communion with Rome, they may not receive the Eucharist here. Lutheran churches (ELCA anyway) have “open table” communion so this may seem restrictive to them.

I hope that helps and is not too much of a ramble. I was a lifelong Lutheran before converting.


The Lutheran liturgy is very similar to the Catholic liturgy. You might want to start with that observation, letting them know that they will probably feel very comfortable if they choose to accompany you to Mass. Then follow with a gentle reminder that the Eucharist is specifically for Catholics who are in a state of grace. Maybe you could give a few general examples of reasons you might forgo Communion or reassure them that they will not be thought odd for refraining.

A priest we used to know would actually take a few seconds every Sunday, just before Communion, to give a gentle reminder to everyone about the requirements for receiving the sacrament. He always started with "In case there are any visitors with us today, I'd like to go over the guidelines..." He would also offer a priestly blessing to anyone who chose not to receive.


If your priest is offering a blessing to those who do not commune, he is guilty of an illicit practice.


If your in laws are Wisconsin or Missouri Synod this will not be news to them, both of these Lutheran synods practice closed communion so they would not receive communion in another denomination.

If they are ELCA, then they are used to open communion.

So, yes, you will need to let them know. Start by asking what they know about Mass and Communion. They may already know. Go over the service with them (the Order of the Mass can be found online) or borrow a missalette from your parish and show them how to use it. Tell them they can sit when the congregation kneels if they do not feel comfortable kneeling.

Just matter of factly state that only Catholics in a state of grace my receive the Eucharist, and visitors are welcome to sit (they don’t have to kneel that whole time) and join in singing the communion hymn. If you borrow a missalette, you can simply point out the instruction that is already in there.

If you get questions, just be prepared to answer honestly and charitably.


Thanks to everyone who offered some good ways of charitably informing my in-laws about the Eucharist at Mass when they visit. I finally had an opportunity to discuss it again with my husband last night, and he is not nearly as concerned as I am about being able to explain it carefully without sounding 'holier-than-thou'. He just said that before we go, we will mention the differences that they will observe, including refraining from receiving communion, and if they have any more questions, we can answer them.

I guess he was thinking just like many of you here. :p
Also, I did particularly like the suggestion to mention the times where I might have to refrain from receiving communion myself. Such a comment will help to explain how Catholics have to prepare to receive communion, as opposed to members of other faiths, especially those who only have the Lord's Supper quarterly (as in the Southern Baptist Church). That emphasizes our shared experiences of struggling with temptation to sin and our imperfections, something we can all relate to.

So thanks everyone! I feel much more comfortable now, and I am really starting to get excited about their visit!


I just tell them only Catholics may receive communion. If they ask why, I then say something like we believe communion is not only the body and blood of Christ, but it is also a symbol of our unity. Therefore only those that are in FULL union (Catholic) may receive.


I'm probably a day late and a dollar short but....

Look either in the front or the back of your missle - there is a paragraph for non-Catholics on what to do about Communin. It explains it very nicely.

If they've already gone to Mass with you, I hope all went well.


Nope, you’re not late, they don’t come until the end of May. I like to plan ahead! :smiley:


[quote="O.S.Luke, post:7, topic:196250"]
If your priest is offering a blessing to those who do not commune, he is guilty of an illicit practice.


I'm confused by this. I thought it was perfectly appropriate for a priest or deacon to give a blessing to those not receiving communion -- children who are not old enough, adults who are not Catholic or in a state of grace, et cetera. At my cousin's wedding, my sister and her husband (non Catholics) received blessings at communion.


Of course it is. Why would a blessing be bad?


Another idea would be to go to EWTN’s website and find the wording for a spirtual communion that they could say since they can’t go up to recieve. When I have listened to the mass on the radio, they will say the prayer. It is very beautiful.


[quote="CountryMom27, post:14, topic:196250"]
Of course it is. Why would a blessing be bad?


I don't know why it would be bad. This is the comment I was responding to.

"If your priest is offering a blessing to those who do not commune, he is guilty of an illicit practice."


[quote="O.S.Luke, post:7, topic:196250"]
If your priest is offering a blessing to those who do not commune, he is guilty of an illicit practice.


Oh, let's please not start this again. The last thread that I started got totally derailed by this topic. This thread only has to do with the question of how to prepare visiting non-Catholic family for going to Mass. Let's not get into liturgical abuses, please.


Perhaps in the United Methodist church, but not in the Catholic Church!


1 Cor 11:29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. This is one biblical reason they should not recieve the Eucharist. If you want to show them why we believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist read the second half of John 6. This is read in conjunction with the gospels and the last supper. After the resurrection, How did the apostles recognize Christ, remember he was with them and the did not know who he was until Luke 24:29-31, 35 And they told what things [were done] in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. After Jesus gave a liturgy, (Mass)


[quote="Sherry_G, post:18, topic:196250"]
Perhaps in the United Methodist church, but not in the Catholic Church!


I was told here, in this forum, about when I attended a Catholic Church that I would go forward with arms crossed for a blessing, and that it was a liturgical abuse (I no longer go to Masses for any reason).

So I am confused. Plus, there is this from the "Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (Protocol No. 930/08/L)":

  1. 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.

  2. 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).

  3. 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.

  4. 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).

So, which is it? Go up for a blessing, or no?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.