Taking Communion when not Catholic – UPDATED

Rick at Brutally Honest, for whom I have a deal of affection, and he’s been a a provocative read for years, has been away from the Catholic Church for a long time.

He and his wife have now decided to partake of Holy Communion within the Catholic Church, although without the sacrament of Confession or any sort of adherent “membership,” in the church. He feels free to do this, because “no man has a right to stand between another man and Jesus.” He believes Jesus would not turn him away, nor his wife.

I am not quite certain I understand whether or not Rick and his wife believe that the Blessed Sacrament of which they are partaking is the Real Presence of Christ – the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus – or if they think it is a very powerful symbolic communion; that seems unclear to me. But in sharing his thoughts on the matter, Rick has basically put up his dukes and said, “tell me why I can’t; would Jesus turn my wife away?”

The Priest then said that this is how the Lord’s Supper should be viewed by all baptized Christians. That baptism is the price paid for all to come and partake. I was a bit taken aback. He did not say baptized Catholics. Perhaps he meant to. Though I was baptized Catholic and though I might’ve partaken if he had said instead baptized Catholic, I know that he instead said Christian.

A joy came over me. And I willingly, and guiltlessly, went and communed.

Tomorrow, I’m hoping, Mrs. BH will be joining me as I go back to Mass. And, I believe, as a baptized Christian, she will be welcomed to the Eucharist. Some will disagree I’m sure. And some may let their disagreements be known. Fine. But what would Jesus do?

Seriously?

Okay, a little background: here is what Jesus said in John, Chapter 6:48-61

I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

And here is what St. Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 23-29:

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.

Okay, anyone who has read me for a while knows I hate apologetics. But having just come off a retreat where I was so deeply humbled by the Presence and Merciful Love of His Majesty, I feel compelled to respond to Rick’s question.

I meant for this to show up in his comments thread, but for whatever reason, it would not. (Btw, the “sudden overnight” I mentioned yesterday is turning into a “sudden two nights” so, I may not be here to respond. I just ask that folks leaving comments be respectful.)

This is my rather fast and off-the-cuff response to Rick, meant for his comments thread.

Hi Rick! You asked: Would Jesus turn your wife away?

Jesus was an observant Jew who followed the rules of Judaism, and when he healed a leper, he told the leper to partake of the prescribed cleansing and show himself to the priest. And while he welcomed all, he never said, “mow down others and their rules” to get to him. Jesus never said “disrespect authority” (especially authority he himself put into place) to get to him. When the hemorrhagic woman dared to touch his cloak, he still wanted to know who had approached him in faith; he still wanted her to account for herself and her approaching him. He healed her. He had mercy on her. But he wanted her to declare herself to his face, and before all the rest. It was not enough for her to simply be anonymous in the crowd, and partaking of him for herself.

My question is, if you want mass and you want specifically Catholic Communion, do you or do you not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in Communion? If you do – if you can accept that great mystery – why would the rest not follow, including the sacraments and Paul’s anger against those who “eat and drink of the Body of Christ unworthily?”

If you do not believe this is the Body, Blood Soul and Divinity of Christ, then why would you (regardless of the goodness of your heart) go into a church, say, “no, I don’t believe this is the Body and Blood of Christ but you’re going to let me and my wife have it anyway!” I’m thinking there is not great or edifying love, there. And THAT attitude, more than anything, should get in the way of your receiving communion. I’m not sure how receiving communion with a heart full of love for Christ and defensive disdain for the rest of it equals adequate spiritual comportment for the reception of His Majesty’s own Body and Blood into your own body, your own blood.

People like to say Communion is “a meal” and “a banquet” and it is those things, but it is much, much more. Communion is a face-to-face, one-on-one with Christ. It is actually intercourse with Him, too, in the sense that he comes into us and we become ONE FLESH. He is the bridegroom and we, his church, the bride. This is nothing to engage in lightly.

I have long thought that “no one should stand between a man and Christ” and once even wrote a short story about it.

But we ourselves have a responsibility to stand between ourselves and the reception of Christ in the Holy Sacrament, if we are not rightly disposed toward receiving him. That means not only that we be free of the stain of grave sin, but that we also bring ourselves to him in humility, and part of that humility is to consider all of scripture – including Paul’s admonishments – and not simply take what we want and leave the rest.

It seems to me that in a mature and respectful faith, if you want what the Catholics have, you go about partaking it the Catholic way. To do less is profoundly disrespectful and, dare I say it, immature. It would be like me coming into your house, sticking my head into your fridge and grabbing the thing you’d prepared for a family event, scarfing it down and saying, “what, it’s for everyone, right? Why should I wait? Why shouldn’t I have it now, when I want it?”

If you want Catholic stuff, be a Catholic. If you don’t want to be a Catholic, don’t take their stuff. Especially don’t take their stuff while saying, “screw youse, I’m taking your stuff, because it’s deeply meaningful to me, but all the rest of your stuff is stupid.”

No one can stand in your way to Christ, but I have to wonder what Christ thinks of that. “Happy to be with you and in you, Rick, glad you love me; I love you too. Can we talk about how you’re treating the Catholics, now? If you’re not willing to take the ritual bath of confession and show yourself to the priest, should you be doing all this? I love you, but you know, that doesn’t mean the rules don’t apply to you. ‘Go and show’ is like ‘go and sin no more’ – I said these things for a reason.”

I hope you will rethink your “gorging at the banquet” because Communion is more than a meal. And the priest who told you this is the gift to every Christian is both correct and incorrect. Communion is Christ’s gift to every Christian. But there are ways of reception that are clearly spelled out, not written thoughtlessly or capriciously but reasoned and prayed about over many years, by the very church Christ himself instituted through Peter and the apostles and their successors.

Jesus either meant the things he said or he did not. He either meant that we were supposed to actually eat his flesh and drink his blood, or he was just (uncharacteristically) talking nonsense, but he did not try to clarify himself to those who rejected that message as “too hard” to take. He didn’t say, “hey, wait, you guys…I was speaking figuratively, not literally!” He either meant that Peter had the keys to the kingdom and was the head of his church on earth (‘what you hold bound on earth, is bound in heaven…’) or he was (again, uncharacteristically) saying nothing that needed heeding.

If Jesus didn’t want a church for this stuff, he wouldn’t have started one. How can you go to communion and say, “Jesus I love you and am happy to commune with you, but your church kind of sucks…”

That is of a piece with saying, “God, I believe you’re big enough to make the world in six days, (or in one instant) but don’t believe you can turn bread and wine into your Body and Blood.” These things either are or are not.

I say all of this in peace, and with a good deal of affection. But I think you and your wife, being hungry for Jesus in the Eucharist, need to consider that you are not the only ones involved, here.

You are engaging in a great mystery of ponderous depth. Jesus is also involved. So are the people around you who are withholding themselves from Communion because – for one reason or another – they know they are not currently in a fit state to welcome His Majesty into themselves. You might call that “the church standing between Christ and a person.” Some of us might call that, “giving Christ his due.”

Part of being Brutally Honest, Rick, it to be able to be brutally honest with yourself. I think you would not have gone out of your way to write this – and to engage in comments – if you did not know, within yourself, that you are NOT being 100% honest on this issue.

“No one can come to me, unless the Father draws him…” Jesus told us this. If you are being drawn to Him in Communion, through the beckoning of the Father, and if you believe that you are receiving the Body and Blood of Christ – and if you want this in its fullness – why not at least explore the idea that you are being drawn forward for a purpose beyond your immediate gratification, and that this drawing forward is not meant to be a half-measure?

The Holy Eucharist has real power; it is the Source and Summit of our whole life of faith because it is truly the physical Presence of Christ, under the appearance of bread and wine. It is frankly, not to be messed with. For God to have placed a hunger for this within you suggests that God is working powerfully in your life. But God cannot contradict himself, and there are no negatives in Christ, which suggests that one cannot receive Him in Communion while harboring negative notions and then expect the full imparting of grace, blessing and completeness one seeks.

These things either are, or they are not. What you believe of the Eucharist you are receiving should compel your behavior beyond anything your human reasoning (no matter how gifted-and-faulty) can devise. If you believe the Eucharist is Holy, that it is the true Presence of the All in All, then you must go all in, or you insult His Majesty and lessen yourself.

If you do not believe it, then what are you doing?

All offered in peace, Rick. You know my affection for you. But I do pray you’ll rethink some of this, prayerfully. I pray you’ll take your questions to Jesus and let him tell you the answer.

I just posted something at my site last night that you might find interesting: “he is letting me touch him!” is wonder, reverence and humility. His Majesty deserves it all. We cannot give Him all due reverence and humility if we are simultaneously defiant to our surroundings.

Related: President Clinton took Catholic Communion, President Bush did not

Linked: Our pal, Fr. James Martin, who seems like he’s just run into a restaurant yelling, “fight, fight!” has linked here and added a great photo. I’m sure the comments will get “hotsy” over there, as they did yesterday when Fr. Jim wrote about the Tulsa Bishop’s decision to go ad orientem!

UPDATE: Completely off-topic:
but as I’m in a terrible rush to get going, please check out Victor Davis Hanson’s thoughts on Obama’s rather creepy use of scripture to justify his healthcare plan. And more here.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Bender

    It might be helpful to see some of the prayers that are involved in Confession.

    As part of the process, the person confessing will also say something to the effect of:

    “My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.”
    or
    “O, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you. I detest all my sins because of your just punishment, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.”

    From these “acts of contrition,” we can see that, in addition to the specific confession of non-recalled and minor sins, there is an overall confession of guilt for all of one’s sins.

    Furthermore, if we look at one of the prayers said publicly at Mass, we again see a general confession of guilt: “I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do . . .” This public confession necessarily includes venial sins. And inasmuch as it is said in the Mass, which includes the Sacrament of the Eucharist (Holy Communion), this too could be said to be a kind of sacramental confession (and the reception of Holy Communion effects a forgiveness of those venial sins – one guilty of mortal sin should not receive Communion, but should first receive the Sacrament of Confession/Penance).

    Again, there is really only one “rule” regarding confession of sin, only different manners of confessing different degrees of it.

  • Bender

    It might also be helpful to know the formula (words) of absolution said by the priest:

    “God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

    So, we see here that such forgiveness is by God, through the ministry of the Church, and in the name of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The priest himself is not doing the forgiving, it is God forgiving through the priest, who acts in persona Christi.

  • MissJean

    Rick, quit the name-calling. You’re making a lot of assumptions yourself.

    I had a similar situation a couple of months ago when I stopped a pagan friend of mine from receiving Communion. She said, “I want to experience it for myself.” She wouldn’t talk to me on the ride home AT ALL.

    And when she got out, she commented, “Jesus wouldn’t have turned me away.”

    As far as she was concerned, what I did was ostracize her. She saw no difference between the Trinity and the Goddess (Maiden/Mother/Crone), so I was a terrible bitch for not allowing her the Christian experience.

    I had already explained what Catholics believe, but she hadn’t wanted to hear it. Now that she’s cooled off and asked around, she knows that the Eucharist isn’t a mere “Christian experience” to share with everyone.

    Also, Rick, maybe no one’s told you, but the Catholic Church is full of sinners. Just so’s you know. :)

  • http://cartagodelenda.blogspot.com Matteo

    Cross posted from Rick’s comments:

    ———

    Thanks for the psychoanalysis, Mommynator. Not only are we Catholics evil, but we’re psychological wrecks, afraid of Jesus. I think that clears it up.

    Rick, we’ve been addressing you in good faith, and love, the best way we know how. Many of us have explained this to the best of our ability. If this appears to you as “bullshit”, and “f*ck you”, well then, what can I say? In any case, if plain Catholic doctrine and self-understanding, mildly expressed, appears to you as “f*ck you” and “bullshit” then isn’t it rather clear what the answer is for you?

    If you feel jumped on by everybody, please remember, you are the one who publicly invited comment. I would have had nothing to say publicly about your post and would have kept my peace, figuring “the Lord is calling Rick, and that’s beautiful. What Rick is doing ain’t exactly right, but the Lord will guide him.” Except for one thing.

    You asked “Fine. But what would Jesus do?
    Seriously?”

    It was that last word, “Seriously,” that led me to respond. I assumed that that meant you seriously wanted an answer, so I seriously gave one to the absolute best of my knowledge and ability. You name your blog Brutally Honest, after all, so I thought you deserved the cleanest, clearest, most honest answer I could give.

    I meant no offense. If you are this deeply offended by the whole thing, I can offer you no apology. If your reaction to the Catholic point of view is filled with this much turmoil and revulsion, then the Church is not for you. The only request that I can make is that you strive to understand what you are rejecting. No presumption here, and no apologies for saying so, but you simply don’t. That is a fact.

    Be that as it may, you are a brother in Christ. Anyone who takes things this seriously regarding the Lord is my brother or sister (peace be with you, Mommynator). Let us all continue to pray for a more perfect communion.

    Brutally Honest will, of course, continue to be stop number one in my daily blog reading. Thanks for the work and insight you put into the blog, Rick. You, too, Mommynator.

    Your junior blog-brother,
    Matteo

  • Iris Celeste

    What does God require of us, first and foremost? Obedience. What was Adam’s and Eve’s sin? Disobedience. What was Satan’s sin? Disobedience. Why was Abraham pleasing to God? Because he was obedient even when it didn’t make sense. What did Jesus do? He was obedient on to death. What was Michael the Archangel’s response to Satan? “Who is like God?” God has setup his Church guided by His Holy Spirit and He is asking for obedience whether one understands it or not. We are not to put ourselves in the place of God and think we know God’s mind or intentions. God has put limits on Himself, by stetting up a sacrament where He gave the power to forgive sins to his apostles/disciples and the ones who come after them. He expects us to be obedient to His decree, while He Himself remains true to His given promise, even when one thinks, “surely He cannot forgive that!”

  • dellbabe68

    I may have misunderstood the issue with Rick; I thought the very issue he was raising was whether and why he had to go to Confession in order to receive the Eucharist, not us all assuming that he’s going to Church with un-confessed sin as stated in his most recent comment. I thought he was doing that openly, and wondered why that ought to be a problem. Hence, the Anchoress’s original post and the flood of comments after it.

    Frankly, I no longer care if people walk in, look around, test the waters, and when they find that they can’t do what they want, how they want, and in the manner they want, they want to leave. No prob. Again, he and his wife, who I’m sure are lovely people, need to find a place where they want to worship God. They should go into testing out the next Church with that already figured out. It’ll make things much easier and less shocking for them when the place has something to say about the services in that Church.

    It’s a long road. No doubt this experience will inform them, and someone else heading our way will have similar complaints about some other Church at coffee after Mass. Anyone ever ask themselves why there are so many Christian sects? I once had my own little mystical experience, where I imagined/pictured that I asked Jesus, upon crossing the finishing line, which of us Christians had it right. I then imagined, internalized, if you will, his expression of utter disappointment at my asking the question, when it was clear He died hoping we’d not put those kinds of questions to him, which is so human to do. I took that to mean two things: one, I’m not judging another group of committed Christians and if it makes me a bad Catholic, well, I’ll get in line. But two, I also take it to mean that if you’re part of a group, then be part of that group. Don’t come in, saying you want to be a part, and then want to pick and chose what you believe in and follow (because somewhere in that is your ego being put first), and you walk around testing everyone’s ecclesiastical knowledge for errors. Find your Church, be committed, and focus your time on worshipping Him.

  • cathyf

    (This is cross-posted, as a response to what Mateo cross-posted)

    If your reaction to the Catholic point of view is filled with this much turmoil and revulsion, then the Church is not for you.

    Maybe.

    I speak from experience (rather a lot of experience 8-) ) when I say that when God wants something from me that I don’t want to do, He is a total pain in the ass. Turmoil is all part of being brutally honest, after all.

  • http://tonylayne.blogspot.com/ Tony

    There are so many calm, thoughtful and charitable explanations offered here about the Catholic Eucharist that I can’t possibly top them even if I wanted to. I would just like to add one other thought that may be just off the point:

    Rudeness and sarcasm should never be confused with “brutal honesty”.

  • Sinner

    Come Holy Spirit…fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

    Eternal Father, we offer Thee the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
    For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion,
    Have Mercy on us and on the whole world.

    “Jesus Loves You”

  • Just a Member

    Both Myssi’s problem with confession and the issue of receiving communion speak to one of the profound truths of the Catholic Faith: the fact that Christ is really present in the Eucharist (as a transubstantiated substance), and really present in the Church (through our baptism acknowlegement of our shared human nature, and our shared divine end). Personal dedication to the Eucharist is an important part of Catholic practice, as is personal prayer; but confession to a priest is a confession to the Body of Christ really existing in the world. In extreme cases, one can confess to any Roman Catholic, any member of that body; also, public confession was a tradition for part of Catholic history. Primarily, the priest’s role in confession is as a trained, committed, and discreet member of the Body, who can guide the return of a member to full communion by both absolution and spiritual aid, and without causing harm to the community by the scandal of one’s own sin. It makes certain that members of the Body truly commune with one another, and confession is the among the simplest of these communions. One should confess before going to Eucharist because one’s entrance into the Body of Christ is a ladder of commitment and love for that Body. We believe with Protestants that God will forgive all those who ask Him honestly, and love all, even His enemies. The Church provides us not merely with the bare forgiveness and general love of Christ, but spiritual intimacy, in Eucharist, but also in the fellowship of those who share our Body. Some no doubt can produce spiritual intimacy without much contact with the sacraments of the Church (consider some of the Desert Fathers); but for most of us, Catholics, Protestants, and non-Christians, such intimacy is not possible. We must rely on the Body to which we belong, and which we confirm in our involvement, for there we share in the intimacy of those around us. And we should beware relying too much on a vision of the Church as authority only. We are members, and the authority is there to protect the integrity of our Body. One does not go to confession because the Pope or a bishop of even the Catechism says to go: they say to go because they are protecting that integrity. For the same reason, works are important, for they are the regular and familiar communion with members of the Body (even members who do not recognize themselves as such). So too the sacraments. God wants our happiness, not just in heaven, but here, and He created human nature to be most happy with others, and graced our nature through the Incarnation by making our social life participate in the life of the Trinity, and the Spiritual love between Father and Son.

  • http://www.wordpress.peadarban.com Peadar Ban

    I haven’t read all of the comments, here. So I do not know if anyone has mentioned another way of receiving Jesus, and that is in the Sacrament of Reconciliation…or Confession for folks more my age. Would it be out of line, as someone is pointing out to this fellow, who should know, the dangers of receiving Christ unworthily, the beauty of reconciliation and the mercy awaiting him in that sacrament?

    It would be a first step in coming to realize, I suspect, the presumption (sinful?) underlying his decision to “partake” in Communion.

    Perhaps, even, mentioning to Rich that while folks in other Christians either “take” or “partake” in whatever they believe communion is, Catholics (and Orthodox??) “receive” Christ. The attitude the two words describe is entirely different. Equals partake. Perhaps, even, superiors take. They do not “receive”.

    And, they are not required to “give thanks”.

  • http://www.wordpress.peadarban.com Peadar Ban

    Having gone back and done a little homework I find that reconciliation has been very much a part of the discussion, so I apologize for repeating what others have said.

    Not too long ago, a priest pointed out to me that Christ waits for us with a much more hungry anticipation, eagerness and love than we could ever imagine or muster. Someone mentioned, here the story about the rich young man, who was eager to know God, so eager that he approached and asked that question of Him.

    He went away, sad the story relates, because he was not yet ready to give up everything (sell what you have) including, on reflection, himself to receive Christ, who will not enter until that happens.

    We have the example of His mother to guide us, here. I do not see that either in the original story about Rich’s decision to “partake” in communion, or is the one or two comments he has made in response, here. I do not see it, while fully admitting that I have not attained that degree of emptiness. However, I know that I cannot do that of myself. This is the purpose, I believe, of that Sacrament, whose grace is so necessary for the proper reception into our hearts and souls of Christ in His funless.

  • gb
  • http://alicethecamel.wordpress.com Leslie

    I’ve left this comment for Rick’s readers at BH, and I realize my questions pertain to your thoughts, Anchoress. I have a lot of respect for you through your writings and the tone of this is intended for Rick’s commenters. Still, I respectfully wonder about your thoughts:

    One thing I don’t understand is the persistent idea that Rick rejects the church’s teachings. It seems to me this post began with a description of what sounds like an open minded priest.

    The Priest then said that this is how the Lord’s Supper should be viewed by all baptized Christians. That baptism is the price paid for all to come and partake.

    And then a mile-long discussion proceeds on RICK’s rejection of the church’s teachings after he followed the priest’s instructions.

    Why isn’t the discussion about the priest?
    Why aren’t the Catholics questioning whether or not the church is actually carrying out its doctrine’s faithfully?

    This seems to be a traditional pattern of the Catholic church that has those who are smote leaving to find solace in the protestant congregations. My church is full of bitter Catholics who tell a similar story of “I was just trying to do my best and then everything turned on me.”

    No church is above corruption. Not even the super huge Catholic church.

    So I guess it concerns me when I see the instinct of its members to leap to conclude Rick has mis-stepped when from what I read in this thread about doctrine, it appears to be the priest who is confused.

    How does one pen a letter of complaint to the Magisterium??

  • Pingback: Catholic Eucharist and the pedestrians who happen by… « Alice the Camel

  • http://www.brutallyhonest.org Rick

    I feel compelled to keep some here up to date… I can stop if The Anchoress’ wishes it. My lastest post:

    The missus and I were up early once again this Sunday morning and went off, for our 3rd week now, to the local Catholic service. And yes, this time, we decided not to participate in the Eucharist. Heaven’s earthly representatives forbid.

    We attempted not to focus on the isolation that resulted but instead to simply worship prayerfully. I think the attempt was successful, if worship can be measured thusly.

    I’ll continue to look through the Catechism so that in the end, I can make an informed decision as to my return to Catholicism… but I’m heartened by some of the e-mails I’ve received of late and with permission, am posting one of them here from Steve Schippert of ThreatsWatch.Org:


    Rick, my observation is to ignore calls to find another Church and follow your heart. My observation is to ignore “Catholics” and (yours or others’) perceptions of “Catholics.” You are not Communing with Catholics, you are Communing with Christ.

    Dealing with “Catholics” is something well down the road. At this point, meditate on the Faith. The Church. Not “Catholics.” The Catholic faith, like any other, has the devout and the distant and the many in between. The Faith is about you and your relationship with God, not anyne else’s, inside or outside the Catholic Church or any other.

    My pre-conversion criticisms of Catholics (vice the Faith) remain largely intact. So what? I am not they, for the better or for the worse. I have criticized them for lazy rote memorization/ritual with empty obligatory following. So what, I have realized. It’s not like the Faith encourages or commands such. That is an individual choice, not one made by the Church.

    When I ignored/supressed critical observations of other Catholics (real or imagined as a Protestant) and focused on the Faith, clarity emerged. My conversion decision was instant and natural. I had the knowledge, but was clouded by judgments of my surroundings (having been married in a Catholic church and attended the same weekly, before and after marriage, for ten years as a non-Catholic.) I am not there for them beyond fellowship. I am not there to appear devout, cool, faithful or impressive. I am there to worship my God. My Maker, my Judge. What other Catholics think is of no concern nor impact. They will not stand with me before God when my life, my heart and my acts are judged.

    It is written that “Faith without works is dead.”

    I would write after that that “Worship without peripheral vision is Alive.”

    Focus on Faith.

    Cheers, brother.

    Steve

    Sound advice I believe.

    I also believe that some won’t find it so sound… yet that’s not the belief I’m compelled to worry myself with.

  • http://dailywoof.wordpress.com Kensington

    In observing this over the last couple of days, I can’t help but notice Rick’s increasingly hostile reactions toward those who have, for the most part, with the best of intentions and the mildest of arguments, simply disagreed with him.

    After seeing so many nice people respond with steady love, compassion and prayer, it’s unfortunate that all he does with this is take everyone’s kindness and use it as a cudgel against them.

    From my perspective, Rick has now reduced this whole matter into some kind of unseemly pyschodrama involving a conflict between him and those he derisively dismisses as “Heaven’s Earthly Representatives”.

    I appreciate the efforts of everyone who has responded to him with tact, respect and good will, but it really should be acknowledged that in response he is acting like a petulant child.

  • vitae

    In response to Steve Schippert’s comment above, I was struck by his statement that “the Faith is about you and your relationship with God, not anyone else’s, inside or outside the Catholic Church or any other.” I am not a theologian by any means, so my understanding might be incomplete or incorrect; if so, please excuse. As a Catholic, I am somewhat uncomfortable about statements that imply (a la “Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior”) that the Faith is, at its core, individualistic. From my basic understanding of St. Paul’s writings, it seems that it has been stressed from the very beginnings of the Church that we are a community — that we are all members of the Body of Christ. Because of this unity, we share in each other’s joys as well as each other’s sorrows and pain. In fact, I would suggest that the majority of comments here arise less out of a sense of legalism and more out of a true desire for Rick and his wife to partake fully in the Eucharist. To be “brutally honest,” however, we can’t pretend that differences among us do not exist, nor can we say that we are all truly united just because we want it to be so — Christ Himself, through His Church, has told us what we must do to receive Communion worthily, and thus to remain united to Him and thereby to each other as members of His Mystical Body.

    In his encyclical, “Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” Pope John Paul II underscored the communal nature of our faith: “Eucharistic communion also confirms the Church in her unity as the body of Christ. Saint Paul refers to this unifying power of participation in the banquet of the Eucharist when he writes to the Corinthians: “The bread which we break, is it not a communion in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:16-17). Saint John Chrysostom’s commentary on these words is profound and perceptive: “For what is the bread? It is the body of Christ. And what do those who receive it become? The Body of Christ – not many bodies but one body. For as bread is completely one, though made of up many grains of wheat, and these, albeit unseen, remain nonetheless present, in such a way that their difference is not apparent since they have been made a perfect whole, so too are we mutually joined to one another and together united with Christ”.42 The argument is compelling: our union with Christ, which is a gift and grace for each of us, makes it possible for us, in him, to share in the unity of his body which is the Church. The Eucharist reinforces the incorporation into Christ which took place in Baptism though the gift of the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 12:13, 27).”

    To Rick: I know that you will likely not feel compelled to read or worry about what I wrote above, and that’s fine — but I hope you can understand that this isn’t a matter of some people trying to be “right” and rub your nose in it, but rather trying to show you to the richness of the Faith as well as its intellectual underpinnings. Contrary to popular belief, the seemingly legalistic rules of the Church exist for our own good — God, who each moment loves us into existence, wants us to share in His life more than we can imagine, but we have to be humble and open-hearted enough to listen to His “roadmap” for that unity, as proclaimed by the Church established by Jesus Himself. You and your wife, brother and sister to me in faith, are in my prayers.

  • http://www.firstthings.com/iconsandcuriosities/ Sally Thomas

    To Rick and all:

    My family and I are converts: my husband and I are both cradle Methodists, and we spent many years of our married life as Anglicans. My husband was a priest prior to our conversion to Catholicism.

    Our own story isn’t all that relevant here, except that my impetus to drag all of us to Mass to begin with was the realization that I believed that Christ was truly present in the Eucharist — which one can believe as an Anglican, and which is the practice of believing in the Anglo-Catholic wing of Anglicanism — and that the thought of bringing up my children outside that belief, as an organizing principle and a non-negotiable, was intolerable. It took us a good year of going to Mass even to arrive at the point of committing ourselves to being received into the Church.

    During the — well, it was nearly two years that we spent going to Mass, not only on Sundays but during the week, during all of which time we all abstained from Communion. It was something like a very long Lent, and it was cleansing and focusing in the way that a Lenten discipline tends to be. It was a time during which I became acutely aware of my longing for Christ: not that I couldn’t encounter Him in prayer and adoration, but my sense of His waiting for me in the Eucharist was heightened, week after week. I truly believe that that long abstaining formed the spirit in which I have received Him ever since — as if it were my wedding day, and He my spouse.

    I find it good to pray the preparatory prayers of St. Ambrose and St. Thomas Aquinas before Mass. They’re in an excellent little (Episcopalian) prayer book, Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, which has a beautiful form for making a spiritual Communion AND an excellent and rigorous examination of conscience for Confession. I use it all the time and highly recommend it.

    On a more pragmatic note, it felt weird at first, even to the point of being traumatic, to be in Mass but not receiving. I was sure that everyone in the church was making note of it, and considering me an outsider. Once I realized that nobody was paying attention to me, being far too absorbed in their own prayers, I relaxed and quit feeling like such a foreigner. I sang in our parish choir during much of that abstaining time, and only after the fact did I learn that everyone around me, knowing me week in and week out, had just assumed that I was Catholic but had — as many people do — some reason for not receiving, which they were too polite to ask about.

    The thing about all these Catholics here whom Steve Schippert is advising Rick to ignore is that they aren’t being personally judgmental or speaking for themselves as individuals or sharing what they, personally, “feel” about the Church. They’re simply trying to explicate what the Church teaches, and what the Faith IS. The Eucharist, and Christ’s Presence in it, is not an add-on or a negotiable: it IS the organizing principle of the Faith. Anyone who says otherwise is misled, or misleading. These folks here are simply being not “Catholics” but the Church, and speaking the truth in love.

    Incidentally, the thing that held me back from wanting to be Catholic, and committing to the process of becoming Catholic, was the knowledge that I would have to go to Confession. I dreaded it. I can’t express to you how much I hated the idea of spilling my guts like that to another person, even if in persona Christe. My husband had been going for years, long before we made this whole leap. I on the other hand dragged my feet and procrastinated and finally went the Friday before we were to be received on Sunday. I still sort of intrinsically don’t like going to Confession, but I go pretty much weekly now, and while I dread it beforehand, it feels inexpressibly good TO HAVE GONE. And so I do, and I do it often so that I won’t lose the habit. It is a gift, and I would embrace it if I were you, even against all your instinctive resistance. Especially against the instinctive resistance.

    My prayers for your journey, Rick.

  • Myssi

    thanks to all who made a genuine effort to answer my question about confession to a priest.
    Interesting how we can read the same scripture and take a totally different meaning from it. I guess one day, we’ll have to ask God who was right. :-)
    I do have to say, though, that I am offended by Gerry’s throw away line that The Lord’s Supper is “a snack” in the Protestant church. It isn’t; it’s a special occasion for rememberance of the sacrifice God made for our souls. Disagreements about transubstantiation aside, we all receive Communion in rememberance of Christ and at His command. Please don’t make light of our attempt at obedience; we don’t make light of yours.

  • dellbabe68

    How very interesting that our friend Rick tells us, through his priest-friend’s advice, which does infact seem sound to me, that he has learned not to care what we think. Yet somehow what we think is what he was after, I suspect. Why else put the feelings “to paper” to begin with. People here were kind and gracious, yet not ready to have their Church be steamrolled. I’m glad he’s offering respect to the Church, but let’s not pretend that you don’t care, Rick, what people think, or else this conversation would never have happened. “Petulent child” seems apropriate, honestly, since you made known your intent and then were obviously annoyed we didn’t see the wisdom in your choice. I see more wisdom now, by the way, and yet my saying that doesn’t matter since I’m not really a heavenly representative. But you know that already, or you wouldn’t have been so sarcastic to even have said it.

  • http://westernchauvinist.blogspot.com Western Chauvinist

    Wow! Just – wow! This whole thread has been amazing and inspiring. Like Rick (hopefully), I’m a revert to Catholicism after decades away. I am very blessed to be part of a parish with the motto, “Come home to Christ,” which is what I hear my fellow Catholics saying to Rick in these comments. Truly, the Body of Christ is at work here.

    And while Rick claims not to be concerned with what other Catholics say, perhaps he would be interested in G. K. Chesterton’s opinion (Orthodoxy)? I’m paraphrasing here, but Chesterton points out there’s a cross-beam on that tree. It isn’t just about you and your vertical relationship with God. It is at the intersection – the Cross – where faith is manifest. Your relationship with God is necessary in that intersection, but not sufficient. You must have the horizontal relationship among the faithful to fully receive the grace offered by Christ.

    BTW – I’ve been inspired reading this thread to “get thee off to Confession!” Thanks to all the contributors for your wisdom and prayers. God bless us all on this journey home.

  • Dan

    I find that in the end, the teachings of the church always make a great deal of sense. Let me start from the end and work backwards. Paul said where there is faith there is no need for the law. Now those who want to break the law might jump right to that conclusion, that hey I have faith, so I can go break any law.

    Paul is talking of the kind of faith where you step out of the boat and you don’t sink. Do you indeed walk and talk with God? Is He beside you, do you talk with Him daily and listen, and hear?

    The law is a set of guidelines that will get you to that point. In a way it is like going on a diet, if you don’t stick to the program you don’t get the results.

    Once you get there, you no longer need the law, because now you know the right thing without the law.

    The hard part is discerning I am now in that place. Many an ego has taken a hard fall, because they presumed too much, too soon.

  • C Pacella

    If you have permission from the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest to use their photograph, would you attribute it?

    [I didn't know the source. It has been replaced with a different picture. -admin]

  • http://www.brutallyhonest.org Rick

    Petulant child? I’m sure this too is meant to be an example of loving correction? Or pshyco-dramatic projection? I’m going with the latter.

    I’ve been appreciative of those who are looking to teach me in about the ways Catholic… but my experience with far too many Catholics to this point in my life is that this teaching is either going to be new to them too or is simply being ignored…. not sure which…

    However, if they are being judged as my wife and I have been judged, as to motives, as to faithfulness, as to alleged petulance, is there little wonder that so much of this is being ignored? Honestly?

    I’ve been reading through the Catechism… albeit slowly, and am encouraged by much of it… but am also increasingly aware of how short many of you ‘teachers’ are in living up to it… not a problem in my view in that I’d like to think that Jesus is more about grace (and the spirit of the Law) than about the Law itself… but it does raise the issue of Pharisee-ism and hypocrisy, especially when it comes to those like me who want to return to the Catholic church yet are met by Her Guardians who seem more interested in my rule-breaking and not my rule-learning… seemingly more interested in ensuring that I’m in lock-step before I’ve taken my first steps back…

    As to my communion with other Catholics and the charge that I’m neglecting this aspect of my return.

    I actually commune with Catholics nearly daily… one of the reasons for my desire to return to the faith… but these seem much different than the Catholics I’m experiencing in the blogosphere… they seem less interested in my alleged sins, in the danger that my wife and I have placed ourselves in ‘ignorantly’ seeking The Eucharist, and more interested in me as a person who desires to know God more fully…

    And they are also quite more hands-off when it comes to my compliance with all the rules… this especially being the case of those who I’m encountering in the Church over the last three weeks… I guess they too are engaged in sin… at least as I’m learning from most of you about what sin is defined to be…

    In any case, for those of you genuinely interested in my journey back and who are genuinely and prayerfully welcoming back, I tip my hat in gratitutude…

    For the rest… I would, in the same loving way I’ve been approached and corrected, suggest that you remove that rather large wooden object protruding from your eye… I’m thinking you might hurt yourselves or others if you’re not careful.

  • http://www.brutallyhonest.org Rick

    From a comment left at my place:


    There are ways to introduce a brother to the beauties of the Catholic church…I’m just not sure I read that here in some of the “loving” comments in this thread.

    Does this make her a ‘petulant child’ too?

  • Jim Pogue

    As a deacon in a Southern Baptist church…married into a wonderful Catholic family, perhaps I can share my vision of the most central expression of our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
    First, I believe that Communion is that most special moment for any believer, after the moment when they personally accept the promise of salvation, that time when we expose ourselves to the presence of the Holy Spirit to accept his promise of salvation through the blood and body of Christ. As a Baptist, I do not adhear to literal understanding that the host is the body and blood of Christ via transubstantiation. That being said, the host is the nearest physical representation of the body and blood that we have in this world. I have been to many Catholic services where the communion was served, never have I accepted the Catholic communion. Not that I reject Catholic theology, but that I honor it. Since I accept the representational nature of the host, it would make me hypocritical to accept it in direct opposition to the way it is presented. I have gone forward following the tradition of accepting the blessing and have felt the same warmth that I feel as I observe the sacrement in my own church.
    I do not want anyone to use any sacriment in any church for their own personal agenda, to feel good about themselves or to make a theological statement. As The Anchoress so well put it, Paul was adament in the proper observaton of remembering the Lord’s final moments with his disciples before his being lifted as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, completing the requirements for our salvation.
    Faith is not easy, and respect is even harder. Let’s find a way to serve the Risen Savior here by glorifying him and not ourselves.
    As Jesus himself told the disciples: “As often as you do this, do in in remembrance of Me.”

  • http://www.firstthings.com/iconsandcuriosities/ Sally Thomas

    Look, Rick, I don’t think anyone commenting here is unaware of his or her own sinfulness. I know mine well enough. I’m sure my confessor is bored silly by it, but fortunately he’s standing in for Christ, whose patience is infinite, as is His forgiveness.

    I don’t think commenters here are suggesting that either you or your wife is somehow more sinful than anyone else. What they’re pointing out is a particular transgression, which IS a transgression. Objectively. It’s also objectively forgivable. Nobody’s been anything less than brutally honest, in pointing this out to you.

    I weep almost weekly in the confessional, not because I’ve shot someone or committed adultery or stolen anything, but because even my boring little transgressions, and they are legion, grieve my Lord, whom I claim to love. No way could I point fingers at you as a sinner, or say, “Thank you, Lord, that I am not like this publican,” because I know what I’m capable of, and I know how incapable I am of healing myself.

    That I imagine is true of any practicing Catholic commenting here. We do take sin seriously, and we take it more seriously in ourselves than we do in anyone else. But because we take it seriously — that whole offending-God-threat-of-hell thing — we’re not going to laugh it off when somebody says, “Oh, hey, I did this thing, and I’m not sorry, and now that I’ve been honest about it I want everyone to tell me it’s all right.”

    Well, sorry. It’s not all right. Brutally honest, here. Neither for that matter was the uncharitable thought I had a few minutes ago about the lady who cantors the Saturday-night Mass; being brutally honest with myself now, though it’s probably boring and irrelevant to you, just one more tiresome thing I’ll be burdening Father with in the box next time. See why everyone’s not going on about their own sin? Boring and not relevant to this particular conversation. That doesn’t mean we think we don’t have any to talk about if the occasion should arise.

    It’s a blessing to realize where I’ve sinned, not because I like wallowing in guilt, but because then I can ask forgiveness and seek the grace to avoid sin in the future. I could choose to feed myself all kinds of therapy-speak, to let myself off the hook in my own mind, but that wouldn’t change my position in reality. My confessor tends to be bluntly honest, as good confessors are, and I’ve come to value that, even though I still boo-hoo like a baby practically every time. You don’t, at this point, have a confessor (as far as I know), but people have shown you a similar charity in not letting you off the hook.

    Your feelings are ephemeral, but your soul is eternal. And I don’t think anyone wants, when God asks us about it, to have to answer like Cain. One of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is, after all, to “admonish the sinner.” Hard as it is, humiliating, even, it is a work of mercy on a par with feeding the hungry. Actually, having been on the receiving end of material charity at a certain point in my life, I think I’d gladly take the admonishment any day . . .

    [Word, Sally. I know my priest is tired of hearing me come into confession saying, "I'm failing at love...." But we all fail every day. Thank God for confession! :-) -admin]

  • Pingback: The Anchoress — A First Things Blog

  • Kate

    Really, Rick, you are being ridiculous. You do indeed sound just like a petulant child.

    You did something which was objectively against the rules, and then you asked for serious responses from serious Catholics. Many Catholics responded with great patience and generosity to your situation, but you can hardly expect them to say that the rules don’t matter. They do matter. They are there to help people move closer to God. If you think you can get closer to God by dissing His Church and disobeying the rules, good luck with that.

  • Dagwood

    Thanks, Jim P., for a post filled with grace and insight. I was a little hesitant to return to this entry after reading through many of the responses late last week. I’m very glad I did after reading yours.

  • http://www.brutallyhonest.org Rick

    “I do not want anyone to use any sacriment in any church for their own personal agenda, to feel good about themselves or to make a theological statement.”

    Umm… am I being accused of such? If so, what kind of presumption and arrogance goes into the charge?

    I’m sincerely curious about this?

    Who can know where my heart was as I participated in the communion?

    I’m sincerely asking the question… and no, this is not petulance.

    The next question, related, is who can know the heart of any communicant?

    Given what I’ve read of the catechism, I’ve indeed screwed up. Given that it’s the first time I’ve been in the catechism since I left the Catholic Church (as a teenager… I’m now nearly 50), I can see where I’ve screwed up. But the Priest, on two successive weeks, seemed clear to me that I was welcome at the table. Has he committed a mortal sin (I’ve not gotten that far yet in the catechism)?

    At what point does the looking down the nose at me (and more importanly, people like me) stop and at what point does the name calling and the judgment end?

    Color me curious. Color me especially curious in that I thought by leaving Protestantism, I’d be leaving behind Fundamentalism.

    Seems instead, I’ve walked back into it… only the Fundamentals have changed.

    [You know, I don't know what it is about your posts - both on your site and here in this comments thread - but it seems like technology does not work for me when I respond to you. I was prevented from responding at your site (the origin of this post) and now, although I try to respond to you with boldface, I find I cannot; boldface suddenly does not work. I have literally been HOURS at trying to post this response to you.

    Whatever. I'm still at a loss to see where I have "judged" you or presumed anything about you, so maybe you can tell me where I specifically have done that? As to the priest, if he is telling everyone that they're "welcome at communion" he is teaching erroneously, which happens, for a lot of reasons. There are rogue priests out there who will participate in "women's ordination," too, so I think we can dispense with the illusion that every word that comes out of every priest's mouth is perfectly correct and right - on. Your priest may simply be teaching what he would LIKE to be true, what he believes "in his heart" to be true, but it's not (as I think you're finding in your catechism read) in line with what the church expects of its members.

    There are many Catholics who receive Holy Communion quite unworthily - either because they are lazy, they don't care, or they simply don't even know that they are doing so (and that happens more than you'd expect, because our CCD training has been horrendous for the last 40 years and we're seeing the fruits of it.) There are Catholics who do not even really understand what the Eucharist IS - they don't know that it is anything more than bread and wine, and that ignorance is the fault of the church and every teacher and priest in the church who does not take the time to make it clear.

    There are also Catholics who will realize that -for whatever reason- they are not in a fit state to receive communion, and they withhold themselves from partaking and instead make a spiritual communion until they can get right with the Lord. I myself did this just a few weeks ago, realizing at mass that I'd been seething with anger and resentment toward someone to such a degree that I could not rightly approach the altar until I had settled it and then gone to confession. I can tell you that my desire to commune expedited my settling that issue and I made sure I went to confession before Sunday mass, that week. If people receive communion because they don't know any better, that's certainly one thing. To receive when you do know better is something else.

    I am really happy to hear that you are journeying through the catechism; I never for a second thought you were not taking this seriously (you would not have written your post if you were not), but I also believed (and if it was a presumption, please forgive me, but it did not seem like one at the time) that your wondering about it publicly indicated that you were unsettled within yourself because you knew (or at least suspected) that your actions were not completely in line with what is asked.

    It is very painful to withhold ones self from communion. There is a member of my family who has done so for 25 years, because he believes and is very faithful, but simply can't bring himself in line. Another family member has withheld from communion for almost a year for the same reason. We hold ourselves back from communion, because we understand that His Majesty is due all reverence and a "clean house" so to speak. If Christ was coming to your house, you'd tidy it up - yes, it wouldn't matter, he'd love you if you lived in a slophouse - but you'd tidy it up, anyway, because you'd want him to know that his coming to you MATTERED enough for you to take the time and make the effort to receive him well...that his mercy was not an excuse for sloppiness on one's own part. Does that make sense to you? If it does not then I'll stop writing about this because clearly I don't do it well, particularly if all my words seem to you to be nothing more than judgment, presumption and smug satisfaction on my part - God forbid.

    And as I said above - there are "fundamentalist" in every church. In the Catholic church they can sometimes seem like terrible pharisees, adhering so strictly to the letter of the law that they do not see the people, the humility and the love. But the other part of the pharisee is that he stands at the altar telling God how good he is, how perfectly he keeps the law, "don't you just love me, God?" I would not presume to call the people in this thread (or for that matter, myself) pharisees. We all understand we're sinners. We all know where we fail. But the alternative is not to abolish the observances (Christ himself was an observant Jew) - but to try to live them in real love. You said in one of your comments that our responses to you (and I guess mine) dared to use the language of "love" to couch what you are reading as horrific criticisms. I wonder if you are being wholly fair or honest? First off, there is no way I can "prove" my love for you. If it demands that I say, "oh, just do as you like, Rick," then I think you and I both know that that's neither honest, nor true, nor fair...nor love. Secondly, to simply assume that people who are offering you information, instruction and prayers with "false love" suggests that one of us is not arguing in good faith. Is that what you accuse me of? I would be sad to hear it, since I have thought -after all these years - you would know me better. - E]

  • Jim Pogue

    Please do not feel that my comments are meant to question anyone’s heart. That’s certainly not my right or position.
    Your communion with God is totally personal. I know that there is no one on earth that can come between God and his children.
    Most of us chose to take communion within a body of like minded believers led by ministers or priests to bring the body into a common worship. Accepting the communion outside of the heart and intent of the one making the offering takes away from that one’s worship offering. There are many groups with less structured communion which would allow you to partake the communion as God leads you.

  • http://www.firstthings.com/iconsandcuriosities/ Sally Thomas

    Yes, he might have committed a mortal sin. Only God knows for certain. There are certain criteria involved in a mortal sin: the situation has to involve “grave matter,” ie murder, adultery, lying, or breaking any other major law of God; you have to KNOW fully that something’s a mortal sin; you have to go ahead and do it anyway, obdurately, of your own free will and of sound mind; you have to be obdurately unrepentant afterwards. To go to Hell, you really have to choose it, seriously and freely and with a full understanding of what you’re doing.

    Clearly we cannot know why, or under what impressions, or in what degree of possession of his senses this priest represented things to you as he did, and it’s not for us to judge motives (his or yours, either, as you point out). He’s certainly wrong, and he has misled you. He should have known better, and the greater fault rests with him for having misrepresented Church teaching and practice, if in fact he did so willfully and with full knowledge of what he was about.

    Honestly, nobody knows what’s in anyone’s heart, but the issue here is not that a person is “sincere,” or “searching,” or whatever. Sincere is great. Searching is great. But the position of the Church is that only a baptized Catholic in a state of grace may receive Holy Communion. Do lots of people receive sloppily, or not having gone to Confession in ages, or bothered to take stock of their consciences? You bet. I’ve done that myself. I’ve also confessed having done that to my priest, because I realized that it was wrong to approach the Blessed Sacrament in that way, no matter what was in my heart. The sun does not rise and set in my heart, or anyone else’s, except the heart of Jesus.

    I do wish that more priests would make the effort to teach the faithful how to receive reverently, and to encourage frequent Confession. Nobody wants to make anyone feel bad, but eternity is a long time to spend thinking about your self-esteem . . .

    A friend of mine once told me that she’d sent her kids to Catholic schools remembering having been scared by the nuns in her own education, and figuring that while school would teach them what they needed to know about the faith, she would reassure them that God loved them. Much to her surprise, she found that they came home from school having learned that God did indeed love them. He loved them so much, as she put it, that He didn’t care WHAT they did.

    Somehow I don’t think that that is the kind of Father that God would be. On Father’s Day my teenaged daughter wrote a tribute to my husband in which she thanked him for spanking her (which didn’t happen that often, but did happen), correcting her, and not letting her get away with things. The father of one of her best friends had recently died in a tragic bike-car accident, and she was feeling very clingy and teary about her own father, but it was interesting to me, in light of all the laughter and intense closeness that they share, it was his discipline she was truly thankful for and felt that her friend would miss in years to come.

    Now, on many occasions in her life to date, this daughter, my firstborn, for whom I would lay down my life, has been sincere, searching, trying to find her way, blah de blah de blah, and she’s been a royal pain in the butt about it. She didn’t really mean to be, but she was. I suppose we could have been all understanding about it, but it seemed to us that if we were to have any order in our house, and if one person’s emotions were not to determine how five other people’s day was going to go, we had to be kind of zero-tolerance. Hence the occasional spanking, the occasional grounding or revoking of a privilege, the severe talking-to, the clear indication that love her though we did, there were things up with which we would not put.

    And she felt like a total unloved victim at the time, which intelligence I have on good authority, because she only told me about a million times every time we had a day like that. (I think the harshest thing she ever said to me was that she would never bring her children to visit me. Ay ay ay.) And we felt kind of like rotten parents. It’s no fun to have to enforce the rules. It’s really no fun to have rules. It would be great just to be all relational. But let’s get real. There are six people in my house. Two of them are really really really emotional arty drama-queeny girls. The other two (under 40) throw each other into walls. Somehow the two of us over 40 have to make citizens of them — not just citizens of America or the world, but citizens of the household of God. This apparently sometimes involves having to make them feel bad about themselves. I really cannot sufficiently express how teary it made me to read this thing my daughter wrote, THANKING her father for all that. I guess maybe she’ll bring the grandkids to see us after all.

    Anyway — would you really want a Father or a Mother who didn’t have rules? Or who had rules but pretended they didn’t? I’m sorry you think this is all fundamentalist, and I guess in a way it is: it’s about the fundamentals of the faith, which you don’t get to pick and choose or interpret as you wish.

    There’s actually tremendous freedom in Catholicism, beauty and glory and depth — to me, as a convert, it was the answer to the “more” I’d been searching for all my life, and a coming together of my mind’s longings with my soul’s. I can’t really say adequately how much I love being Catholic. I do. With all my being. I suppose that’s why I keep commenting on this thread, when I have other things I need to be doing. And I sympathize with you, because while I was fine with Marian dogmas, saints, Purgatory, and any number of other things which Protestants exploring Catholicism often find problematic, for the longest time I could not cope with the idea of obedience to an authority which touched on every most private aspect of my life. I fought that, hard. Aside from Confession, I don’t mind revealing that my other great issue was contraception. Laying down the illusion of control over my body and my destiny was the single hardest and greatest step towards laying down my whole life — once I’d done that, many other things came far more easily, though I’m under no illusions that I’m the saint God means for me to be. The road to that point of surrender was very rocky indeed, and it might have cost me my marriage, had God not been gracious. I did get a second beautiful daughter out of that whole struggle, so there’s no sacrifice without some kind of blessing, for sure!

    Well, I can tell I’m on the verge of launching into some protracted sonnet analogy, so I think I’ll just stop. I hope that I’m answering your questions, and that someone will come along with better answers, and that you’ll begin to understand that nobody’s looking down their nose at you. Admonition isn’t the same thing as judgment, any more than disciplining my teenager amounts to disinheriting her. No love without rigor . . .

  • Jim Pogue

    Dagwood, I appreciate your kind words, I’ve been lurking here at The Anchoress since I found her during the final days of Pope John Paul II. I have always been hesitant to comment here because I always identify myself to make my position clear and I’m sometimes mistaken for some of my less tolerent brothers. I have a great love for the traditions and litergy of the Catholic Church and attend mass with occasionally.
    That said, church and worship should never focus on self and always on the glorification of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

  • http://www.brutallyhonest.org Rick

    Anchoress,

    Sorry it was such a struggle to post… you wonder what, if any, meaning there was to that…

    You asked where you judged me? Here, rightly or wrongly, are a few examples of my perceptions of judgment on your part:


    It seems to me that in a mature and respectful faith, if you want what the Catholics have, you go about partaking it the Catholic way. To do less is profoundly disrespectful and, dare I say it, immature. It would be like me coming into your house, sticking my head into your fridge and grabbing the thing you’d prepared for a family event, scarfing it down and saying, “what, it’s for everyone, right? Why should I wait? Why shouldn’t I have it now, when I want it?”

    If you want Catholic stuff, be a Catholic. If you don’t want to be a Catholic, don’t take their stuff. Especially don’t take their stuff while saying, “screw youse, I’m taking your stuff, because it’s deeply meaningful to me, but all the rest of your stuff is stupid.”

    How can you go to communion and say, “Jesus I love you and am happy to commune with you, but your church kind of sucks…”

    Part of being Brutally Honest, Rick, it to be able to be brutally honest with yourself. I think you would not have gone out of your way to write this – and to engage in comments – if you did not know, within yourself, that you are NOT being 100% honest on this issue.

    if you believe that you are receiving the Body and Blood of Christ – and if you want this in its fullness – why not at least explore the idea that you are being drawn forward for a purpose beyond your immediate gratification, and that this drawing forward is not meant to be a half-measure?


    I don’t doubt your sincerity in expressing your care and concern for me and my wife’s well being… I don’t doubt that you mean the best for us both… Nevertheless, you (and many of your readers) seem to be injecting thoughts, motives, intentions, etc into my actions that simply have no basis.

    I’m thankful for those who’ve expressed notions of grace and who’ve assumed not the worst about what I did. That’s heartening and appreciated.

    Apparently, what I am seriously guilty of, is having long term relationships with family and friends who are Catholic who have never expressed to me the kinds of things being expressed here to me… yes, I guess it’s easy to dismiss them as sorry examples and representatives of the faith… but they are loved ones who consider themselves faithful people and who in their own way have made Catholicism attractive.

    I think assumptions have been made about my churchlessness. I strayed from the Catholic church as young teenager… then returned to the church via a Charismatic Episcopal church, one I found to be very similar liturgically to Catholicism, one that took mysticism and miracles most seriously, one where I experienced God in ways that were incredibly powerful. I stayed in the Episcopal Church USA for nearly 10 years, culminating in an Ordination Exploration Program lasting two years, a program designed to test my call to the priesthood. It did not end positively, at least as I saw it at the time. I was deemed to be far too rigid theologically and was denied what I felt at the time a strong yearning to go on to seminary and beyond.

    In retrospect, it was the right call but in my view the wrong reasons. I believe now that I was simply not mature enough in the faith to have withstood what it takes today to be a conservative priest in a very progressive denomination.

    So… once again… I strayed from the church shortly thereafter… drifting for a time into non-denominational, non-liturgical churches that just felt wrong… and then I decided simply not to go… again… and have been in that state for 5 years or so.

    For a short time there in the last couple of weeks or so, I felt like the prodigal son… until I ran into the buzz saw that I found here and that came to my blog from here. Apparently, in the Catholic Church, conditions are placed on the prodigal before the son is allowed to feast at the banquet and before he is allowed to commune with ABBA.

    Interestingly enough, I’ve been reading other Catholic sites where I am the topic du jour (your reach is far E.) and I’m reading things that are far more grace-filled, far more focused on the spirit of the law and not the letter. This is good (from my heathen perspective) yet I’m understanding where the emphasis on rules is coming from. I’m reading the Catechism and clearly, there’s a boat load of rules… but I was struck by this passage in the prologue, one that gives this ‘uneducated’ Catholic wannabe (maybe) some serious hope in the midst of those who seem to be less than hopeful for my Catholic future:


    Above all – Charity

    25 To conclude this Prologue, it is fitting to recall this pastoral principle stated by the Roman Catechism:

    The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love.19

    That speaks to this sinner. I’m willing to bet it speask to many sinners.

  • http://www.firstthings.com/iconsandcuriosities/ Sally Thomas

    I’m not the Anchoress, and I’ve said too much already, and sorry about that, but you know, conditions are placed on everyone, not just the prodigal. My younger children can’t receive Communion, for example. My seven-year-old son’s in our parish First Communion class this year; my five-year-old is considered to be beneath the age of reason and therefore not accountable for her sins, yet even as a relative innocent (I should say, “innocent” :)) she doesn’t receive Communion.

    Is that unloving? My kids don’t seem to think so. Even my older children, who’d been used to receiving as Episcopalians, and were outraged at first at not being able to receive when we started going to Mass, reconciled themselves to this pretty quickly when we’d explained the reasons.

    Does the prodigal, in the parable, not fall down before his father and say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, and am not worthy to be called your son?” It’s the elder brother who feels entitled to a feast, and is corrected, lovingly, for his self-pity and his stiff neck.

    Hm.

  • http://www.brutallyhonest.org Rick

    Does the prodigal, in the parable, not fall down before his father and say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, and am not worthy to be called your son?” It’s the elder brother who feels entitled to a feast, and is corrected, lovingly, for his self-pity and his stiff neck.

    An amazing twisting of a story aimed to deal my yet another judgmental blow… and this too I’m sure is considered loving…

    I’m amazed.

    Truly.

    Do you know my heart Sally?

    [My insomnia is kicking up a storm and if I don't get some sleep I will die, but I'll respond to your comment later, Rick. Allow me to say here, though, that I think you have completely and utterly misinterpreted Sally's use of the parable and her words. And her supposed "judgmental"ism. But then again I am tired, so maybe I am reading everything wrong. I don't see a thing, here, where Sally is assuming anything about your heart. I asked earlier if you -who are very, very quick to tell us all how uncharitable and grace-less we are- are in any part curious about how you are coming off, yourself? Epitome of grace and charity, you've been, from your very first post, when you (rather beautifully) wrote of your joy at receiving communion and then basically put up your dukes and dared anyone to not rejoice with you, or tell you you shouldn't - throwing in a "WWJD" along with your dare. You never stopped to consider, I think, that your triumphant description of receiving the Lord in this way, along with your "and whut'r you gonna do about it," air showed a distinct lack of charity or grace toward the feelings of Catholics who hold the Eucharist to be something so treasured that your act and air constituted a real and hurtful wound. But I must sleep before I write more because I do not want to risk writing something sloppily and giving you cause to take further offense where none is offered, so I'll get back to your list all of my insensitivities after I've slept a bit, if you don't mind - admin - 8:48 AM]

  • Beth

    Re the prodigal son story, I would have thought the parallel was not between the elder son and Rick, but between the prodigal son and Rick. As the son returned with a repentant heart, the father welcomed him with compassionate kisses, even before the son had a chance to apologize. Then the father ordered his servants to prepare a feast. His son had been lost, but was found, and the father rejoiced. There is no mention that he required his son to jump through a lot of hoops before he would be worthy for the banquet. Rather it was the son’s repentant heart and desire for reconciliation that was important.

    Based on Rick’s comments so far, he appears to be genuinely seeking God and Jesus. He was mislead into receiving communion intially, but since he has been advised ( lectured?) that this is not acceptable practice, he has respected that. Additionally he is reading the Catholic Catechism to learn more. I believe that God the Father is infinitely loving and merciful, and His Holy Spirit will continue to guide Rick to the Truth. God bless you in your journey Rick!

    [I think that was in fact the parallel Sally was drawing. I also think - as I and many others have said - that God is working very powerfully in Rick's life, and his wife's and that his good-faith refraining from partaking of communion and his perusal of the catechism is admirable and more (let's face it) than many cradle Catholics would bother with. God bless him hugely for it, I say! -admin]

  • http://www.brutallyhonest.org Rick

    Anch.,

    I don’t mean to belabor this at all… I just know that there are others out there in similar situations who may be contemplating either a return to Catholicism or joining anew and it seems to me that the kind of comments being left are counterproductive to that mindset.

    There were no conditions on the prodigal. None. That was the point of the parable… any attempt to add conditions to the prodigal’s return is not exegesis but eisegesis. Period.

    Sally’s implication was clear… I’m filled with self-pity (when I’m not) and I’m stiff-necked about all of this (I’m not). Period. But let’s not make this about me… let’s make this about anyone deciding, as I did, that I want to become part of Catholicism. Is Sally’s attitude a welcoming one? Hell no. It’s an arrogant one. It communicates that he/she who comes to the Church with mustard seed sized faith needs to have that faith grow to castle sized faith before they’re to experience a welcoming attitude by some. I consider this crap. And I’m not alone… I’m finding other very devout Catholics who feel the same.

    Should there be learning? Should there be understanding? Should doctrine be taught and inwardly digested? Absolutely.

    Should we who are in the midst of that journey back (or to for first-timers) be considered stiff necked because we don’t yet know all there is to know about the faith? Hell no.

    This is the point I’m trying to make and failing miserably in the attempt.

    [I took Sally to mean that the "Stiff necked" and "self-pitying" as being a bit of wry self-deprecation, and saw no idea that she was attaching "conditions." God's mercy is wholly his own to dispense, and praise him for that. As for me, I will go so far as to accuse myself of not being wholly sensitive to your own sensitivity to the subject of the Eucharist, (which I see is exquisite-unto-untouchability, like a fire of the nerves) but I will not be convicted of being unkind or uncharitable to you when all I have done is explained the position of church with a passion equal to yours (and yes, my own wound from what I perceived to be a very defensive and "daring" tone in your initial post) and with a true sense of (albeit squabbling) sisterhood.

    I don't disagree with what you are saying, here, nor have I ever disagreed with the notion that "no man can come between Jesus and someone else" - I have merely pointed out that we teach that our own behavior and the promptings of our consciences guide this more than any man can. I really don't see where anyone has told you that you must have more faith than a mustard seed - Jesus said it would be enough, after all, but catechesis and sacramentals are both components of faith.

    And I have more than once encountered the SuperCatholics who seem to be so troubling you (take a look at some of the responses to my pieces here and here and your hair will stand on end) so I am not unsympathetic to some of what you are feeling, but I really think you're finding a good deal more kindness, charity and support here than you are allowing yourself to see. Or, possibly because I have been kicked around pretty harshly by the "Catholic Fundamentalists," I have a much higher tolerance for it.

    Or, of course...the fact that I've been plugging away at Catholicism for all these years has simply made me philosophical about them; every church has its gang of self-appointed capos, but I am too often on the receiving end of their wraths to allow myself to be grouped among them! :-)

    I don't want to belabor this, either, Rick. I am (and have been all along, but perhaps should have emphasized it more) extremely excited with your inquiry and journey, and I'm very impressed with both your reading of the Catechism and your decision to withhold from partaking of Communion...this is (as I have said elsewhere) more than many Catholics would do (or would know to do, since our children are often so poorly instructed), and I completely understand how painful it is to stand apart from Communion when you want to receive. You've been in my prayers every day since your first post. But may we have peace? We've been friends for a long time, and I never wanted this to turn into a fight. -admin]

  • Jean

    As another commenter said, “Wow!” Incredible insights and information from lots of people – thanks to Anchoress for putting up with all of us.

    My 2 cents from a Protestant. I belong to a very liberal Protestant denomination, but our local church is still pretty conservative. We serve a “limited” communion to ‘members of a Christian church.’ Many other churches of our denomination serve open communion (open to everyone, infants and non-believers included).

    Gerry’s comment about “snack(ing) on a wafer” actually made me laugh, because I’ve read a sermon by one of our denominational ministers who said that the first communion by Jesus was actually when he fed the five thousand, because everyone was included!

    Spending time on this site has really opened my eyes and made me want to learn more about the Catholic church and its beliefs.

  • http://www.firstthings.com/iconsandcuriosities/ Sally Thomas

    Rick:

    Yes, for heaven’s sake, I was being self-deprecating, and of course I don’t know your heart, though you seem to know a good bit about all of ours. I’ve been trying to extend some measure of sympathy to you, because I’ve been an outsider in the Church, too. OBVIOUSLY my attempts haven’t worked out very well. I should probably not read blogs late at night. I should probably not have let myself even read this conversation to begin with. As it is, I’m writing this with a five-year-old trying to sing opera under my desk and the boys crashing up and down and the dog drooling on me, so I’m not holding out great hopes for this attempt, either.

    Re my “twisting” of the parable, I’m just telling you what’s in the story, which I think is important. The son doesn’t go in and seat himself at the table. He comes back having told himself he’s going to be a servant, not worthy to be a son of the household. And he does rehearse those very words. Yes, the father embraces him and prepares a feast. And he probably would do so regardless. But why does Jesus include the prodigal’s self-abasement, if that were not crucial to the story somehow. He didn’t tend to go in for the art of the irrelevant detail.

    And yes, I was comparing you with the prodigal, as you’d drawn the comparison. I realize in myself how easy it is to respond like the elder brother, though it’s not so long since I was the prodigal myself. I am still. Learning not to be defensive about my own shortcomings, but to let them be opened up, drained, and healed, even to my humiliation, is a lifelong task.

    It is difficult to respond with charity to truths that sting. That’s certainly never my first impulse. It is not easy to respond with charity, in fact, to a snarl of misunderstanding, though I realize I was muddled in my communication, and maybe in my sense of you as I was writing, and I accept the reproof.

  • http://www.brutallyhonest.org Rick

    Anchoress,

    My respect for you remains… and I think we’ll both be stronger for this…

    Your last set of comments go along way toward bridging any divide between us.

    God’s peace on ya gal…

  • http://www.brutallyhonest.org Rick

    Fair enough Sally… and God’s peace on you as well… God’s peace on all here in fact…

    My thinking is that there’s more we agree on than that on which we don’t…

    My hope anyway…

  • http://www.firstthings.com/iconsandcuriosities/ Sally Thomas

    Absolutely. And you have my prayers for your discernment.

  • http://diddly.wordpress.com W Chase

    Rick,

    Make sure you examine with what the the Catholic Church says about annullment of marraiges. I know that seems beside the point in this discussion with all the focus on the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. It is the proverbial ‘fine print’ and/or ‘elephant in the room’ in Catholicism. Anullment rules should be understood and accepted before you consider becoming Roman Catholic. It really stings for those of us who wouldn’t in good conscience abide by anullment rules when the situation arose. You will be excluded from Communion again if you can’t abide by these particular rules should the situation arise – and they are ethically problematic in my view.

  • http://none Ron Sebree

    Hello all:

    For those asking questions about confession, I would like to throw my 2 cents in here as well. Before doing so, I feel it is approriate for me to admit my “bias” up front. I am a protestant from the Anglican tradition. With that out of the way here I go.

    James 5:16 is a very important passage of scripture in this regard. Taken in context the 5th chapter is an exortation. Beginning in the 13th verse James exorts us to pray when in trouble to call on the elders of the the church for prayer and annointing with oil when sick. Finally, we are exorted to confess our sins one to another. This seems to set a precendent for making confession of our sins to another a standard practice.

    Additionally, the Bible also says that when we confess our sins, He (Christ) is faithful and just to forgive our sins. Since a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward state of grace confession unto forgiveness is made into a state of grace and absolution is the outward and visible sign of your forgiveness.

    Please remember this little bit I have offered is also to be taken in the context of the entire counsel of God.

  • Bikerdad

    I find it most curious that there are quite a few folks posting waiting for their annulments, or have had annulments, who are jumping on the “closed Communion” bandwagon. Curious because Christ was crystal clear in his assessment of divorce and remarriage. Check Luke for the “brutally honest” truth. Consider Paul’s writings in Romans and 1 Corinthians. Research the teachings AND practical behavior of the Church up to the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Find, if you will, a single annulment in Scripture. Not going to happen.

    Still, let’s grant for a moment that annulments are Scripturally possible. I hate to say this, but as a practical matter, the civil authorities do a better job of assessing whether X relationship was actually a marriage than the American RC Church does. When folks declare themselves to be husband and wife, live as husband and wife for years, sometimes decades, and have children together, it is beyond ludicrous for one of them to claim “it wasn’t really a marriage in God’s eyes”, and even worse for the Church to endorse such a sacrilegous notion.

    “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” – Luke 16:18

    How one can hold so tightly to a narrow conception of one sacrament, and so loosely to another sacrament is a puzzle to me.

  • http://diddly.wordpress.com WChase

    “How one can hold so tightly to a narrow conception of one sacrament, and so loosely to another sacrament is a puzzle to me.”

    The more I think about it seems that only celibacy or the good fortune (not that it is only luck) of a lifelong marraige will sort this puzzle. Those are come hard terms.

  • Bikerdad

    The more I think about it seems that only celibacy or the good fortune (not that it is only luck) of a lifelong marraige will sort this puzzle. Those are come hard terms.

    Yup. They are hard terms, even harder now than they were in at a time when life expectancy was so much shorter, and social support/pressure for marriage was much higher. Yet, those are the terms that Christ Himself laid out, and that have been preserved through the millenia and given to His people.

    Real life application “doing this is wrong” straight from Our Lord’s mouth. And pretty much ignored by the church today. Oh, the RC has better doctrine on the subject (aside from the annulment charade) than 95% of Protestants, but in America, their practice is as bad. I have minimal exposure to or knowledge of the Orthodox doctrine and practice, so I won’t comment on it.

    Grace and peace.


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