When Human Minds Decide



One of the beautiful parts of faith for me is communion.

I am well aware that biblical experts would argue that the gospels as they relate to the issue of communion are not to be read literally. I am aware that the statements attributed to Jesus are considered more metaphor than as directive, more symbol than substance.

Yet, the act of communion seeks, it seems to me, to elevate us as humans into the realm of the divine in a way that is both beautiful and enriching.

I choose, by faith, to believe that in some mysterious way, I draw closer to my God through the act of communion.

As such, it was the most, nay, only, real pain that I felt when I was advised that my marriage to a previously divorced man, made me unfit for communion. I confess, knowing all that I know about the Catholic faith, which is fairly extensive, that I never thought that marriage to a divorced man who himself was not Catholic nor ever married to a Catholic would place this impediment in front of me.

It is the main reason that I left the church for a couple of years and sought a religious home in the Episcopal church. There I learned much. I had been well grounded in basic theology and biblical studies beforehand through the efforts of a priest and a couple of extraordinarily scholarly nuns. I was well on my way to the progressive side of my Church.

When I entered into communion with the Episcopal church, I learned even more. Again, I was gifted with many scholarly priests and laity who helped me to broaden my understanding of my Christian faith. I learned most especially that no human being has the right (moral at least) to judge that anyone else is unworthy of receiving communion.

That has come to be my belief. God is more than capable of making this decision with no input from our frail human understanding. God can withhold Himself (if you can imagine such a thing) from those who He deems unworthy. God’s church is there for one purpose–to bring people to know God, and to work in community to assist the uplifting of each and every person to full humanity–meaning that each is fed, clothed, schooled, medically treated, housed, and provided with good work at fair wages. The Church calls us to peaceful coexistence with those of other faiths and to community and common goals of good will toward all.

That is why it hurts so much to witness those who accept the Church’s ugly decision to withhold communion from its own. A woman of Asian descent sits close to me most Sundays. She is soft-spoken, with a sweet smile. She was a reader of the Word a few Sunday’s ago. She read a piece from James so beautifully that it was the best reading I have ever heard. Yet, when it comes to communion, she sits down and prays by herself.

Last Sunday, a man sat in front of me. He was clearly not wealthy, and was a simple sort. He prayed and moved through the Mass as one expects of someone who was a cradle-Catholic. He held to some of the “old” ways. He exhibited the simple piety that I find so endearing among so many who are in the later years and were raised in the faith. He too sat down when it came to communion.

I know not what the “impediments” these two lived with. I know that it would do no good to speak to them, for they accept without question the church’s right to impose this exile upon them. They would be appalled no doubt at the suggestion that they should go forth to receive the bread and wine.

I am only so very sad for them. For I find it so unnecessary and so harsh and unfair. It is not in line with the teachings of Christ. It is a human rule, based on some logical deduction of long-held and established truths of the church. While logic often times is useful in discovering truth, it sometimes leads to unfairness and wrong thinking.

This is one of them from my point of view.




4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michael Bowes (@ahartforGod)
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 14:32:06

    Hi Sherry,

    Question; Do you not believe in transubstantiation? Why do you keep referring to the consecrated body and blood of our Lord as ‘bread and wine’?

    The Church isn’t out to harm people, it isn’t making these decisions as a way to punish or emotionally scar the people. They are imposing this rule to protect Christ and the souls of those who might try to receive him when their souls are not prepared for his holy presence to be within them.

    Let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 11:27-28; “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”

    The Didache which is considered by many to be the first catechism states: “But first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one” (Didache 14).

    The need to be in a state of grace is the most important requirement for receiving communion, and may never be dispensed with. If a Catholic received the Eucharist while in a state of mortal sin then he or she would be guilty of profaning the Eucharist… guilty of profaning God Himself. Can you not see the major issue here. The Church is not doing this out of malice, they are doing it to protect God from profane practices and to protect the person in question from causing major harm to their soul and putting their salvation at risk.

    I would like to share with you an experience that I had 4 years ago. I was in the state of mortal sin and it was a sunday morning and I was in mass. I really wanted to receive our Lord and I knew that I shouldn’t until I went to confession. However, I really fought myself on this and thought “What’s the harm, Jesus knows that I love him, I will go to confession next week”. I continued to wrestle with the idea during the homily and then decided ask God himself whether or not I should go. The priest was beginning the consecration and I asked God “Jesus, if you do not want me to receive you today being in the state of mortal sin, please make it known to me”. As Fr. lifted up the eucharist he, the altar, and the host blurred out of my vision. I couldn’t even see the altar at all. I took off my glasses and put the back on, still nothing. I closed my eyes and then reopened them and my vision had returned to normal. I was shocked and a little afraid, however, as the doubting Thomas I am at times, I again repeated my request and told Jesus as a confirmation, if it was real to do it again. I bowed my head at the consecration prayer again for the wine and as Fr lifted up the chalice, I saw him, the chalice, and the altar again disappear from my vision. I knew without a doubt that he had answered my prayer and that I should not receive while under the state of mortal sin.

    One of my favorite saints is St. Mary of Egypt. St. Mary of Egypt was a prostitute and was addicted to sex. One day she decided after a life full of debauchery to travel to Jerusalem in search of new sexual exploits. She heard about a pilgrimage of Christians that were heading that way and she had sex with the boat captain in order to pay for her trip. She then slept with as many pilgrims as she could before they arrived in the Holy Land. Upon her arrival she decided to go and visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for mass. However, she could not enter in through the door. A physical force would not allow her to pass through with the other pilgrims. She heard an interior voice tell her she was not worthy. She was shocked to the core and upon realizing that her sins were keeping her from coming close to God or entering his holy of holies, she went immediately to repent. She had a major conversion and upon being forgiven she went back to the church and was allowed to enter it. After she paid her respects to God and attended mass, she left and began her new life as an ascetic in the desert.

    “For I find it so unnecessary and so harsh and unfair. It is not in line with the teachings of Christ. It is a human rule, based on some logical deduction of long-held and established truths of the church.” — You are incorrect with your understanding of why the rule exists. The rule is directly in line with the teachings of Christ, for it was Christ himself that set up the rule.


    • Sherry
      Oct 07, 2012 @ 15:54:28

      Actually I do believe that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus. I don’t define it as to how only that I believe it is mystery.

      I don’t believe Christ needs any protection. And frankly I stand by my belief which is shared I might add by a whole lot of Protestant faith traditions. For humans to prohibit someone from communion is akin to a human judgment of unworthiness, something that humans have been expressly prohibited from doing. Judgement is left to God


  2. Ben
    Oct 28, 2012 @ 21:06:01

    Thank you for this post.

    This has been an issue that I have been struggling with for awhile, and it leads to a lot of bitterness. I’ve stopped going to mass and have thought about leaving the Catholic Church altogether. Your post… gives me some hope.


    • Sherry
      Oct 29, 2012 @ 10:47:41

      Ben, I am sorry for your feelings. I too have bitterness, but I have come to the opinion that we each choose the faith tradition that over-all speaks best to us. For me that is Catholicism. No church is infallible in its judgements. I allow no church to think for me, though I surely give it great deference because it has studied these issues for hundreds of years in some cases. But I am required by my conscience to choose for myself in the end. The Church provides me with what I need. It could of course provide me much more, but I will not give up my beliefs to satisfy some set of rules. I see churches as providing me a vehicle to express my faith and to nurture it. If that is all it can provide, so be it. It is my church too. That is how I look at it. It is difficult at times–especially when the homilies are political in nature and are thinly veiled threats of “serious sin” should I fail to follow it’s dictates. I leave it to God to judge me. I reject the Church’s attempt. May you be blessed and find peace where you feel is best.


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