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Laura Coutinho wrote:

Hey,

It's Laura Coutinho again. I know I must be becoming something of a pest by now, but I couldn't find an answer to this question on the site.

  • How can I explain to my non-Catholic friends why they are excluded from receiving Communion at our parish?

I've tried explaining how it's a sacrament and you have to believe certain things in order to receive Communion, but that answer isn't good enough for them. They feel that the Catholic Church is excluding people and that is one of the reasons they don't like Catholics.

I don't feel the Church is being snobbish and excluding people in the way they imply but the Church doesn't let them receive when they are there.

  • How can I explain this to them?

Laura

  { How do I explain why my non-Catholic friends are excluded from receiving Communion at Mass? }

Bob replied:

Laura,

One thing you can mention to your friends is that those who receive the Eucharist are at the same time professing to believe and adhere to all that the Catholic Church teaches — it is the chief sign of our unity with our Lord and each other as Catholics.

Likewise, every organization, secular or otherwise, has standards and rituals that signify who belongs and who doesn't; this element signifies our communion.

Catholics certainly welcome all persons to join us in prayer in the hope that we may all share in Communion. Nevertheless, this sacred rite cannot be altered in meaning for us. Consider how some Christians won't even pray the Lord's prayer with Catholics because they do not consider us brothers in any sense of the word.

There is still a long way to go for unity, and hopefully one day, by the Lord's grace, we will see it.

Peace,

Bob K.

Eric replied:

Hi, Laura

Not a pest at all, that's what we're here for.

It's all tied up in unity. St. Paul says that the Eucharist makes us one body. (1 Corinthians 10:17) In a sense it is a sacred family bond; it both expresses and makes us family with one another.

Historically, the Eucharist has been the way that churches expressed such a deep union with one another that they could be considered one church. To separate a group of churches (or people) from the Church due to heresy or disobedience was called excommunication, denying them communion. To be in communion with one another means that two churches are so united that they acknowledge the same essential beliefs and the same leadership. This is the way the Church worked from its inception up to the Protestant Reformation. The word communion has the word union in it which implies a unity between the person and the Church. If you do not believe what we believe, you are not in full union with us, and have no right to receive communion.

So, for a Christian to come into a Catholic Church and receive communion would be like going into someone's house and helping oneself to what's in the refrigerator, or inviting oneself to the dinner table. Unless you're part of the family (or have permission), it's not done. When you enter someone's house, you follow their rules. If they invite you to share in the life of their family in a certain way, then great. If not, you respect their desires.

We understand that Protestants think differently about communion than we do. It's important that Protestants not think of us denying them communion, as if another Protestant church denied them communion, because we think so differently about what communion is.

We also believe that the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ, and that dire consequences result from unworthily receiving the Eucharist (1 Corinthians 11:29). We want to protect people from what we believe is receiving the Eucharist unworthily. It would also be a profanation of the Eucharist, from our perspective, for someone who did not believe the Eucharist was really and truly the Body and Blood of Christ, to receive Communion.

So in short for us, Communion is a sacred, intimate, family bond and to intrude on that would be like intruding on someone's family. For two thousand years, it has been a symbol of doctrinal unity and agreement, not just in our Church, but in all the ancient Churches prior to the Reformation.

By excluding Protestants from Communion, we don't mean to say:

  • that they aren't Christians, or
  • aren't welcome to our churches.

The only reason this is done is because they do not believe everything we believe and do not subject themselves to our leaders.

Hope this helps,

Eric Ewanco

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