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Michael wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a 23 year-old male who lives in the United States. I come from a non-denominational Christian background and am currently in an RCIA program at my local parish. I have a [question/dilemma] I was hoping you could help me with. As I said, I grew up in a
non-denominational, non-Catholic, Trinitarian church (it's was more of a local gathering of Christians, we didn't even have a building we own) where we celebrated what we would call "communion" or "breaking bread."

I have always been aware of the closed nature of Holy Communion of the Catholic Church. However, I was recently made aware that I would not be able to partake in "breaking bread"
if I wanted to join my family or visit with them at my former congregation. (They break bread more than every Sunday, sometimes at bible studies or just plain old get-togethers).

  • Is it true that I would not be able to break bread with my own parents?

I guess as a "soon-to-be" Catholic, I pictured that the future would look like this:

I would view the Eucharist as the true interpretation of Scripture and that the Eucharist IS actually Jesus. As a Catholic, I would believe that no other church without valid Apostolic succession has a "valid" eucharist. However, I would not bar myself from receiving bread and juice with my family because I would openly acknowledge and know that what I am receiving is just bread and juice in remembrance that Jesus died for my sins, and not the proper celebration of what Christ instituted. Moreover, my parents would know that I have faith in the Catholic Eucharist and would understand that I see it this way. While they have just a symbolic interpretation of communion, they would know that I believe the Eucharist administered by the Catholic Church is more than what it is at their congregation.

As a Catholic, I don't see the problem in eating bread and juice with my family and old friends in order to remember Jesus. I wouldn't be denying my faith in the Eucharist, nor would I be omitting my beliefs among others.

  • At a non-Catholic church it really IS just bread and juice, right?
  • What could be wrong in remembering our Lord with other Christians over some bread and juice, even if not they're not Catholic?

    To me its really no different than taking a second to pause and reflect about our Lord over a dinner meal with my family.

  • Is that wrong too?

I feel really anxious about this because my reading of Church canon law 844 seems to imply I am not able to celebrate a remembrance ceremony with non-Catholics. On top of my feelings about not being able to do this, it would wound my parents and sister in a deep way because they are devout non-Catholic Christians who don't always see the truth about the Church, but love Jesus with all their heart. For me to not be able to celebrate with them would be like telling them that Jesus will reject them, or that I don't see them as a true believer in God. They would take this as a most painful slap to the face. If the Church prohibits me from doing this, I don't see how this fosters the unity, love and peace of Jesus Christ that the Church proclaims in every other area.

  • Can you bring clarity to my dilemma please?

I feel really distraught about this. My father, who happens to love Jesus with all his heart, but hates all religious institutions, claims that this is a perfect example of how institutionalized religion keeps people from loving each other as Christ does. I'm not sure how to defend the Catholic teaching here because I'm just not sure I agree with this restriction.

  • What are your thoughts about this?

Michael

  { Why can't I can't receive communion at my former congregation once I become a Catholic? }

Mary Ann replied:

Dear Michael —

Partaking in the ecclesial community's function of "breaking bread" is an act of communion with that community, which is a community of belief.

The act, itself, is an expression of unity of faith.  So to say that you are one in faith, when "breaking bread" at your family's congregation, would be a lie.

It is respectful and honoring of your family that you do NOT partake with them, because it shows that you honor their faith community, their consciences, and your own conscience. Now, if there were a Bible-study preceded by an informal breaking of the bread that is not liturgical, you could share in that, unless it would be a symbol that you share in their concept of Bible interpretation.

Be proud of who you are, of the body of Christ to which you belong, one faith, one Lord, one Baptism: one Body that we truly share in Eucharist.

  • Why not just go to Catholic things while they do their Protestant things?

It wasn't long ago that Catholics were forbidden to worship with Protestants because there was a time when the law in England required "mere" attendance at the Church of England to avoid fines and death. It became a statement of faith to be maintained at all costs. Now, however, we may worship with Protestants, as long as we don't do things that objectively contradict our faith
(such as receiving communion).

Mary Ann

Mike replied:

Hi, Michael —

You said:
My father (who happens to love Jesus with all his heart, but hates all religious institutions) claims that this is a perfect example of how institutionalized religion keeps people from loving each other as Christ does.

With due respect, to your loving father, I would rephrase what he is saying differently.

Any organization that has as many members as the Catholic Church does, has to discern an ordered way to ensure all the faithful:

  • believe in the same doctrine, and
  • worship in one accord, the same way.

When you have 1.166 billion members who believe in the same faith, you have to have a vehicle that has a logical structure where a certain order can be maintained. The downfall of any large organization is that one sin of a member at a high level can effect many others in the Church at a lower level, but let's remember, it's the sin that keeps the people from loving each other as Christ does, not the institutionalized religion.

You said:
For me to not be able to celebrate this with them would be like telling them that Jesus will reject them, or that I don't see them as a true believer in God.

I disagree. For you to celebrate at different churches would be an acknowledgement that, although everyone believes in Jesus and loves the Lord with all there heart, WHAT you believe about Him and the Church He established on St. Peter and His successors, differ. The reason good friends are good friends is because:

  • they can agree, to agree, on certain issues and
  • they can agree to disagree, on other issues .... WHILE still being good friends or, in your case, still have a loving father/son relationship.

The most important thing BOTH, you and your father can do, is respect your differences of opinion on various doctrinal issues of the Christian faith. If you can develop a good family cohesion among family members it can lead to good faith sharing discussions and conversation, if you remember one thing: We don't convert anyone. We share the faith and let them decide:

  • if we are a bunch of nut cases, or
  • .... maybe we make some sense.

If he falls into a category where he is saying something like: "I can't see how anyone would EVER what to become a Catholic!", tell him to check out my "12 reasons I enjoy being Catholic" piece or my "Why I am Catholic" piece.

Hope this helps,

Mike

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