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Joseph Slagle wrote:

Hi Mike,

The readings are going great from the FREE Catechism you sent me. Thanks again for the book.

As I am finding conflicting information, here is a question for you. I was baptized and born again in the non-denominational church in high school.

My understand from what I have read so far is that to partake in Holy Communion, I must truly believe that the Communion for Catholics is a literally the partaking of Christ's body into ours.

  • Why:
    • if I have been baptized in another denomination, and
    • have always believed that Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but rather a literal act

    am I not allowed to partake in Holy Communion without first going through the RCIA program?
  • Where in the Bible does this restriction exist?

Thanks,

Joseph Slagle

  { If a person has been baptized and believes in the Eucharist, why can't they receive before RCIA? }

Mike replied:

Hi Joe,

Great to hear from you!

You said:
My understand from what I have read so far is that to partake in Holy Communion, I must truly believe that the Communion for Catholics is a literally the partaking of Christ's body into ours.

  • Why:
    • if I have been baptized in another denomination, and
    • have always believed that Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but rather a literal act

    am I not allowed to partake in Holy Communion without first going through the RCIA program?

This posting from our database may help:

Also try our searchable knowledge base. You may be able to find better postings there. You can search two ways on my site.

You are right that one has to believe what Catholic's believe about the Eucharist but receiving Holy Communion is also a public statement that you are making to the parish and any other community members who may be visiting:

That you are in a Common Union with the Lord and the Teachings of His Catholic Church, both:

  1. those Teachings that were written down (the Scriptures),
  2. as well as those that were passed down through the century's by the Church through
    Oral Tradition, by mouth. (2 Thessalonians 2:15) [more]
  • Make sense?

P.S If I haven't shared it, check out my Scripture Passages page here:

http://www.AskACatholic.com/ScripturePassages

Mike

John replied:

Hi Joseph, or Joe, if you prefer.

Thanks for the question.

I'd like to add a couple of points to Mike's explanation. I also want to correct or clarify a point about the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is actually the sacramental Real Presence of Jesus Himself. It's not the physical Body of Christ. If you put, what appears to be, Bread or Wine under a microscope, you're not going see Jesus' cell structure or DNA. His Sacramental Presence means that the substance has changed. It's a mystery so fully understanding it isn't going to be possible. Also, we don't just receive His Body, we receive His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. We receive the Whole Person of Jesus Christ.

Mike is correct in saying that receiving the Eucharist is an act of Unity. It is not that Holy Mother Church is trying to exclude you rather it's an invitation for you to allow the Lord to bring you on a journey. If you'll indulge me for a few minutes, I'll share part of my journey.

Joseph, you belong to another denomination, what we would call an ecclesial community. I'm sure your fellow Christians in your congregation are fine people. I'm sure that your Pastor is a sincere follower of Our Lord. I was once a [Pentecostal/Baptist] Minister. I have a lot of respect for other Christians but when I came to the realization that in the Catholic Church my Christian brothers were receiving Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist and in my congregation we were receiving a piece of matzo cracker that was symbolic of Our Lord, I had to start asking other questions, like Why?

  • What did my denominational tradition and forbearers reject and why?

So I began to study the early Church and the writings of the early Church Christians and the more I read, the more these guys sounded like Catholics.

I studied some more, I talked to my Catholic friends and I discovered that Orthodox Christians and a few other splinter groups were allowed to receive Holy Communion according to Catholic Canon Law so I asked, Why?

What made the Orthodox Church different than the Lutherans, or even the Anglicans, was that to me, they sort of looked just like Catholics, except they didn't have a Pope and tended to be liberals. That's when I started to discover Apostolic Succession. It's like a Spiritual Family Tree that goes all the way back to original 12 Apostles. Along with the Eucharist were 6 other sacraments, among them were Holy Orders, the ministerial Priesthood. In my studies I discovered that Orthodox Churches, along with a handful of other churches, actually maintained this unbroken chain of Bishops going back to the Apostles, even though they split from Rome. I also found out that all these Churches with ancient roots, all had the same 7 Sacraments and in essence or substance, all believed the same thing as the Catholic Church. The schisms were due to political disagreements or misunderstandings. East and West, for instance, express the same truths but in different ways.

All of this caused me to question:

  • How is it that the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church believed the same things even though some Orthodox Churches were separated by time, space and circumstance for centuries?

The Armenian Apostolic Church for instance went in to schism in 451 A.D. over a christological misunderstanding. For the next 1,500 years, it didn't have much contact with the Western World. First, it was separated because of Islamic rule and the Turks; later it was Soviet Communism yet the Armenian Apostolic Church:

  • believes in sacramental Confession just like Catholics
  • they believe that the saints in Heaven can, and do, pray for us and that we can ask for their prayers.
  • they believe in purification after death and in praying for the dead, and
  • they venerate the Blessed Mother.

These are all Catholic doctrines, sometimes expressed differently but nevertheless Catholic. I had been taught as a Protestant, that this stuff was all made up in Dark Age or Middle Ages by a corrupted Catholic Church. But wait, these people had been separated from the Catholic Church for a millennium and half.

I noticed that Christians that rejected all these Catholic doctrines had one thing in common:

They could all trace their common ancestry to Martin Luther and the Reformation.

None of them had maintained Apostolic Succession because they rejected Holy Orders as a sacrament. Even the Anglicans who claim to ordain priests and bishops, reject that Holy Orders is a sacrament as one of their articles of faith.

So I had to ask myself:

  • If these Protestant Christians rejected Apostolic Succession and therefore no longer had valid priests and a valid Eucharist, what else did they get wrong?
  • How was it that only the Christians who followed the Reformers rejected so much, that the Christians who maintained Apostolic Succession, the Christians that had roots back to the Apostles, still believed?

Well, what exactly was the Reformation founded on?

It was founded on two basic doctrines.

  1. Sola Scriptura, and
  2. Sola Fide

Scripture Alone and Faith Alone.

  • Well, guess what?

Those are two doctrines no Church with Apostolic Succession embraced. Therefore the next question for me was:

  • Are these two doctrines true?

Well, sure enough I found after careful study, the Scriptures teach neither; nor did the early Church Fathers.

Sola Scriptura is pretty easy to disprove. The fact is for Sola Scriptura to be true, somewhere within the pages of Sacred Scripture, there would have to be an inspired list of books that belong in the Bible. Well, that doesn't exist. The fact is that we know what books belong in the Bible because of another authority — Sacred Tradition and the Teaching Authority of the Church.

It was not until the Council of Rome in 382 A.D. that we got the Bible as we know it today.
The Bishops relying on Sacred Tradition (what had been taught and handed down to them by their predecessors) were led by the Holy Spirit to establish the canon of Scripture. For nearly four centuries prior to that Council, each bishop in each diocese had to approve of a text before it could be read from the pulpit and they did so relying on what had been handed down from their predecessor bishops, going back to the Apostles. Interestingly enough, these bishops, like Augustine of Hippo, also believed in doctrines like:

  • Purgatory
  • the Communion of Saints, and
  • the same seven sacraments.

As I said for four centuries the Church operated without a canon. Sixty years before the Church gave us a canon of Scripture, the Church defined the Trinity at the First Council of Nicea. Again they did so relying on:

  1. Scripture
  2. Tradition, and
  3. the Authority invested in them by Christ through the sacrament of Holy Orders.

Sola Fide also isn't taught in Scripture. We are saved by Grace alone, but not faith alone. Martin Luther went so far as to insert the word alone when he translated Romans 3:28 into German but it isn't there in the Greek. We are justified by faith apart from the works of the law, but not faith alone. James makes this clear. We could go on and on about this subject, and if you would like, we can discuss it at further length but we'd have to get into what Justification actually is and the way it works. Luther completely misunderstood Paul's explanation in both Romans and Galatians.

Returning to my journey, I was confronted with the fact that the two foundational doctrines upon which the Protestant Reformation stands, were made of sand. Add to that — all the Ancient Christian Churches, believed all these Catholic doctrines, which Protestants rejected, not the least of which was that the Eucharist is Jesus Himself, made present and giving Himself to us, in the most intimate way possible.

That said, I had no choice but to leave the pulpit to become a Catholic lay person. This meant losing my job and not knowing what the future would hold. But the Lord did say we must be willing to leave our mother, father, and spouse to follow Him.

I'm sorry for the lengthy reply but I sense that you are seeking the truth.

I would recommend some reading for you.

To get a better understanding of the Eucharist and the Catholic Mass, try reading:

I'd also recommend:

Please stay in touch with us. You're a brother in Christ.

We are here to answer your questions.

Under His Mercy,

John DiMascio

Joseph replied:

Wow, this is such great information.

I truly appreciate you and Mike taking the time to respond back to me. Really, I am blown away. I am still reading and learning, so I hope my questions are not read as to offend.

They are merely questions I have while I study.

Thanks again,

Joseph

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