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Amy AmIMedicallyExempt wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a 56-year-old, retired, disabled woman who is a teacher of High School Chemistry. I have been unable to attend Mass since June 2012 and unable to receive Holy Communion since 2010.

I have Celiac Disease with (IBS-D) Irritable Bowel Syndrome-Diarrhea. I was finally diagnosed when my symptoms almost led to my death in 1996. At that time, I would go to Communion, as my parish told me I could still consume the Lord's Bread, however, it became immediately apparent that I could not. To humor them, I would accept the Host and feed it to my nearest child.

My symptoms worsened from 1996 to the point that any level of gluten or alcohol would cause me gastric issues. At the end, I could not drink from the Common wine cup, as I have a compromised autoimmune system which has seriously declined since 2009 when I had pneumonia twice in a month. My white blood cell counts were alarmingly high and my doctors then recommended, but now insist, that I not be around people of questionable health or in large crowds.

I also have cancer; a type that is very rare. It has a 50% chance of being fatal in five years at stage 1 though some sources say the chance of survival are far less. I have a 63% chance of a recurrence within that time.

I have had no calls from my parish's pastor Msgr. Misguided of St. So and So's and no offers whatsoever to bless me during my illness. I have not been to church since June 2012 just before my surgery.

  • Am I medically exempt from attending Church if I am seriously ill?
  • Am I still a Catholic in good standing?
  • Can I be excommunicated for not attending Church?

I have written a letter to my parish of origin and blasted them for not following up on my well being even though they were well aware of my illness through the, now-retired, nun in charge of religious education, and my in-laws, who cook and do linens for the Msgr.

  • Why won't my church offer an alternative Communion to me?

Thank you for giving this matter your attention. I want to be in good standing when my time comes and I am praying it is not for a long time. As my 100-year old Auntie says,

I have a lot of unfinished business.

Amy

  { Am I medically exempt from Mass if I am gravely ill and why can't my parish afford an alternative? }

Mike replied:

Dear Amy,

I am sorry to hear about the heavy crosses you are bearing. I will keep you in my prayers.

You said:

  • Am I medically exempt from attending Church if I am seriously ill?
  • Am I still a Catholic in good standing?
  • Can I be excommunicated for not attending Church?

If you have a serious illness, you are excused from your Sunday obligation. Because of the great blessing the Eucharist give us, you should still contact someone at the parish (e.g. Msgr. Misguided, or an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist), and ask someone to visit you at home so you can receive the Blessed Sacrament.

  • If you still have problems contacting someone, call your local diocese and ask them for someone to help.
  • If you have problems there, call a neighboring parish in a neighboring diocese.

As long as you are doing the best you can to renew your covenant each Sunday and receive Confession on a regular basis, like once a month, yes, you are a Catholic in good standing.

For a person in your situation, praying the Rosary can also be a powerful help.

You said:
I have written a letter to my parish of origin and blasted them for not following up on my well being even though they were well aware of my illness through the, now-retired, nun in charge of religious education, and my in-laws, who cook and do linens for the Msgr.

  • Why won't my church offer an alternative Communion to me?

The Church does have an alternative. There are alternative hosts just for people with Celiac Disease. Read these postings:

I hope this helps,

Mike

Amy replied:

Hi Mike,

I have contacted the parish twice:

  1. Once by letter and
  2. Once when I spoke to a priest there at a funeral of my cousin's mother-in-law early this year.

Our parish is merged and I only know one priest, which is the Msgr. The other church will not serve anyone that is not in their territory, even though the two parishes have merged. Msgr. is on many committees and travels often. He is difficult to reach though I had a third chance to reach him before Sister Catherine retired.

I already know that I cannot receive any form of Communion they will administer to me. They claim they have some hosts made of Gluten-free wheat made by nuns but they are still made with wheat. I cannot take the chance of trying this as, if there was the slightest trace of gluten, I will become seriously ill. I also cannot receive the precious Wine because the type they use here is alcoholic. They have also refused to use rice wafers.

  • Do you know of any other alternative available to me?

I know there are at least three dozen Eucharistic Ministers in the parish but they only make their visits to people they choose.

Thank you.

Amy

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi, Amy —

  1. You are absolutely excused from the obligation to receive Holy Communion due to medical issues. Perhaps you can make a Spiritual Communion. When you cannot make it to Mass try watching the Mass on T.V. or on the internet.

  2. You said that you cannot receive from the Common chalice, which is the way it is for all people like you. Therefore Churches, that are interested in helping people like you, have a separate chalice just for you with wine used for the Precious Blood that your doctor and the Church both approve of.

  3. Any woman who is in a similar situation as yours, who is not getting clear help from their own parish should either:
    • complain to the next highest level (usually a vicar or a dean depending on the diocese), or
    • if you come from a place with Catholic parishes that are relatively close, just find another Catholic Church that will help you.

Fr. Jonathan

Mike replied:

Amy —

These are the basic words for a Spiritual Communion:
The version below is how I was taught.

Spiritual Communion

O Lord Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.
I love you [above all things]|[with all my mind and my heart] and I long for thee in my soul.
Since I cannot receive You now sacramentally, at least come spiritually into my heart.
I embrace myself entirely to You and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.

Come Lord Jesus [optional add-on:] and glorify yourself through my weak body.

Amen.

I cannot speak to whether your state cable offers Catholic T.V. programming but there should be some channel like EWTN where you can watch the Holy Mass and participate that way. I would also recommend praying the Rosary on a daily basis like I do.

Remember Amy, The Lord knows your good heart and it’s the good heart and conscience you bring to Him at your particular judgment that will please Him.

I won't even start to empathize with the suffering you have been undergoing. I would only share you one thing I remember Mother Teresa said, paraphrasing:

When we suffer the most, it is just a manifestation of Our Lord hugging us from His Cross.

. . . so your in good company : )

I hope this helps,

Mike

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