GIRM paragraph 84
I’ve always been fascinated by this prayer of the Mass. It is said quietly by the priest just before he is to receive Communion. The words prescribed sound a little bit like a parent taking his precocious son aside and privately saying in a calm but pointed voice, “Okay, this is your last chance. Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Fine. Then go ahead.”
The prayer reads in part, “May the receiving of your Body and Blood Lord Jesus Christ not bring me to judgement and condemnation. . .”
You know what? Wow. We sugar coat SO MUCH. “You’re fine. I’m fine. We are all going to heaven anyway.” But here is the Church taking one of her sons aside for a moment and saying, “This is serious stuff. Don’t mess around. There are repercussions and consequences for taking this lightly.” It is possible for the reception of the Body and Blood to bring about judgement and condemnation. The Church chooses her words very, very, very carefully. She would not bandy about “condemnation” if she didn’t mean it. To receive the Eucharist being aware of serious sin on your soul is grave matter. Since we believe that the Eucharist is not a thing but a Person, that means one has first rejected the Person out of their life (that is what mortal sin is) and then forced themselves on to that Person in this most intimate of actions. It, in essence, becomes a double abuse of His Love.
So let’s suppose that you are a priest and you take these things seriously and you come up to a wedding or funeral at which there are lapsed Catholics of varying degrees and many non-Catholics. What do you do about Communion? There are some options. One is to let it go. The argument here is that God is Love and can fend for Himself and if someone receives who shouldn’t, they did so in ignorance and God will let it go.
But that would cover over one of the biggest scandals of the Church: That they may be one. By recognizing that there is a division between us I have been afforded the opportunity to talk with non-Catholics who have come up to me and to discuss it. At one point, with a Protestant minister, we came down to the point of, “Well, if you believe that, you need to consider becoming Catholic.” I don’t think he did but he was shocked at how Catholic his ideas were after some Scripture study and perhaps there was a little healing of Christian unity there.
That would not have happened with the “You’re Okay, I’m Okay, God can fend for Himself,” mentality.
SO how do you get the message across? One way is to have people read the USCCB statement usually found on the cover of the misselette. It is an entire page of instructions to various persons who may be present. The priest can also announce some instructions. Some do it at the beginning of Mass, some do just before Communion. That is what I do since the missalette is not in our pews.
Here is what I say:
It is always an honor and a privilege whenever persons of different faith backgrounds come together to worship our God. Out of respect for you and out of respect for your beliefs, I can only offer Communion today to those Catholics who are properly disposed. If you are unable to receive today, please pray for the unification of the Christian Church and make a spiritual communion with us. Thank you.
There is a person who lives in our neighborhood who takes great offense at this statement. She attended a funeral Mass years ago at which I made this statement though I will admit that instead of “Catholics who are properly disposed,” I said, “Catholics who are in a state of grace.” I changed it because of her. I suppose she sees me as causing too much division among Christians and I see her as causing too much division among Catholics she tries to dissuade from attending St. Sebastian. I like to think we are both well intentioned.
But I digress.
Whereas the celebrant has specific prayers to pray before receiving, all others are giving leeway to pray as they wish that they will “fruitfully” receive the Blessed Sacrament. The priest then shows the Eucharist to the people “inviting them to the banquet of Christ” and then all say an act humility borrowed from the Scriptures.