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I was denied the Eucharist. Here's what happened.

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

It goes without saying that the Catholic Church has held polarizing, complex, counter-cultural, uncomfortable, and difficult teachings ever since Christ founded it two thousand years ago. He was, in fact, executed for what He taught. Opposite stuff like "Do not worry about the things of this world."


One of those things is the Eucharist. I won’t be getting into what the Eucharist is here. There are others who have explained it much better than I can. It’s a very dense subject and I’d recommend doing your research from Catholic resources if you're unfamiliar with Catholic teaching.


An emotionally charged discussion around the Eucharist revolves around who can receive it. A lot of people have taken issue with this teaching. A lot of people are hurt that the Catholic Church would limit who can become truly be one with Christ. Despite this, sometimes, priests must do the difficult thing to deny known non-Catholic or excommunicated Catholics Eucharist during communion. I promise you it's painful for everyone, pain that I have felt myself, but it is necessary. Again, I won’t be going in depth on the teachings here. I'll list some resources that will explain all of this for you at the end of the post. Only know that the teaching is based on compassion. Sound opposite? Yeah, Christianity sounds pretty opposite sometimes.


I want to share my experience and thoughts on this particularly niche yet touchy topic.


I'm a convert

I am a convert that found the Church through chance and my own pursuits. I've told my full story here.


I love rules. I have always been a rule follower. Rules help me make sense of life, live life well, and help me live in harmony with others. Don't smoke, don't cheat on tests, don't throw snowballs at people's faces, don't touch a hot stove. Naturally, I wanted to know all of the "rules" (teachings) in the Catholic Church before I decided to join it. I was delighted through the process of learning all the "rules" in Catholicism and was disappointed when I found other denominations were lacking in such clear moral directions. Call me strange for my generation.


During my journey, I learned about the Eucharist. That it is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. I also learned that only confirmed, practicing Catholics living in a state of grace were allowed to receive as well, unless you're a cradle Catholic. That's a separate topic.


Somehow I got it in my head that the real crisis was that too many Catholics don't believe Eucharist is Christ (there’s actually a huge movement around this issue). In my head, since I believed Christ is the Eucharist, that made it okay for me to receive (even though it really wasn't okay. I still needed to be confirmed). So one day, I tried to receive communion.


It was the spring semester of my freshman year at college. The Catholic student group I had been hanging out with knew I wasn't Catholic at this point. They saw me receive blessings on Sundays and heard me share many times that I wasn’t Catholic at Bible Study.


I was participating in a sparsely attended weeknight student Mass. I went up for communion with my hands out. Our chaplain immediately said in a sympathetic tone, "I'm sorry. I would love to share this with you, but I can't. I'm sorry it has to be this way."


I was very embarrassed. I finished the Mass but left as quickly as possible once the final blessing was said. I returned to my dorm room, cried, and wrote a short journal entry that expressed my feelings.


I felt excluded

How could a religion that preaches possible salvation for everyone deny someone of Jesus Christ? Do Catholics hold themselves to be holier than everyone else?


I felt unworthy

If I'm not allowed to become one with Christ, that must mean that He doesn't want me because I am not good enough. Not pure enough. Am I less worthy than the good thief crucified beside Christ?


I felt "outed"

I felt like I was put on the spot and everyone was pointing and laughing at me. I was so embarrassed. An outsider.


Despite these feelings, I went back to the Catholic campus ministry the next day. Why? Because I knew the rules. Even though I continued to feel those negative things for a month after the event, I knew I wasn’t allowed to receive the Eucharist. I learned the teachings and criteria. I knew I got the consequences I deserved. I was a newcomer. I wasn't Catholic not living in a state of grace. How could I judge what was right and wrong in the Church?


It’s like I touched the hot stove even though I was told not to. How could I be upset at the warning or the stove?


It's like being invited to a wedding banquet when the required attire is black-tie and I show up in a swimsuit. Can I really be upset if I'm asked to leave?


Being denied the Eucharist was actually one of the last things to push me into becoming Catholic.


It took me a bit to get over my feelings and embarrassment, don't get me wrong. I don't want to minimize the hurt others may feel over this teaching. This is just my experience. I wanted the Eucharist and the fullness of the Catholic faith so much, I had to return. Eventually, I got confirmed. It's was simple as that for me. Since I believe that the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ, I was willing to do anything to justly get it.


My experience with being denied the Eucharist has taught me to take it and the Church more seriously. I believe that anyone can appreciate and understand the beauty and importance of the Eucharist, regardless of their religious beliefs. We are so quick to respect the practices of other religions we don't understand.


In conclusion, the Catholic Church may have controversial teachings, but the teachings, like those on the Eucharist, go beyond just exclusion and rejection. Does a parent prevent a child from playing in the street because the parent hates the child?


As someone who loves rules, Catholicism has helped me make sense of life, but it's more than just rules - it's about reverence and respect. It's about love. It's about living free in Christ instead of a slave of sin. It's about living a life Christ has invited all of us to live.



 


Thanks for taking the time to read about my experience with this touchy subject. What did you think? Share a comment below!


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