Go Ahead and Ask!

1 Jun

Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum,
sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea (CCC 1386).


You’re probably not supposed to mark if people go up for Holy Communion. You probably should be so swept up in the liturgy, or your own mystical, pre-Communion reveries, that the movements of your pew neighbors (or lack thereof) don’t even come close to penetrating your consciousness.6320741693_9af36ca823_z

But, admit it, you do notice. What’s more, you start remembering the faces of those who never get in line – not even for a blessing.

They come to Mass week after week – sometimes even daily – and they appear riveted on the unfolding drama of the altar. Often they sit toward the back of church, often alone, but their posture and their affect have pent-up energy, as if they’d shoot forward into the sanctuary if something wasn’t holding them back. To paraphrase Mark Twain, it’s evident they’re not refusing the Eucharist because they don’t believe in it, but because they do.

Should you reach out to them? Should you introduce yourself and inquire about their reluctance to receive the Lord? Or should you mind your own damn business.

Self: Remember.

Remember that you were one of those pew-warmers for a time. Remember that you came to church every Sunday, but your messy, complicated life kept you from the Eucharist. Remember, too, that one day, a complete stranger – an elderly lady who’d never come to your attention before – approached you after WINGS_OF_DESIRE_SE-21Mass. She was kind and gently asked about your reluctance to receive. Remember that she suggested you go talk to the priest about whatever it was that held you back.

She was an apostle that day – an emissary of the Lord, a messenger, possibly even an angel. Whoever or whatever she was, she brought you back to the Sacraments, and thus back to Christ. She took a risk and minded another’s own damn business – your business – and thank God she did. Doubt not that she was an instrument of your salvation that day.

So, self, ask for God’s help and discernment, and take heart. Bravely approach those pew-sitters as the Spirit leads you. Be kind, encourage them, and keep them in your prayers.

You may end up an instrument yourself, who knows? In any case, there’s no better way of making good on that stranger’s risky gesture of love so long ago.

6 Responses to “Go Ahead and Ask!”

  1. Pat Cashdollar June 2, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    Excellent insight, thank you.

  2. Tony from Oz June 8, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

    Mate – I enjoyed reading your thoughtful and reflective post. I even recalled that, back in the day, I may even have attained honorary angel status when I counselled a mate in my choir about the same thing (“Just go to confession, mate”, I said) – and he did!

    But…today’s problem is rather the reverse, don’t you think? For, in terms of uptake rates of receiving Holy Communion, this is an era in which most of the congregation is either immaculate or indifferent to the prospect of making a sacrilegious communion. At least down here in Australia.

    Of course, the enfeebled post-conciliar, ‘token’, fasting rules also give no cover for people – inasmuch as your average Joe catholic even knows about fasting rules anymore – to abstain from receiving HC if unworthy on account of human respect.

    None of this is intended to deprecate on your excellent sentiments and charitable concern for fellow Mass attenders.

    • Rick Becker June 9, 2014 at 10:38 am #

      Thanks for your comment and kind words, Tony. I get what you’re saying – it’s a universal phenomenon it seems.

      But maybe look at it this way: If even a majority of Catholics go forward for Communion heedlessly, how much more noteworthy are those who stay behind in the pews. Their very refusal to go forward almost demands our attention – and perhaps even our imitation.

      In any case, aside from the changes in fasting rules, there’s the additional complication of dismissal for Holy Communion by rows, putting extra pressure on everyone to jump in line: http://blogs.nd.edu/oblation/2014/01/16/of-chaos-ushers-and-handing-out-god/

      What do you think?

  3. Iva June 23, 2014 at 1:07 am #

    Hi Rick,
    life is so unpredictable- I will tell you my story- as a teenager and young women I went often to Holy Mass daily 2 times. It was my need. Then I moved to Canada, later married- to protestant and even planning on catholic wedding- but it never happened because of many difficulties of a lonely immigrant. I would never believe that would be my life and yet- it was. And not because I did not needed Christ in Eucharist. Just hard life. So if someone would come to me and tell me to go to communion, I would be crying from pain. I longed for my Savior but was not able to arrange catholic wedding- I needed help and had no friends in church to help or reach out to me. I begged God to have a mercy on me.
    I left my difficult marriage and went to Eucharist finally after many long years.
    But here is another point- too many people do not go to daily Mass- they have no need – I do not get that. It is painful. Daily Mass is such a gift, people are without interest and just run their lives in their own strength. They do not miss Eucharist. We as children and youth were never made by parents to go to Mass during the week, it was our deep desire and we went on our own as often as possible. It makes me sad, that those who are not persecuted and are too selfsufficient really do not need Christ and are so indifferent. How is this going be fixed- no love for God in majority Catholics?How can we even think about new evangelization, if people do not recognize the cornerstone and pretend all is fine?

    • Rick Becker June 23, 2014 at 8:36 am #

      Iva, thanks for responding and for sharing your story, painful as it is. I trust you’ve found friends in the Church that have been able to support you through these difficulties.

      With regards to approaching non-communicants in church, I wasn’t suggesting that we urge them to receive the Eucharist — as you had the misfortune of knowing first-hand, that’s not always possible. But, like you, sometimes people are coming to Mass to be as near to Jesus as they can be and because they have nowhere else to go. It seems like their presence even though they’re refusing Communion is like a plea for help. And sometimes, we just might be the ones the Holy Spirit has positioned in time and space to act.

      With regards to daily Mass, all I can say is that I depend on it and organize my days around it. And it’s not because I’m particularly holy, but rather the exact opposite: I need daily Mass because I’m such a miserable excuse for a Christian, and I’d be even worse off without it.

      Pray for me; I’ll pray for you.


  1. Go Ahead and Ask! | One Thousand Words a Week - June 1, 2014

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