Communion Story

My husband volunteers as a Eucharistic Minister in our local hospital.  He visits each person who has identified him/herself as Catholic, offering the Body of Christ to any who would like to receive it.  He told me a story about one patient this past week:  he stopped in to visit her.  He introduced himself.  She was recovering from surgery and they chatted briefly.  He offered her Communion.  She said no, no, explaining that she had been attending an evangelical church for the past several years and had not been to Mass.  Besides, she said, she just eaten breakfast.  They talked some more, about the fasting requirement, about related subjects.

“Did you give her Communion?” I asked, and  to my surprise he said “yes”.  Thoughts of the rules and needing to be properly prepared to receive Our Lord ran through my head.  Scripture passages.  Homilies.  Years of training and study.

He went on to tell me that they first prayed together.  He prayed over her and for her.  They said the Our Father together.  As they prayed, she began to tear up.  She asked for the Eucharist,  and gratefully received the Host.  Then she began to cry in earnest.  My husband felt this to be a beautiful, powerful moment and a profound experience of faith.

I thought about it, knowing the canon law and the importance of being in a state of grace and properly prepared to receive the Eucharist . . . but also  knowing how the necessity of the moment seemed to call for this bending of the rules.

Jesus is the very definition of mercy and forgiveness, and He alone knows what was in a person’s heart.  I suppose that if it came down to this sort of on-the-spot decision,  even if it turned out to be in error, I’d rather err on the side of mercy and compassion than in being strictly correct.


About reinkat

I am an iconographer, and have been studying Russian/Greek icons since 1995. I'm married with 3 children. I love hiking, camping, animals, my family and church--and icons.
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3 Responses to Communion Story

  1. Agellius says:

    I’m sorry to say it, but it wasn’t his decision to make. Obviously he got caught up in the emotion of the moment and I don’t judge him for that. But objectively speaking, there was no urgency. It seems like it would have been an excellent opportunity to suggest calling a priest so that she could confess her sins. Instead he assisted her in committing a sin.

    • reinkat says:

      Hi Agellius,
      I was glad to get your thoughtful comment. I do understand where you are coming from–in fact, your response was my first reaction to hearing this story. I did take it to prayer, and gave it much thought before writing the post. Yes, it would have been a good suggestion to call a priest–but of course in the ICU the Eucharistic Minister does not have access to the prognosis records, and if the patient had been away from the Church a priest was not likely to be called. The degree of urgency is not known in this case, because the prognosis is not known. But yes, you are right: it would have been an excellent idea to call a priest, or at least follow up with a call to a priest even after the visit. A very good idea.

      And perhaps my husband’s decision was a bridge to her full reconciliation and re-embracing of her faith, and she will follow up on this with a full reconciliation after her recovery.

      Only God knows if she committed a sin. Only He knows what was in her heart. To commit a sin, one must know it is a sin and do it anyway. Perhaps these conditions were not there. Who knows.
      But in the hope that the Eucharist in this instance would touch a sincere heart and bring her back into the fold, I still think that an error on the side of mercy will be a better action than being extra careful about the rules, all things considered.

  2. njacacia says:

    Recently at mass, I witnessed what I felt to be a holy moment. During communion, little children began to approach the priest for communion. Parents began to carry small children in their arms up to receive communion with them. I tensed, expecting that the priest would turn these children away. But instead, he gave communion to them…and it made me weep for joy, because I thought this is exactly what Christ would have done–welcome children wanting to be closer to God and to be in the community of the faithful. I felt this was a holy moment, and that this priest was a holy man. Rules are man made, but this priest was working under the power of a higher authority–Christ’s love for each of us who come to Him.

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