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A NOTE ON INTERCOMMUNION

Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  As we celebrate this solemnity, I thought it would be appropriate to present to you a note on intercommunion.  I found this material very informative and helpful for many, so I thought of sharing this article with you.   It sure would be a brief refresher of the catechism we all have learned as we were growing up.  Please read on:

“One of the most sensitive and easily misunderstood issues in Catholic life and practice today is the prohibition of intercommunion – the reception of Holy Communion in the Catholic Church by non-Catholics or its reception by Catholics in other Christian churches.  Some Catholics who have non-Catholic fiancé, family members, or friends may believe that an injustice is being done and that Catholic limitations on intercommunion are contrary to the Gospel’s teaching of love and acceptance.  Why, then, are non-Catholics asked not to receive communion at Mass or at the celebration of Catholic Communion services at nursing homes and other care facilities?

The reasons behind the Catholic prohibition of intercommunion are not based on a perceived moral or religious superiority of Catholics over other Christians.  There are many faithful members of other Christian traditions who are morally or religiously better Christians than nominal Catholics, but that is not what is at stake in intercommunion.  The Catholic discipline of not practicing intercommunion is based on the Theology of the Eucharist: What It Is, What It Does, and What It Signifies. 

Many Christian denominations do not share our Catholic understanding of the Eucharist.  Some view communion as a rich symbol and a memorial of what has done for us, but for Catholics, the Eucharist is more than a memorial meal.  It makes real again all of the power and promise of Christ’s life-giving death and resurrection.  Catholics believe that the Eucharist is a sacrament and therefore a particular kind of sign that effects or brings about what it signifies.  In essence, we believe that Holy Communion doesn’t just point us to the presence of Christ but that – through profound mystery – it is the real presence of Christ, which we consume in order to better become that divine presence in the world.

But these differences regarding what Holy Communion is are not the sole obstacle to intercommunion.  There is also the matter of what Holy Communion does.  Catholics believe that the Eucharist draws those who receive communion into greater unity within the Body of Christ and at the same time signifies that unity.  The Eucharist, simply put, is both a sign and source of unity in the Church.  Thus, the Eucharist is not only about uniting individual believers to Christ through a share in the Communion, but more fundamentally about uniting community of believers together.  When one receives communion, he or she is saying yes to a communion of mind and heart with the church.  It is an act that signifies not only a spiritual union with the other members of the Church, but also a public affirmation of being united in the beliefs and practices of the community

The reception of Holy Communion by other members of another Christian denomination cannot be a sign of unity among those believers when, in fact, significant differences in belief and practice still remain between Catholics and those other Christian churches.  Eucharistic communion would then become a counter-sign:  It would signify a unity that does not exist among these Christians”. (Taken from “Together For Life” by Joseph M. Champlin with Peter A. Jarret, C.S.C, Ave Maria Press, 2012).  While many would not want to “categorize” between Catholics and members of the other Christian churches, it is important that we be aware of this key theological differences.  

CELIAC-SPRUE DISEASE AND THE EUCHARIST

In recent years pastors have received questions from those afflicted with various manifestations of gluten intolerance, such as Celiac-Sprue disease. These questions are in regard to the reception of Holy Communion. Many gluten-intolerant sufferers are unable to ingest wheat flour commonly used in the preparation of communion wafers in the United States. Here are some common questions and answers.

Can a person with gluten intolerance receive Communion? The common advice given to many Celiac-Sprue sufferers and gluten-intolerant patients is to receive only the Precious Blood at Holy Communion. However, even then, the Precious Blood must be carefully ministered to make sure it has not been contaminated with gluten during the commingling rite when the presider places a particle of the host in the chalice, or at any other time. A separate vessel of wine should be reserved for a gluten-intolerant communicant and care should be taken that the wine does not come into any contact with hosts or particles of hosts. The separate vessel of wine can be placed on the altar when the gifts are prepared during Mass.

May bread or a wafer made of rice flour be used? No, because rice wafers are invalid MATTER for Eucharist according to the Code of Canon Law (c924.4). The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has ruled in 2003 that a completely gluten-free host is invalid MATTER for the sacrament.

“O Sacrament Most Holy O Sacrament Divine, All praise and all Thanksgiving be every moment Thine”!

~Fr. Antony Skaria, CFIC