Protestant, How Catholic Are You?

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

October 12, 2012

From the archives:

I love Mass so much. I enjoy the motion, the quiet, and the occasional smells and bells. I love the meditative quality. I love watching as how others in the room “do” Mass. I wonder what their favorite prayers are, or why they’re there… when it’s not a Sunday. Especially not on Sundays, it seems as though most Mass-goers are loners. And so, I wonder…

I love Mass so much, but I’m not Catholic. And after attending, probably more than most Catholics, for the past four years, how I do Mass is basically a test. It’s a test for me as a Protestant, and it’s a test for the Catholic on how to treat said Protestant. Being a part of a Catholic community at a Catholic school of theology, when I first began attending Mass, I took the Eucharist. To my Catholic buddies, their first assumption was, “It’s okay because she [as a Protestant] doesn’t know what she’s doing.” However, I did know what I was doing, and I took the Eucharist for several reasons. The main reasons being that it is a part of my Protestant tradition and I love Jesus. Other reasons included that I knew most of my Catholic peers desire for open-communion, and at the time, it just felt wrong not to take part in the sacrament with my community. I couldn’t not take communion!

But then I started dating this Catholic boy and I got this job at a Catholic retreat center, and I could no longer remain the anonymous Protestant pretending to be Catholic… Or as Rahner might suggest, the inverse: anonymous Catholic pretending to be Protestant. So, I stopped receiving. I haven’t received in a Catholic Mass in over a year. I stopped because I was going to be working with and worshiping with rural communities in Northern Ireland. They would know outright that I am not Catholic, and that I should not be receiving. It was hard for me to do, and it caused a lot of spiritual anxiety. Essentially it was a feeling of being excluded in church. As if, the gift is not for me, and that my receiving was wrong all along. I was also slightly annoyed knowing that many Catholics don’t follow the “rules” of what they are supposed to do (or not do) in order to receive, i.e. confession. Regardless, I started crossing myself for a blessing.

Like I said, at first, this was weird and upsetting. But after a while, I really began to take to it. Confusing priests and Eucharistic ministers with church sign language, and keeping them on their toes. I began to feel as though the blessing was like an equal gift to the Eucharist, and I liked to feel as thought I was still a part of the tradition without offending anyone. I felt blessed. Then I returned to Boston, the home of my, more or less, Catholic conversion. I decided to continue being blessed at Mass, but it was an awkward awakening.

I proceed in the line with my friends to the alter. I very emphatically cross my arms over my chest as I approach the Eucharistic minister. He holds the host up to me, “The Body of Christ.” He wants to place it on my tongue. Lips pursed, mouth closed, I lean back surprised.

Then I lean in to speak to the apparently clueless Eucharistic minister, “Uh, I just want a blessing.”

Still confused, “A blessing.”

“Yes.” But what I’m thinking is, “How is this happening to me right now!?”

He makes a lazy cross motion in front of me, and I move along after holding up the line.

After returning to my seat, I write it off as a fluke, but something inside me sort of feels like I shouldn’t go up at all. Ever again. That way, my Protestant self does not disturb the perfect Catholic equilibrium that happens at every Eucharistic procession.

Nevertheless, I went for my blessing again at a different Mass! I know that the Eucharistic ministers are meticulously trained, but it happened again. I don’t know how many times this happened to me before I started aiming for the end of the pew where I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way going up to receive. Now, I’m afraid to go up at all, and I don’t know what to do about that.

Anyone else ever get this confused blessing look at Catholic Church?

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Author: Paige

Explorer. Healer. Eater. School counselor, teacher, party planner. Personal passions are holistic healthcare education, spirituality, food, and writing.

4 thoughts on “Protestant, How Catholic Are You?”

  1. I sit in the front pew at mass and I am also a Eucharist minister. If your arms are crossed over your chest as you approach the Eucharist, It should be a non issue. I have never experienced it or witnessed it being confused in my home church. If your making the sign of the cross, then it would be assumed your Receiving the Body of Christ.

    1. That’s awesome that all the Eucharistic ministers are on their toes for blessings. I’m always impressed when I see a lot of blessings at mass. There are a lot that go up for blessings at mass where I go now, and the Eucharistic ministers aren’t thrown by it. But I went to another parish that encouraged people to not go up at Eucharist for blessings and wait until after, but you wouldn’t know that unless you’ve been going to that mass a while. I saw Eucharistic ministers confused and pointing to the priest if someone came up with their arms crossed, or they might just nod as they walked by. It probably depends a lot on the pastor.

      1. Actually our priest admitted once that he’s rather annoyed by so many people coming up for blessings and bringing all their children along for them too… when the purpose of communion is to receive the body of Christ…. ☺️

        This is a rather newish practice in my home parish. I grew up there and no one ever would dream to go up for “blessings” when I was a child, young adult or young mother … Just didn’t happen. Funny how different it is now.

        I love reading your blog and following your journey!

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