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?