I thought I’d prepped the boys for communion, but it’s a challenge to adequately prepare a seven-year-old for a ritual like that without his memory of communions past to assist him. Last summer’s water communion at our UU church bore no resemblance to the Catholic Church’s version!
As the priest invited up those helping serve communion, I bent toward my younger, explaining that we’d sit down while the others processed forward to receive the bread and wine.
“Why do they get bread and we don’t?” my constantly hungry and fair-minded child inquired.
“Catholics believe in transubstantiation — that the bread and wine transforms into the body and blood of Jesus. We’re not Catholics, so we’re not invited to join since we don’t believe the same thing,” was my initial response, drawing a curious look from my son. Encouraged by his interest, my whispered lesson continued,”Other Christians believe the bread and wine simply remind one of Jesus, and most will allow others outside their faith to join in communion.”
He continued to search my face for more information. “Sit down, and let the others go by.” This seemed to be the information he needed most. He sat, and we let others pass by into the communion line.
While I’m not sure he gave a whit about my delineation between the variations of Christian beliefs and bread, body, wine, and blood, he did learn that we were to watch, and he was okay with his role as observer rather than participant. I sat back, sang along with the congregation, and joined him as observer. Since my movement away from Catholicism through the Episcopal church and on to Unitarian Universalism, I’ve attended only a few other masses, and those were funeral masses. Those times, most of the congregation sat through communion, and those times, I had my grief as my focus and communion was in the background. Explaining the sacrament clarified for me how complete my movement away from Catholicism is. I no longer identify with that tradition, yet its presence in my past shapes and colors my present faith. I sense nothing lost by my conversion yet so much gained by the richness of my past.