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Our readers asked:

Why can’t my non-Catholic friend take communion when she comes to Mass with me at the university chapel?

Richard G. Malloy, SJ Answers:

I hear this question rather frequently from college students. I gently reply, first, in the Catholic church, we don’t “take,” we “receive,” communion. By receiving communion we are signaling, i.e., sign-ing (Sacraments are “signs”), that we are trying to live our lives according to the teachings of the Catholic faith. Communion is not the cookie at the end of the meal. Communion is much more like a fraternity or sorority pin. You can go to the GREEK party, but you don’t wear the frat’s pin unless you pledge and join the fraternity. I invite those who are not receiving communion to feel free and encouraged to come forward and receive a blessing by crossing their arms across their chest to signal to the Eucharistic Minister that they are asking for a blessing.

Here’s a video we did some time ago, on receiving communion for Catholics, which might give you some more insight into how Catholics look at the sacrament.

The Author : Richard G. Malloy, SJ
Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D., is Vice President for University Ministries, the University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, and author of A Faith That Frees (Orbis Books).
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Cornelius Taylor

    At our village church here in NZ our priest regularly and knowingly gives communion to non Catholics including the local Anglican vicaress and her husband when she is wearing her dog collar. Every 5 weeks we have an invitation mass where the non catholic churches in the village attend mass. Most of them take no notice of the announcement that the priest gives about those in the congregation who can not receive may come forward for a blessing, they present themselves with outreached hand(s) and receive the Eucharist with such profanity it left me in a state of shock. When I pointed this abuse out to our priest after mass, he just smiled and said he hadn’t noticed. From what I hear from others, he is a firm believer in Ecumenism, in my opinion false ecumenism. Canon law doesn’t mean much around these parts.

  • somnipod

    Standing and receiving in the hand is an abuse and makes everything more Lutheran. Which I suppose was the point of the radicals that introduced that sacrilege.

  • Sonja

    Awesome videos! Very well put together, simply and adequately informative. I hope to share these with my church’s youth group. Or even for those in RCIA. Thank you so much for your time and efforts. God Bless, Sonja

    • somnipod

      I feel bad for the souls you are polluting in RCIA. Are you also going to tell them where the abuse of communion in the hand came from?

      • Sonja

        1] If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. [2] And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. [3] And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. [4] Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up; [5] Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil;

        [6] Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; [7] Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. [8] Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed. [9] For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. [10] But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.

        I have to admit, that I was taken a back by your prideful comment. Especially when it’s from one Catholic to another. I suggest next time you might refer someone to their catechism or their priest in a kinder, more loving way. Instead of making hurtful comments. Making someone feel stupid or wrong in Jesus’ name is a very harmful thing to do. As we are to respectfully receive the host in a humble and contrite manner, so are we to recieve the other body of Christ, His people, in a similar way. We will never win souls to Christ through pride and hate. My thoughts and prayers are with you tonight as you ponder this matter.

  • Mike

    it was the true disciples that received the body and blood of Jesus not sinners, but ones that lived as Jesus taught. then even then Jesus still put some to death that ate of Him in a state of selfishness, because they where not sharing their food with the other less fortunate ones that where too poor to be able to bring food to the table to share with everyone that showed up for Communion (earily Church, Acts) .

    Now the church has people saying , even though I am not worthy to receive you just say the word and my soul shall be healed. so they do not get killed by Jesus for just eatting it in a state of selfishness even, for Jesus told Peter, what you bind on earth it is bound in heaven. figure it out. what happened to the body and blood of Jesus pertaining to them that really diserive to take it, and them that don’t, becuse Jesus said, here take, not here receive. (minor point but a good argument).

    two: The Catholic Church is the only Church whos members are taught by the “leaders” the Priest to obey the teachigs of Jesus, whereas the other “Christians” that are going to different “Churches” are not being taught this, instead they are being taught to live by what ever their leader wants to teach them, all in the name of jesus.

    therefore they, the vistitors are not “true” Diciples of jesus nor even trying to be just by that act alone, because the are beliving the lie that their leaders are telling them in the name of Jesus, whereas the Catholics are suppose to be trying to be true disciples of Jesus by what the priest is telling them at Mass.

    they then the visitors would be the worst of all the two sinners between the Catholics and all the others if they are let to recieve the Body and Blood of Jesus, that in itself is a grave sin not only to the Church as a whole, but as well, mostly to the Priest the sin would go if he knowingly allowes it to take place.

  • Jack Florenz

    The church is not like a fraternity or sorority or an exclusive club. The church is a gathering of imperfect people who love Jesus and need him. The bigger the sinner the more the need for Jesus. Communion is not a reward for being good. It’s a free gift from a merciful Savior. And it’s not like a pin or a merit badge you receive for believing a multitude of complicated and confusing doctrines that even church authorities argue about and can’t explain.
    By receiving communion we are signaling (signing) that we are sinners who need Jesus. All of us, at the beginning of every Mass, beg for God’s mercy. Before communion we all say, “Lord, I am not worthy…” None of us know enough, believe enough, or are holy enough to receive Jesus.
    Jesus was severely criticized for associating with and dining with notorious sinners, and yet we so proudly tell others, “Sorry, you’re not good enough for Jesus. You’re not one of us. Keep your distance.”
    The Eucharist is the sacrament of Christian unity, but we turn it into an instrument of division and exclusivity.

    • Michael

      Well said, Jack. You and I share the same point of view.
      God bless.

    • Mike

      you are suppose to be worthy enough to eat the body and drink His blood.

      • Jack Florenz

        “Lord, I AM NOT WORTHY to receive you…”
        We all recite that together. Nobody is worthy.

      • Mike

        that is a safe guard the church put it for every body to be able to eat of it so no one would get sick and die any more.

        the fact is you are suppose to be worthy to recive it, but the chuch because it has the athoruty given to it by Jesus can change it — read acts where the Body of Jesus was killing people because they where not worthy to eat it. “making them sick and putting some to sleep” because they were being selfish with the food — BUT NOT every body was getting sick and being put to sleep (dying) just them that where not worthy to eat it.

        do your research and stop accepting every thing at face value. God gave you a brain, use it.

      • Mike

        that is a safe guard the church put it for every body to be able to eat of it so no one would get sick and die any more.

        the fact is you are suppose to be worthy to recive it, but the chuch because it has the authority given to it by Jesus can change it — read acts where the Body of Jesus was killing people because they where not worthy to eat it. “making them sick and putting some to sleep” because they were being selfish with the food — BUT NOT every body was getting sick and being put to sleep (dying) just them that where not worthy to eat it.

        read my comment above yours
        and do your research and stop accepting every thing at face value. God gave you a brain, use it.

        there has to be a bigger reason the Church did what it did for people to recive the body and blood of Jesus. it use to be many years ago that you had to be 50yrs or older before you could recive it. read that in a book on Catholic History in a library I just randomly picked up and opened to that page.

        1 Cor. 11:26-29, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.”

        read my comment above yours
        and do your research and stop accepting every thing at face value. God gave you a brain, use it.

      • somnipod

        I guess you have never read what Saint Paul said about profaning the body of Christ?

  • Lawrence

    I have no argument with you good sir, but when you receiving communion the bread /wine represent our Lord Jesus Christ. It represents the body and blood; one does not have to think they are actually consuming Jesus Christ. Secondly, forgiveness cannot be strengthened, either you truly ask for it or you don’t. You can’t get an upgrade with receiving communion.

    • Michael

      Good morning, Lawrence
      It is my understanding that when the Holy Spirit consecrates the Species through the actions of the priest, they truly become the body and blood of our Lord. Hence it follows that when we receive communion, we are, in fact, receiving His true body and blood, not merely a representation of these. I find myself especially rejoicing during the time that my system is digesting Him and His presence is being absorbed by every cell of my body. He and I are truly becoming one during this time.
      As for your second statement: You simply missunderstood me. What I intended to say is that through the reception of communion, my faith is thereby strengthed. I agree with you that forgiveness is an all or nothing matter.

      God bless.

      • Lawrence

        I understand your point and that’s great that it makes you feel like that. I would like to let you know I feel like that all the time, I am filled with the Holy Spirit every day, Gods not dead he is surely alive. If you can listen to KLOVE radio in your area please do it has great Christian music and it fills me every day, so that I can fill others. Our main job is to spread the Word not keep it to ourselves. Have a great day!

  • Michael

    Helpful video for me as a relatively new Catholic. I walk with a cane and found myself really fumbling with the host until my priest suggested that I receive it on my tongue.

    Having become Catholic late in life, I’m excited about sharing the graces of our faith with others. When protestant friends accompany me to mass, I encourage them to receive communion if they truly believe that they are receiving the actual flesh and blood of our Lord for their strengthening and forgiveness. If they believe that it simply represents the body and blood of Christ, I would discourage their receipt of it.

    I feel that the Church shouldn’t deny communion with our Lord to an otherwise true Christian believer simply because they aren’t a member of the Catholic Church. Think about it; were the diciples members of the Catholic Church at the time that they received the first communion from our Lord in person at the Last Supper? Of course not. At the time they were Jews who were in the process of learning and experiencing the New Covenant.

    Just my $0.02 worth. Arguments?

    • YaraGreyjoy

      Iron-clad argument against offering the Eucharist to non-Catholics: It tastes like cardboard, no need to inflict that on others. Just Kidding around! ;D

      Being serious now, you make a very good argument, I don’t see the big problem with giving “outsiders” the Eucharist, especially well intentioned or curious ones.

  • Lawrence

    Scooby Stephen
    Well said, who is anyone walking this earth to tell us you are not worthy YET to receive the body/Blood of Christ. Another question would be why in most cases the priest only partakes in drinking the Blood (Juice in most cases)?
    I was raised catholic and did not learn a thing with 8 years of schooling. I left and joined a non-denominational church and learned more about Christ in the first two weeks the in 8 years being a Catholic.

  • Scooby Stephen

    Communion should never be something that is for the “in” crowd only. I went to an Episcopal Church once and it said in their booklet, “Anyone who is earnestly seeking God is welcomed to receive communion.” Now if that doesn’t represent Christianity, I don’t know what does. Christ welcomed everyone to the table, even his betrayers – so never let anyone tell you that you can’t receive. The Catholic church may tell you it’s wrong, but Jesus waits to give himself to you regardless.

    • Daisy Dandylion

      Agree. As a Catholic who has been away from the church for over forty
      years, I do believe I have the right to attend mass again and receive
      communion without going to confession. Confessing directly to the Lord,
      and accepting his forgiveness and sharing all aspects of mass including
      communion is right in my mind. Who stands and stops anyone from
      approaching the alter and receiving communion? No one. Being excluded
      from receiving communion in the church is a law with no teeth. I know
      many divorced and remarried receiving it.

      • Jake

        Good. For. You. — God knows what is in your heart, and that is enough. You need not justify your actions to any other person.

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