The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
– John 6:52-58 (New American Bible)
The most holy sacrament to Catholics is the Eucharist. We firmly believe that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus Christ. It is the bread Jesus talked about when he said “I am the bread of life.” We believe that bread and wine becomes the flesh and the blood of Christ when we celebrate Mass. When one eats the Eucharist it is often called ‘receiving communion’ thus the first time a person receives the Eucharist they call it their ‘First Communion’ and it is considered a very important moment in that persons life, and is a time of celebration for the whole parish community.
When Catholics go to church on Sunday, we don’t go to a service, we go to what we call the Liturgy of the Mass. Part of the Mass is the prayers and blessings that through the mystery of transubstantiation a priest consecrates ordinary bread and wine and it becomes the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Towards the end the Mass parishioners who have properly prepared themselves process to the front of the church to receive communion, were they can actually eat and drink the flesh of Christ. This is so the scripture can be fulfilled ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.‘ Our Parish does not do this just on Sundays, Sacred Hearts Church celebrates Mass almost every day of the year.
Additionally we do not consume all the blessed Eucharist, but store it in a special locked chamber we call the tabernacle, located in the chapel in our church building. This is so parishioners dying or close to death can receive Eucharist (Viaticum). Our church has several Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist (EME’s) who take the sacrament to the sick and home bound of our parish community on a regular or requested basis.
A note to visitors about our parish. Inside the sanctuary of our church before Mass, there is a table in the northeastern corner (right inside the main door when you enter) with un-blessed hosts (unleavened bread wafers) in a large crystal dish, one or two metal or pottery ceboriums (bowls) and a pair of tongs. If you are attending Mass and have properly prepared yourself to receive the Eucharist you should use the tongs and move one un-blessed host from the crystal dish to a ceborium. The hosts in the ceboriums will be brought to the alter during Mass and consecrated by the Priest. In most other Catholic Parishes they estimate how many they need, we get an exact count. Our way of doing it is less wasteful, and adds an opportunity for parishioners to interact with the unblessed hosts. If someone forgets and more are needed consecrated hosts can be removed from the tabernacle, if there are extra they can be stored in the tabernacle or consumed by those administering the Eucharist.
Preparing to Receive Eucharist
The Eucharist is not something that should be approached lightly or casually. When we receive the Eucharist, we are given a deep spiritual taste of “the life of the world to come,” here and now. The Holy Fathers teach us that the frequent reception of the Body and Blood of Christ brings us into a joyful union with God. At the same time, the Eucharist can condemn us if we receive it unworthily, or in disbelief.
Before recieving communion regular parishioners make sure they are free from mortal sin and have observed the required Eucharistic fast: abstain from food and drink, other than water or medication for 1 hour before Holy Communion. If you are not a parishioner or traveling practicing Catholic visiting our parish, please talk to the priest before Mass before considering receiving communion.
How to Receive Communion During Mass
When receiving communion you will either receive it from an ordained Priest or Deacon (Ordinary Minister of the Eucharist) or a trained lay person called an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist (EME). During Mass at the appropriate time lines form leading to the minsters while a hymn is sung by the congregation. Ushers will help direct you into a line. If both the bread and wine is be distributed the bread will be the first one you can receive.You do not have to receive both the bread and wine, you may choose to receive just one or the other. For example some people may have gluten allergies and can not consume the consecrated bread, others have issues with consuming alcohol and choose to refrain from consuming consecrated wine. If you do not want to receive the host, you may ask a priest or deacon for a blessing, or simply move directly on to a cup.
When you (the communicate) approach the minister of the Eucharist you should reverently genuflect to the Eucharist if you are capable. The common genuflection is a reverent bow of the head and shoulders a few inches forward. The minister will then raise the host and say “The Body of Christ”, or “Receive the Body of Christ”. To which the communicate should respond a firm “Amen”. The minister will then offer to give the host to the communicate.
Their are two ways to receive the host; on one’s tongue or in one’s hands. To receive on your tongue after saying ‘Amen’ stick your tongue out and slightly tilt your head back leaning forward. The minister will place the host on your tongue. You should then close your mouth with the consecrated host inside. To receive ‘in one’s hands’ place one hand out, palm up, and place the back of the other hand on the first like a cradle. The minister will place the host in your hands. You should side step away from the minister to allow the next person to approach and then pick up the host with the hand the host is not in and place it in your mouth. Either way after you have the host in your mouth you should make the sign of the cross with out speaking, and either go back to your seat or advance to a cup.
If you go to a cup you must once again reverently genuflect to the Eucharist. The minister will then raise the cup and say either “The Blood of Christ” or “Receive the Blood of Christ”. Once again the communicates response should be a firm “Amen”. The minister will then hand you the cup. If the minister is worried you may drop the cup, they may hold on to it, or help you bring the cup to your lips. You should take a sip of the precious blood, being mindful that others after you may want there to be some left for them to receive. Hand the cup back to the minister. You will notice the minister has a white cloth, called a purificator, that they will then firmly wipe the spot on the cup you drank from. This is to help prevent the spreading of illness. While alcohol and friction kill almost all the bacteria on the rim of the cup, if you are ill, the Christian thing to do might be to refrain from receiving the precious blood until you are better.
Eucharistic Adoration & Exposition
On the first Saturday of every month we also place the Eucharist in a monstrance on the alter from shortly after morning Mass to about 3:15pm for exposition & adoration. During this time parishioners come to adore the sacrament, some come and pray, others read scripture or catechist, some just sit in silence with the Lord. Their are special rules that everyone observes during adoration. Their must be 2 alert people present at all times, everyone needs to be quiet and reverent as well to respect other adorers.
Receiving Communion for the First time
Most Catholics that are baptized as infants receive their first communion around the time they are in the second grade, after receiving the sacrament of penance for the first time. In Sacred Hearts Parish parents & Godparents wishing their children to receive their first communion should arrange a time to talk with our pastor or Director of Religious Education and enroll their children in PSR (Parish School or Religion) classes.
Converts that are brought into the Church as adults often receive communion at the same Mass they are Baptized and Confirmed at during the Easter Vigil. Because the Sacrament of Baptism cleans their soul of all their sins they do not have to go to the Sacrament of Penance before they receive Communion for the first time. Some who are converts to Catholicism have already been baptized, either in a Catholic Church when they were infants or in another Christian faith. These converts need to receive the Sacrament of Penance before receiving Communion. Converts generally need to also attend the Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program, before receiving communion. Talk with our pastor if you are interested in becoming Catholic or returning to the faith.