Thursday, August 25, 2011
ECUMENISM AND INTER-COMMUNION
First Baptist's pastor joked that while their next door neighbor, Saint Joseph's, right below them has spires that are taller than their church, that at least their church was on "higher ground!" We all laughed.
Last night I was invited to be a part of First Baptist Church in Macon Wednesday night Supper and adult education program. It was a very nice meal with about 100 or more in attendance. The Baptists know how to do fellowship and promote it. After the meal, children came to the microphone and said what they did that day.
After that the "deacon" of the week (she is not ordained and rotates from members) gave a run down on all the sick in their church and the home-bound and a little bit of a story on each one of them. She must have visited them all that week. It's a good way to have accountability from the visiting deacon too!
Then we sang a hymn, "All Things Bright and Beautiful" and the pastor got up and spoke for a time acknowledging anniversaries and birthdays with all singing an appropriate tune to the celebrants.
Finally it was time for me. The format was both the pastor and me sitting at chairs on a platform and the pastor asking me questions in an interview format. It was very effective.
He started by asking me about my vocation story. That graduated to why the Catholic Church is called "catholic" and when that term was first used. Then it went to papal infallibility and misconceptions Baptists have about it (Catholics too, I might add).
He asked about the Holy Eucharist and if a God-fearing, believing Baptist could received Holy Communion in the Catholic Church.
I acknowledged that we did not have "open communion" and that in recent years, for at least 10 or 15, this has become more of a source of contention with Protestants who visit Catholic Churches on Sunday or for a funeral or wedding. They are offended that they are not invited to receive in the Catholic Church, while other Protestant Churches do allow for inter-communion.
I explained that receiving Holy Communion in our Catholic tradition implies precisely that, that the person receiving is being brought into the full Communion of the Church and thus into Communion with Jesus Christ by the act of receiving Holy Communion. The symbolism of actually receiving indicates that one is a practicing, believing Catholic who believes in the Most Holy Trinity and the saving mission/sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His real presence in the consecrated Offerings. It also implies being in communion with the Church, whose visible head is the Vicar of Christ, the pope and all the bishops in union with him, especially the local bishop and pastors. It also implies that one "believes all that the Catholic Church believes teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God" not only about God but also about the Church.
Then I asked the group there, did they want to indicate all of the above by actually receiving Holy Communion in a Catholic Church? Most shook their head "no."
I also indicated that not all Catholics are free to receive Holy Communion, especially children under the age of reason; those with an impediment of some kind, i.e. invalid sacramental marriage; those who have broken the one hour fast and those in a state of "mortal sin."
I mentioned that Catholics who are conscious of grave sin in their lives must confess to a priest in the Sacrament of Penance in order to worthily receive Holy Communion. I asked if they wanted to be admitted also to Confession. No one took me up on that one.
All-in-all, it was a very nice ecumenical experience last night. I envy how Baptists "do" fellowship and the sense of "belonging and ownership" their members have for their church. I also envy that they have smaller congregations and normally only two Sunday morning services. They have a very strong tradition of Sunday School for all ages and sometimes more adults attend Sunday school than the actual Sunday service.