Friday, August 13, 2004

What is Communion?

Is it the sharing of feelings, experience or commonality? Is it a religious fellowship? Is it just a religious sacrament? Or is it all of these?

As a Catholic child, I had a very narrow idea of Communion. It was just a sacrament. It was simply a time when I filed to the front of a church and received a wafer that was, or represented (depending on the level of your religious conviction), corpus christi. I never had a sense of the bigger picture: that I was gathered with a group of people who shared common beliefs and were celebrating, with me, a sense of community, love, charity, and spiritual fulfillment. Communion is a lovely thing.

When I received my First Holy Communion, I really felt part of something. It was rather beautiful and comforting. I think that is the role of religious rites and sacraments: to comfort, and to build confidence.

Churches and religion are filled with symbolism and folklore that test our faith. Is the host, that little wafer, really the body of Christ or is it a representation of the body of Christ? If it is the body of Christ, then what makes it so? Is it the shape of the host? Must the body of Christ be a round wafer, or can it be triangular? Is it the width? Must the wafer be thin, or can it vary in width? Must it be made of a particular grain, or can oat, soy or wheat equally be consecrated as the body of Christ?

I know this all seems absurd, but what is more absurd is that the Catholic Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, has declared that church law requiring that the body of Christ be made of wheat (what?????) invalidates the First Holy Communion of eight-year-old Haley Waldman, because the host served to her contained no wheat. Haley is allergic to wheat. Church law states that the host, the wafer, that is consecrated to become the body of Christ must contain wheat, or it is not really the body of Christ, just a wafer. Hmmmmm.

Okay! So you have a child enthusiastic about receiving Communion and becoming a part of Christ's living community on Earth. She is allergic to wheat, so she is served a wafer that contains no wheat. She celebrates her communion with the Catholic community, then discovers that some idiot named Rev. Stanley P. Lukaszewski has invalidated her blessing and acceptance into the community because a gluten-free substitute was unacceptable and could not be the body of Christ.

So . . . I am supposed to sit here and believe that a gluten-based wafer can be consecrated into the body of Christ, but that a non-gluten-based wafer cannot.

Let me get this straight: I am supposed to stretch my faith far enough to believe that wheat can be the body of Christ, but I am not supposed to stretch my faith far enough to believe that soy can be the body of Christ?

Hello?!?!?! Father Lukaszewski! Are you on this planet? Did you know that this little girl looks to you for guidance and hope and faith and you have slammed the door shut on her because she is allergic to wheat? Do you think Christ would have turned her away from his Passover feast, his Last Supper, because she was allergic to wheat?

As Haley's mother said: "This is a church rule, not God's will, and it can easily be adjusted to meet the needs of the people, while staying true to the traditions of our faith." AMEN!

I certainly hope that this idiot priest is pulling this as a publicity stunt to get in the good graces of the whacko right-wingers who have co-opted the Catholic Church. I hope that good people in the church, like the priest and parishioners who provided Haley her non-gluten wafer and welcomed her into the community of Christ, will stand-up and speak-out against idiots like Lukaszewski, and condemn the parochialism that has so negatively impacted the church since the installation of the Polish fascist as pope.

Good luck, Haley. If they get you down, you can always hook-up with the Episcopalians! They have better clothes and cars, anyhow!


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