“I am a Protestant and went to church with a Catholic friend this past Sunday. While there I was advised that I should not partake in communion. Why?”

Unfortunately, this experience can seem very off-putting and inhospitable to fellow Christians (or others) who attend a Catholic Mass – but that is not at all our intention!  Unlike many other Christian communities that have communion services at which bread and wine (or sometimes grape juice) is used to commemorate the Last Supper, when Jesus broke bread and shared the cup of wine with his disciples, saying “do this in memory of me,” the Catholic Church teaches that Jesus’ words “This is my body” (said over the bread) and “This is my blood” (said over the wine) were meant to be taken literally.  Therefore, when the priest repeats those same words over the bread and wine during the “consecration,” Catholics believe that the bread and the wine truly become the body and blood of Christ, although while maintaining the appearance of bread and wine.  (The technical or theological term for this mystical transformation is “transubstantiation.”)  Therefore, the Catholic Church limits its invitation to Holy Communion only to those who share its belief that the Eucharist (bread and wine) they receive is truly the body and blood of Jesus Christ, not just a symbol or simple memorial of the Last Supper.  “Holy Communion” then becomes not only a deeply intimate encounter of each individual with Jesus in the moments after we ingest the bread and wine, but all of us together become renewed as “the body of Christ,” sent out again, as Jesus was “to bring good news to the poor, freedom to captives, sight to the blind, to free the oppressed and to proclaim a year of Jubilee (release from indebtedness and renewal of the earth).” (Gospel of St. Luke, Chap. 4, 18)

Thank you to Michael Hovey