“Ask a Priest: Why Communion for Only a Select Few?”

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Q: I am dismayed during this time when the churches are closed and you cannot attend Mass. In viewing the Mass at my church online, it is noted that there has been readers and various others at the Mass who are able to receive the Eucharist. They seem to be a select group. Should the Mass only be said with just priests and deacons during this time? Others in the church have also commented on this, and feel angry and hurt that a select group are able to take Communion. Some have asked the pastor about this and he wrote in the bulletin that it was his decision who he would allow to partake in the Mass. Please give me your thoughts on this. I am certain other parishes are doing this as well, though not all. It is very depressing that in this unprecedented time the Eucharist is made available to only a select few. – T.P.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: The obligation to attend Mass is suspended because of the pandemic, obviously.

Beyond that, it is simply a prudential decision by each pastor or bishop about how many people can attend a Mass that is being televised.

This is an exceptional situation, and I’m sure the pastors are trying to make the best decision they can.

It might be a good moment to pray for all the Church. If conflicts arise over who is about to receive Communion, that is a sign of disunity — and probably a sign that the devil is around, stirring up trouble.

In other words, it might be good to give your pastor the benefit of the doubt for now. This is a time of unprecedented crisis.

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One Comment
  1. In regard to your column, “Why communion for only a select few?” I disagree with your answer. I don’t think that feeling upset because some people are receiving communion, and you are not, is purely a sign of disunity or the devil. During the quarantine, at first I would watch the filmed masses coming from my parish church, and would start to get upset that some people were gaining entrance for these masses, whereas I could not. It was explained to me, and I realized that it was true, that the people there were performing functions for the masses, such as videoing them or doing readings. I nevertheless really struggled with this, and part of my inner struggle came from the intense longing that I had to receive Jesus, and missing the Eucharist intensely. I prayed that God would help me deal with this, which was starting to be transformed into jealousy and resentment (which is sinful and which I did NOT want to participate in). I ended up watching masses on the internet that came not from my parish church, but from other sources, such as the Catholic TV channel in Boston, and from a Benedictine monastery in Kansas. This helped a lot because it was more of a “neutral playing field”: I didn’t personally know the people I saw in these other Masses, who were receiving communion; I was able then to enter more fully into the mass and into spiritual communion, without feelings of resentment and even jealousy coming up. All of this was a great learning experience for me, and I felt that God worked with me at the point I was at, in His great compassion, to help me deal with the situation. And, now that in-person masses have resumed, it’s not a problem anymore; I’m not missing the Eucharist anymore, and the whole experience has helped me be more aware of how much I need and want the Eucharist in my life, and how easily this can be taken away.

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