Going to Holy Communion

by Melannie Svoboda SND on January 13, 2014

I confess: after I receive Communion, I sometimes watch the other people going up to receive. You might think I’m being irreverent, but I think there’s a special  grace that comes from watching the Communion line.

communion lineOver the years, I’ve noticed that people process up to Communion in a variety of ways. Most people walk up slowly and reverently. Some look painfully self-conscious as they process in line  (like teenage boys). Some people march. Some shuffle. Some walk nonchalantly. Some hold their hands as they were probably taught  to do when they made their First Communion. Others clasp their hands loosely in front of them. Most people receive one person at a time, but a few married couples stand side-by-side when they receive. That always touches me.

Some people are carrying or herding small children. Or dragging them. That reminds me of a story one of my former students told me years ago. She always walked up to Communion with her little girl, Melannie, (yes, she’s my namesake) age about 3. After doing this routine many times, little Melannie became impatient one day. Right after her mother had received, Melannie yelled loud enough for the whole congregation to hear, “I want some Body of Christ too!”

There’s a very tall man I often see at Mass. He has a little boy who comes up to about his knees. I always enjoy watching this man going up to Communion gently holding his little boy’s hand. He’s always so mindful of the little boy, so tender towards him. When I see the two of them, it’s easier for me to believe in God the Father’s tender love for me.

Some people use canes in the Communion line. A few use walkers. Still others are pushed up in their wheelchairs to receive. And there are always severalhomebound receiving people in the front pews who have Communion brought to them by a Eucharistic minister. Before the final blessing at Mass, a few individuals go up to the sanctuary to receive hosts to take to those who are unable to come to Mass. This reminds me not only to pray for the ill of our parish, but also that this Heavenly Banquet  extends far beyond the walls of our church.

When I’m watching the communion line, I think thoughts like this. “Here we are, the people of God….What a diverse group we are….What a motley crew …Each of us with our own trials and sorrows….our own joys and successes…. our weaknesses, our strengths, our worries. Individuals, yet we process in line together to receive Holy Communion…the Bread that makes us one.”

There’s some controversy about who should and who should not receive Communion. I’m no Canon lawyer, but I agree with those who say: Communion is not a reward for good behavior. It is nourishment to help us live our life of faith. When we stand in line to receive Communion, we are not proclaiming: “Look how good I am!” We are humbly saying, “Look how needy I am! I need this precious Bread of Life to give me strength on my journey.”

How should we process up to receive Communion? It matters little if we walk or shuffle, if we use a cane, or if we carry a child. What matters most is that we come with our whole heart to receive this incredible gift that Jesus gave us the night before he died. If we realized the true worth of this sacred sacrament, I have a hunch, we would all be skipping to Communion!

girl skipping

How do you go to Communion?

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

EKMcMahon January 13, 2014 at 1:46 am

Thank you, I am one of those who have to receive The Communion via a Eucharistic minister. When I was able to do this in the Church, I used to watch the people going to receive it but I don’t recall digesting who they were, I just was happy that we were all there to receive this gift from Our Lord.

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Chris Keil January 13, 2014 at 9:27 am

Well, I usually have to go to communion in between verses of the communion hymn, so it’s sometimes a little rushed. Fortunately for me the accompanist, (you know who!) waits for me to return! I try to at least make the moment right before receiving our Lord a little more reverent by bowing and then receiving, it’s enough time for me to forget about the music making and just focus on the sacrament.
I watch the children, even when I’m singing I can’t help trying to watch them as they are “herded” through the communion line. They are such a blessing in our church!

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Kathleen Magiera January 13, 2014 at 10:14 am

Great topic Sr. Melannie!

I go to communion more reverently than I have in the past. It reminds me how needy and humble I should be as I approach Jesus.

Kathleen

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Heather Wilson January 13, 2014 at 10:54 am

I once sponsored a child in Kenya who told me that her responsibility at Mass was to dance the gifts up to the altar. I loved the image and always pictured not a stately march but a lively twirling, swirling dance!

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Tara January 13, 2014 at 11:03 am

Wow!

My husband & I take communion to a friend that is home-bound now. He was very active in the church, however his health has curtailed him being able to attend Mass.

I am also an usher and so get to see the people move out of the pews and sometimes we look at one anther and smile. I agree with you and those that believe It is nourishment to give us strength for our journey. None of us is all “that” good. Jesus came to save sinners, and I am one of them.

God bless.

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Mary Schneider January 13, 2014 at 11:30 am

For years I felt I was never in that perfect state of grace which would allow me to receive our Lord. Thankfully, I have been under the guidance of many loving and helpful priests and sisters who encouraged me to grow in my love for God, by receiving his precious body and blood. Thank you for all that you do, Sr Melannie, to help so many to the table of God.

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Betty Nagel January 13, 2014 at 12:40 pm

I must admit to a lot of looking around during Communion as you do, Melannie. You’ve made some very good points. After Communion, I like to say the prayer written by Cardinal Newman….

“Stay with me, Lord, and then I shall begin to shine as You shine.
So to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from You. No merit to me. It will be You Who shines through me upon others.
O let me thus praise You in the way which You love best, by shining on all those around me. Give light to them as well as to me; light them with me, through me. Teach me to show forth Your praise, Your truth, Your will. Make me preach You without preaching ~ not by words, but by my example and the fullness of the love which my hearts holds for You.”

I read somewhere that Mother Theresa prayed this same prayer after receiving Holy Communion. It is just so beautiful and appropriate.

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Elin January 13, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Your blog was so timely for me today. I have been a voyuer of sorts while watching others receive for years. It probably was part of my actually converting to RC 9 years ago ( at age 58). Yesterday was the first time I served as an Extraordinary Minister and even my non-Catholic husband watching said I looked beatific. In our recent training we were told to make eye contact with each person as we held up the host. What an experience, the mantra of “the body of Christ” with one set of eyes after another – people I knew and people new to me. Thrilling event for me. Thank you for helping me dip back into it.

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Antoinette January 13, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Your blog brought to my memory a practice I often use to keep from being distracted following the reception of Communion. I rather than notice the line listen to the mantra Body of Christ. As often as it is repeated it helps me realize what that phrase truly means.

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irene January 13, 2014 at 3:19 pm

I also am moved when I see an older couple and either he or she is leading the other to Holy Communion and then back to their place in church. They are always so dear to each other, waiting and leading.

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Maureen Schlacter January 13, 2014 at 4:05 pm

This post is so right on with what I do! I used to feel guilty about it but finally realized that I just love watching “my family” going to receive holy communion. Thank you for the validation.

BTW, I remember you from my days at NDC….class of ’72

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Sr. Jeannette Roy January 13, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Dear Melanie,
I so appreciate your words of wisdom. Once I have received the precious body and blood, I name all the people I have promised to pray for. My list is long. Afterwards, I am especially touched to tears, to see the way our deacon gets down on one knee to bless a child, speak to him/her and gently touch them. His line is always long as many parents want their child/ren have this experience. It’s what Jesus did and what Pope Francis does. Many other ministers are doing more of this. Isn’t it all about the love and trust of a child. How blessed we are. Thanks for all you do and are. God loves you and so do I.
Jeannette

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Penny Finley January 13, 2014 at 5:37 pm

I too watch others so that I might share in their reverence and truly be one body with them. After receiving I find myself reflecting on the old hymn, Oh Lord I am not worthy…….Best part of my day!

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Bro. Leo van de Weijer January 14, 2014 at 1:45 am

Thank you Sr. Melannie,

I was happy with your reflection and the comments given, especially the one that gave the prayer of cardinal Newman. I pray every day a short prayer after receiving Jesus. It is a prayer of cardinal Newman that I printed on my remembrance card of my final profession ; ” Lord take me as I am and make me as you want me to be”

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Sister Lalemant Pelikan, RSM January 14, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Like yourself, for years I have enjoyed observing all who come up to receive Eucharist. It began when I was Administrator of 2 small parishes in the Texas Panhandle, and seldom had the opportunity to sit in a pew. On one occasion when there was both a Priest-Celebrant AND a musician present, I was delighted to sit in the first pew. And as I observed the individuals in the parish coming back down the aisle after receiving Our Lord, I found myself saying, “I thank You, Lord, for Janie; she loves you and her family and all of us here at Sacred Heart. Bless and keep her.”
So now I do that almost automatically since I’m in the pew regularly in our Cathedral of Christ the King, and find that many parishoners give me the sign of peace as they pass me going or coming from receiving Eucharist! Helps me keep connected with the rest of the Body!

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Cathy Baier January 14, 2014 at 8:44 pm

As I go forward for communion, I often repeat the prayer: I come sick to the Doctor of Life. It moves me to tears as I see the diversity of people who exhibit their belief in the Body of Christ. One Bread, One Body.

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Melannie Svoboda SND January 17, 2014 at 10:54 am

Dear Readers, One reader forwarded this blog to several of her friends. One of her friends wrote the following. (She wishes to remain anonymous): “I enjoyed your observations about communicants. I’ve made some of the same observations myself. We also have a lady who is blind. She goes up with the woman who brings her to church, with her hand on the woman’s shoulder. They receive both the bread and the wine, and I always think about the role of the woman and her husband, who bring the blind woman with them, and how we each share that role with one another.”

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Patricia M January 20, 2014 at 9:34 am

I,too, have watched people returning from receiving the Eucharist. I try to picture the face of Jesus in each of these people. Many times it has been difficult, especially if it is a person with whom I have had a trying situation.

My best observation, however, is experiencing the people who have just been through the RCIA program. Their sincerity is especially a spiritual inspiration for me.

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