Incredibly kind and thoughtful, he was also sincere. He was explaining how very much he believed that organized religion in all its forms is actually responsible for all the ills the world is suffering. But we were on our way to a funeral, a Catholic service. And he pressed on: what do you think? You could not possibly be taking Communion today, will you?
That story, that question, reminded me of two things: how the Church is viewed and known as a monolithic insitution and the reality of personal faith. The latter bears the stigma of centuries of scandal and an image of rules and regulations squired by hypocrites and villains in collars and cossacks. There is an inclusivity to it that makes exclusivity inevitable. There are honeycombs within it of a wide variety of groupings: contemplatives and monasteries, Sisters of Life and Trappist monks. Franciscans and Dominicans, Jesuits and Augustinians, Benedictines and Norbertines. There are missionaries and educators, medical personnel and preachers. They are all different, unique, faithful to their foundings and purpose, nestled into their little space wihin the broader church.
Parishes are like that as well; each one sports a different personality, functions with various strengths, finds want in different needs. But that is actually where Catholicism actually happens. Because there is a complicity in the idea that each of us is only and wholly human. Contrary to common perceptions, each Catholic has latitude and choice, movement and freedom. The structures are there, but so are the choices and the options. How to practice, what to do, which services to access are all within the realm of very ordinary persons.
So the answer to the question above was “yes”. I am receiving Communion. I am not doing it because I am perfect or because I think the scandals are okay or that corruption has a place in the Chruch. Nope. I am taking Communion because I live as part of something greater than myself. I receive because I am far from perfect, and because I need a connection with a goodness greater than my own. I receive because I believe that this little miracle of continuity in the Eucharist connects me to the past, to the bread Jesus shared at Passover and there is nothing that draws me closer to that moment than this celebration. I receive because I believe that I am just a “regular guy”, an ordianry person. but I can become a better person. I am just a regular person, not extraordinary or even special….except for that moment, with the Eucharist resting in the palm of my hand, and I realize for just a second, what it really means, and I am honestly humbled.
Sometimes, to see things more clearly, it takes an unexpected conversation that prompts deeper reflection. Listening to what is said, as well as to what is not said, offers the chance to see what really matters is right in front of us all the time. The choice is ours.