Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

The Question Box

by Father I.J. Mikulski

(From the March 18, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

Father I.J. Mikulski Q. Our non-practicing Catholic friends, both kind of Protestant now, want to attend Easter Mass with us in our church. I know they will want to receive Communion with us because they say it’s all the same. We talked about it. How can I gently explain that it can’t be done? I do feel she might like to return to her earlier Catholic practice. What can I say?

A. First, let’s be clear about what you should not say. Neither you nor I nor anyone else will agree Catholic Communion is “all the same” in all denominations. That’s simply not true, not before, not now and not ever in the future. Mother Church is not going to abandon 20 centuries of consistent Catholic doctrine to accommodate occasional visitors.

St. Paul made this clear in one of the first references in the spring of 57 AD. (1 Corinth. 11:27). St. Justin, martyr, emphasized “no one may share it unless he believes our teaching is true ...” (c.150 AD) He then devoted the rest of that paragraph explaining why it can’t be done.

There are dozens of similar commentaries in the early church. Not one official statement suggested “It’s all the same.”

Some Protestant denominations have communion rites where people pass a bowl of bread wafers, row by row, so everyone can help themselves. That’s an efficient way to distribute communion if everyone agrees it’s a nice thing to do because it’s all the same.

The Catholic rite, insisting that it’s not just a bread wafer, requires each communicant, one at a time, to come forward and respond to the statement “The Body of Christ” with an audible “Amen.”

After all those centuries you can say we’re set in our ways.

Q. Why does the church object to same-sex marriages? I believe all persons have been endowed with different attractions for a reason so any two people having the same sex should never be left out. Get it?

A. Semantics aside, same sex unions should not be called marriages. Centuries of laws, customs and traditions have solidified our belief that a marriage is a two-sex union, one of each, permanent as promised.

No person is gender-neutral. Every person is one of two. Only persons of the female gender become child-bearers.

We are wonderfully and fearfully made.

Q. Some crucifixes have “IHS” on a small script near the top. We were always told it means “I have suffered.” In a discussion someone said no. What does that mean?

A. The IHS inscription appeared near the top of the cross long before the English language developed. Those are Greek letters Iota, Eta and Sigma, the first three letters of Jesus.

More common is the INRI placed there by order of Pilate. It was a common practice to identify the victim being executed. “Pilate wrote out a notice and had it fixed to the cross; it ran Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.... the writing was in Hebrew, Latin and Greek.”

Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum, abbreviated INRI.

Q. An out of state church we visited on the way had a Mass at which we received Communion that was normal Eucharist bread but we could tell the difference of grape juice instead of wine which is the same as wine but not fermented. The people seemed used to it when we asked about it. What’s the regulation on this?

A. There are strict regulations that apply when we’re dealing with the centerpiece sacrament of the Catholic faith. Liturgical regulations define precisely the kind of bread and wine can be used.

Grape juice is not the same as wine except it’s not fermented. That’s like saying bread is the same as cake but it’s made differently. Cake cannot be used in place of bread and juice cannot be used in place of wine. The Offertory says . . . “this wine we have to offer.”

If a parish uses grape juice instead of altar wine there is serious doubt about the validity of that Eucharist. That raises a question about spreading confusion among hundreds or thousands of Catholic faithful over those illicit Masses.

If what you say is true that priest is responsible for serious public malpractice.

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