Thursday, March 17, 2011

What a Shame...

Today I attended the funeral Mass of the husband of a co-worker. He died very unexpectedly a week ago and he was clearly very much loved by many as hundreds of people poured into his family's Catholic Church to say goodbye.

The priest, bless his heart, started off by welcoming everyone and saying something along the lines that although many people of different faiths were in the space he knew that the Christian love was a common bond that tied many of us together as we gathered to celebrate this man's life.

That was all fine and good and the service was touching, but then I couldn't help but feel shocked when it came time for communion. The priest had to explain to the roughly 500 mourners that the only people who were welcome to the table were those who were Catholic and who did not have grave sin in their hearts. The crowd began to murmur. Clearly a huge majority of mainly African-American mourners were not Catholic.

He pleaded with them to please understand that the Church was working very hard to change this--it didn't seem particularly right to him either I could tell. He did stress that Catholics believe that the Eucharist is not just a symbol--it is the actual body and blood of Jesus so not just anyone could receive it. He lamely invited anyone who wanted a blessing, to come up with their hands folded in front of them a certain way and he or a deacon would bless them. I don't think anyone took him up on that offer.

You know, although I am no longer Catholic, I have not been excommunicated from the Church and believe you me, the fact that I am gay, in no way to me is a grave sin (or any kind of sin at all). I don't believe that God made any mistake with me. But I hesitated. Why? I don't know exactly, but after about one second of thinking,  I went up to receive communion.

But I was mostly saddened that out of the 500 mourners only about 20 of us went up to take communion. It just seemed so sad. Like watching discrimination in action. Later a preacher who grew up with the man who died gave testimony and it was like night in day. He spoke of the awesome power of Jesus to console and teach us, comfort us, love us.

Night and day.


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