A sleepover to remember

By Denise Bossert
Recently, my daughter spent the night at a friend’s house. She has only done this one other time; I used to do it on a regular basis when I was growing up.
Once I spent the night at Lori’s house – I was in middle school. It was a Saturday night and her family was Catholic – Catholic enough that they went to Mass every weekend – not Catholic enough to explain to me that Holy Communion was not open to Protestant preacher’s kids who stayed over for the weekend. In my preacher’s-kid-mind, I believed I was entitled to participate in every faith event. I considered myself to be one born into a spiritual lap of luxury. No holds barred.
In the middle of the Mass, my friend Lori leaned over and asked me if I knew about Communion. “Yeah, we have it at my church,” I said.
She nodded her head as if to say, that’s cool. I watched and waited for the moment the ushers would pass the bread and grape juice around. Instead, everyone started standing up and walking forward. I had the terrifying realization that I was going to be standing in front of the priest very soon, and I had no idea how to pass myself off as one who knows what’s going on.
I turned to my friend and whispered, “Wait! We don’t do it like this! What do I do?”
Lori gave me the quickest catechesis in the history of humankind. “You hold your hands like this.” She put one upturned hand in the other. “You bow, say amen, and put the Eucharist in your mouth with the bottom hand.”
And that was it.
Half-way down the aisle, I thought of my parents, and I wondered if I really should be doing this. I probably should have stayed back in the pew and waited. Too late now, I thought.
And then it was my turn. I don’t remember if I followed proper protocol. But somehow, I made it back to the pew and knelt beside Lori. I stayed there for a moment and wondered what I had done. What was that whirlwind of Communion all about?
The priest took Lori’s parents aside after Mass and asked about me (so I must have drawn attention to myself after all). He told them that non-Catholics were NOT to receive Holy Communion.
Years later, when my journey of grace led me into the Catholic Church, I was properly catechized. I discovered that the Jesus I had loved from childhood was waiting for me in the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist - this Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord.
It wasn’t a symbol. It didn’t remind us of something that happened 2000 years earlier. It was my Jesus, truly present.
Do you know what that discovery was like for me? Absolutely beautiful. But there was that childhood memory, and that memory still haunts me. When I thought back to that Mass, I realized what I had missed.
I encourage you to invite a guest to come to Mass with you. If you do this, please take a moment and explain to your friend what you are receiving – who you are receiving. And that only those who are in communion with Our Eucharistic Lord Jesus Christ can receive this Sacrament. To receive communion, you must be in union. . .
And make sure they know one thing above all other things. The Eucharist IS Jesus.
Denise Bossert has written for 28 diocesan newspapers in the United States. She is a mother of four and member of Immaculate Heart of Mary in New Melle, Mo. You can find additional articles at her blog: catholicbygrace.blogspot.com