Today at mass we had a guest priest from Colombia. I loved his energy and the rhythm of his accent, the way his personhood contrasted with the starched and pasty Germanic-descended peoples who sat in the pews. It was the feast of Corpus Christi and his homily pushed us to think about what Catholics believe—that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus through the sacrament of the Mass. Most Catholics, he said, know this in their head, but not in their heart.
Of all the teachings of the Catholic church that have caused me to struggle, this is not one of them. Why, in an age of science, can I accept this? Because the first time I ever took communion, before I was even baptized, I felt something, a burning, a peace, a presence. I don’t feel this every time I receive communion. I don’t attribute this to the failure of the sacrament, but to my own inattentiveness to the presence.
The Colombian priest moved across the church, into the pew space, riling up the staid parishioners, but nothing riled them so much as his closing words. If you don’t know it in your heart, don’t receive it because none of us wants to court damnation. I heard two things: if you don’t believe it, don’t pretend you do (for communion) and if you don’t feel it, don’t do it (in general). Stop going through the motions and listen to your heart. Maybe that’s not what he meant to say, but that’s what I heard, and I believe that’s where the spirit comes in:)