A Simple Invitation For Catholics Missing the Eucharist
In the past few weeks, the whole world has been turned upside down, and we are all fumbling around, trying to find our way through this strange time.
In the midst of this upheaval, many Catholics are suddenly unable to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist. In a time when we need our spiritual resources more than ever, many of us feel uprooted, unmoored. Although we know these measures are necessary, it hurts to feel separated from our community and our Eucharistic Lord.
Last weekend was the first time I have missed Mass in almost 20 years. I don't know how to get used to a world where the church doors are locked on Sunday mornings. I was actually doing ok with the changes until I started thinking about staying home through Holy Week and Easter, missing my favorite liturgies of the year. I tear up every time I think about that part; I can’t imagine walking though these sacred days without seeing my church community and receiving the Eucharist.
This is hard. But I believe in a God who creates light out of darkness, who can bring good out of even the worst situations. So, I've been reflecting on what good may come of this and how we as Catholics might open a door for God's light to shine in this darkness.
Speaking as a Catholic with a heart for survivors, may I offer a suggestion?
Let's see this as an opportunity to grow in compassion for the men, women, and children who have experienced abuse in our Church, especially those who are no longer able to attend Mass because of their trauma. Let’s offer our small but real suffering for those who have been separated from the Eucharist by the crimes and sins of our leaders.
Two years ago, this thought would have never come into my mind. But I am different now, because of the many survivors of clerical abuse that I have come to know and love.
I have spoken to survivors who spent years shaking and crying through Mass, retraumatized every time they walked through the church doors, before finally realizing they could not heal without stepping away.
I have heard from survivors whose faith survived their abuse but was extinguished by the ongoing betrayal by church leaders they thought they could trust.
I have listened to survivors who fought tooth and nail to stay in the Church after their abuse, only to feel driven away by insensitive words from fellow Catholics.
There are so many survivors who long for the Eucharist - just as you do now - but are kept away by an invisible barrier that is no less real than the one facing us today.
Of course, there are some survivors - more than I realized - that are still with us in the pews, worshiping God and receiving the Eucharist, able to delight in the communion of the Church. And there are many who walked away from this place of pain, hypocrisy, and betrayal and have no interest in returning.
All of them are our brothers and sisters, and I no longer presume to know which among us is closer to Jesus.
So, I invite you:
During these days, weeks, perhaps months, that we Catholics are deprived of the Eucharist, let’s unite ourselves in prayer for all who have experienced abuse in our Church. Let’s grow in empathy and compassion for those who have been driven away by abuse, corruption, cover up, and denial. When we feel that pang of longing, let’s say a prayer for those who long for the Eucharist but cannot participate because of their trauma.
If this invitations stirs your heart, perhaps this period of quarantine might be a good time to listen to the voices of survivors like Jessica, Stephanie, David, Kateri, Michael, Esther, Larry, Patty, and the Fortney Sisters. Perhaps you could pray for all who have been harmed in our Church - and ask God how you might be called to take action.
When this public health crisis lifts, when many of us run back to the Mass with grateful hearts, I hope we will remember those survivors who are still not able to join us at the Eucharistic table.
May the Lord bring us all together again one day - if not in this life, then maybe in the next.
My Jesus, I long to receive you in the Eucharist.
I offer this longing to you, praying for all who have experienced abuse in my Church.
May we all someday be one, as You and the Father are one.