By Mary DeTurris Poust
Well, technically he just left the church and went to the ladies' room. I'm not kidding.
This weekend at Mass we were sitting in the front pew, as we usually do. During Communion, my husband, Dennis, and I saw two little girls receive communion in the hand but not put the hosts into their mouths. We watched the girls walk to the back of the church, their mother a few steps behind them. They went to their seats (we still hadn't seen them consume the hosts), spoke to their mother and walked out.
So Dennis followed to see where they were going. A minute later, he saw them come out of the restroom. That's when he saw the younger of the two girls finally put the host in her mouth. He told her she was supposed to consume the host right away, but she argued that she needed to throw out her gum first.
Sigh. Where to begin? With the fact that people -- not just children but plenty of adults -- go up to receive Jesus while chewing gum. Or the fact that the little girls didn't consider (or their mother suggest) that perhaps the gum should be the thing they carry in their hands and not Jesus. Or maybe the fact that catechesis is so poor that anyone would think it's okay to bring a consecrated host into a public restroom.
We need to get back to basics in our faith formation classes. We need to make sure that every child -- and their parents -- understand how to receive Communion and why it's so important. When I taught fourth grade religious education this year, I had to cover a lot of material about the Mass, the sacraments, the commandments. I knew many of my kids didn't attend Mass. I knew many had forgotten the basics they learned back when they made First Communion. And so over and over, every week it seemed, I would remind them about the meaning of the Eucharist and how to receive it, that Communion is not something we pick up like a cookie, that Communion IS Jesus. I think they got it, at least while I was saying it. But I know that won't be enough. They need to hear it from their parents and from every other faith formation teacher they have right on down the line.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a parish to raise a Catholic child. We can never forget that.