It’s Sunday morning and we just decided to go to the evening contemporary mass. Since our parish does not offer an evening service we are trying to decide whether to go to Lady of the Lake or St. Ignatius. One is a contemplative service (which mom is voting for) and the other is a Life Teen mass (which Nate and Emily vote for).
I think I am out numbered.
We’ve come a long way. Years ago, when Nate was first receiving Eucharist, his low-gluten wafer was unique. Popping in to a new parish meant showing up early or calling a day in advance to explain the situation. Now, even if we have a visiting priest, we can arrive a quarter of an hour in advance, meet with the priest, and then slip into church for a quiet meditative moment before mass.
How does this conversation usually go? Now that Nate is 12, according to him, 12 years-8 months-and 12 days, we have been encouraging him to initiate the interaction. It still takes a bit of courage, occasional role playing, and then a “you-can-do-this” speech.
“Hello, Father. My name is Nate. I am gluten intolerant and I have brought my pyx with a low gluten wafer. I was hoping to have it consecrated at mass so I can receive both the body and blood.”
Either one of two things happens at this point, either the priest responds with a story of experience with low-gluten wafers, or the priest queries as he has never experienced this situation. As the years go by, fewer priests are unaware of the low-gluten wafers most of them now want to have an address of where to locate the wafers for other parishioners.
At this point, I usually get the elbow nudge. In a whispered panicked voice, Nate will cry, “MOM!” It’s my turn to step in. It’s a slow process to coach the communicant and educate the presider. As Nate grows in confidence, I am sure he will initiate more of the information when we visit new parishes, as it is now, I want Nate to feel welcome and excited about receiving eucharist.
Our home parish priest has set up a routine with Nate. No matter where we sit, Nate gets into line for Father, and then receives his low-gluten host from our pyx. (Prior to church, we laid the low-gluten wafer loaded pyx on the side table for the alter servers to deliver to the altar at the appointed time.) Quietly, the priest snaps the pyx closed and hands it back to Nate, who then pockets it and proceeds to the line waiting for the cup. This is Nate’s preferred mode of receiving. He feels like no one know he is different. No one singles him out from the rest.
Visiting a local parish when I was called to interpret for a special signed mass for the Deaf community, the priest made a big deal of walking down to Nate, giving him his host before anyone else received. All eyes were on Nate. From the front, looking down into the congregation, I saw Nate sink lower and lower into the pew. His face became a few shades redder, and his eyes darted up to mine with humility. After mass, Nate exclaimed in frustration that he was not old or invalid. He never wanted to receive eucharist that way, ever again.
When visiting a parish that the priest has experience with low-gluten hosts, we usually follow the tradition of this parish. Sometimes this means approaching the priest, receiving a blessing, circling the priest to take the pyx off the altar and proceeding to the cup. Other times, it is a matter of waiting until the very end, and going up as one of the last, so that the priest can step back to the altar and pick up the pyx for Nathan.
For either of our choices tonight, after a brief word with the priest, Nathan will be able to walk with our family, no matter where we sit, and receive Christ in the bread and the wine. It is an amazing blessing. I am thankful that we live in a time that congregations, priests, and a cloistered group of sisters understand the importance for everyone to be welcome to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist.