In Need of Advice

I find myself in a situation in which no one has been able to provide me with a straight answer. My hope is that by posting this here on my blog someone will be able to offer me some enlightenment, because right now I'm downright confused and have no idea what to do.

So, what is this situation that has me feeling lost and confused? Hope, my eldest daughter, will be graduating from sixth grade next month. In Mexico it's customary for the graduating classes, be it from kindergarten, elementary school, junior high, high school or college to attend a graduation mass. I'm not too familiar with how things work, but what I do know is that each student chooses a padrino or madrina (godparents) to accompany them to the mass.

My biggest concern is that I'm not Catholic and neither are the kiddies. I have no problem with Hope attending the graduation mass. I think it's a great idea and Hope really wants to participate in this mass with her friends. But... and here lies my dilemma... Can Hope still attend the graduation mass even if we're not Catholic? Most of my daughter's classmates have had their Primera Comunión (First Communion), so they will be able to partake in the Communion part of the Mass. My daughter's Padrino is also Catholic, so he too will probably partake in the Communion. Will Hope be frowned upon for not partaking? Is the graduation mass only for Catholics? Will the people that know we aren't Catholic be offended by us participating in the mass? Does Hope have to go to confession, even though she won't be partaking of the communion? Being that this is my first elementary school graduation, my enquiring mind has hundreds of questions.

I've asked a few people about this and have gotten a different answer from every person I've asked. Some were shocked to learn that we aren't Catholic, others suggested that the easiest solution would be to just convert to Catholicism, and some even suggested it might be best if we didn't participate at all. Luckily, I'm not so easily discouraged. But I would like to know if someone has the answers that I seek. Please enlighten this clueless gringa.


With Love,
Leslie

19 comments

  1. Hi Leslie:
    The Catholic Church is evolving. My Father is Catholic, but my Mother, sister and I are not. We all take Communion when we attend Mass with Dad. Scripturally, Jesus does not say that this devotion is limited to Christians or Catholics for that matter. "This bread is my broken body and this wine is my spilled blood for you. Partake of these symbols in remembrance of me." I can understand your reluctance to attend if there is going to be a possibility of your daughter getting singles out and restricted. Maybe google a Catholic website. I bet the answer is there.

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  2. Leslie,
    I am a Catholic. One must remember that Catholics are "Christian" too. There is no shame in being a Christian, Catholic or not. Taking part in comunion or "comulgando" is not mandatory and if you ask the padrino to remain in the pew with your daughter he will understand and "no pasa nada". In fact, everyone will be happy that your daughter participates with her class. Even though Mexico is a "Catholic" country there are many "Cristianos" and some families deal with this all the time. Some of the family memebers are Cristianos and yet they still attend mass for things like weddings and funerals and quinceañeras etcetera. I suggest that you become comfortable with the Catholic mass. It is a very big part of the culture here. There is no harm done and if you are a Christian you will be pleasing God with your presence. I wish that I was there to help you with this. I hope that you can relax and have a nice time and make this another learning experience for both you and your daughter. Above all, keep peace in your heart.

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  3. Chrissy and Keith,

    Perhaps the Catholic Church is evolving but it hasn't evolved that far yet "officially". Therefore I think that if people already know that Leslie and her daughter are not Catholic it would not be a good idea to take communion. Some of the older people might feel very uncomfortable and there is no need to push the envelope that far although I do agree with you about the words spoken at the Last Supper.

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  4. Not really a big deal Leslie, I went to a Catholic school for most of my education and when they went for communion I simply stayed in the pew, while everyone else got up and went for communion. Yes it was awkward for the first time or two, but since my family were Christians and had our own Communion which customarily only were able to receive once or twice a year, I was not upset about it.
    As long as you explain the whys of the difference between religions your daughter will understand.
    Celebrate it when you get home or take her out to a place afterwards anyway.
    Good Luck!

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  5. Leslie, I agree with Bob, it would be better to follow the custom and is a great learning opportunity for your children and you. :)

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  6. you would not be allowed to participate in communion, but I don't think that's a big deal. Not everyone who is Catholic participates either. It is common for a Catholic to refrain if he does not feel worthy to do so.

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  7. All, Catholics, Christians, and non-Christians are invited to celebrate in the Mass. This blog here (http://irishanddangerous.blogspot.com/2007/10/why-cant-non-catholics-receive.html) answers the question "Why Can't Non-Catholics Receive Communion At Mass?" quite well.

    Catholics do not believe that the Eucharist is a mere sign of Christ or his love for us; Catholics believe it IS Christ. All Catholics believe that the bread and wine actually transform into the true presence of Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity.

    It sounds like the celebration of this Mass and her graduation will be a beautiful day for your daughter. What greater way to celebrate this milestone than to spend it in this way, and to show/celebrate Christian unity by joining in the celebration of the Mass?

    Any Catholic should be thrilled you are there, regardless of your affiliation. It is an outward showing of our common Christian faith.

    The USCCB site here (http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/q&a/mass/communion.shtml) gives some guidelines for fellow Christians which are usually written at the back of the missal at church:

    For our fellow Christians
    We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ's prayer for us "that they may all be one" (Jn 17:21). Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 § 4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 § 3).

    For those not receiving Holy Communion
    All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.

    For non-Christians
    We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.

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  8. Hi Leslie,

    I'm born and raised Catholic - what we've always told our friends who weren't Catholic, was they were able to go up and be blessed, but to keep their arms crossed over their chest so that the Priest was aware they were not receiving Communion... I grew up going to Catholic schools my whole life, and lots of the kids attended were Christian, and not Roman Catholics - they were always able to come up by doing this!

    Hope that helps!

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  9. I am coming late to the fray. I grew up Catholic but found another spiritual path as an adult, when I go to Mass (for weddings etc), I just stay in my pew during communion. I have never had any flack, here or nob. Not everyone takes communion so you won't be the only ones left behind. Speaking of standing, there is a lot of standing,sitting and kneeling during Mass, just do your best to follow along. There is also a part where you offer the kiss of peace to your neighbors, some people just shake hands,so you might check out what they do in the church you are attending.
    My neighbor, who is Catholic sends her kids to a Presbyterian school, and had a similar dilemma when her daughter graduated but in reverse.

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  10. Chrissy & Keith: Thank you! Yes, the Catholic church is evolving and has always made us feel welcome when attending Mass. However, we do not partake of the Communion, out of respect for the Catholics, even though it is what we miss the most about the States. (No Christian churches where we live!)

    Bob: Your words of wisdom and encouragemnt are always a Godsend. Thank you. We are pretty comfortable with the Catholic Mass, because as you said, we attend weddings, quinceañeras, etc. Only we've never attended a Mass that was specifically being held for one of us.

    Constantino: Gracias Amigo! I hope that my daughter will be able to look back on this experience with a positive and understanding attitude. And of course, there will be a party for her afterwards here at home.

    Gman: Thank you! We always refrain from partaking of Communion when we attend Mass. It's a relief to know that not all Catholics partake.

    Km_f: Thank you for all the helpful information. I will be checking out the websites you suggested!

    On Mexican Time: Thanks for the tip! I will surely be reminding my daughter to keep her arms crossed when it's Communion time. (That and a subtle "no" nod!)

    Theresa: Thank you so much for sharing your gems of wisdom. I enjoy the exercise that I get when attending Mass. We have no problem with the kiss of peace, because we know almost everyone.

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  11. When I lived in a small town in Nuevo León all the little kids would go up to the altar and "Paz del Señor" with the priest. I generally walk all around the church extending my hand to people and giving hugs to the people I know. It is one of my favorite parts of the mass. I also like the singing and I especially like to sing the Padre Nuestro (Our Father). I don't care what anybody thinks either. I just worry about pleasing God :)

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  12. Bob: Pleasing God is the only thing we should be worried about! "Que la Paz del Señor este contigo".

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  13. It is good to think about these kinds of situations and use them as teachable moments for our kids. Raising our kids Jewish (minority everywhere but Israel) means we encounter these sorts of lessons frequently.

    Kudos to you for thinking through the alternatives and choosing the best course for your family.

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  14. Wow glad you'll have gone through all this and can help me when my time comes.

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  15. Pretty good advice all around, Ive been a ¨padrino¨many times...usually as the official photographer. However to be a Padrino at a baptism it is usually required several visits to the Padre along with the compadres and if you´re not Roman Catholic the Priest probably wont alow it. At least I´ve never heard of it happening. Whatever, my Catholic friends are amongst the best friends I have.

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  16. There is more than one way to be a Madrina or Padrino. You may be asked to be a "padrino" or "madrina" of something like beer or alchoholic beverages, or the cake or flowers and you will be expected to provide them at your expense. It is very common among friends and relatives as a manner to spread expenses around. One day you are a "padrino" for somebody else and when it is your turn you can ask them to be a "padrino" for you. It all evens out in the end. You can be sure that if you are asked to be a padrino or madrina for something that you are considered to be part of the extended family and you should consider it an honor even though you will need to part with some cash.

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  17. I realize that I am also coming in pretty late into this but I will say this... I am a Buddhist but went to a catholic high school, married a Mexican catholic and have attended many masses. It was also acceptable for me to take communion in the states, although I did not much- for my own reasons, but only go for a blessing here in Mexico. Everyone could use a blessing.
    Like already stated, the church is evolving- but it is evolving in practise in more liberal areas more then in actual doctrine.

    No matter what happens- it is those that love and respect you no matter what that are the true people of faith- the ones that are judgemental need to read their scripture whether the Torah, the bible, the Upanishads or the Sai bava gita.

    I do think that it is really nice that you are taking everyones feelings into account.

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  18. I was just confirmed a Catholic last month and I dont think its a big deal. Speak to the priest and tell him I htink the only difference is she cannot take communion but everything else is okay. Good Luck Stephanie

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  19. I am a Christian living amongst a lot of Catholics (if you live in Mexico this is a given). I think there are a lot of Christian's in the Catholic Church and we should embrace them and accept them.

    If it were my child in this situation I would encourage him/her to participate - the act of taking Communion in reality has no requirement but the desire. The rest is dogmatic and nonessential to a believer - I believe.

    Our son who is now grown participated here in Mexico with his Catholic friends in many of their activities - it worked out.

    Embrace the moment!

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