just an example of the church's cantankerousness, the holier-than-thou attitude that may not always be so holy indeed: after the first communion ceremony of the two girls and a boy last sunday, there was a holy communion for the rest of the attending public. a nice little girl of maybe 12 was in line just before me and when it was her turn to take the host (*), the priest suddenly stopped and yanked the sacred bread dipped in consecrated wine out of her reach.
"have you had this before?", he demanded the bedazzled girl rather rudely. sparks were flying out of his eyes, which he now centered on me. "has she had first communion in church?" he asked me. now, according to church rules dating back 1000 years, last revised toward the end of the 19th century, a child goes through an initiation into catholic rites by way of first communion, before (s)he can receive the eucharist, that is, unite with jesus by eating the sacred bread/body and sipping the wine/blood of the christ. it is the parents' duty to ensure that the child is duly prepared and does not take communion before the induction. so, i guess the priest thought i was the girl's father and was expecting an answer from me.
i almost said yes. the girl was a total stranger to me - i did not even know she was christian or not.
the catholic church is a creature of habit. it has survived and will survive by clinging to its very well planned and ordained rituals and norms. however, in my view, the priority of the church is, or should be, promoting the love of jesus, and promoting itself as the conduit of that love; rather than enforcing strict liturgical discipline with an unsmiling face. so, for me, a child's happiness and joy and possibly also the pride of being accepted by community, of becoming "somebody", is more important and in decorum with the spirit of christ (and christianity, or any religion) than observing some canon with militant precision.
however, i did not dare tell the priest to go ahead, give the child the host - how was i to know whether her family aggreed with my interpretation of catholic dogma?
the girl, now hesitant and not understanding why she was subjected to this turndown, was visibly disquieted and dejected. she did not fathom why she was denied what was available to all, including the three children - who were all younger than her by the way. she was also somewhat afraid.
some people from the queue told the priest that yes, she was eligible for the eucharist. after that, the fierce eyes, self satisfied with upholding the law of the church, turned with discipline on the girl who was now allowed to eat the holy bread dipped in wine. yet, i guess, this time, the child took the host not because she wanted to but because she was afraid not to, lest she would be the focus of yet another scene! she ate the host, broke away from the row and disappeared through the pews.
later, in the patio, i asked her mother how she fared after the ordeal. the mother told me that she had thrown up in a nervous fit, caused by the anxiety she suffered by reason of a servant of the church.
yes, god's rottweiler, if he really wishes to revive the house of jesus christ, has to fetch love back under its roof. barking for more obeisance, apparently, betrays the purpose.
(*) the round, flat and thin waffle that represents the body of jesus he offered the disciples at the last supper. only the faithful who observe catholic rites and norms fully are supposed to partake of it.