I had the opportunity to spend some time alone with my 15-year old niece. My nephew, who just graduated from a Catholic all-boys high school, was working and I wasn't able to spend much time with him. But at least he completed his high school years in a Catholic environment, for what it's worth. My niece only spent one year in a Catholic all-girl's school before her parents changed their mind and decided to pull her out so she could attend a Christian school.
She was sharing with me a story about how she was a little confused about receiving the Eucharist. A classmate asked her why, and my niece said, "Well. I'm a Christian. I'm not Catholic."
Oy. What to say...
She went on to say that she didn't understand why little kids can't receive the Eucharist because in their church, everybody is allowed to receive communion. So, I took a deep breath and tried to explain a few things to her. First, I told her that when the Church that Jesus Christ founded began, everyone was together. There was only one church until Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg door of a church. She seemed to understand that slightly. Then I explained to her why the Catholic Church treats the receiving of the Eucharist so reverently; that preparation is needed to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. I asked her if she ever heard of the word "transubstantiation." She had not. (Again, I'm thinking, "What are they teaching the students in their first year of high school in religion class?")
I explained that other churches may celebrate communion but that it is symbolic for them. For Catholics, though, they believe that the bread and wine is transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. I told her the Mass is designed to meet that pinnacle point, when the priest consecrates the bread and when he does that, this is when it becomes the Body and Blood of Christ. She listened, and I'm not sure how much penetrated, but she at least listened. Then she changed the subject since her attention span is usually the amount of gnat's. But I felt good that we at least talked about it.
It saddens me that too often, other Christians look at Catholics and think they're not Christian. I'm not sure how many studied church history and if they simply began with Martin Luther and the 1400's. How is it that Christians forget that the Early Church was comprised of those who were martyred for their faith - those who Catholics revere today as saints? There is so much confusion and false assumptions. It's one of the reasons why I'm studying Catholic apologetics.
I attended both Mass and my brother's church yesterday. What contrast. I asked my niece if she wanted to join me since my brother and sister-in-law were already at their church's first service. She politely declined. I told her how much the liturgy means to me and asked if she ever did like Mass. She said, "Sometimes, it's okay." Well, I know when I was her age, I pretty much felt the same.
I wish I could spend more time with her and my nephew and explain the joys and interesting things about the Mass. But I have a brother who unfortunately is vehemently anti-Catholic and would most likely bust a gasket if he thought I was trying to influence his kids. I will continue to pray, though. I can't help but feel they're missing out on so much.