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Bread and Whine, or Why I am Spiritually Hangry

| Friday, March 3, 2017

We all want what we can’t have. If we have brown hair, we want to be blond. If we’re good at math, we wish we could write better. If we’re Lutheran, we wish we were Catholic.

At least when Communion rolls around. We recite the words along with everyone else but halfheartedly, because we know “take and eat, all of you” does not include us. We walk up with our arms folded across our chest to receive a blessing in external deference, but internally we’re squashing negative little thoughts about “consolation prizes.” We look at actual Jesus, right in front of us, and then refuse Him. And then we sit back down, look at our friends with their heads bowed in Eucharist-fueled prayer and feel a very real sense of FOMO.

I get fired up about this at the dinner table.

“We basically believe the same thing,” I whine to my friends. “See, Jesus is fully present in the Eucharist in my church, too,” I say, pulling up the PDF of the recently ratified “Declaration on the Way,” a joint Catholic-Lutheran work that claims “there are no longer church-dividing issues” between our two churches.

My friends — who are awesome by the way, and I hope they don’t object to me talking about them because I love them all — have all but convinced me of transubstantiation, but this isn’t enough.

“It’s about Church unity,” they say. I wonder about the importance of Christian unity in general.

“Spiritual communion is good too!” they say. If spiritual communion is so good, then why does everyone else get the Eucharist?

“If it’s this important to you, just convert,” they say. Sometimes, I have a hard time expressing that I don’t feel I’m missing anything from my own church, so I just grumble to myself about the time some Lutherans received communion at the Vatican.

But my frustration, I think, has led to some good things. My dinner table conversations have taught me things I never knew about the Eucharist. Now, I know what the substances and the accidents are, and I know that the Eucharist is an actual portal to Heaven — how cool is that? My little rants have also forced me to question my own beliefs. Why does missing out bother me so much? Is it the awkwardness of having the congregation watch you walk up only to receive a blessing? Or is it because I’m finally realizing how important the Eucharist actually is, and I’m noticing the hole it leaves behind when it’s not there? I hope it’s the latter.

These questions don’t stop at the Eucharist. Often, conversations turn to the Immaculate Conception, Adoration or why I still haven’t converted to Catholicism. And even though my friends and I don’t understand the finer points of each other’s religions, I’d like to think we are all growing in faith through our discussions.

So now, when I’m in my home church, I march up to Communion in obnoxiously emblazoned Notre Dame gear, and I think about the gifts I am (actually) about to receive with a new joy and appreciation. And I think of how beautiful it would be if I could share these gifts with my friends at Notre Dame.


Petra Rantanen


Feb. 28

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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