Saturday, February 25, 2012

Instruct the Uninformed - 7QT, Volume 54

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Have you ever been an Extraordinary Minister? What we used to call "Eucharistic Ministers," we should now call "Extraordinary Ministers." That is my first instruction in this 7 Quick Takes version of this week's Bright Maiden's topic on the first Spiritual Work of Mercy, "Instruct the Uninformed."

This is a tough task to ask of people trying to attract others to the Faith. To "instruct the uninformed" or to "instruct the ignorant," as it is often stated, sounds arrogant. As if we must bless others with the knowledge we have and they go without. But how often do we welcome instruction when we really need it?

Isn't that what all of those college loans are for? Aren't you glad to learn the tips and tricks you find on how to make life easier on Pinterest? When you're unsure about something, don't you wish someone would just set the record straight?

This is where we come in. Extraordinary Ministers hold the great position of distributing the Eucharist to His people. We actually give Jesus to hundreds of people.

"This is the Body of Christ" -- Words of true weight pass our lips for fifteen minutes.

So what do you do when someone approaches you and obviously doesn't know what you're about to give them?

In most situations (ie, apathetic teens), we can only instruct with "This is the Body of Christ," saying it with purpose. However, when someone is chewing gum, they are obviously ignorant of what they're doing and unprepared to receive the Eucharist.

A fellow EM of mine says that when a parishioner approaches him with gum showing in the corners of their mouth, he leans down and says, "I can't serve you with gum in your mouth. Go spit it out and then get back in line, please."

It sounds harsh, but those who chew gum moments before receiving the Eucharist really shouldn't receive at all. They haven't prepared for it. However, that moment is a moment wherein this person could completely turn away from the Church out of embarrassment or recognize that this EM is giving them a second chance.

Then they work out the rest with God.

One of my biggest pet peeves as an EM is a silly little ritual many parishioners at my church go through and I would love your input on how to handle it. Several married couples will approach me together, wait for me to give them both the Eucharist, and then receive it together.

ARGH! I should be concentrating on ministering, and I usually snap back into it. Quite frankly, when they stand side-by-side, I think, "Y'all are consuming the Eucharist! You're in full Communion with EVERYONE who has ever consumed the Eucharist! You're in full Communion with Christ! Why do you feel you have to add this extra bit of 'specialness?'"

I've settled on the decision to just administer to the Eucharist to these folks rather than whispering, "I'll serve you, one at a time." What do you think we should do in this case, Extraordinary Ministers out there? Is this silly to you or are you ready to throw a punch at me?


A friend once went to Mass and sat behind a young boy who, upon returning from the Eucharist line, proceeded to rip the Eucharist wafer into little pieces and tossing them into the air. He caught the pieces and threw them up in the air again.

Horrified, my friend's husband asked the boy if he was going to consume the Eucharist, while the boy's mom sat a few feet away.

It made no disturbance in the pew, my friend held out his hand as the boy poured the pieces into his hand, and he consumed it.

This is instructing the ignorant.

On twitter the other day, a self-proclaimed "holiday Catholic" said he was going to get the "crackers and wine" and he needed to find a place to get them and ashes.

Because Twitter is a great e-vangelizing forum, even if our efforts there only plant seeds, I decided to reach out. My first thought on this one was, "Why do you care to go at all if you think they're crackers and wine?" I corrected him and wished him good fortune in finding a place he liked. These are easy ways to instruct the uninformed because we don't have the direct confrontation.


Another Twitter encounter occurred the other day between me, Kate, Karianna, and "Feminist Breeder." You can see some of those points here and here.

The Catholic Church is not anti-gay, as Feminist Breeder was saying, and we wanted to set her straight. Karianna said, "Anti-gay not fair. Catholicism calls for all singles to remain chaste, gay or not." Kate followed up with, "And sin is sin, we're all equally sinful - Church is anti-sin, not anti-gay."

We need to inform those who think poorly of the Catholic Church as well as those who are tossing pieces of Jesus into the air at Mass.


I don't know whether or not my roommate thinks poorly of the Catholic Church, but I don't think she was familiar with Natural Family Planning methods. The other day, I told my new roommate that I am interested in using NFP as a wife and she said, "Is that like biorhythms?"

Thanks to folks like Katie, I got to explain to her, no, NFP is not like the rhythm method anymore. I explained that the rhythm method was used back in the 1930s and that we know a lot more about how best to avoid or to achieve pregnancy while keeping God in our bedrooms.

I also used the opportunity to explain that most of the methods are at least 97% effective when used properly (which relies on married couples communicating -- another benefit), which is far more promising than something like condoms. The error margin of condom use increases exponentially with every use (statisticians, help me learn how best to explain this, please!), while NFP methods remain effective as long as couples chart and communicate.

Every little conversation plants a seed and every little bit of ignorance we can rub out of the world leaves more opportunities for the Lord to work. This is our calling!


Anthony S. Layne said...

Someone made a great point the other day on another blog (I wish I could remember where so I could link it) about women being scared off NFP by advocates with 5+ children. As far as effectiveness goes, if you're not radically open to parenthood, then the only fully effective method of preventing pregnancy is abstinence. NFP presumes openness to the blessing of children and trust in God's will, and seeks merely to space the children out — which it does about as well as does the Pill, with none of the harmful side-effects. I know you know all that, but I think the person who made the comment is right that we don't stress this point often enough when we talk about it.

Kate said...

I just had a funny conversation yesterday with a friend who is Jewish, but very conservative. We were talking about NFP and BC and we were discussing how she uses condoms (she can't reconcile using abortifacients, so good for her and her husband!) and how we use NFP. We've discussed before how a few of her kids were "surprises." She posited that NFP must not be very popular, since "you don't see a lot of families with 12 kids anymore." At which point I pointed out that I was the one with two kids and she was the one with four! We both had a hearty laugh about that, and I offered to give her a quick intro if she ever wanted one. :)

Liesl said...

Mmmmm good post! I'm an EM almost every week and I always get nervous. What if someone comes up who clearly has no idea? I'm holding JESUS!! What if I drop the Host? Etc etc.

Leah said...

Elizabeth, you say statistics and I appear. I was going to try and flesh out the "The error margin of condom use increases exponentially with every use" briefly, but, in order to be precise, I spun it out into a full post on my blog: I’m like Beetlejuice, except you only have to say ‘Statistician’ once!. I hope this is helpful!

Beth Anne @ The Catholic Couponer said...

I remember on Christmas the guy in front of me didn't look like he swallowed it and the priest stopped him and was all "you must consume that now." My mom said once she saw a little girl put it in her pocket. After mass she went up to her and asked her what she did with Jesus and she said she was "saving it for later" and told her to eat it ASAP!

I've seen people do number 3 and it's cute but I can imagine as an EM it's REALLY awkward. I wonder what priests think about it and stuff. I think it would be cute on your wedding day but other than that probably not necessary.

Carly said...

I don't really want to start a debate regarding your tweetversation with the Feminist Breeder, since, well, I disagree with you. But! Regarding NFP (or similarly, fertility awareness method), I highly recommend the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I know it doesn't sound like a particularly Catholic title, but oh my goodness, I learned so much about my body after reading it. Understanding the intricacies of your cycle, without fear-tactics -- just tell it like it is, as a means of pregnancy avoidance or conception.

Marc Cardaronella said...

I know that Mariage Encounter encourages couples to receive the Eucharist side by side. It always seemed a little strange to me but it's part of their thing. I don't know if you're coming across Marriage Encounter people or if those couples just think it's a good idea. It's true what you say, the whole church is joined together in the Eucharist. What's the point of the show with side by side.

Great post! You definitely made the point about instructing the ignorant with these stories.

Katie@NFP and Me said...

Thanks for the link! I hope your roommate doesn't think us NFP-ers are quite as crazy anymore. :)

The story in #4 about the little boy breaks my heart. So happy your friend had the courage to do the right thing.

Elizabeth said...

I really like this post! I would like to "second" the recommendation of Taking Charge of your Fertility by Toni Weschler, MPH. It is very informative about the medical and scientific aspects. It was basically our NFP "textbook." It isn't Catholic, but she does say some good things about NFP and lists some Catholic NFP resources in her bibliography.

Allie said...

No help on your EM issue with married couples, but I love that your thoughts contain the word "y'all". ^_^

Anonymous said...

#3 that has always annoyed me and I am not an EM!
#7 planting seeds, giggle, giggle! I know I am bad, but I just couldn't resist.

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