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Communion in a crowded church
Question from Tim on 04-06-2015:
First, I am not Catholic. Second, I am a musician who has substituted frequently at the organ in a few Catholic parishes in my area. So I am well acquainted with the liturgy and teachings of the Church. One day I decided to attend a Saturday vigil Mass.

To my surprise the building was packed with people standing at the back of the nave and in the narthex (which I later found out was the norm for this parish). At Communion I soon realized an unforeseen situation. It would be extremely difficult for me to remain in the pew as people would have to crawl over me to the aisle. To make matters worse, since we were standing, the press of my fellow worshipers was forcing me out into the aisle and toward the altar.

Because of the crowd there was no room to politely step aside at the end of the pew and let others pass. Rather than make a scene and not knowing what else to do, I quickly searched my heart, confessed my sins, and asked the Holy Spirit to guide me, help me not to willfully sin again, and strengthen me in future temptations. Then partook of the sacrament.

Under the circumstances, was it wrong for me to do so and did my prayer of confession make me worthy to receive the Lord's body? Was there something I could have done to alert the priest I would not be partaking?

Answer by Catholic Answers on 04-07-2015:
Tim--

Since you apparently knew the protocol of the Catholic Church that you should not receive Communion, but did so anyway, I cannot say that your chosen course of action was "correct." You could have simply said to the people pushing at you, "Excuse me, please," and worked your way back to where you had been seated. Or you could have crossed your arms over your chest to indicate to the minister of Communion that you would not be receiving.

That said, an inability to figure out a correct course of action in such a situation does not necessarily mean that you "sinned" by receiving Communion. If you did the best you could according to the knowledge you had at the time, then this is not a matter of sin. For the future, if you go to a Catholic Mass again, it may be helpful to have a plan of action for how to handle avoiding this problem at Communion time.

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers


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