Fear of the Eucharist

In my opinion, fear and loathing of the sacraments is one of the clearest signs of the Evil One. I am not simply speaking of disdain and contempt: those can come out of human pride, a kind of superior attitude that says “Look at those stupid people, pouring water on babies’ heads and thinking it does more than give them a wet head.” This is bad enough, of course, but what I am really referring to is a deep loathing of the sacraments, the kind of attitude that seeks to prevent people from “wasteing their time” in the worship of God. I have even seen that loathing descend into fear: people who are afraid of the sacraments, because (I think) they know that within the mystery of the sacraments they come face to face with their own powerlessness. So the sacraments must be eliminated.

Why bring this up? A scene I saw in a movie this evening brought to mind a moment of ministry I once lived in which I was prevented from bringing communion to people being detained by the Canadian government. The “detention centre” was supposedly a temporary stop, mainly for persons claiming refugee status, although some people were there for months at a time. Christmas was coming, and I suggested that we have a Mass for the many Catholics who were there. This was flat-out refused. Why, you ask? Because to have prisoners receive something (i.e. the Eucharist) without the guards receiving it might give the prisoners the impression they were something special. And to have both the prisoners AND guards receive the Eucharist might give the impression they were somehow equal. So no communion, because “it would disrupt the activities of the detention centre”.

See, it’s all about power. These people are not accused of any crime, but the detention centre prison (and particularly this prison warden, whom I will never forget) wanted to make sure it was clear who had the power. And the Eucharist was a threat to that power. Imagine, being afraid of a few little wafers. But perhaps, in a backhanded way, it was a tribute to the power of the Eucharist — a power that undid slavery in the Roman Empire, a power that (properly lived) can undo our contemporary slaveries as well.