Unam Sanctam Catholicam

It was 2001. I was a non-denominational Protestant bouncing around various house churches and charismatic fellowships. Through various pathways I had discovered Catholicism, the faith into which I  had actually been baptized as a child but never received catechesis or sacraments. I was reading some Scott Hahn books and had attended a few daily Masses. And I was starting to read about the Eucharist, beginning to study the Real Presence of Jesus and the graces available through the Blessed Sacrament. Over the months, my heart gradually began to burn with desire for Christ in the Eucharist. One day for work I was passing through the affluent Michigan suburb of Farmington Hills, Archdiocese of Detroit. The marquis outside said that daily Mass was about to be offered, so I decided to go in. It was what I recognize now as a very generic post-conciliar Novus Ordo parish: Built in the circular like an amphitheater, featuring absurdist nouvueau stained glass images, a table altar centered on a sanctuary that looked like a performing arts stage, and a gargantuan baptismal font with adult-sized immersion pool and running waterfall for ambient noise. Gray carpet. And lots of lush plants, the kind you see in the hallways of big office buildings. But I was too much of a noob to notice or care about any of those things; in fact, at the time, I remember I liked the décor and found aesthetic of the water to be soothing and peaceful. But anyhow, the Mass began, offered by the parish priest—a tall, slender man in his late forties. There was little enthusiasm in his homily, which I recall was rather lackluster in performance and milquetoast in content. That didn’t seem to matter either though, for when he got to the Eucharistic liturgy I was on the edge of my seat. I wanted Jesus so bad. It did not matter that it was Eucharistic Prayer 2 of the Pauline Mass. My understanding of what was unfolding before cut through all that garbage like a katana and tore the fabric separating me from the divine. My soul was ablaze. When the priest distributed communion, I made the well-intentioned but poor decision to go up and receive the Eucharist anyways. I was not ignorant of the rules of the Church—I already knew one was supposed to be a Catholic in a state of grace in order to receive. I don’t remember how I rationalized it, but I do recall that it was motivated by the sincerest desire to possess what every Catholic had but many seemed to take for granted.  So I got in line and received Holy Communion sacrilegiously from the priest. I felt deeply touched by the reality of what I had received, but I also immediately knew that what I had done was wrong. I was panged by guilt, and skulked out immediately after the final blessing. 

Unam Sanctam Catholicam

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