By Barb Arland-Fye
My husband Steve greeted me inside the nursing home where we would bring Communion to Catholic residents. He wore an oxford shirt and corduroy slacks, dressing up from his preferred flannel shirt and jeans. Both of us serve as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist for our parish, but bringing Communion to the nursing home was a first-time experience. Steve admitted feeling nervous. He worried about “messing up.” I felt a sense of peace because we were together, bringing the gift of Christ to people one week before Christmas.
Steve carried a clipboard with the Rite for distributing Communion outside of Mass attached. He also had two pocket watch-shaped containers (pyxes) that hold the body of Christ to bring to the sick. Nursing home staff led us to a warm, reassuring activity director who gave us a list of names of Catholics and their room numbers. We were to return the list to her after distributing Communion.
Off we went, walking through the halls, knocking gently on doors and asking people on our list if they would like to receive Communion. Steve and I took turns leading the prayers and giving Communion to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We tripped over our words a few times, apologizing that we were new at this ministry. We were received with gratitude, not criticism.
At times, I felt a pang of unworthiness. Praying prayers from the Communion rite alleviated that anxiety. “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” Yes, I do believe! I heard those words echoing in my mind. And the response reaffirmed the faith I profess, even though I was giving not receiving Communion: “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
If the individual we had come to see wasn’t in the room or sleeping, Steve prayed for them. We brought Communion to 21 people and each one left an impression on us. Finished for the day, Steve and I left in separate cars promising to talk later about how the experience affected us.
Brian and Karen lead this ministry for our parish. The next day, I spoke with Karen and Steve spoke with Brian. It dawned on me that the pang of unworthiness I felt might have been masking misplaced pride. Like Steve, I didn’t want to “mess up.” Our fears can cause us to miss the grace of the sacrament, Karen observed.
Brian, a nurse by profession, provided good insight for Steve concerning questions he had about distributing Communion in the nursing home. Brian assured Steve that he had been appropriately sensitive to people’s needs.
In reflecting on the experience, Steve said he felt invigorated. “The people appreciated it so much; they wanted to receive Communion.” I also felt that sense of gratitude.
This week we’re celebrating Christmas with extended family for the first time in a couple of years. My prayer is that all Christians have an opportunity to experience the love of family at Christmas time, and in particular the people to whom Steve and I brought the gift of Christ the week before Christmas.
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)