There are times when no matter what you do, you do the wrong thing. That's exactly what happened to Prime Minister Harper last weekend. You've really got to feel sorry for the Prime Minister. As you probably know, he attended the funeral for former Govenor General Romeo LeBlanc last weekend. The service was in a Catholic Church and he was appropriately sitting on the front row.
Part of a Catholic funeral includes communion. Normally, people who want to receive communion in a Catholic service get up from their seats and move to the altar area where the host and the wine are administered by the priest. In this particular case, the priest chose to approach the front row and offer communion to those seated there. I think it was a classy way of handling things and applaud the priest's decision.
Here's where things get sticky.... The PM is a protestant which means that he really doesn't qualify to take communion in a Catholic service. His options are as follows:
1. He can cross his arms to indicate that he is not a Catholic and ask for a blessing instead. I've been ordained for almost 25 years and I didn't know that was the appropriate response. It's hardly fair to expect the PM to know that's what he should do. I can only wonder how the theological giants in the media would have reported that response.... PM REFUSES COMMUNION AT FORMER GG's FUNERAL.
2. He can put the wafer in his pocket. It's certainly a better option than crossing his arms, except for the fact that Catholics believe that the host (the wafer) actually becomes the body of Jesus during the service, which makes it holy. Having Jesus close by on a daily basis is something evangelicals believe in, but putting the wafer in your pocket is a bad idea, just in case the Catholics are right on this one....
3. He can take communion. It's probably the best option and the one that he followed, BUT.... only Catholics truly qualify to receive communion in a Catholic setting. The priest who served said that it's probably okay if you do it once in a while, but that it shouldn't become a regular practice. I say that it's lucky for the PM that he's visiting with Pope in a few weeks where he can either confess and get it sorted out or the Pope can set him straight on what the best response might be. Note to His Holiness... if you want to have a bit of fun with our PM, offer him communion and see what he does....
Here's the part of this story that I find really strange. I've done a few funerals over the years and I've never seen anyone video tape the participants to see what they are doing. I guess it's one thing if the funeral is for Michael Jackson (although I confess I couldn't help but think of the hypocrisy of the media and the masses who a week earlier would have mocked him relentlessly...) but we are talking about a State Funeral for the Governor General. This isn't cousin Sally's wedding where you want a shot of the bride's mother smiling, crying, glaring or glowing. Who in their right mind would video tape the serving of communion anyway? More importantly, who would think this was a viable news story that Canadians really wanted to hear about?