Catholics use a set of regulations, and their faith is nurtured since a tender age. Sacraments that were set by Christ himself play a crucial role in the life of Christians. Each Catholic is supposed to receive six out of seven sacraments. It is not possible to get all seven because one has to choose either marriage or priesthood for men and sisterhood for women. Catechism of the Catholic Church, a document that permits one to perform certain roles in the church, determines the terms and conditions for receiving each sacrament. One of the most important sacraments is the Sacrament of Eucharist; it is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2003, 1324). In this sacrament, the qualified person receives bread and wine; according to the religious belief, they are considered the conversed body and blood of Christ. For one to be allowed to receive this sacrament for the first time, a person has to be qualified through passing a catechism exam, being baptized, and having received the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. As a rule, these arrangements are performed by a young person, usually a child of seven-eight years. After the first time, “Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2003, 1415). The Eucharist is received during solemn liturgical banquet, which is an extremely interesting mixture of thoughts and acts. Some people, especially the youth, who are not sure whether to go out and receive the body and blood of Christ, usually follow their friends even if they are not in the state of grace. They make such decision in order to seem more religious or simply because of embarrassment. Nevertheless, they behave in a very uncomfortable way that suggests that they do not know whether they are doing the right thing or not.
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Married people, who have not received the sacrament of matrimony, are faced with a similar dilemma. Many of them consider themselves free to receive the communion because they are in marriage, but the fact that a priest has not authorized them leaves them quite unsure.
This ethnographic study examines the behaviour of the Catholic followers, to determine how they behave when they are not sure whether they fit the requirements to receive the Eucharist or not. An observation considers the behaviours of the Roman Catholic Church followers. Except field observation, the teenagers and people around the age of 40 were interviewed. According to Spardley (1979), Maanen (1988), and Salvador, Bell, & Anderson (1999), observation is important because one can read the body language and determine when a person is sure of whatever he/she does, and when he/she is cheating. The priest of the local community allowed conducting the research inside the church. The findings of the study can be used to determine the level of respect that people have to the Sacrament and their religious devotion.
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It was observed that, after having received Christ in the Sacrament of Eucharist, people followed different rituals. While some knelt and seemed to make prayers, some made their silent prayers while standing or sitting. However, observations showed that some did not even bother to say any prayers or observe silence for at least a few moments. This was a source of serious concern because, according to Catechism of the Catholic Church (2003), which is universal, it was expected that all the people who received the Sacrament would have a uniform response.
The second observation was that older people, who went to receive the Sacrament, did not have a wedding ring on their fingers. This prompted the question of whether they were really qualified for the Eucharist. Of course, the ring is not the acute sign of marriage, as some people do not wear rings at all. Consequently, the interviews were used to clarify the situation and find the married couples that had not passed the Sacrament of Matrimonial and were not legible to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. In addition, the young people seemed to go on to receive Eucharist with their friends, with whom they came to the church. This situation prompted another question on whether they were all legible. This question was further raised by the fact that other groups of young people, who did not receive the Sacrament, did so also as a group. The mannerisms of some of those who went to receive the communion were also questionable, as some seemed to be unsure of whether or not to go to the priest. Notably, it was obvious that few youths were hesitant, but their peers seemed to influence their decision. Some would stand up and then hesitantly sit down, before eventually making their way. In addition, some of the hesitant people would not make prayers after receiving the Sacrament.
As a rule, most people aged above 35 are married. The Sacrament of Eucharist is only allowed to people, who are recognized by the church as a married couple. Divorce is not recognized by the doctrine of the Catholic Church. Thus, it is expected that only the widowed and married people receive the Sacrament of Eucharist (Osborne 1998). One of the main ways to determine whether a person is married or not is through observing whether he/she has a marriage ring. It may raise concerns if people without rings go to receive the communion because this means that they either are widowed or ask for the Eucharist illegally. It may even be translated that they remove the ring in order to engage in some infidelity. These instances, in turn, can taint the image of the Catholic Church. The Sacrament of Eucharist is vital, as the followers believe that it is the closest physical interaction that one can have with God (Osborne 1998). Therefore, it was important to determine the circumstances that made people without rings on their fingers go and receive the Sacrament of Eucharist (Osborne 1998). After a few interviews, it was determined that some people faced difficulties in receiving the church wedding, especially when one of the spouses was not a religious person. This made the other person go and seek permission from the priest, so that he/she can continue to receive the Sacrament of Eucharist. This was a provision made by the church to ensure that people do not suffer from the possibility of being left out in their religious practises, because their marriage partners were not willing to engage in the religion. In further observations, it turned out that some people at the age of forty were not married at all, as it was expected. This means that they did not have any restrictions caused by the church wedding in order to have authorization from the priest to receive the communion.
It was observed that many young people below 25 years old did not say their prayers after receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, as the church doctrine demanded. Further, most young people said their prayers seated, while only few said the prayers kneeled. After having asked for this information from the priest and other church leaders, it was clarified that one should always say a prayer after receiving the communion. A person should say the prayer, either standing or kneeling, unless he or she is not able to do this because of certain illnesses. This behaviour is taught during the catechism lessons, and anyone who goes to receive the Sacrament should know the procedure. After talking to some of those who seemed to be unsure of their position to whether receive the Eucharist or not, it was determined that many had made their decision under the influence of their peers, and not inner feeling. Many of them had not passed their catechism exams and considered that they would look unreligious if they did not go and receive the Sacrament during the Mess as most of their friends did. That was a good explanation to the trend that had been observed in the church that youths who sat together during the service went to receive the communion also together. At the same time, it was determined that most of them had not passed their catechism exams or were not in the state of grace; therefore, they were not legible to receive the Sacrament of Eucharist. This was an indication that the Catholic Church had some loopholes, as unqualified people had the chance to receive the most sacred ritual. Youths were carried away by their social image, instead of having an emotional attachment and religious vision of the Sacrament. Therefore, more confraternity of Christian doctrine or catechism lessons are needed to ensure that people understand the meaning of the Holy Sacraments.
Today, many people, especially the youths have become insensitive to their religion. They observe religious traditions just as a way of showing off and gaining recognition in the society through cleansing their images. Most of them do unethical deeds and use the platform of the church to ensure they are neither caught nor suspected. This situation calls for immediate intervention by the church leaders as well as the revision of the church liturgy.
The process of carrying out this study was enjoyable and extremely interesting as many observations were made. If a future study was to be carried out, a similar approach, but may be with finer details should be included. It could clearly determine the extent, to which the Catholic Church followers perceive the church activities as a norm, and not as divine nourishment. This fact may be attributed to the liturgical nature of prayer and masses in the Catholic Church. Therefore, it may be advisable to carry out another study to see whether there is any correlation between the traditional liturgical nature and the progressive loss of strength of the Church among its members, especially the youth. The erosion of the Church in developed countries, and its spread in South America and Africa signifies that there are some issued that need to be considered, evaluated, and addressed in the nearest future.
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