Communion for the Demented. Maybe Not.

Too demented to receive Communion?


Last Sunday, I briefly chatted with our priest about Communion…. the holy rite that makes us Catholics, well Catholic. Or to be more precise, the fact that we believe the bread and wine actually transforms (transubstantiated) into the body and blood of the big J-C.

My mother used to be what they call, a Eucharistic Minister—she would give Communion to churchgoers and the sick. Now, she’s sick and no one comes to our house. I’ve called about this. I guess I could try harder. I’ve sort of given up on this… mostly because she still takes Communion on Sundays. The problem, however, is that she not only takes Communions, she holds up the line trying to talk (actually, she rambles—LA FRUTA, LA FRUTA, MI ESPOSO, DESPIERTA AMERICA) to her boyfriend the priest……………….. then, making matters slightly worse, she chugs the wine—and backwashes—and refuses to give back the chalice (so I have to yank it out of her hands)……………. she likes the blood of christ…. it’s Berringer, White Zin. Nice legs.

This has caused some commotion and so when I talked to our priest about this in hopes of making the process less loud and messy, he told me that we should start “weaning” her off Communion. Apparently, one of the prerequisites of receiving Holy Communion is that you understand what you are doing, that you are consuming the body and blood of Jesus Christ. She obviously doesn’t, and therefore should not receive the most sacred of rituals within our church.

This is frustrating. My mom LOVES to get her Communion—despite not having the most pure motives (she wants to chat up her priest and she likes wine)……………….. but is it really up to mortal men to decide whether she can consume the body and blood?

{Long siiiiiiiiiiiiggggggghhhhhh, eye roll}

Seriously. I mean, I don’t have the deepest connection to Our Father, but I think God will cut my mother some slack in this situation (Preemptive apology: I am very sorry Dear God that my mom chews your son up and then chugs his blood, often spilling it on herself), especially since he is the one who made my mom sick—if you believe “that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything.”

Some quick Google searches on the subject, and the reviews are mixed.

One person on a message board called it “inappropriate,” another said that if the individual knows that the host is “special,” which I think my mom does, then it’s OK.

For me, I want her to have Communion because my mom was (and still is in her own way) one the most devout women I’ve ever encountered. I used to think her love for God was stronger than her love for me…………………..

So, for me, as her only daughter (who tried to get ex-communicated to avoid going to catechism class—it didn’t work—and now recites the prayers in Spanish so she can follow along with me—I intend to de-raise a good Catholic mother), all I want is for her to be able to receive the body and blood as she’s always done. I won’t fight the Church on the matter and I suppose we’ll see how things go……….. he wants to slowly limit her by just giving her the host (no wine)………………….

Holy Communion gives her joy and she’s often said that it makes her feel better……………………. the placebo effect of Christ.


  1. hi- i’ve been folowing your blog for quite awile now when i started out googling alzheimers ande found you. you have the patiences of a saint!i’ve never commented unntil i saw this post and my blood boiled! i was raised a catholic and my mom is also religious. i’ve had a few “issues” with the church – they have this aversion to divorce – so do i, but it happened. anyway, i no longer participate but my mom does to the best of her ability (unlike ur mom, mine sleeps thru the whole thing) but to not give her communion?????? that is pure bullshit! my mother was also a echaristic minister and no one came to her when she was housebound and it use to drive my crazy! but thta’s another subject. the only thing i would suggest for you was to get one of those carriers for the host and ask if you could have someone administer it ( i would just give it to her yourself, but i know they won’t buy that!)so when in doubt with the church i just omit what they don’t want to hear or just outright tell them what they want to hear. i’m sorry this is such a rant, butthey have no right to refuse your mother something that is so important to her. please know you are an amazing woaman coping with the cruelest disease on earth. keep up your strength and continue to do what will make your mother the happiest even if it means circumventing the “system”

  2. I just a few moments ago got a call from the Eucharistic minister who had been bringing communion to my wife who in her stage of vascular dementia sometimes knows and sometimes does not know what she is receiving. This minister had talked to the “sister in charge” and they have decided not to give communion to my wife any more. This is very pitiable – another lack of real morality and Christ-like love by the Catholic rule book mentality. It reminds me of abortion which is cold flat wrong in any case. But the argument that a demented patient might not know that this is really Christ means Christ or God would not want her to receive communion since it’s just a chance that she will not be in the proper state of whatever: awe? fervor? boy, am I ever a Catholic because I know this is the real body of Christ?) This is like those who argue it is okay to kill unborn babies because we don’t have total agreement amongst scientists that they are human beings yet. So, go ahead and take the chance that you’re not really killing a human. So go ahead and take the chance that God does not really want your demented loved one to gain some measure of solace and comfort from communion. How do we know what goes on between Christ and our demented ones. But the short-sighted, mentally limited rule-book folks are still so incredibly presumptuous as to assume the right to intercede! Sigh. I may mail this to the world – or I may just quietly retreat a bit further toward God and away from my organized religion of rules – but if I do retreat I’ll miss the real Christ like people who will always be in that religion.

  3. This brief article may help to shed some light on this delicate subject, without bashing the Church or passing rash judgments on “the Catholic rule book mentality.” The Church has both theology and canon law for a very good reason. She is the custodian of the sacraments, especially the most holy Eucharist. As such, she has the right to develop the norms for who may or may not receive Communion. Please see the following link:

  4. I am nearly beyond fed up with the Catholic Church. I was raised Catholic by my mother as was my sister. My mother worked hard all of her adult life at a job that required her to be on her feet all day. But, she always drove me to Cathecism and attended Sunday mass with me regardless of how tired she might have been after working all week. She gave me not only my birth name but my Confirmation name, Veronica. We know the role of Veronica in the life of Jesus. What does that say? You decide. I also became a Eucharistic Minister and served in the church itself.

    I have looked for connectedness within the church without success. Most of the events are geared around couples or families. My family was in So CA 500 miles away from me and I was no longer a 1/2 of a couple. Where did that leave me?

    I recently completed training in the grief ministry. I wrote lengthy introductions to two of my community churches offering my services. Neither had the time to even acknowledge receipt of my offer.

    My mom has Alzheimer’s. As someone mentioned, no one will ever know “what she knows” and she just may be unable to communicate what she knows. Communication is difficult at best for her. She is mobile, happy, content and very loving with me and other residents as well as the nurses and CNA’s. The Eucharistic Minister that visits the nursing home once a week will not give my mother communion because “my mother doesn’t understand the meaning.”

    I have never heard of anything so un-Godly. I am on the edge of giving up on the church…they have given up on me and my mom during our greatest time of need.

  5. Well like the rest in the same boat, my mother is entering the advance stages, and still enjoys her Sunday morning Mass on TV. I’ve ordered a case of communion fellowship cups, you pull off the lid, there is the wafer, underneath juice. She can sit and watch her mass and have her wafer. The diocese and churches in my area never responded to my inquiries and request. Frankly they are Christ mongers as defined by the DIDACHE codex.

  6. I find this so sad. I found your blog while I was looking for a Communion Liturgy that might be suitable to use for a service which includes people with dementia. We are holding a workshop for people in our church to look at how we can better engage on a spiritual level with sufferers. I want to include Communion in the worship as I think the ritual of it might just help people to connect – it’s something that is familiar to many. I noticed the comment that your mother may not understand what’s happening. My question to the priest would be – which one of us truly understands what happens in Communion? BTW – I am a minister in the Church of Scotland.

  7. Thank you for your note. I don’t think its common practice, but things are different now. And I agree with you. Thank you for reading and I hope the post helped spark ideas. You can reach me at for further comment/thoughts as I am not always updating the blog since her passing.

  8. When i was six,mom started having health problems and because of them,i never made my First Holy Communion at age 7!Dad was working long hours and over the next few years mom got worse! She passed away when i was 11 and my Great Aunt Martha came to live with dad and i.She was in her late 70s,but still seemed to be ok.She took me to all of my classes at the parish and made sure i understood everything.Finially,when i was 13,i was set to make my First Holy Communion with the 2nd graders.By herself,she went out and bought my poofy communion dress and veil with the lace anklets and white mary jane shoes.The dress was sleeveless and kind of like a little girls dress,but in my size and came to the top of my knees.Four days before the ceremony at sunday mass,she came into my room after i got home from school with a bag and told me it was my underwear for under my communion dress.She took out a cloth diaper,diaper pins,and a pair of white super large size rubberpants and a sleeveless undershirt and showed them to me and told me i have to wear them under my dress for the day! I was shocked and flabbergasted! She told me that they would make me feel pure like the little girls! I told her i didnt need them,but she was adamant and told me she would put them on me when i was dressed.Sunday morning,she put the diaper,rubberpants and undershirt on me along with the rest of my outfit and i felt weird being with the little kids in my class! After that she put the cloth diaper and rubberpants and undershirt in my drawer and told me i have to wear them for easter,christmas,etc! I knew then that she was losing her mind and she kept on getting worse!

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