Some people may enjoy attending Mass but do not practice the Catholic faith. The Catholic Church is happy to see people of different faiths attending, but they do request, most often in the service, that only Catholics participate in the Communion portion of the service. To take Communion when one is not Catholic feels like a violation of the sacred nature of the sacrament to most practicing Catholics.
This may seem a little strange to non-Catholics, who wonder why it matters. A practicing Catholic would respond that it matters because of the spirit in which one takes Communion. Catholics believe that the host is literally the body of Christ, transformed from bread by the priest presiding over the service. For Catholics, to accept the body of Christ when not believing it to be such is sacrilegious and heretical.
If non-Catholics are thinking about becoming Catholics, accepting Communion host is still not appropriate. Taking one’s first Communion host, whether as a child or adult, requires thoughtful participation and education. The sacrament of the Eucharist occurs after baptism. Someone who is not yet a member of the Catholic Church is welcome to attend masses, investigate, and go to special classes if he or she would like to join the church at a future point.
Many other Christian churches also have a Communion ceremony, and might also ask people not to take part unless they are a member of the church. Some churches may not care about what denomination a Christian practices. They may encourage all who are Christian to take part in the section of the service if they truly believe in Christ, and believe that Communion is the symbol of the body of Christ.
This is especially the case with churches that are quite similar. For example, an Anglican Christian might take Communion at a Presbyterian or Episcopal Church. Churches that are non-denominational and have a Communion service may encourage all with Christian beliefs to take part.
In most cases, if one is not Christian, one should abstain from taking Communion in any church where it is offered. Though in some cases, a church may believe that such exclusion is not necessary. A church may conclude that the person who takes part shares in the body of Christ whether or not he believes.
If you enjoy attending church services but are not Christian, it’s a good idea to ask a Christian friend who belongs to the church, or the pastor, what you should do about the Communion portion of the service. These people can help advise you about the way the sacrament is regarded in a specific church.