In my days at catholic school, which turned me into an atheist faster than any secular school probably would have, we had a nun in the fifth grade who told us that if you bit into the Eucharist, blood would squirt out into your mouth. She meant to scare us into not biting the wafer of course but it had the adverse effect and just made us more curious about the circulatory system of the communion wafer. Several of us made a pact that at the next Mass, we would bite into the body of Christ and see if he would indeed bleed. We were not sure exactly what would happen since we were taught that lying is a sin and surely Sister Mary Margaret, a bride of Christ, would never think about blackening her soul with even a venial sin. But the idea of blood squirting out of a wafer seemed laughable and having recently learned the Scientific Method we set out to find out for ourselves.
I remember receiving the Eucharist from the priest the only way I ever did which was to have him deposit it in my left hand. (I never was comfortable with the priest feeding me. I can do that for myself thank you) The wafer was light in my hand and cold. Surely not a member of any warm-blooded species I thought as I put it gently in my mouth trying not to let any saliva touch it which would make it too difficult to bite. I got back to the row where we were to kneel into communion was over. The nuns would pace back and forth down the aisle looking for any procedural infractions that we had done or were about to do. Put a pair of sunglasses on them and they’d be practically identical to the prison guards in Cool Hand Luke. “Grabbing a hymn book boss?” “Grab a hymn book there Chris.”
There I was, kneeling, with a Eucharist in my mouth ready to crunch down and feel the body of Christ bleed out into my mouth. It would be like being demoted from cannibal to vampire. Or is that a promotion? Or did it matter? The priest was already taking large gulps from the blood of Christ at the altar. The thing that really did matter to me was that we were really hoping for the Eucharist to bleed. It would have been some evidence that there really was some supernatural power in the religion. By the fifth grade, we had already found out that Santa Claus was a sham. Ditto for the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy. We had already started changing how we processed information. The idea of magic as being part of the world was rapidly fading and science and logic was taking its place. If the wafer actually squirted blood as the nun said it would, it would be some type of empirical evidence to us that god did indeed exist. There was a lot riding on that sliver of unleavened bread.
While I was philosophically dissecting the problem (or more accurately, scared shitless of tasting blood), my friend Jeff turned around from the row in front of us and opened his mouth to show the masticated remains of our Savior’s body. Bloodless. One by one, our whole row started to bite down on our wafers. We were an entire row of prepubescent Catholics munching away on the Eucharist all trying to get it to bleed.
We learned a lot that day besides the fact that little wafers don’t contain a circulatory system. We learned that someone who had devoted her life to a religion would break a commandment to instill fear amongst children to make them obedient. That wasn’t enough to turn anyone into an atheist of course. But it was enough to start planting the seeds of doubt. And the most important lesson we learned that day was whether you chewed the eucharist or let it slowly dissolve in your mouth it still tasted like shit.