During the years I taught in a classroom, I became aware that if I was going to teach my students, I had to know how they thought. Part of what a teacher does, besides relaying subject content, is to connect and correct the dots that their students have already made.
I must admit that whenever I began teaching in a new school, there was a stiff learning curve for me to understand the culture of the school environment as well as the culture from which my students’ came. In order for me to understand this, I had to ask them, “Why do you think that way?” When they answered, I was able to learn not only their thought process but errors in perception as well as mistaken connections between facts. For example, one class of fifth graders believed that sparrows were baby pigeons because sparrows were smaller than pigeons. They didn’t understand that even though both were birds, they were different kinds of birds. To illustrate, I asked the tallest boy and the shortest boy to stand. I asked the rest of the class what kind of “animal” the boys were. “Humans!” I then asked them, “Will Mark will one day grow up to look like William?” They answered, “Of course not, Sister! They are two different people.”
I am reminded of this experience as I continue my series on the Eucharist, reflecting on The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church penned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. They write, “The reality that, in the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ without ceasing to appear as bread and wine to our five senses is one of the central mysteries of the Catholic faith. This faith is a doorway through which we, like the saints and mystics before us, may enter into a deeper perception of the mercy and love manifested in and through Christ’s sacramental presence in our midst.”1
Read that quote again. This is the essence of what the three-year Eucharistic Revival is all about. Have we personally owned this reality? Have we owned this reality not just with our minds but also with our hearts? Do we realize that when we say “Amen,” when we receive the Eucharist, it is a profession of faith to this reality? The word “Amen,” though small and whispered, has a profound reality. It “is a profession of faith in the Real Presence of Christ and reflects the intimate personal encounter with Him, and His gift of self, that comes through reception of Holy Communion. The Church’s firm belief in the Real Presence of Christ is reflected in the worship that we offer to the Blessed Sacrament in various ways, including Eucharistic Exposition, Adoration, and Benediction; Eucharistic Processions; and Forty Hours Devotions. In addition, the practices of reverently genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle, bowing one’s head prior to the reception of Holy Communion, and refraining from food and drink for at least one hour before receiving Communion are clear manifestations of the Church’s Eucharistic faith.”2
Have you ever realized how something so small could mean something so HUGE? I guess it is a matter of perception. Now that you are aware, your understanding of what the Eucharist is and how you assent to that reality has also changed.
Just like my students will never look at a sparrow the same way, your understanding of “Amen” has also changed!
1https://www.usccb.org/resources/7-703%20The%20Mystery%20of%20Eucharist,%20for%20RE-UPLOAD,%20JANUARY%202022.pdf – paragraphs 21.
2Ibid, pg. 23.
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness