A long time ago, I was working as a childcare worker at a psychiatric treatment center in New Jersey that was owned and operated by Catholic Charities. In our work, we took all our residents to a summer camp for five days. The staff and I were directly responsible for the day-to-day programming as well as all the other special needs for the residents under our care. It also meant that for the entire camping experience, we would be living with the residents 24 hours a day.
During this time, a staff member named Felice and I were tasked with taking 12 of the residents on a hike through the woods. We had no map of the trails, no First Aid kit, no compass. Basically, we were totally unprepared for the hike. I never realized how ill-equipped I was until it was too late.
We were hiking for about 45 minutes when one of the boys, Samuel, began acting out. He began throwing stones into the woods and at the other residents. Rather than giving him a time out, I stopped and told him that if he didn’t stop throwing stones, Felice would walk him back to camp. She claimed that she could find her way back, even though she had never been on this specific trail before. And when Samuel didn’t stop throwing rocks, Felice was stuck.
Meanwhile, the rest of us continued our hike. Soon, I realized we were going in circles; the sun was to my right when we started and now it appeared to be on my left. Minutes later, I realized that I was completely lost because the trail markers had also disappeared.
With that, the path forked and I hesitated. One of the boys sensed my apprehension and asked, “Sister, do you know where we are going?” Trying to keep him and the rest of the boys calm, I responded, “Kinda. We will figure this out.” I explained to the boys that when we left camp the sun was on our right; if we took paths so that the sun would be on our left, we would eventually return to camp. Secretly, I prayed! The trail kept splitting and we always had two decisions, one to the right and the other to the left. We kept deciding to take the left. Finally, we returned to camp after a nail-biting, two-hour ordeal.
When I returned to the camp, I realized Felice and Samuel had not returned! Getting flashlights and a map of the trails on the camp, I planned to go out to find them. A few of the older boys volunteered to go with me. As I began to venture out to look for them, they appeared!
I am reminded of this story as I continue my series on the Eucharist. You see, in my last article I finished discussing the book, “7 Secrets of the Eucharist.” Since then, I’ve come across a book titled, “The Eucharist, Our Sanctification.” In chapter one, the author begins discussing how the Eucharist makes the Church and how the Church makes the Eucharist. When I read that, I realized that I have never discussed this duality. In fact, in all of my articles about the Eucharist, I have never spoken about the Church! So down the rabbit hole I went, and suddenly I was completely lost in piles of books and printed articles from the internet. As a result, I felt completely overwhelmed because I did not know how to do what I believed I needed to do! In short, I found myself going around in circles.
The thought that keeps calling me to ponder is, “Eucharist builds the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist.”1
In going around and around with the books and articles, I came across a blog that helped me clarify what this statement means. I’m going to paraphrase the idea here, but I will leave the link to the blog below.
Eucharist builds the Church – Remember the commercial that said, “You are what you eat!” Every time that we receive Communion, we are experiencing union with the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. But, that’s not all! Because we are in union with Jesus, we are also in communion with every fellow Christian, also known as the Church. There should be a deeper sense of understanding of this reality after the reception of the Eucharist.
The Church makes the Eucharist – We can all admit that Christ died for our sins so that our sins might be forgiven and our relationship with God can be healed. Through the actions and words of the priest, the offering that Christ made for us is brought to our time and the place in which we find ourselves. We are one body that rejoices in this offering that Christ made as our head. His offering heals our brokenness and sinfulness.
It seems to me that sometimes there is a blessing in going in circles because that journey will always lead us back to “base camp” – the Church.
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness