When I was in college, and before I became a religious Sister, I had a unique experience with faith. I was assigned to a special school that taught children with multiple disabilities. This was one of the mission experiences on which the college sent out new teachers. The students in this school had physical, emotional and learning challenges. The school rented classrooms in a Catholic parish. The classrooms were built around the church, and the hallway had entrances to the sanctuary along three sides. The classrooms were used during the weekend for the parish’s religious education program, but during the week it was a public school for students with special needs.
The classrooms and the hallways were devoid of religious symbolism. As a cradle Catholic and a student of Catholic education my entire life, I thought that this was truly odd. One of my students, Michelle, had spina bifida and muscular dystrophy. I would often watch her go to the door of the church and touch it. She would close her eyes and smile as she did so. She did this a few times and asked her teacher to open the door so she could go in to pray. The teacher was not allowed to do this, but, since I was not “officially” a teacher, I could!
When no one was looking, I opened the door and wheeled Michelle through it. There, in subdued light, the beauty of the stained glass and the tiny flickering flame of a candle near the tabernacle spoke volumes to me. Michelle sat in the center aisle and cried. I dried her tears since she was unable to reach her face with her hand. In between sobs, she explained, “Ms. Schmidt, I received my First Communion several years before I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. Because of my increased physical limitations, my parents find it harder and harder to bring me to church. We don’t have a car big enough to handle my motorized wheelchair. When I was smaller, they could pick me up and put me in the car. Now that I am bigger, I don’t get to church anymore. How much I completely miss being with Jesus.”
I am reminded of this story as I begin my next series, which highlights the Source and Summit of our Faith: the Eucharist. In November of 2021, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) declared a Eucharistic revival that began in June in dioceses across the United States and will culminate with a National Eucharistic Congress in 2024 in Indianapolis. This revival, the USCCB envisions, “will be a time for healing for the entire Church as well as a movement of evangelization and reawakening of understanding of the sacrament of the Eucharist for Catholics across the country. The revival officially started on the feast of Corpus Christi on June 16, 2022, with a diocesan focus that includes processions and other events of adoration and prayer. … The second year of the revival (2023) will have an emphasis “on parishes and resources aimed at increasing Catholics’ understanding of what the Eucharist really means.”1
In response to this revival, the USCCB has written a document, “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church.” This document is the doctrinal source for the Eucharistic Revival. I have decided to focus on the different parts of this document for the beginning of my series on the Eucharist. So, let’s begin!
“Faith … begins when we realize we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we flounder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars.”2
This quote was given by Pope Francis on March 27, 2020, during the early days of the pandemic. A large part of faith, at least for me, comes from the realization that Something or Someone is greater than I am. Someone or Something is present to everything and everyone. In the book of Matthew, we find, “I will be with you until the end of time.” (Matthew 28:20) Pope St. John Paull II reminded us, “This promise of Christ never ceases to resound in the Church as the fertile secret of her life and the wellspring of her hope. As the day of Resurrection, Sunday is not only the remembrances of a past event: it is a celebration of the living presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of his own people.”3
How can we ever forget that Christ, as a divine person, is beyond time; every second in our history and our future is present as now to Him. But have you ever considered the other nature of Christ? Because Christ was incarnated, He became man; He “took upon Himself our humanity that we might share in His divinity.”4
That we might share in his divinity. Reflect on what these words truly mean. Remember, you are what you eat! Through the partaking of the Eucharist, we enter into the mystery of being the Mystical Body of Christ; of being “one” with Trinitarian life.
My student those many years ago understood that far deeper than I did at the time. She became the teacher to the teacher!
3Ibid – paragraph 2
4Ibid – paragraph 5
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, The Catholic Witness