I have a friend and I am not sure, but I think she is a little younger than I am now. I won’t pursue this too much except to say that both of us have matured. She was injured in an automobile accident years ago and suffers from pain resulting from that accident, on top of the pains that senior citizens seem to acquire. She has had an active life and still tries to pursue her long time interest of painting. You may have a friend in a similar situation. My wife often complained of the same thing and used to say, “I know what I want to do but my body just won’t cooperate.” My friend has to use an electric scooter to get around although she can walk some, but with more pain.
She has promised our parish a beautiful plaster relief of Our Lady and the child Jesus. She told me what it is called at least four times, some Italian name that I don’t seem to be able to remember. A Bertolli or Bonaducci or something like that. It is about 3 feet round and will hang, when she finishes repairing it, on a wall in our new community room. We also have to do our part and build the room. Not just just for this, the room has been planned for probably a year and we have the money. The delay has been all of the paperwork and approvals and snow and everything else that slows down progress.
THE POINT OF THIS STORY
The Eucharist is the point. As Catholics we are taught that the Eucharist is the center of our religious life. Do we really absorb this simple act into our very being, physically and emotionally with the proper reverence? My friend does, I will tell you more about that later.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) has several pages about the Eucharist. I like this exposition because I have always been attracted to the ancientness of our faith. We take part in liturgy, liturgy that will always be there if we desire it, partly because the Church knows that we must do something active to reinforce our faith.
CCC 1345 “As early as the second century we have the witness of St. Justin Martyr for the basic lines of the order of the Eucharistic celebration. They have stayed the same until our own day for all the great liturgical families. St. Justin wrote to the pagan emperor Antoninus Pius around the year 155, explaining what Christians did:
On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place.
The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits.
When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.
Then we all rise together and offer prayers for ourselves… and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation.
When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.
Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren.
He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (in Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts
When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: ‘Amen.’
When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the “eucharisted” bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent.”
From the CCC available at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) web site.
MY FRIEND AND THE EUCHARIST
You probably do what I do when we join our friends and relatives and strangers in line waiting for our turn to receive, sometimes our mind wanders just a bit. If you don’t, forgive me for assuming so. I sometimes wonder if everyone feels the occasion as deeply as I feel it. There is no way to tell by looking, or is there?
Back to my friend.
She always sits in the very last pew, closest to the door. Not that our church is that big, just room for 100 or so, but a long aisle to walk for an ailing person. I guess it would be the same total distance anyway no matter where you start. She leaves her scooter outside, and if she has it this week, her walker. Both pieces of equipment don’t fit very well in the aisles without moving people out of the way, not that they wouldn’t be happy to make room for her. She walks on her own, in some pain, not really that noticeable in a crowd. I notice because I have seen this before. She is unaided except for a little support here and there from the pew backs. She kneels at the altar rail (we attend the Extraordinary form of the Mass) and receives.
When finished, she pushes hard on the rail to get up. I can see the strain in her arms as she slowly rises, a lot slower than I rise. Sometimes a parishioner near her will glance over to see if she needs extra help getting up. I once asked if she needs me to help her walk the whole way. Her answer was, “I promised God I would do this on my own.” Once in a while when leaving the church and she sees me standing around, she will say, “Are you waiting to help me to my car?” I always give her my arm and we slowly make our way out. She refuses that kind of aid when approaching our Lord. It is she and the Lord, who would need more help than that!
I understand this kind of determination. My wife in her last years of pain, and the necessity of a power chair, had it. It is life reviving, goal achieving, and in this case demonstrated in our own little church, showing us all the importance of the Eucharist.
One day however we all may not be able to walk that distance or even able to try. He will still be available to us no matter how we are able to meet Him.
Writers note: I wrote this a few weeks ago, changing and re-reading to make sure it says what I wanted to say. I had intended to let Gloria Pack, my friend, read it first and then get her permission to publish it, because I didn’t want to embarrass her. But, the opportunity to do that past, along with her passing away recently. Her family has delivered the relief casting of the Madonna and Child for us to finish as she wished to complete her gift to us the best she could. I believe that Gloria has indeed encountered the Lord again, this time without that painful walk.
© 2013. Howard Duncan. All Rights Reserved.