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The Message
Evansville, Indiana
May 13, 1988     The Message
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May 13, 1988

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Faith Tod Supplement, The Memmge, Catlmlic Diocese of Evanmllle, May 13.1988 1 l00aith Todav A ot,ment to Cotmc  pU,O NATIONAL CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE t3t2 Massaa'xm Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005. with gent asstonc from The Cethohc Church EXTENSION Soc,ew 35 East Woder IX, (]Xog0, Illinois 60601 All contents copyright 1988 by NC News Service. t9 The stuff of everyday life By Laura Meagher , us in our personal and communal ,qC News Service ill could barely contain herself as she waited with me in the vestibule of the church. With her family, she had lSarticipated in the penitential service for children making their first confes- sions. When her brother Greg ap- peared, she grabbed his hand and dragged him over to me. "Kiss his hand," she said. I did. "Doesn't he have the most kisgable hand?" she grinned. Jill is only 9 and she has Down's syndrome, but she had grasped a basic reality: Sacraments celebrate our being loved in the flesh. . Sacraments celebrate the holi- '., hess of ordinary living. Someone " has said that sacramental rituals \\;, properly done should be messy: . water splashed, oil lavishly spread, hread broken and crumbs scattered. wine gClacrtitlsl}, poured out, flesh pressed to blcscd flesh the stuff of everyday lifc to sanctifyitlg awareness. Sacraments arc not magic rituals designed to grab God's attention. They arc moments of celebration meant to focus our awareness of God's faithful love and care for us. Recently I returned for the first time in years to a parish where I had worked once. Before Mass began, I could see families rushing one way to bring their contributions for the local soup kitchen and another way to take contributions for a bake sale. Many faces were new, but at communion time I recognized some familiar ones. Seeing them remind- ed me of their love and care for one another as members of this worshiping community. The Eucharist for them is not simp- ly a matter of consuming blessed bread and wine on Sundays. It is openness to building" up the body of Christ by welcoming the newcomer. It is feeding one another and others beyond the community. As I returned to my pew from Communion, hands reached out in welcome and faces smiled. This eucharistic community also knows how to remember. That interplay of hospitality and memory is crucial to sacramental awareness. Because we .can tell the stories of God's love and care for / "Sacraments celebrate the holiness of ordinary living," writes Laura Meagher. At the same time, the sacraments of the Christian communi- ty help to transform human existence, enabling people to move "from self-centered isolation to a celebration centered in others," she suggests. histories, we also can reach out to others in welcome. A wedding I attended celebrated this awareness in such a way that a community of strangers became a community with shared memories before the reception had ended. Anne and Paul, the bride and groom, greeted us personally at the chapel door, introducing us to others who happened to be enter- ing at the same time. The couple's guests had come from three distinct circles: their home town, their college friends, their professional colleagues. Before the wedding liturgy began, the lights dimmed and slides of familiar and unfamiliar faces with captions  flashed across a screen. Throughout the ceremony, there were references to the ways the three circles had intertwined in the couple's lives to make of us all one community of love for them. Sacraments celebrate the presence of Christ in the community. Sacra- mcnts arc for community. They are not meant to be a "Jesus and me" experience. In another parish where I work- ed, a group of parents balked when they were informed that their children would receive first Eucharist with their families at regularly scheduled Sunday Masses. This was a departure from the parish tradition of a special Mass just for first communicants. Most of the parents' appeals to tradition reflected a notion of the Eucharist as an individual event. But, finally, a mother pointed out that she had been at Masses where children were baptized and Masses where confLrmation can- didates were given their mission. "I know how much sharing the sacramental experience with them has meant to my own spiritual life," she said. "If sharing my son's first Communion can do the same thing for other people in this parish, then I'm willing to do it." Entering into Christian communi- ty means that we receive power to transform human existence from self-centered Isolation to" a celebra- tion centered in others. And a sacramental awareness of life is a powerful means of bringing the Gospel to life. (Ms. Meagher is asastant to the director of Catholic Charities USA.) il