An open response to a presentation on CNN’s by Lisa Ling – This Is Life, “Called to the Collar”
I watched blurry eyed as I remembered my own days wandering through sacred halls towards the main chapel where Mass was celebrated daily, yet not one seminarian interviewed ever mentioned their draw to the Eucharist. Throughout the many years I felt called, through my childhood up until the day I was ordains, I could never imagine a world without some form of It; yet somehow the young men entering the seminaries sponsored by the Catholic Church, under the direction of the Bishop of Rome, have forgotten the most fundamental and seminal calling within the Church – the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
Looking back on those days I now recognize many are called, but few knew to what or for what reason they were answering what they thought was a calling to living a life dedicated to specific teachings – the core of which, our very model of which is the life and ministry of our Lord, Jesus. Fewer still will never be able to live that life, nor will they understand how their modeling will affect those around them.
+He walked this earth providing an example of how to live by literally living +His words; something by which some Franciscans have espoused in their many years of service – “preach the Gospel always and when necessary use words”. Our Christ taught compassion, love, forgiveness, understanding, and myriads of other things not so much by preaching about them, but by actually living out and modeling what he was saying every moment of every day. At the core of +His teachings:
Love everyone around you
Tend to others needs,
Be compassionate with others and yourself,
Be mindful of how your journey affects those around you,
Remember that life is sacred,
Never turn to violence to solve problems,
Don’t judge others – you are not perfect either,
Treat others the way you want to be treated – no matter who they are,
Be ever vigilant of the day +He comes – you know not how, when, where, or through whom,
Don’t ever build yourself up by putting others down!
But we are stubborn beings. We are prone to ugliness and need help on our journeys to +Him and through +Him. We chose, therefore, to remember him always by means of celebrating the last day +His sacred presence – the Cenacle meal and subsequent descent of the Holy Spirit. Every Sunday we gather to remember +His teachings, to remember +His life, to remember +His service, to remember +His call to serve our fellow human beings with the same dignity, respect, and love we show Jesus.
Again, many are called, but few understand the challenge and rewards offered by living a life dedicated to the Teachings and not a life dedicated to our own needs.
Every time I celebrate the Eucharist I cry. I don’t know why. It’s something with which I have struggled ever since I was ordained. It is at times difficult to hold back and hide the tears that flow so easily when I take +His presence into my hands. The Eucharistic Celebrations is deeply personal for me. I wonder if +Jesus knew millions of people would draw upon +His living example of breaking bread with one another and I wonder if those who engage in the celebration truly understand the power of a single meal? I wonder too if +He knew how powerful a symbol it has become for us.
In many homes throughout the world, meals are celebrated as moments of peace where people gather to learn about, gain trust with, celebrate the lives of, and become one with anyone present at the table. Differences are put aside and for a brief period of time the world slips away into oblivion. Even enemies coming together at a meal share in a sacred moment of each other’s lives when defenses are down and compromise can be made. Nothing else in the world exists at that moment except for the celebration of friends and family – no matter who is present.
Every week we too gather in carefully adorned establishments where like-minded (and some not so like-minded) gather in celebration of a Life long ago shed for the forgiveness of sin. An offering of life is made and a rededication of service is promised. But each week we come back broken and suffering looking for healing. During the week we falter and fall on our faces or keesters – and we know full well why we do what we do. But rather than take to heart the teachings we received the previous week (or in some cases the previous day), we instead return to our old ways and think ourselves better than the teachings we supposedly espouse.
But each time we attend the Sacred Meal +He is there waiting for us to give ourselves up to +Him. Each morsel we take into ourselves is a chance at redemption and a chance to change our ways so that we live as +He did so many years ago. Every celebration of the Holy Eucharist is a moment of new hope and chance at awakening.
I don’t know about you, but I just can not imagine having a call to the priesthood, being called to service within the church, or even sharing my life as a parishioner without having a special dedication to the Eucharist – that sacred meal that brings all people together. This isn’t a club – it is a humbling, humility-creating, and soul-bearing Service to the People of God.
I applaud the dedicated men Ms. Ling interviewed, but I truly wonder about their call if they are not somehow dedicated to the celebration of the Eucharist – even if only as a participant.
But – men are not the only ones who dedicate their lives in service to the Church – so many talented women have also surrendered themselves to the service of our Lord. Surely we should never forget that at the Table of the Lord we are all equals in the sight of God.
The Eucharist – the Calling of our Lord, they are both one and the same. Each person who attends to the teachings of our Christ espouses a tradition of change and growth, and a life filled with sanctity.
The Rev. Father Kenneth Nelan is the pastor of the Sacred Wandering Pastoral Center in Milwaukee Wisconsin. He is also the celebrant of the Sunday Mass broadcast on Facebook.