The Bodies of Christ: Paying Attention to Fellow Parishioners Makes Communion a Truly Communal Experience

By Cahill, Catherine O'Connell | U.S. Catholic, August 2007 | Go to article overview

The Bodies of Christ: Paying Attention to Fellow Parishioners Makes Communion a Truly Communal Experience


Cahill, Catherine O'Connell, U.S. Catholic


LUIS HAD HIS THIRD COMMUNION ON SUNDAY. HAVING received his First Communion two weeks ago, the newness of it had not worn off. He edged out into the aisle and smiled back at his mother. He readied his hands to receive the host. His mother noticed something amiss, took his bottom hand and gently placed it on top, and then placed her hands on his shoulders, giving him an encouraging pat. She kept them there. His smile then worked its way up through his shoulders and shone out on her face. The Body of Christ. Amen.

Here comes the blind mother and her daughter. In the Communion procession, the grown daughter walks behind her mother, arms wrapped around her waist, whispering in her ear occasionally. What was it that St. Paul said about the Body of Christ? "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I do not need you,' any more than the head can say to the feet, 'I do not need you.' Even those members of the body which seem less important are in fact indispensable" (1 Cor. 12:21-22).

Most of the people who process to Communion in my church were not born here. Some came on airplanes. Others risked their lives crossing a river and a desert to work here. Most speak two languages and work two jobs. They come from Mexico and the Philippines, India and Africa, Panama, Ecuador, Ireland, China. They do not take life here for granted. It humbles me. The Body of Christ. Amen.

I used to think that I shouldn't be noticing any of this, that it was a complete distraction from what I was supposed to be doing during Communion time, namely privately preparing myself to receive the Lord and afterward thanking Jesus for being the Bread of Life. I don't think so anymore.

Spending time with Jesus in my heart after Communion is good advice, I think, for kids preparing to receive Communion for the first time. It focuses us on taking Jesus into our very bodies as food. This is not a casual piece of bread.

I do need to talk to and listen to God in the silence of my heart. I always felt, however, that I was checking out of the communal aspect of the Mass at this point: Consume the host, stop singing, return to pew, bury head in hands, pray, sit down. …

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