Seventh in a series
Some interesting and enjoyable memories have come back to me while re-reading Ronald Rolheiser’s “Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist,” (New York: Doubleday, 2011).
One memory goes back to the mid-1950s, to my days as a student in the major seminary, then located in Huntington, L.I. Some students organized a liturgy club at which seminarians gave talks about the liturgy. One of the driving forces behind the club was the late Father Brian Karvelis, then in his last year as a seminarian. The club met on Saturday afternoons during a free period. The student enrollment was about 200 and perhaps close to 100 at times attended the meetings. The sessions were really an amazing phenomenon, students giving up free time to come and hear other students give talks about the liturgy. All the talks were mimeographed and I kept my copies for many years.
One paper was on “A Liturgical Spirituality.” Hearing and reflecting on the paper was an epiphany moment for me. Apparently it was also for other students because serious discussions about the paper continued after the session.
This has come back to me while reading Rolheiser’s chapter titled “A Spirituality of the Eucharist: Receive, Give Thanks, Break, Share.” I guess I had never thought about the nature of a spirituality until I attended the meeting that was devoted to liturgical spirituality. There is probably an Ignatian spirituality, a Franciscan spirituality, a Dominican spirituality. All Catholic spiritualities are based on the salvation and redemption achieved for us through Jesus’ Passion, death and resurrection. Today, I would describe a spirituality as a view of God, self and others, including non-human creatures, and the living out of that vision.
I don’t think of a spirituality as merely a mental or intellectual vision. A spirituality includes how a person lives. So what a person claims to be, his or her spirituality, may not really be that person’s spirituality. For example, I may be able to describe what I call my spirituality beautifully, emphasizing the importance of unselfishness and concern about others. However, if in my life I am completely self-centered, selfish and manipulative in my dealings with others, then what I claim as my spirituality is really not because my lifestyle does not fit my description.
Rolheiser stresses that the Eucharist is not meant to be only a ritual prayer that we offer and participate in regularly, but rather something that influences every part of our lives. Pointing out that Scripture says “pray always,” he writes the following:
“Obviously this does not mean that we should always be saying prayers. We would have to stop living normal lives. It refers to something deeper. The challenge is to try to live our lives in such a way that our whole life, in a manner of speaking, becomes a prayer.
“It is the same with the Eucharist. We need to be living and breathing Eucharist all the time, not just at those times when we are in church. The Eucharist needs to be a defining attitude, a way we meet life, receive it, and share it with others. It needs to be a spirituality, namely, a way we undergo the presence of God and others in this world.
“A spirituality of the Eucharist might be defined in the four Eucharistic phrases Jesus gave us: receive, give thanks, break, share. These four simple words contain both a full Christology and a full spirituality. They define Christ and they tell us how we should live as his disciples.” (pp. 95-96)
Since reading Rolheiser’s emphasis on these four words, I have been reflecting on how we might use them to allow the Eucharist to color our entire lives. In relation to God, we are receivers and that should move us to live in a spirit of gratitude. In terms of “break,” we want to break away from everything that weakens our relationship with God. The Eucharist is a community action, and we are called to share both Christ and ourselves with others: people we like and people we don’t like. We can be confident that our efforts will be blessed and sanctified by the Spirit.
In the sense that we will be channels of God’s love and grace, we will be sacraments for one another.
Father Lauder is a philosophy professor at St. John’s University, Jamaica, and author of “Pope Francis’ Spirituality and Our Story” (Resurrection Press).