By Elizabeth Buckley
One of my earliest memories is watching Mass on TV with my Nonna. I would patiently await the time during the Mass when she would walk over to her china closet and tear off a piece of an Oplatki Christmas Wafer she kept inside.
I’d soon learn that “time” during the Mass for a special treat was Communion. I yearned for it at a young age. I wanted to experience what everyone else was experiencing.
For a young girl, I felt excluded from a club that everyone else in my family was able to be a part of. When I received my First Holy Communion at St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus, Greenpoint, in 1989, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was finally participating in the very thing I could connect with my family over (not to mention every other Catholic).
The past few weeks have reminded me of that feeling I had as a little girl, patient- ly awaiting the Oplatki and First Holy Communion…that eagerness, the fulfillment, the satisfaction of sharing a ritual.
I’m guilty of having missed Mass some weekends, but during those weeks, I’d find myself wandering over to the church near my office — a pull towards the lunchtime Mass they have. I have that pull now, like so many others, but I am unable to get to the tabernacle for the fulfillment.
How do we, in a time like now, fulfill the key component of being a Catholic? How can we satisfy the hunger for Jesus? I look to the Eucharist as a way to pray for the strength I need to get through the week ahead, the observance of my conscience, the sight to know my way, and the faith to trust all that I cannot see. What substitutes all that? It’s a tall order.
Back in February, Bishop DiMarzio visited my current parish of St. Raphael’s in Long Island City. Being a member of the parish council, I was invited to a luncheon in his honor. While there was enough “shop talk” to go around, I decided that I wanted to ask a question of a more personal nature for the Bishop. And so, when it was clear no one else had anything more to ask, I raised my hand and asked him:
“The Church you are in now is much different than the Church you were ordained into. If you were just starting as a priest now, what would you want to focus your vocation on?”
Bishop DiMarzio very quickly responded that he felt then the way he feels now and that the church is not comprised of the clergy, but rather of the people. The Church is the people. The focus remains that we, as a people, need to own and be the Church. Our priests, deacons, and ministers are there to help us operate what we own.
I was so grateful for the bishop’s honesty and frankly relieved that he echoed my own sentiments. The Church is indeed its people. I’m reminded of this now when searching for what to do in our shared hour of darkness.
We are all struggling with the unknown, being thrown out of a routine, unable to see our families and friends, not being allowed to seek solace in our place of worship. It has jolted all of us to the core. But we should all heed to the bishop’s own vocation of being a church of and for the people. We need to create holiness wherever we may be and however far we are from the physical building of the church.
What calls you to be Catholic? Is it in almsgiving, fasting, and prayer? Is it in thanksgiving with the holy and living sacrifice? Is it in loving thy neighbor? Is it in Communion with the Holy Spirit and saints? Is it in the forgiveness of sins? Is it the resurrection and life everlasting?
If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, then I implore you to be your own church right now and be the strong foundation for those desperately in need because of their physical, mental or spiritual suffering.
Reach out through phone evangelization, donate to the food pantries or to hospitals, clap your hands at 7:00 PM for our first responders and healthcare providers, pray the rosary, dust off the book you always wanted to read about
the life of a saint … in this time of solitude, be Catholic and become stronger in your resolve.
It is too easy to fall into the shadows of our sorrowful soul … we know Jesus had that moment Himself in the garden of Gethsemani. He trusted in His father; let us trust in Him as well that we will get through to the other side and understand our place as a people of the church.
We do not need a building to stay identified in our faith. The call of faith in action is upon us. What can you do to feel the satisfaction the Eucharist would normally bring you? How can you connect with Jesus without receiving Him?
A few days ago, I asked my mom if she remembered the Oplatki in Nonna’s china closet and she responded, “You remember that?”
It’s funny how that memory came to me now and how I now made the connection that my Nonna passed away a few months before my Communion. She may not have known that she brought the idea of Communion into my life at such a young age with that Oplatki, but I think she was looking over me when I finally met Jesus for the first time.
I’ve been asking for her help these past few weeks while watching Mass on TV and remembering how I would watch it with her. I’ve been asking her to fill me with the anticipation of my younger self, filled with a fascination and anticipation of the Eucharist that I know we will all be reconnected to soon enough. And in the meantime, I’ve asked her to help me find Jesus in my actions for others at this time.
And on a less serious tone, I wondered where I may find Oplatki …Amazon of course. Thankfully Prime will get them here in a matter of days.
Buckley is a parishioner and Parish Council Member at St. Raphael’s Parish, Long Island City.