I didn't attend this year's Call to Action conference but from all accounts it was, as usual, a very inspiring and energizing event. This year's theme was "Living the Gospel of Love," and writer Jamie L. Manson delivered the opening night keynote address, "Recognizing the Church That We Already Are." Following is an excerpt that I find particularly powerful.
On the first Sunday after she was placed under interdict [by Bishop Raymond Burke for supporting women's ordination], Louise Lears decided to attend Mass. The experience with Burke left her wounded and isolated. Naturally, she wanted to be with her beloved parish community. She did not plan to receive communion because she did not wish to jeopardize the parish any further. But this was her community and she wanted at least to be physically present with this body of Christ.
Her 85-year old mother was at her side at Mass. When her mother went forward for communion, she told Louise to follow her. Louise did not ask to receive Communion, but simply walked by her mother’s side. Louise’s mother took Communion, she broke it, turned around and gave it to her daughter. After witnessing this, Sr. Louise’s sister went and did the same. Seeing what was going on, many other parishioners, one by one, also broke their bread and gave it to Louise.
By the end of Communion, Louise’s hands were filled with fragments of the Eucharist. After the Mass was over, as the family was standing in the back, Louise’s mother said to her daughter, “I was the first person to feed you, and I will feed you now.”
Our stories define us as a community. They recall paradigmatic people. They are vehicles for the sacred.
In that moment, Louise Lears’ 85 year-old mother revealed more about the love of God, more about living the Gospel of love, more about what makes a true church, than the entire hierarchy seems to have been able to reveal in quite some time.
And she figured out that secret that the hierarchy doesn’t want any of us to know: lay people have extraordinary sacramental power.
To read the text of Jamie's keynote address in its entirety, click here.
I had a similar experience to Louise Lears after being denied Communion because I was wearing a Rainbow Sash. Here's part of what I wrote about this experience in a previous Wild Reed post.
Back in our pew, Eduard gently touched my arm. Turning to face him I saw that he was reverently holding half a host in his hand. He broke it and gave a portion of it to me. I in turn broke my piece and gave half to my friend Kathleen.
Later I discovered that someone without a sash had shared the host they had received with Eduard – who was wearing a sash. What this person (and apparently other non-sash wearers) did seems to me to be what Communion is all about. I found this loving and sharing action very inspiring and hopeful. It would be something Jesus would do – and did do through the actions of these people.
Here were “ordinary Catholics” taking to heart Christ’s call to be a “priestly people.” I later heard that other non-sash wearers refused to receive Communion as a way of standing in loving solidarity with those who were wearing the Rainbow Sash.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Catholicism's Future is "Up to the Laity"
Rita Larivee on Being "Authorized by Baptism"
Roger Haight on the Church We Need
A Time to Re-Think the Basis and Repair the Damage
"Receive What You Are, the Body of Christ"
"I Love the Radical Catholic Church"
Tips for Thinking Catholics
Image 1: "The Banquet" by Ansgar Holmberg.
Image 2: Photographer unknown.