As my experience of God and the Church and communion has changed over the years, I find it important to note where I have experienced communing with God. It has mostly been outside of the Church.
Almost every Monday during the school year, a group of students cooks a vegetarian meal for other students. For the most part the meals are rather simple and not all that tasty. However, I wouldn’t miss one of those Monday night meals for anything. They were originally called VegOuts since the food was vegetarian, but are now called Community Nights. A few of us grumbled about the name change and I’m constantly catching myself from calling it the wrong name. But I think now, as I reflect on what communion is, that Community Night is a befitting name. Students with all different kinds of journeys and stories come together for free food and fellowship. We’re not always a very large group and typically it’s the same faces each week. Nevertheless, the idea is the same: come for the food, stay for community. We gather around a simple table to share a meal, but more importantly we share of each other. Students sit on couches or take up the floor talking about their weekends and sharing stories, laughs, and each other. And isn’t that what the sacrament of communion is? Isn’t that what Jesus said to go and do likewise? We commune because there’s food but in the course of the hour our souls are nourished, too.
I have the unique privilege of viewing this weekly meal from the outside. I get to set-up the space for such occasions to occur, but I can’t take credit for what happens. It goes beyond myself and is something I am lucky enough to get to participate in. Community Nights serve as my weekly communion. It may not be a church with a gold chalice and stained glass windows, but it serves the same purpose.
Before everyone clears out, Bobby and I head to the kitchen and wait for the mountain of dirty dishes to come. Towering plates, used forks, dirty cups fill the bins which we then empty and clean. About half of the dishes go in the dishwasher while the rest we hand wash and dry, one by one. There is truly something sacred about this ritual on Monday nights. I even get kind of defensive when someone tries to help. But it is over the dirty cups, forks, and plates that I also have an experience of communion.
The importance of communion is the coming together of people to share of themselves. This can involve 50 people or just 2. Though we aren’t breaking bread together, Bobby, Tim, and I participate in a prayerful, ritualistic act, or at least we’ve turned it into that. The soapy dish water eventually turns dirty and cloudy as if it takes the crud in our lives that we’ve talked about or not away from our minds and souls, if only for a moment. We listen to music and share about our days, our lives, ourselves. Sometimes the conversations are deep and meaningful, leaving me pondering long after they have ended. Other times they are inane and ridiculous and my sides hurt from laughing. This act of communion is almost as meaningful to me as the previous one, maybe even more so.
Communion is sharing, both physically and spiritually, of all that we have. I used to get uptight about missing Mass or non-Catholics taking the host. I realize now that none of that matters because we experience communion all of the time, regardless of whether we’re Catholic or not. There is no need to consecrate any bread because God/Jesus is already within us, all of the time. God is us.
When I go to Mass now, things are different. I can learn to recognize communion in other ways. I can learn to experience the Mass outside of the Church and the Word of God as a prevailing force. I have always found taking communion to be an act of healing and I think Communion once again can be that. I can learn to commune with God once again by communing with others on a weekly basis.
Grace Badik is a senior PPP major and student worker in the CFJ. She is a twin from northern Ohio with great passion. Despite this being her eighth semester, she is not quite sure how to get to all her classes–when did class start happening in the Armory anyway? So if you need directions to your class in the Armory, ask Grace. Certainly, she will have it navigated any minute now.