By Barb Arland-Fye
For the first time in 15 months, we had a Communion line at the weekend Masses and the sense of gratitude I felt is difficult to put into words. We had been receiving Communion while standing or kneeling in our pews for the last year at Our Lady of the River Catholic Church in LeClaire because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic wanes, our pastor, Father Apo Mpanda, decided it was safe to allow communicants to come forward to receive the body of Christ.
Last weekend was also the first that Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion assisted Father Apo and Deacon Matt Levy since the pandemic interrupted our lives and forced us to adapt to change in ways we could not have imagined.
My husband Steve and I are extraordinary eucharistic ministers and by coincidence were scheduled to serve in that role during the Saturday night Mass on June 26. Steve and I have distributed Communion occasionally to people listening to the Mass from their cars in the parking lot and that, too, gave me a sense of closeness to God and God’s people.
For Steve, the return of the Communion line “gave me a sense of normalcy,” he told me. “I think people appreciated it. We can participate in the Mass the way we used to do it.” I am hesitant to use the term “return to normalcy” because the pandemic caused us to reassess what really matters in our lives and how we ought to approach life going forward.
I hope and pray never to take for granted the Eucharist or the Mass. I hope and pray that the crises and uncertainties in life do not keep me from seeing God’s steady, loving presence. I hope and pray that compassion and empathy for others prevails over the mistrust, wariness and animosity that morphed into a parallel pandemic.
Eight years ago, I completed an integration project for my Master of Pastoral Theology degree, focusing on the sacraments, and specifically on baptism and the Eucharist. Re-reading the document, I found so much of it applicable today … even though at that time we were not living through a pandemic.
In that document, I wrote: “Three concepts about the sacraments have emerged through my Master of Pastoral Theology (MPTh) studies, which I, as editor of The Catholic Messenger, intend to share with readers and potential readers: 1). Scripture provides the underpinnings for the development of the sacraments, not definitions. 2.) The times in which people of faith live have and continue to shape their understanding of the sacraments and the relevance of sacraments in the life of the Church. 3.) Our reception of the sacraments calls us to action, in service to one another, in the way in which we conduct our lives and in sharing the Gospel through example and words.”
The wisdom of theologians dating from the 1st to the 21st century appeared in my integration project, including this one from a now-retired St. Ambrose University theologian who writes monthly for this newspaper and serves on our Editorial Board:
“Professor Corinne Winter notes that ‘in the Eucharist is the promise of humanity renewed in God’s love. This eschatological hope increases our sense of responsibility for the world. We call to mind the world’s need for peace, solidarity, defense of human life from birth to death, and in the process of globalization, hope for those in greatest need.’”
We have returned to the Communion line, and I give thanks to God for this sign that we are moving, cautiously, toward an end to the pandemic. But I’m not sure I would call it normalcy. I prefer to focus on God’s guidance through a world that needs healing, which will only come when we celebrate the Eucharist in the Mass and in our lives.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)