How to Be Eucharist

εχαριστία eucharistia berakah בְּרָכָה

Thank you!

eucharistia and berakah are feminine nouns. The first is Greek and the second is Hebrew from which the Greek was translated. Those words are all forms of our English word for thanks.

I teach Hebrew and can get by in Greek.

Brent Ballow taught me to BE Eucharist.

Brent Ballow was a seminarian and died much too soon. He was a joyful, larger-than-life man from Kentucky, with straw-colored hair, a laugh which could be heard across campus, and heart that had no bounds. I don’t think I saw Brent in anything but overalls. At first, I didn’t know what to make of him. When he died, I lost one of the best friends I’ve had. I loved that man like a brother and often wished he was my brother and he would say, “I am your brother in Christ.”

Brent taught me one important lesson he didn’t learn from any of the books he had to read. It wasn’t the ritual or prayers we said in chapel. It was relationship.

Wherever Brent was, he brought food. He cooked it on the patio outside the dorm. He sat down with all kinds of people he never met before and when the meal was over—there was a lasting connection.

Eucharist is all in relationship and I’ll never forget that.

Like Jesus who ate with all kinds of people, Brent would take those new seminarians under his wing and invite them to a cookout. These new, and sometimes frightened, seminarians would be singing around a fire long after the meal was finished.

Brent was popular. He would argue that and just say he liked people. Brent healed the loneliness and feelings of inadequacy around a meal. Those silly overalls make me laugh when I think of him. No one dressed as country as Brent. NO ONE could possibly feel that what they wore was not as good as anyone else.

In all that, Brent showed us why were around that cookout fire. In the process of grilling, he redefined church. He showed us that relationship happens when we are open and vulnerable to one another. Jesus redefined power by exercising it outside the structure of the temple and synagogue AND AROUND a table. Brent gathered us in a circle around a grill, in overalls and with that endearing grin melted the lines between stranger and friend.

I wonder what Brent would say today? I’m not sure but I’ll say it for him: “Jesus is the one who invites us to the table. Who are we to exclude anyone because they might not say prayers the way we do, might not sing the same songs?”

We can pray for unity all we want but if we don’t share a meal—forget it.

Pat Pickett, OblSB

Photo: Sisters Pat Ruether, Sharon Nohner, Laura Suhr, Mary Schumer, Joyce McNerney, Lisa Rose, Denise Braegelman and Dorothy Manuel (left to right) sharing a meal at Elevate’s Evening for Life Gala