My second grade teacher said, “Patty, we will pray that your Daddy can go to heaven, too.” Why would she say such a strange thing to me? We were getting ready for First Communion. At the same time I found out my Daddy could not celebrate my First Communion with me like all the other Daddies. He wasn’t Catholic. Before Vatican II, many of us were taught only Catholics could go to heaven and only Catholics could receive Communion. Daddy was Presbyterian.
I didn’t want to go to heaven and I didn’t want to “make” my First Communion if Daddy was left out.
This shaped my whole theological life in ways I could never have predicted. He was killed by a drunk driver three years after my First Communion. I worried for much of my childhood that Daddy was denied heaven. What else could a ten-year-old child believe? “Sister said.”
As World Communion Sunday approaches, I acknowledge my theology has changed. I was not satisfied with catechism answers. I have studied Eucharistic theology all my life and continue with two grad classes presently. There are a few questions I’d like us to think about no matter what Christian denomination we call our own.
- What did Jesus mean when he said, “Do this in remembrance of me?”
- What is most important to remember?
- Why are bread and wine all that’s left of the Last Supper?
- What happened to the meal?
- Why do we repeat “blood” when it is clear Jesus was talking about his LIFE poured out?
- What does it mean to pour out one’s life?
- Why do we talk about a chalice when Jesus drank from a cup? Jesus didn’t have a chalice, he had an ordinary clay drinking cup! Does chalice separate us even more?
- Jesus did not know the words “Transubstantiation” or “Consubstantiation” or “Transeventualization” so what really happens at our “last suppers?”
I would like to suggest that the Last Supper was like any other potluck at church on a feast day. It brought people together for fellowship. What happens at a church potluck? You sit at a table with others and talk about your lives! You share what happened at Kroger’s or Walmart or you talk about your kids or your parents. You talk about your arthritis or your bad back. You talk about the economy. You talk about politics and religion and what you don’t like about both. And, AND you share food. Food is certainly important. That’s what brought you together. It loosens you up and you share your story. THAT IS EUCHARIST.
Some tables at the potluck begin talking about what they can do in the community. The COMMONunity is EUCHARIST. We share our stories and sometimes we REMEMBER that Jesus shared his, too. He said, “Do this in memory of me…do my story in memory of me…feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead…do this in memory of me. Sure, have some wine and bread but go out from your potlucks with the Good News…Do THIS in memory of me.”
You know what? Heaven is different for me now, too. But that’s a story for a different time.
Pat Pickett, OblSB
Photo: Pat and her dad