Last week, we celebrated the feast of Corpus Christi. The Eucharist gives a new perspective of unity this year, as the feast coincided with a week of mounting fear and chaos for our brothers and sisters at the border, in our neighborhoods, parishes and parents and children separated across the U.S. and Latin America.
The Eucharist is our communal connection to God, physical and real, held in common, received into our bodies. It is the same God in you, me and a terrified family, driving home from Mass, wondering if today is the day a parent will be stolen from them. The same communion this Sunday, in the belly of a terrified eight-year-old from Norristown, is the same as in the bellies of our own children. Maybe someone reading this is a parent to that eight-year-old.
Growing up in the pro-life movement, I remember the Communion hymn “We Are One Body” as a mainstay of rallies and vigils. Its lyrics remind us of the unitive power of our Communion.
Always in the background of pro-life work, too, was the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She is a reminder of Christ within us, and a reminder too of Mary’s affection for and identification with the native peoples of the Americas.
Against the background of the Eucharist and Our Lady of Guadalupe, I am praying for justice, peace and guidance on how to respond to the abuse and terror that has been unleashed on our one body in Christ.
Growing up and working in Norristown, I feel the fear of immigration raids our neighborhood’s families live with every day. As a father myself, the torture of family separation and detention is something that I take personally.
For many, these atrocities may not evoke an immediate commitment to ending them. These actions may even seem justified to some.
Christ, present in the Eucharist, has the power to transcend and transform whatever machinations keep us from feeling and serving Christ in those who are vulnerable, especially in children.
If we were to place a monstrance behind the chain link fences that detain so many immigrants, and positioned it next to the faces of those detained in cages, would we offer them too some sign of reverence or dignity?
If we saw someone with whom we walked up to communion taken from their loved ones, led out to a van due to a documentation issue, would we perceive it any differently?
When I was an altar server, we would hold the paten under the Eucharist as it was distributed to safeguard every part, no matter how small. Once received, is the Eucharist any less holy, that we would let our brothers and sisters, having ingested a lifetime of Communion, live detained in filth, fractured families and terror?
In “Dominicae Cenae,” St. John Paul II said that in “Eucharistic worship is … the merciful and redeeming transformation of the world in the human heart.”
Whatever the solution to ending the trauma our brothers and sisters face at the border, separated from their loved ones, or living with the threat of the destruction of their families at any moment, we are one body in Christ. And we do not stand alone.
I don’t know yet how I can respond to the call to stand up for our neighbors who are targeted for raids, or for families and children abused and neglected at our border. But I have faith in the Eucharist to whisper to our hearts and transform the world, starting with us.
Patrick Walsh is the manager of Martha’s Choice, a choice food pantry and emergency food market located at archdiocesan Catholic Social Services’ Montgomery County Family Service Center.
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