March 2022 -Hungry for bread, hungry for the Eucharist

I truly enjoyed Father Mark Nolette’s “Last Word” in the January issue of the Harvest magazine. I’d like to share something on the Eucharist myself.

When I was in the seminary, someone once shared with me a story of a young boy after World War I. The boy was roaming the streets of a war-torn European city. He straggled from village to village, alone, poor, and with no one to look after him. He had not eaten in several days. Turning a street corner, the aroma of freshly baked bread caught his attention. The smell took him to a bakery, where he peeked through the window to see the many loaves lying on the shelves.

What the boy didn’t know was that someone had been observing him for some time.  Suddenly, the door of the shop sprung open, and an American serviceman came out with a long loaf of bread under his arm. As he passed the boy, he broke the loaf in half and gave a piece to him. The boy looked at the serviceman with amazement and said, “Are you God?”

Over these last two years, we have struggled with the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of us may have questioned where God is in all of this. For a time, we had to close our churches to public worship. Then, only a limited number of parishioners could attend. When things seemed to get better, new variants emerged, once again disrupting our lives as we once knew them.  Although restrictions may have eased, not everyone feels comfortable venturing where crowds gather. Not everyone has returned to our Sunday worship celebrations, some for justifiable reasons. Many of us are longing to be fed once again with the word of God and the Eucharist in person, as it should be, for the Eucharist is a vital part of our faith journey.

For the young boy in our story, the American serviceman became an image of God. The sharing of the bread was a gesture of love and concern for neighbor. Likewise, we believe Scripture (the word of God) and the Eucharist (the body and blood of Christ) are God made present to us.

Yes, not all are comfortable attending our liturgies, but how many times a day is God speaking to us and making His presence known? With all that surrounds us, we may have become blinded by our materialistic idealism and all sorts of distractions. Furthermore, it is difficult to discover something when we don’t really know what we are looking for. Perhaps, during these troubled times, no matter how old we may be or whatever our status in life, we should start searching within ourselves and discover what is there. Only then will we be able to recognize God in another.

The serviceman, through his act of kindness, became an image of God to the young boy.  Through Christ’s presence in the holy Eucharist, we offer praise, adoration, and prayer for the refreshment of our souls. May the body of Christ present in the consecrated bread and wine help us to embody Christ, as we commit ourselves to seeking, finding, and being bread for one another as Jesus is as the serviceman was.

Let me close by sharing the words of the late Jesuit, activist priest, Daniel Berrigan: “When I hear bread breaking, I see something else; it seems almost as though God never meant us to do anything else. So beautiful a sound, the crust breaks up like manna and falls all over everything. And then we eat; bread gets inside humans. It turns into what experts call ‘formal glory of God.’ But don’t let that worry you. Sometime in your life, hope you might see one starved man, the look on his face when the bread finally arrives. Hope you might have baked it yourself. For that look on his face, for your hands meeting his across a piece of bread, you might be willing to lose a lot, or suffer a lot, or die a little, even.”

Fr. Claude R. Gendreau is an ecclesiastical notary with the marriage tribunal in the Diocese of Portland’s Department of Canonical Services.