THE Plenary Council 2020 has delivered six national themes for discernment for discussion. Br Damien Price has written a reflection on each of the six themes.
ONE of the events in my life that has haunted me is one day walking into St Francis Church in the middle of Melbourne and as I did – to find a homeless man, relatively intoxicated, laying right across one of the side entrances.
I, and the steady stream of worshippers stepped over the man. Inside, at the side altar, there was small crowd of worshippers lighting votive candles before the exposed Blessed Sacrament.
I have worked with enough homeless people to know that the “solution” to the situation (if there was one) was not to wake the sleeping man and attempt to engage with him, but the tension of the situation stayed with me.
Christ in the breadline
One of the images that has meant much to me in my life is the famous painting, Christ in the breadline, by Fritz Eichenberg.
The painting shows a line-up of poverty-stricken men and women waiting to enter a soup kitchen with a “Christ” figure – complete with halo right there in the middle of them.
It was images like this that led Dorothy Day in Depression-ravaged America to open up soup kitchens for the “Christ on the streets”.
I often quote the words of St Teresa of Kolkata in her Noble Prize Acceptance speech, “Do not turn your back on the poor for when you do you are turning them on Jesus Christ”.
Yet again, I often refer to the story of Archbishop Helda Camara of Recife in Brazil when hosting the Eucharistic Congress.
Archbishop Camara when hearing of the cost for the altar for the final Mass of the congress would not give approval for the expenditure until he was assured that it could be taken apart and the material used to provide housing for the poor in the slums surrounding the site.
He asked, “How can I spend money on the Eucharistic Christ when the Christ in the slums is homeless?”
The plenary journey calls us to be a Church which is “Prayerful and Eucharistic”. There should be no hint of any dualism in the living out of this call.
The Christ of the Eucharist, of the Blessed Sacrament, of the Mass celebrated in poverty-stricken slum or great cathedral, of the Christ presence in the side entrance to St Francis are all intrinsically one.
This is both the invitation and the challenge for we Eucharistic people at this time.
We will only achieve this mind and heart set when we are deeply prayerful.
I note that the plenary themes do not refer to “saying prayers” but being prayerful.
When we fall in love each and every day with our God of knowing winks and loving smiles we will be prayerful.
Just as one cannot continually breathe either in or out but need both cycles of breath so too do we need to fall in love breathing in and reaching out in love to the world in Eucharist.
I love the words attributed to the former superior general of the Jesuits, Fr Pedro Arrupe:
“Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.”
The privilege of the plenary journey invites each of us to continue to “fall in love” with our everyday God – the God of the thousand faces, events and creation which is our everyday.
When we do this – we will grow Eucharistic eyes and a Eucharistic heart which will find its true home when the people of God gather “for the breaking of the bread” and from this – be sent out to be what we celebrate – to be Christ’s hands and feet and eyes – for a world so aching for it.
Christian Brother Damien Price is a former teacher in Brisbane schools including St Josephís, Gregory Terrace; St Patrickís College, Shorncliffe; and St Laurenceís College, South Brisbane. He continues to work with schools across the country.