Bound together by our undying devotion to the New Orleans Saints, Catholic theology, and Saint & Future-Saint Popes, my niece Kaitlin and I have spent many hours talking about the beauty of the Source + Summit of the Christian Life! One of my favorite Saint John Paul II encyclicals is Ecclesia de Eucharistia, on the Eucharist in its relationship to the Church. For today’s Friendsday Wednesday, Kaitlin shares a challenging reflection about how we approach the Mass and what comes after.
“And then what?”
That was the question posed to me one day by a Catholic friend who is no longer practicing. That friend was asking about going to Mass. “And then what?” After you go to Mass and receive the Eucharist, what comes next? You have had Communion with our King and Savior – “and then what?” You just go out into the world and back to your lives and that’s it?
Well—yes. Actually, you do not go back to your life, your life simply continues. God did not intend that we break away from life for one hour during the week to be with him and then suddenly re-enter life and pretend that Mass occurred in a vacuum. Look for churches in towns and cities. Where are they? Where is the Cathedral of your diocese? Is it in no man’s land? Is it hidden? No; it’s in the middle of everything. In New Orleans, the Archdiocese where I grew up, the cathedral stands amidst the center of the city’s blessings and debauchery. And for this reason, I think it is valid to ask a Catholic “And then what?” There is your church, existing, but now what?
A theologian once (regretfully) remarked that “Jesus came proclaiming the Kingdom, and what came was the Church.” He means for us to reflect on the apparent “lack” of kingdom and the apparent creation by mankind. That the Kingdom is certainly not here. That Jesus promised the Kingdom and we may be tempted to look back into history and ask ourselves “And then what?”
At least, that is how it seems to some. Catholics and non-Catholics alike may look around and say, where is the Church? Where are the Christians? Where is the King and Savior? That is why I took this question posed to me as a challenge.
At first, when the question was asked, I admit I was slightly deflated. I couldn't understand. I had just told this person that Catholics believe that during Mass we are receiving the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ and they asked me what comes next? As if something more could happen. What more could we be asking for?
However, they weren't asking me what more Jesus could do. They were asking what I was doing.
“And then what?”
Saint John Paul II wrote, "The Eucharist is the heart of the Church. Where Eucharistic life flourishes, there the life of the Church will blossom." In the Eucharist, I am encountering Jesus Christ in an unsurpassable way this side of Heaven. So now what am I doing? How am I mindful of this before, during, and after Mass? Is receiving Jesus Christ going to change my heart in some way? Am I hearing the call to holiness within this Communion? When I return to the entrails and vicissitudes of my life, am I bringing this encounter with me? Is this encounter the impetus to act fearlessly and unselfishly?
The question challenged me to never take the Mass or the moment of Holy Communion for granted. Nor to take the Church for granted. It also challenged me to be mindful of the gift of the Eucharist at all times—not just on Sundays or during Mass. Christians are meant to be the leaven, the salt, the light in the world. We have encountered Jesus Christ in prayer and communion, and are to continue encountering Him in others in the midst of our lives, wherever that may be.
The Eucharist is a part of creation, and as the summit of our faith, cannot be surpassed as far as Communion with Christ goes. There is no “and then what?” in that regard. As the source of our faith, though, we must always challenge ourselves by asking “and then what?” Where will my Communion with Christ in the Eucharist take me today?
"Only through the Eucharist is it possible to live the heroic virtues of Christianity: charity to the point of loving one's enemies; love for those who make us suffer; chastity in every age and situation of life; patience in suffering and when one is shocked by the silence of God in the tragedies of history or of one's own personal existence. You must always be Eucharistic souls in order to be authentic Christians."
Saint John Paul II
Kaitlin S. Davis is in formation to be a consecrated virgin living in the world. Her life in the world includes being an Athletic Trainer at the Episcopal School of Acadiana, coordinating and leading missions trips to Alaska with College Missions Company, pulling against the Atlanta Falcons, and quoting Pope Benedict XVI on the reg. You can contact Kaitlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.