I'm not going to lie. I don't look a day older than 16. So when my supervisor at the parish at which I work asked me to make a presentation to the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, I wanted to make sure I sounded professional, or at least older than I look. No person in his or her mid-50s wants a spunky 22-year-old giving them a "workshop" or "lecture." I did my research. I began with what I knew, I read and I used all my available resources. It took me the better part of the semester, but I slowly created what I believed to be a presentation on the Eucharist – what it is and what it means from a historical, liturgical, philosophical and personal level.
The morning before I was to present, I received an e-mail from the deacon with whom I'd been working on the presentation. He informed me that instead of the full hour I had been allotted, I would be given only half an hour to present. Imagine my frustration. So I whittled my workshop into its essential points. I trusted that there was a very good reason for cutting most of the education section out of the workshop.
I was wrong. The reason my time was shortened was because of the discussion of the new directives they had received. Certainly I am not suggesting that the reasoning behind the new directives was not an issue to be discussed. However, this was not the case. The EMs spent over an hour arguing about dress code. The dress code…honestly.
Am I naive? I'm sure I am. Call me crazy, but I think discussing what Catholics actually mean when they say they believe in the "true presence" or what we mean when we say "transubstantiation" is a bit more important than whether or not parishioner Bob's attire is attractive enough. I exaggerate. Certainly, I think that when one is a minister of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, one should be properly dressed. No jeans, no T-shirts. But I believe that this question would not have to be addressed if the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion were properly catechized.
This isn't the only time I've been so frustrated. I also work with the lectors at my parish. I set up three separate sessions, of various times, and of over 50 lectors, I have met with 18. I do not mean to rag on my parish. I believe this kind of disinterest and apathy exists in many parishes, and many communities.
Our motives are betrayed by the way we spend our time.
The funny thing is that one of my presentation points was about how vocations are answered in humility. We are not the focus when we come to the Eucharist. Or at least we shouldn't be. It is a personal call, like Moses' call in the desert.
We can avoid the call all we want, making excuses and beating around the bush (pardon the terrible pun). But in the end, the call is not a single occurrence. It is a call to give our lives, and it manifests itself in many different ways. This is what Scripture means when it says, "There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:4). Thus, the call is also enveloped in humble responsibility. If we choose to follow our vocation, we ought to do so 100 percent.
Now, I am not a person who likes "happy clapping churches," but perhaps we ought to take a cue from our youth. The surge in youth groups is expressive of the centrality of the Eucharist to our Catholic faith. Michael W. Smith sings, "I'm coming back to the heart of worship, and it's all about you…I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it, when it's all about you." He references our tendency to be self-centered, even in Eucharistic celebration.
I did not intend for this article to sound like a glorified rant, and thus I issue a challenge. I challenge all those who actually read this to consider where humility plays a part in your life. Are you humble at all, or does the world revolve around you and your agenda? BE HONEST within the quiet of yourself. You might be surprised.
Jen Theby, a senior studying theater and theology, is in the Liturgical Internship Program this year at the Center for Liturgy. And, believe it or not, she really loves working at her parish. Liturgical interns are funded by the VOICES Project, which seeks to enhance a sense of vocation in all members of the University community.