The feast of Corpus Christi in 1984 was also the date of my First Profession as a Daughter of St. Paul. Though St. Paul usually gets the honors with our usual date for professions being on his feast day at the end of June, that year, for whatever reason, our group had the singular privilege of making our profession on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. This meaning of this Feast has marked my entire religious life.
The image of the Eucharist, the bread broken in the Master and Savior’s hands for the feeding of his disciples and for the life of the world, has always been powerful for me. I remember in 1999 making a pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Paul in Rome. We were told to watch for the moment when we felt St Paul’s presence in a meaningful way. I watched. I waited. And as we walked away from the Three Fountains where St Paul was martyred, trodding the very path the first Christians would have walked in sorrow after his beheading, I myself sorrowed. I had felt nothing of St. Paul’s presence.
Slowly we made our way to the Basilica St Paul Outside-the-Walls south of the Aurelian Walls. I knelt in the confessional, above where St Paul was buried and then went quietly to join my sisters in the large Blessed Sacrament Chapel where there is a crucifix that is said to have spoken to St Bridget in 1370. There a priest celebrated Mass for us. Again nothing. Walking back to my pew after receiving Communion, at last, I heard within myself the words of Jesus: “I am already here within you. I, God.” I was moved to tears. I was looking for an experience, a feeling. All the time, Jesus had been with me in his Eucharistic presence.
Our Pauline spirituality is profoundly Eucharistic, and so is our life and mission. We are to be bread broken for the life of many. Recently, this has come to life for me in a new way. I’ve had this sense that every encounter, every task in the apostolate, everything I write is a form of distributing the body of Christ to others. It is in his body and blood that we have communion with each other, yes, but it is also in his body and blood that we find ourselves together in communion with Jesus, lost in him, where his warmth and presence is always increasing in us.
So as you read today’s readings for the Liturgy, you might want to think about how your life is already Eucharistic, and how certain situations and activities can be a form of giving Christ to others, blessing them with his awesome love. What would change if gradually you were more intentionally aware of this desire of Jesus to be life for the world through you? How is Jesus inviting you to be bread broken for the life of the world? In what way do you share in his suffering, and how are you offering life for others?
Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, an author and spiritual mentor, offers personalized and professional guidance for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She draws from the spiritual tradition and her own lived experience to lead seekers deep within themselves and through their personal history to deepen their intimacy with and trust in God; live with greater joy, peace, and interior freedom; and encounter the Lord in their past and present life experiences to find healing, grace, and newness of life. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey. Sr. Kathryn’s forthcoming book Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments will be released in September 2018.