Each issue carries an
Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Real Presence! The Body and Blood of Jesus! Catholic
Christians have always believed this. It is one of the Church's
earliest and most constant teachings. But what does it mean?————
If you're looking for answers, many attempts at explanations exist.
The reality is that we'll never truly understand this profound mystery.
What we can do is explore it part by part.
In this Youth Update, six of the many aspects of our eucharistic
celebration are highlighted: gratitude, intercession, forgiveness, praise, meditation
and contemplation. Each week of Lent, you are invited to focus on just one to
increase your appreciation of its depth and importance in your life.
We Gather With Grateful Hearts
Did you know that the root word for Eucharist
is Greek (eukharistia) and means thanksgiving? Every time you
participate in the liturgy, you remember and realize that Jesus left you this
miraculous food for your journey. Jesus promised that he would not leave you
and that he would always be with you.
I'm sure you've heard the popular saying, "You are what you eat."
This is most true of sharing Eucharist, in which you become a part of the Body
You receive the body and blood of Christ, you say "Amen" (I agree)
to this profound truth and then you become the extension of the body and blood
of Christ in your world. You thank God for the bread of life. You thank God
for the gifts you have been given. You sit in gratitude for the sacrifice of
ACT AS BELIEVERS. This
week—each morning even before your feet hit the floor—thank God
for at least three things. These can be as simple as gratitude for
waking up or as complex as being thankful for the strength to deal
with complicated health problems or peer pressure issues. Simply
Our kids always loved to play that car game, "What's in the Trunk
in Grandma's Attic?" In round-robin fashion, each person names something in
the trunk, going around in alphabetical order.
One Thanksgiving, before we ate, we took turns around the dinner
table naming things we were grateful for in alphabetical order. Everyone was
way too hungry to enjoy this Thanksgiving game and it was strongly recommended
that next year we wait until after dinner! As this week progresses, maybe
you could try this grateful game with God.
We Pray for Others and Ourselves
Intercessions are another "standard feature"
at Mass. This is another word for prayers or petitions. You're asking for your
needs and your wants. You pray for others, your world and yourselves.
During the eucharistic prayer, you pray for the living and the dead—all
the people you hold dear. These prayers remind you that we are all connected:
those who have died and those who are living now.
ACT AS A BELIEVER. Some
intercessions or prayers may be for life's extras. This week's exercise
is to try to distinguish between needs and wants. What is really
important for your life? Each day, pray three prayers of petition,
interceding (praying) for another's needs.
Wouldn't the world be a beautiful place if everyone had what he
or she needed? Next time you say you want something, determine first
if you really need it. Many people are trying to live simply so that
others may simply live.
Another approach to intercession was given to me by a young friend
who suggested a prayer journal. She loved that line from a popular hymn, "I
will hold your people in my heart." It moved her to write needy people's names
in it. She said she really didn't know what to pray for these people, so there
were no specific prayer requests, just names.
She was just lifting them to the Lord, embracing them with love.
She especially prays for those who give her the most trouble, for often they
are the most troubled. You may wish to begin your own book of intercessions.
We Are Forgiven; We Forgive
During the Mass, you pray for forgiveness
very early: "Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy...." Then later you pray in
the Our Father, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass
Because you're human, forgiving is very hard to do. Because Jesus
was human, you can imagine how hard it was for him, when he was dying on the
cross and he said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
Jesus is our example in how to live, how to love and especially
how to forgive. He lifted up his persecutors to God for the forgiveness of sins.
ACT AS A BELIEVER.
If you have a Lenten Reconciliation service
at your parish it would be an added benefit if you could attend.
So much healing can happen when you realize the social aspect of
It is very hard to forgive others for the hurts you feel; it is
hard to forgive yourself for turning away from God, and it is very hard
to accept God's unconditional love. That's why you have the sacrament and the
grace of God to help you in this quest. You can try to forgive on your own,
but it's certainly not as easy.
Make a list this week of all the people with whom you have issues
or add them to your journal. This is a movement beyond self, thinking about
hurts and forgiving them. Maybe you can draw or scribble the hurts away. Maybe
you can literally bundle them up and shred them to pieces. You could also take
the big step and actually forgive them in person.
We have had many bonfires during our youth group's Advent prayer
services, where we literally burn up our hurts and unsolved issues of forgiveness.
We have talked much about walking away from an argument and/or writing a letter
or note to clarify feelings. We always remember the Jesus prayer of forgiveness
("Father, forgive him [or her]").
All Praise to God
Awesome is an appropriate word for God. At
Mass, we say aloud just how awesome God is. Outside Mass, we gather many clues.
Have you ever stared at the stars at night and wondered about the
other realms of the galaxy? Did you ever admire the intricacies of the life
cycle of the caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly? Have you hiked in
a national park or climbed a mountain to experience the wonder of creation?
Have you ever had an encounter with someone and you just immediately
connected? Have you held a tiny baby and admired her or his tiny fingers and
tiny eyelashes? Have you ever been thinking about someone and then she or he
called you or made some other kind of contact?
All of these and so many more are the physical manifestations of
the awesomeness of God. God is so above and beyond our wildest imaginings. God
is so infinite that our infinitely finite minds cannot begin to fathom the divine
magnitude. Praise God, within all, above all, beyond all, around all, saturating
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow! You acknowledge your oneness
with nature, you appreciate the beauty of your world and you cherish the diversity
and the complexity of creation. Praise also keeps you humble. You realize how
small you are in the whole scheme of things.
ACT AS A BELIEVER.
Here are a few options for acting in praise of
creation: The next time you see litter, you could pick it up and
dispose of it or recycle it. Make a list this week, adding three
things that astound you, or add to your journal things that amaze
you. Strive to find something in your life every day for which to
Meditate on Mystery
Eucharist offers some periods of silence—after
the readings and after Communion, for instance. You are invited to
meditate on the Word of God and on the Real Presence of God during
Meditation is a way of becoming quiet and using your imagination.
A guided meditation helps your imagination become part of the process. It works
best if someone reads to you and slowly stimulates your imagination.
You could, however, make a tape yourself and then play it back when
you have some time to be alone with God. If neither option seems possible, read
the following directions to yourself and try meditating. If you've ever shared
in a guided meditation, you can tap into that experience.
Ready? Get comfortable and breathe slowly—at least three long slow
inhales and exhales. Bow your head and close your eyes. Now you'll begin to
relax all the parts of your body. Starting with your toes, bring your muscles
to your awareness, squeeze and tighten them and then relax. Continue from your
tip of your toes to the top of your head. Now go back to focusing on your breathing.
Slowly inhale and exhale and breathe in the grace of God.
ACT AS A BELIEVER.
Imagine you are in your family room or living
room and you have sneaked down to the Christmas tree before anyone
else is up. You're sitting in the quiet and staring at all the wonderful
gifts and decorations. You can smell the pine scent of the tree
and feel the warmth of the glow of the soft lights.
Look with wonder and appreciate all the little details. Now your
eyes fall upon the manger scene in the nativity set nearby. Your attention is
shifted from all the wrapped gifts to the greatest gift of all as you see Jesus
in the manger.
How is it that God loves you so much? How is it that Jesus becomes
one of us? Look at this tiny human baby, God incarnate, God in the flesh. And
look at the poor, tired parents. Think about that contrast. Poor—God?!
Jesus is gift and you also are gift. That's the mystery of the Incarnation.
Choose any kind of gift box as a symbol of you. Open it—what's inside? What
is your talent? What is your gift? What is unique about you? What is special?
At St. John's, where I used to work, we presented our gifts written
on pieces of paper and dropped them into a beautifully wrapped box at our prayer
Meditate on your gift and how your use of it will help make this
world a better place. Present your gift to God, have a conversation about your
uniqueness, offer yourself as gift. When you're finished, come back out of your
The Heart of Prayer
This last week of Lent is so profound. You have
to stretch to the outer reaches of your understanding. Are you ready?
Now you can dive even more deeply into the mystery of the Eucharist.
Jesus gave you the example of self-gift. He gave himself freely
all through his life, healing and teaching. At Mass, listen for these words
(some weeks, the words will be different, though the idea is the same), as stated
in Eucharistic Prayer II: "Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them
holy so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ."
This, too, is the mystery of the Eucharist. How does this happen?
How does this bread and wine (this Body and Blood of Jesus) nourish you to become
the hands and feet, mind and heart of Jesus in our world? How do you become
food for the hungry, home for the homeless, drink for the thirsty, comfort for
the sorrowing, light for the world?
It is possible with God: You do become food for others on your journey
here on earth. Strengthened by spiritual nourishment, you are able to say yes
to the goodness of God.
To accomplish this, you need some silence. When Jesus was praying,
when he was lost in union with the divine, he was quiet.
At St. John's, we love to play the "Pin Game." Of course, the room
has to have a hard floor for this to work. All would be still and quiet. There
were no pens clicking, no chairs moving, no fluorescent lights buzzing. We sat
After what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was only a minute,
I would drop a straight pin. We brought to life the old phrase, "It was so quiet
that you could hear a pin drop."
ACT AS A BELIEVER.Contemplation
literally means to be pensive: to think deeply and meditate upon
mystery. Sit in absolute quiet for at least six minutes. Let at
least a virtual pin drop!
Psalm 46 includes this verse, "Be still and confess that I am God!"
Do just that. Sit in quiet; sit in God, God who remains present in the Tabernacle,
who remains present in us. The place is not as important as your state of being.
Be present. Be a gift to God. Be open.
Here's the beauty of this reflection. The eucharistic minister says,
"The Body of Christ!" By saying, "Amen," you agree. The bread is the Body of
Christ. You are the body of Christ.
We are all in this together. As St. Paul says, when one part of
the body hurts, we all hurt. Let us be about healing. Let us be about celebrating
the Body of Christ.
You know how. When you were young, your parents, grandparents and
teachers taught you to pray. You often say the same memorized prayer together.
It's a great way to pray and a great beginning.
What we weren't always told was how to be a prayer. That's
my prayer: That you can live your life in the eucharistic prayer, being grateful
and thinking of others always. Your yes to God can be a contributing factor
in making this world a better place for everyone.
We live as Eucharist.
You say all Catholic Christians believe
in the Real Presence. Not all teenagers realize this. Did
the Church always believe this? Has that belief changed at
From the outpouring of the Holy Spirit
of Jesus at the Pentecost event, the apostles and disciples
were empowered to preach, teach and heal. The Acts of the
Apostles tells us of this early Church and how they gathered
in each others' homes to break bread together and celebrate
the presence of Jesus still with them. This is the eucharistic
liturgy we celebrate together.
You say we need some "alone time." When
I try, someone in my family always interrupts. What can I
What a wonderful opportunity to be an
example to your family. You could, of course, negotiate at
a family meeting for the entire family to pray together or
have quiet time in the house. If that doesn't work, just by
expressing your need for quiet time you raise everyone's awareness.
My daughter once put a little sign on her door that she didn't
want to be disturbed. —————————————————————————
I know you've said here how I can "live
as Eucharist." But tell me again: How can I really make
Jesus gave us the best outline for how
to live with the Beatitudes: attitudes for be-ing, how to
be in this world. We are called to community, to be in communion,
to really care for and share with our poor brothers and sisters.
I love the saying attributed to St. Francis, "Preach
the gospel always and, when necessary, use words." I
believe that is living the Eucharist.
Andrew Cordonnier (17), Kimberly Goubeaux (18), Katy Luthman (16) and Krista Paulus (17), all from St. Remy Parish in Russia, Ohio, met last fall to review this issue and ask questions over pizza. Carl Gebret, youth minister, issued the invitation.