Dear Members of the McQuaid Community:
For my birthday, my brother and sister-in-law gave me an "Ancestry DNA" kit. Ever since my parents died in 2011 and 2012, my siblings and I have been dedicated to preserving family memories, and have been working on understanding the roots of our family heritage. Knowing my family background is an important way of keeping connected with my forebears, parents, brothers and sisters, and ultimately with myself. I look forward to receiving my Ancestry DNA report this fall.
Having an identity rooted in a family is one of my richest blessings. I am grateful for this beyond measure. However, with time, I have realized that even in my own tightly knit family, each of us is unique. For example, my siblings have married spouses from different backgrounds, with different expectations and traditions. As a result, my nieces and nephews, while bearing a heritage similar to mine, all have their own special “touches” based on my family's ever-expanding "in-law traditions" and heritage lines. They are my family and I really love them; yet, I continually have to step back and remind myself of how differently my nieces and nephews are knitted together. We are one; we also are very different.
When celebrating Mass, I always try to imagine the various places from where the women and men in front of me come. On a typical weekend, a congregation can be comprised of people of every age, coming from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, holding varying educational and professional experiences, and maintaining different relationship statuses. I sometimes imagine they are grains of wheat or individual grapes once scattered, who have come together in faith to comprise the Body of Christ and reveal Him to the world. As Vatican II reminds us, Christ is present in the Eucharist in four essential ways: in the bread and wine shared, in the word proclaimed, in the priest presiding, and in the people assembled. Regarding the fourth part, the Constitution on the Divine Liturgy states, Christ truly is present "when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: 'Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,'” (Matthew 18:20).
Bishop Salvatore Matano has proclaimed this a “Year of the Eucharist.” In so doing, the bishop reminds us that the Eucharist is “the source and summit” of our lives of faith. In the Eucharistic celebration, diverse women and men are gathered, blessed and broken, and then poured out into the world, revealing Christ among us. Like the particles of wheat and the individual grapes that make up the Eucharistic bread and wine, we humans are unique; yet, in faith we are gathered into one, and we reveal Christ alive.
As we begin another academic year, let us recall the truths revealed deep within these two most fundamental aspects of our lives - our families and our faith. Let us rely on what they teach us. Our families, while unique to each of us, also are comprised of women and men who are very different from one another. We may be one family, but we also are individuals. The same is true within the community of faith. Every grain of wheat and every single grape is different, yet when they are gathered together in faith and love, they become one in the Eucharist, the Body in Christ.
In this time of alarming division - from Charlottesville to Barcelona - Jesuit schools like McQuaid must become even greater exemplars of community and communion. In his now famous speech in which he summoned alumni and alumnae of Jesuit schools to become “men and women with (and for) others,” Fr. Pedro Arrupe concluded by saying:
Today our prime educational objective must be to form men and women for others; men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men and women completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce. (Arrupe, Valencia, Spain, 1973)
While we have our own challenges to face, by treating those who are “least” among us, those who are different than we, with dignity and respect, we have the unique opportunity of demonstrating what “one family” and "one body" really mean. Let us together pray for our nation, community, school, and families. May we always keep in mind the words of the Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation, which entreats us, “May we become one body healed of all divisions.”
Robert E. Reiser, S.J.