By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.
My list of communion calls ebbs and flows: I have a sad ritual, whereby when I bury one of those who I visited I go to my computer and remove them from my “sick call list” and say a final prayer for them. I take their memorial card and put it in my desk draw on a stack that has grown from a dozen, to two dozen, to somewhere near the number forty. The life of a parish priest.
Just this weekend, I went on a call to an elderly lady who I have been seeing for over a year now. She looks exactly the same: very old, hands gnarled by arthritis, clutching a rosary. Our conversation is always the same: frustration at her situation, gratefulness for her care, mixed with a worry that she is being a burden.
I hear largely the same outline of her life, but something stuck out in this last visit. She has always told me she was a Eucharistic Minister, bringing Communion to the sick in her parish where she once lived, somewhere out west. But Saturday, her eyes went wide, and, in telling the story, she added a piece: “I really miss bringing Communion.”
I heard this and took a breath. An examination of conscience, if there ever was one. For all the talk (and there will be even more today and until the conclusion of the Synod and Francis’ visit to the Meeting on the Families), it reminded me of what my canon law professor said once in class: “My favorite part of being a priest is giving others communion.”
There is an important play on the word that can and should be noted: to bring others communion. Indeed, the act of placing the Eucharist in the hands or on the tongue of another is, at its basic movement, an act of communion, an act of me joining with you, joining you and me with the divine. And it’s about you, me, and God – it’s never just God and you, or God and me, or me and you. To give Communion is to literally offer a communion with both God and the Church, living amid the world.
I’d miss offering this communion too. That’s a blessing indeed.