By Clare Meland, FC 19 Syracuse
One of my first days at Francis House, a home for those with terminal illnesses, just happened to be the first Wednesday of the month. Every first Wednesday, Francis House holds a Mass in their chapel in memory of the residents who have passed away in the last month. Many family members and staff attend and the little chapel is packed and pictures of the deceased stand on a little table near the altar. The Mass was beautiful, intimate, and very emotional as the priest read out the names of the deceased at the Prayers of the Faithful, but it wasn’t until Communion that I realized the beauty and the joy of what was happening.
As Catholics, we believe that when we receive the Eucharist, we are incorporated into the Body of Christ, and so we are united to each other in Christ. This union, which is the deepest possible, is not restricted to those in the physical building of the Church where the Mass is being celebrated. It extends to everyone else who is incorporated into the Body of Christ, including those across the world and those in heaven. This means that as the family members and friends received communion, they were united again and more deeply with their loved ones who have gone on before them. St. Therese said that this was the reason she was not sad when she received her First Communion, even though her mother, who had passed away, could not be there to watch her. She knew that she was united with her in the reception of the Eucharist.
In the Eucharist, we experience a foretaste of heaven. It is the promise of glory, eternal life with God. To receive the Eucharist is to anticipate a reunion in Christ with those we loved most on earth; all their illness and pain taken away, glorious and joyful heaven. Those who have died and their families have experienced the pain of Calvary, and now await the joy of the Resurrection. The Eucharist is a moment when heaven comes to earth, and in that little chapel, surrounded by those in mourning yet hopeful, I began to understand just exactly what that means.