Browse by Topic: Eucharist

Br. Cody Jorgensen, O.P.'s picture

Eucharist: Tribalism or Communion?

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In some parts of the country, your favorite sports team defines a certain part of you. Does a Colts fan talk to a Patriots fan? But what about in the Church?

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Do these people talk to each other? Or are they like a rival sports team? In my trip in Poland, it was interesting to note that in Krakow the gangs are actually socceer team fans. Things can get fairly violent, and your affiliation with a particular team could mean trouble if you encounter your rivals. There's graffiti in Krakow, but it's soccer team signs, not Los Angeles gang signs.

Tribalism seems to be an ingrained element of human nature. We all have our opinions, preferences, maybe even conveniences, and habits. They all come together in making the decisions about what sports games we watch, brand of goods we buy, and what Church we attend. I don't think I need to multiply examples: the point is clear. We love our own tribes, and we fight for our own tribes. We want our tribe to be the best, the strongest, the one with the biggest numbers, something to boast about over all the others.

"The Eucharist creates communion and fosters communion," Pope John Paul II writes in his last encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia. (40) In current American Catholicism there seem to be strong currents devoted, not unlike a sports team, over what particular "tribe" you belong to. I've seen communities (of all types) who look upon others with disdain. "Ours is the best," one might boast. I have to ask, what does this look like to our secular contemporaries? What kind of witness is this? Someone entering the Church, or considering converting, could easily be turned off by the factionalism and sometimes loathful disdain that one group may have for another ... even within the same parish!

It is true, some groups may have very valid points, reasons for doing things a certain way. A zeal for faithfulness to rubrics is a good thing. In the cited encyclical the Pope exhorts all Priests to be faithful in their celebration of the Mass: "Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to these norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church." (52) Powerful words. But oftentimes it seems as if we have an uncanny ability to live outside of a mean, on the edge of an extreme.

Do we want to give a powerful witness of unity, of the love of the Lord to our neighbors? Isn't it our goal to spread the Gospel in a fallen world, a world that needs the same healing balm that we ourselves have received and continue to receive? We shouldn't wholesale set aside our differences; some differences are important. But even within the differences of our communities, we must, underneath it all, provide a powerful witness to the love of Jesus, and the communion that is built between us in our sharing in the one bread.

The Pope had pretty much "seen it all." I'm sure he'd witnessed his fair share of interesting and questionable liturgies. Factoring out true liturgical abuse (for I do not mean to say that this is inconsequential; the Pope strongly exhorts us to have a reverence for norms, to thereby faithfully adore and worship the Lord, with the respect and dignity proper to the Eucharist), we must look beyond our preferential tribalism, and emphasize our unity within the Church. "...[T]he Eucharistic Sacrifice, while always offered in a particular community, is never a celebration of that community alone. In fact, the community, in receiving the Eucharistic presence of the Lord, receives the entire gift of salvation and shows, even in its lasting visible particular form, that is is the image and true presence of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church." (39)

The faithful, both lay, religious, and clerical, should all strive to preserve and foster the bond of unity within their particular communities, by reflecting on and respecting the greatest of all mysteries: the Eucharist. The celebration of Mass is not a weapon that we wield to break communion within the Church. "From this it follows that a truly Eucharistic community cannot be closed in upon itself, as though it were somehow self-sufficient; rather it must persevere in harmony with every other Catholic community." (39) We must strive, in love, to look beyond our particular tribe to those others whom we may see as outsiders, and see ourselves as part of a much larger communion. The world should not be able to look at our communities and see us acting amongst one another as rivalrous sports fans. We must have mercy on one another in our failings, encourage each other in the faith, and look to what unites us most strongly, rather than overemphasizing the truly accidental.