By: Andrew Rudmann
On the night before his bloody Passion, Christ prayed to the Father for all creation. He said, “I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:22-23). The following day, Christ stretched out his arms, His Heart was torn open, and he drew all people to himself (cf. John 12:32) that they all might be one in Him.
Recently, I entered deeply into the depths of this mystery. This summer I was assigned to be a chaplain at Memorial Hermann TMC Hospital in Houston, Texas. For eleven weeks, I spent every day ministering to the sick and dying. I faced brokenness on every level. Physical brokenness from disease or trauma. Emotional brokenness from suffering and the loss of a loved one. Spiritual brokenness from the feeling of being abandoned by God. The brokenness and division within Christianity. And the brokenness of the family.
After several weeks at the hospital, my heart began to ache, as though I experienced some degree of the emotion and pain that Christ must have felt in his prayer to the Father. He desired that through His sacrifice He could draw all people to Himself, that all may be one. I felt this very desire. This was the cry of my heart as well! I said, “Father, please make us all one in your Son!”
Christ still prays this prayer to His Father. He is still drawing all people to Himself, and He will continue to do this until the end of time.
As I reflected on my hospital experience, I realized that this is at the core of priestly ministry. The priest, as Christ, receives the bread and wine, the prayer and sacrifice of the people, drawing all to himself saying, “Pray brothers and sisters, that your sacrifice and mine may be acceptable to God, Our Heavenly Father.” At the consecration, the gifts gathered by the priest are drawn into Christ and become His Body and Blood. Through the priest, Christ prays to the Father that all may be one. Through the priest, Christ’s sacrifice is made present again and his prayer is answered.
He draws all into Himself.
The sacrifice and service of all of the people, represented and offered in the bread and wine, have now become Christ’s Body and Blood. Thus, the elements of personal sacrifice and service have been united to Christ’s sacrifice and service and are now the elements of Communion. These offerings of love that we each offer, united to the offering of Christ, make us one in Him. This is the great sign of receiving the Eucharist, of being received into Holy Communion.
This is the spiritual reality that we participate in every Mass, but this reality must be lived out every day. The priest must cultivate this lived communion within his parish, and he must inspire a spirit of living out the eucharistic reality celebrated at Mass. In this, the heart of the priest must be the heart of Christ, constantly desiring to draw all to himself. Though God’s grace surely abounds, the priest must cultivate this heart and inculcate the necessary virtue of being a man of communion. This process begins in the seminary.
As a member of a community, the seminarian has a unique opportunity to live out the eucharistic communion that he will be fostering in his future congregations. The seminarian needs to learn how to be a man of communion. He will experience the joy that radiates when the community is living in unity, and he will experience the sorrow and brokenness when the community fails. But from these experiences, he will learn what it means to live out the reality we receive in the Eucharist.
How do we live out this eucharistic reality? How do we become men of communion? Through sacrifice, service, and joy. This is the reality we encounter every time we celebrate the Eucharist and every time we go to Mass. This is the Paschal Mystery, the mystery of communion.
The seminarian association at NDS is structured to reflect the Paschal Mystery and to provide additional opportunities for community members to live it out–to live eucharistically. This not only enriches the communion we enjoy as members of the NDS community, but it also acts as an invaluable element of our formation, helping us to develop the priestly heart of Christ which constantly thirsts for all to be one.
The first part of the association is The Devotional Life Committee, which focuses on the aspect of sacrifice. The committee leads the community in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, providing opportunities for the brothers to sacrifice together and for one another. Devotional life helps remind us of the great power of making of ourselves a living sacrifice, uniting all of our prayer and sufferings to Christ.
Second is The Apostolic Life Committee, which focuses on the aspect of service. This committee draws our attention to the need to minister to one another in our times of need and it provides opportunities to carry the crosses of others. Apostolic Life cares for the sick members in the community and organizes opportunities for them to serve side-by-side, engaging in the corporal works of mercy. In our service, we reveal the fruits of communion, the reality that we are one Body, the reality of the Eucharistic Communion.
Finally, The Social Life Committee celebrates the power of the Resurrection! This is the committee of hope, the committee of joy! Social life provides opportunities for seminarians to come together and delight in the communion that they experience. This communion is the graced result of living out the reality of the Eucharist celebrated and received daily by the seminarians. When seminarians actively engage in community life, when they learn to offer their personal sacrifices, when they lovingly give of themselves in service to their brothers and those in need, they will experience the joy of the Resurrection in their heart and the intimate knowledge that they are participating in a real communion.
I pray for all priests and seminarians, that God might give them the grace to see this mystery, give them the courage to live it out, and give them the gift of the heart of Christ, constantly thirsting for communion, tirelessly aching to be one with all people. I pray for Notre Dame Seminary, that we might be drawn deeply into communion with our Eucharistic Lord and one another, always persevering in sacrifice, service, and joy. “That they may be one.”
About the Author: Andrew Rudmann
Andrew is a seminarian in Third Theology.
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