On Pilgrimage, January ‘23

I have not blogged for some time and I start again by robbing a title from Dorothy Day’s “On Pilgrimage” column in The Catholic Worker. I make no claim to her prophetic power. And urge readers to pray for her official canonization. Yet the title allows me to wander. So Feel free to take a rain check from this walkabout.

Holy Communion is the first topic from my pilgrim notebook.

On MLK Day last, Denver celebrated its annual “Marade” (reputed to be the largest MLK event in the nation).

Jeanie and I took the two oldest grandkids – 5 and 7 yrs. Our assembly point (we marched with The Presbytery of Denver) was a large statue of Lady Liberty just across the street from East High School whence their mother graduated. There we stood for more than an hour waiting for the parade to start. A quiet hour viewing and hearing, greeting and occasionally talking with the other groups gathered around the statue. For me this waiting period was the best part of the event because I was more aware of experiencing communion with these groups while we stood waiting than while actually walking.

I was certainly more aware of the diversity and diverse beauties of the individuals and groups we waited with. Turns out we stood with our signs right next to a group of Denver Bronco junior cheerleaders, with their cheerleader mentors and families. Many family groups waited around us, young and older families, of all skin colors and varied costumes. And the costuming for the day was really wonderful – not just the uniforms of the bands and veteran’s groups and police security, but the uniforms folks choose to wear for identification and beauty – hair styles beyond belief, to say nothing of shoes and boots, jeans and skirts, and colorful hats along with club jackets of all sorts.

The whole event was a “holy” communion. Experienced as holy, as somehow embodying Jesus’ Holy Spirit. And we greeted with or sang “praise the Lord.”

Here I pause to invoke the idea of analogy or “analogica entis”. (Those not in a philosophical mood are hereby excused.) The analogy of being means that all realities, all existents, are both very much the same and yet each quite different. A reality like holy communion is realized (exists) in many different but analogous forms. Holy communion at Catholic Mass is analogous to the service of bread and wine in all Christian forms of worship, and to varied forms of holy communion practices in other religions. It was also a real though analogous presence at our Marade. Indeed, there are so many experiences of real and holy communion in our lives — in sexual intercourse, on a mountain top or when swept along by crashing rhythm of waves. I experience holy communion often with my grandchildren, and with classmates and their parents when we drop the kids at school.

It’s crucial to remember that we’re talking about the analogy of being or of reality. Not “just some symbol.” These really are forms of holy communion.

And one final note about analogy. In the classical metaphysics of analogy, there is a “prime analogue.” A primary or fundamental or ultimate Reality (the capitol letter is justified here) in which all other existents participate – with which they are at once the same (or unified) and different. Being Itself is the prime analogue for all beings. God is the prime analogue for all of creation. The Good (yep, an ultimate Reality) is the prime analogue for all real existent goods (of which, thankfully, there are so many). And Jesus habit of having meals with all types of folks, and with his close friends on the night before he died is (at least for most Christians) the prime analogue of all holy communions.

Go figure. Most contemporary philosophers consider this a bunch of nonsense. I don’t

So back to some other Holy Communions.

On a recent Sunday my lay-led Catholic community had no priest available to say Mass. Rather, following the really imaginative suggestion of one of our members, we gathered in the church basement and loaded 15,000 lbs. of rice and pinto beans into smallish plastic bags for distribution by Metro Caring (which distributes 10, 000 lbs. bagged and fresh food every day). Helping were members of our church’s three communities (lay Catholics, gay Catholics, and Presbyterians) as well as 10-15 honors students from one of the local high schools. We were done with the work in a half-hour or so and then spent a goodly time talking in groups with coffee and goodies. It was, for me and I suspect for most, a very real experience of Holy Communion.

Sadly and yet happily my January list includes an afternoon wake for a long-time friend, with her family and many other friends – kids and elders, Hispanic and Anglo, wonderful women and men of all ages. Communion with much good wine, beer, and other drinks, cheese and crackers and meats and cookies. Yet most of all communion through words and smiles, tears and touches.

Then, just the other day, a former student invited me to join the team she leads in the church basement to prepare food for the mid-day soup line behind the church. This happens, with many different teams of volunteers, seven days a week. The team goes through a well-practiced routine: check the fridges and supplies, make the sandwiches, meat and cheese, p b & j. Then fill the lunch bags with sandwiches and chips and desert bar as well as spoon for the soup and a napkin or two. That day our team had seven members, mostly retired folks, both women and men, some younger and stronger, others getting on. We prepared for over 50 homeless folks and served just 40. Sometimes it’s as many as 75-80, but it was 5-below in the alley that day. So, yes, again, Holy Communion with the Real Presence of Christ in so many different ways.

Then there are the regular zoom sessions I have with a number of different fellow-travelers. Each in its way a holy communion.

So, dear reader, what’s your experiences of Holy Communion during your pilgrimage of late.

Please consider sharing your reflections on this topic through the response mechanism on this site.

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