Coffee and an Extra Perk

coffee cupsI arrived at the quaint coffee shop earlier than anticipated! (Pre-supposing I might get caught up in re-routed traffic because of on-going, New Orleans road work, Saenger Theater re-construction or even the filming of a movie, I left Holy Angels an hour prior to the planned meeting time.) Within a mere 20 minutes I was seated at a table breathing in the welcoming aroma of coffee and the mouth-watering allure of cranberry scones.

This was not to be an "eating meeting" but since I was ahead of time I made my way to the counter. Generally, I am not a coffee-house "goer" … but I became a part of a defined ritual of eating and drinking. Back at the table where I had left the agenda folder, I read the Scripture for the next day, Corpus Christi - June 2, 2013. Immediately I was struck by the references to food and drink—bread and wine—body and blood. The actions: take, bless, broken and shared came across loud and clear in 1 Corinthians 11. The Communion Antiphon was the consoling, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him …" as in John 6:57

In the midst of an endless line of customers, chatter at a table or two, other folks like myself quietly reading or mesmerized on a computer … a rush of memories and images filled my mind and heart. I remembered reading recently of a dialogue that Pope Francis had with children who just made their First Communion. It went something like this …

"Jesus has saved us, but he also walks with us in life. Right? What does Jesus do when he walks with us? Speak up!" (Individual kids responded: Jesus helps us. He guides us! He loves us.) The Pope continued, "Great! … and he teaches us to go forward. And Jesus also gives us the strength to walk. Right?" He continued, "Jesus sustains us in any difficulties … even our homework! He sustains us, he helps us, he guides us. That's it! Jesus always goes with us and gives us strength."

I looked around at the array of people. Of course, I had no ideas about their personal life stories or faith connections. Catty-corner from me, one man in particular caught my attention. He was a Black gentleman wearing a colorful, Kente cloth Kufi hat. He was writing. His table was on the aisle most folks took to go to the counter. As each person passed, they exchanged greetings. Some stopped at his table and talked a little bit. Each received his undivided attention and maybe a hug. These must be "regulars", I thought. They have their own sense of community in their comings and goings. (This is mirrored in many of our Associate gatherings with our various congregations.)

In Eucharist, ordinary elements are changed into the extraordinary Body and Blood of Christ. The gentleman who fascinated me spoke to my heart as a Jesus figure, with the sense of presence he brought to each customer, putting his own "to do list" aside. Together they all reminded me of the Church, the Body of Christ. At Mass, Eucharist does not end when we leave the building, it is only beginning. Jesus walks with us. Cups of coffee and perhaps a muffin in hand people left and got in cars. I prayed for these blessed and maybe even sometimes broken people to "go forward" in peace and joy from the ritual they had just shared. A wistful "what if …" crowded my thoughts. What if this little community—scattered to work places across the metropolitan area—brought the strength of a healing presence to their peers, customers, clients, patients. Now that's a perk! Amen.

Reflection for Associates and Vowed Religious:

  • What strikes me in the article? Why is that?
  • Can I name some of the rituals that make up my life experience?
  • How concretely do I bring a day to day Eucharistic presence to others?
  • In what ways do I live the charisms of the congregation?
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