"Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves, that He Who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally!"
- St. Francis of Assisi
These words of our founder, St. Francis, which follow his discourse on the wonder of the Eucharist, are fitting as we recently celebrated the beautiful feast of Corpus Christi; it is especially in the Eucharist, celebrated on this feast, that Christ gives himself totally to us.
This feast has always been special to me. Being a June baby, born close to the day of Corpus Christi and having received the name "Christina," I've held this feast dear for as long as I can remember. I consider it a sort of "name day" or patronal feast day for myself.
At home, we had name plaques hanging on the family room wall. Mine reminded me that Christina means "follower of Christ," a beautiful calling. I am, as is each Christian, called to be a follower of Christ every day of my life. This has to make a difference in how I treat others, in how I live. It also reminds me of my relationship with him.
On the feast of Corpus Christi we remember in a special way the gift of the Eucharist, in which Christ holds nothing back from us. I have taken refuge in Jesus many times in Holy Communion or sitting before the tabernacle. I can be going through a hard time, but I go to him just as I am, poor and needy — having none of the answers, struggling with a troubling relationship, even in tears; I hold nothing back. He is rich — he has all the answers, but he has suffered too, more than I, and he listens to my prayers, being "able to sympathize with our weaknesses" since he has been tested in every way (Hebrews 4). And he holds nothing back, gives so many graces and blessings — even himself!
Being unable to drive because of a vision impairment, I have had to rely on others for transportation many times. I've found myself a bit troubled when trying to figure out a ride for a trip I was planning. My friend in the tabernacle is pretty good at "figuring out" a ride for me! More often, though, he's simply a good listener and one who is able to give peace.
I serve at St. Anne's home for elderly and vulnerable adults in Grand Forks, North Dakota. In that facility, as well as in our convent, we have a chapel with the Eucharist, and it is consoling to me to think he is there 24/7, and that I am never far from him. I know God is present everywhere, but his physical eucharistic presence is something special; we are physical as well as spiritual creatures, and sometimes having a physical, concrete presence is so important to me.
The grace of the Eucharist, however, is not limited to times of Mass and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. It is to extend outward as well. The Eucharist also joins us to our brothers and sisters, as one body in the body of Christ.
This reality really hits home for me in one particular situation. There is an individual within our worshipping community with whom I have had significant tensions. If I happen to notice this person as we are lining up for Communion, I feel the call in my heart to be forgiving. I cannot bring any grudge with me to Communion, where we are united with our Lord and one another.
I reflect on St. Francis' advice to "hold nothing back" and see how Jesus exemplifies it in his incarnation, cross and eucharistic presence. As recipients of this great mercy, we are called to share this mercy with the other members of his body, our brothers and sisters.
Life provides us with many opportunities to show mercy without holding anything back. For me, working with people who are not able to fully care for themselves is a beautiful opportunity to practice this. Along with my receptionist duties, computer and sacristy work, and helping with activities, I am also called upon, at times, to fill in as a personal care aide at St. Anne's.
As I pass by the residents' rooms, I try to call out a friendly greeting to anyone who is there. If time allows, I stop and exchange a few words, asking how they are doing. I think it is important, not that I'm so special or that they should feel privileged to see me, or anything of that sort. However, it is an opportunity to cheer them up, or simply show that someone is interested in them. I have found myself hurrying past a room with a quick 'hello' and then stopping, turning around, and giving them a few extra seconds. It sometimes strikes me: "Nothing you have to do is that important that it can't wait 30 seconds. Go back there and show them they're important."
One evening as I went past a particular resident's room, I was in a hurry. I didn't have lots of time to stop and visit. I was about to hurry past with just a "hello," but something compelled me to make a little extra effort to show I cared. Very early the next morning, we received a phone call that one of our residents had just died; it was the man whose room I had passed on my evening rounds just hours before.
Although I hadn't much time to visit, I was grateful that I had made the effort to greet him.
We never know what will be our last opportunity to do good for another person, or even what effect a kind word or gesture can have. We are to hold back nothing; we may not have another chance to show them love.
Encounters like this are a special way of meeting Christ again. At morning Mass, I have my special meeting with Jesus; later in the day, I am privileged to meet him in the people I care for. It can be easy for me to become impatient or try to get away with the minimum in serving our residents. I have certain things "on my agenda," but these need to take second place when I encounter a person who needs me. Jesus gives himself totally to me; I am called to do likewise, to give myself totally to him in my brothers and sisters.
[Christina Neumann serves at St. Anne's Guest Home, an assisted living-type facility in Grand Forks, North Dakota. She also authors Our Franciscan Fiat, the blog for her religious community of Dillingen Franciscan Sisters in North Dakota. Before entering religious life, she received a bachelor of arts in written communication, with some coursework also in graphic arts and theology.]