Franciscan Eucharistic people: living into our call
by Sarah Hennessey, FSPA
As FSPA, we are Franciscans grounded in the Eucharist. We often talk about what it means to be Franciscan, or about living Eucharist in our daily lives. But what is Franciscan about how we understand Eucharist? How does Eucharist affect our Franciscan living? How do these two major parts of our spirituality and history influence each other?
When I was becoming Catholic, the Eucharist felt confusing to me. My thinking was: if God created the whole world as holy, then how can this piece of bread be more holy than any other piece of bread? It didn’t make sense to me.
But Franciscan theology holds that the particular opens up the doorway to the universal. This one moment—this one piece of bread—acts as a doorway, leading you to the universal love of God. Francis lived this. When he kissed one leper, he was in love with all of humanity. When he bowed down to one daisy, he honored God’s awesomeness in all of creation.
Francis naturally and intuitively lived out thebelief that everything is connected. Later, Bonaventure and John Duns Scotus laid out that idea in theological terms. They tell us: we live in an inclusive universe. We all participate in being. Everything is sacred. They describeGod as a presence whose “center is everywhere, and circumference is nowhere.” This everywhere-ness is why, as Franciscans, our cloister is the world. Bonaventure says that God is “within all things but not enclosed, without all things but not excluded.” We cannot divide the world into the sacred and the secular, because God’s hiding place is the world.
Eucharist reveals the scandal of the particular, suggests Richard Rohr. Yes, all of creation is holy, so what does eating this piece of bread and drinking from this cup of wine really mean? When we focus on one moment of truth, eating this particular bread, we have to struggle with the meaning of it. We have to love it, resist it, eat it, drink it and be with it—in this moment. This struggle toward being fully present leads us to closer union with God in the whole cosmos. Rohr reveals to us that how we love anything is how we love everything. Eucharist is, above all, an invitation to love.
When we describe our FSPA charism as loving presence, perhaps we are saying more than we know. As eucharistic people we are living tabernacles. The Blessed Sacrament never remains just in the chapel, but instead we carry God’s Loving Presence to those who need it most. As Franciscans, we give witness with our lives to an interconnected cosmos and a God who loves extravagantly. Sister Julia, with this poem, reminds us of how this particular moment opens up the door to the universal and loving heart of God. May we continue to struggle with this great mystery and live into our call to Franciscan eucharistic.
The smell of bread baking wafts, stills her light
as she enters bouncing, screen door clanging.
Show me, Grandma. I want to know.
For the next batch, she is held firm between
warm embrace and floured dough upon tan
table. She’s stunned by the flowing union
of grandma’s arms and shaking dough.
Punch into the metal bowl, there you go.
The holy is here in the expanding yeast,
in the building of love’s awed vitality.
Rising bread and growing girl, all glory
and praise is poured forth in the communion
of kneading dough.
-- Julia Walsh, FSPA