Catholics share one cup, one communion

Published 12:08 am Sunday, February 28, 2010

When Regina Mardis partakes in the bread and wine of the Eucharist during Communion at St. Mary Basilica, she often thinks about the 12 apostles who joined Jesus Christ for what would be his final meal.

“All the apostles were together in unity, and in Mass, we all come together as one in the name of the Lord,” Mardis said. “It is a form of unity within the church.”

“(Communion) is the essence of our faith. It’s receiving the body and blood of Christ. It connects you to God.”

Together Mardis and Catholic worshippers of every age, race and gender direct their attention the altar, where a table has been prepared with spiritual food.

Together they share in the bread of life, and together they drink wine from a single cup of salvation — strengthening the bond among themselves and with Jesus Christ.

St. Mary pastor the Rev. David O’Connor likens the sacred occasion to a family Thanksgiving meal. O’Connor said the liturgy of the Eucharist is always preceded by the liturgy of the Word or Gospel — the two go hand in hand. Worshippers share in the word of the Gospel before partaking in the spiritual meal.

“Jesus is present in the breaking of bread and sharing of the cup,” O’Connor said. “(Communion) is an event and experience that directly engages (worshippers) with Jesus himself based on His words in the Last Supper.

“As God fed His people in the desert long ago, so God’s people now in sharing Communion get spiritual food for their journey through life.”

For St. Mary member Mary Flowers, Communion strengthens her faith and challenges her to be more Christ-like.

“I think the word Communion speaks for itself,” Flowers said. “I believe we feel more connected to God and more connected to our fellow man.”

The Catholic faith believes when the bread and wine are consecrated in the Eucharist, they cease to be bread and wine, and become instead the body and blood of Jesus.

Together the church recites the Lord’s Prayer and worshippers exchange peace offerings — handshakes, hugs or kisses. Many exchange the words, “Peace be with you.”

The congregation is asked to approach the Communion table, where they consume bread and drink wine from a single chalice.

After each person drinks from the chalice, a Communion minister discreetly wipes the rim with a white napkin.

The recent swine flu outbreak prompted several Catholic churches across the country to suspend drinking from a common cup. At St Mary, members may choose to forego the ritual citing health or hygienic reasons, O’Connor said.

Mia Gamberi, 9, a third grader at Cathedral Elementary School, said drinking from the common cup doesn’t bother her, but instead inspires her.

“It feels good because it’s the blood of Christ,” Gamberi said. “It doesn’t matter if there are germs or not because that blood purifies your body.

“It makes me happy when I drink it because He’s with me all the time. The drink washes away sins.”

Like Gamberi, Semmes White, 17, a junior at Cathedral High School and Chandler Russ, 13, a seventh grader at Cathedral, are not bothered about contracting germs.

“It’s tradition to drink from the same cup and share the same cup as a community,” White said.

“The whole thing is special because it’s Jesus’ body and blood,” Russ said. “It’s an honor that He allows us to do that.”

Private prayer concludes the Communion rite — a moment for worshippers to take to their knees and reflect on their relationship with God. The church family is then sent forth to the world where they live and work, and are left with the parting words, “The Mass is ended, go forth in peace and love to serve one another and to live and love as Jesus did.”