The year was 1959. The place, the parish hall in a large NSW country town. The occasion, the annual Old Boys’ Communion Breakfast. The speaker a distinguished priest theologian invited from interstate, who spoke on
the then recent encyclical of Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, the Mystical Body of Christ.
“You, I, we – we are the Body of Christ. We are ‘Christ continued’ into this time, this century, this place,” he
said. He then elaborated on this theme, seeking to widen the Eucharistic horizons and commitment of these men who had lived through several decades of the Holy Name Society, which encouraged men to go to Communion
once a month. (There were similar societies for women and young people.)
These men had learned to reverence and cherish the sacramental reality of the Eucharistic presence. Nor were they backward in
family or social care and outreach, having loving family and friends, as well as being involved with the poor, the needy and the sick. Like many young people today who feed the homeless in parks or take
disadvantaged kids on camp holidays, they were the hands, feet, eyes, hearts and minds of the Body of Christ referred to in the following inscription: “Christ has no body now but yours – no hands, no feet on earth
but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.”
These words were found inscribed underneath an old, broken statue of Jesus
in a shell-torn church in wartime France. They capture the link between Eucharist and the life to which we must commit ourselves if we are to move beyond a merely notional living of the Eucharist.
compassionate people referred to above have both the heart and mind of Jesus, and the commitment to use their hands, feet and eyes in outreach action. None of us should pass up this inspiration to become the ‘Body
of Christ’. Faith and good works need to be healthily integrated. We have a tendency to keep them separate and say, “That’s a job for a theologian. That’s Vinnies’ job.” Such specialisation maybe efficient, but
often less effective!
The Eucharist can inspire us to such action. Listen to St Augustine on the subject in one of his sermons: “The bread is Christ’s body, the cup is Christ’s blood ... If, therefore, you
are Christ’s body and members, it is your own mystery you are receiving! Be a member of Christ’s body, then, so that your AMEN may ring true! Be what you see, receive what you are.”
On this feast of the Body of Christ 2001, may our AMEN ring true!
L’ARCHE DE TRIOMPHE!
Police claims that they constantly have to deal with the mentally impaired on the
streets suggest that NSW mental health services are seriously over-extended. The mentally impaired are also ending up in prison, which – as a prison officers’ representative pointed out – is not an appropriate place
This does not reflect on the beneficent work of mental health carers, but highlights the haphazard character of the ‘system’ that has replaced institutionalised care of the mentally impaired.
Piecemeal after-care does not fill the gap left by the closure of full-time institutions. The police complaint indicates there is no friendly 24-hour presence for these people, and there needs to be.
not return to big institutions. There are other options. For instance, for the intellectually impaired who are not physically disabled, care like that provided by L’Arche communities is a worthwhile option. Visitors
to the L’Arche Burwood community have described it as the “happiest and best adjusted family in NSW”.
The L’Arche groups are worth studying. They pass the 24-hour presence test, and, just as important, the
friendship test. When asked what he liked best about L’Arche, one resident, grinning broadly, replied: “Being with friends!” And L’Arche’s therapy of love helps the helpers, too. They insist they receive more than
Oh, for a prophet like Jean Vanier, the founder and mentor of L’Arche! He sees the sharing of lifestyles by handicapped and non-handicapped people as Gospel-inspired living. L’Arche also has an
ecumenical bent: it includes Christians, Muslims and Hindus. It is a worldwide movement whose biggest need is loving people who can give and take and live as equals, “practical dreamers” of the calibre of Jean
Vanier. May his tribe increase!