by Ken Rolheiser
 Do this in memory of me

I recently bid farewell to an older brother Father Wendelin Rolheiser O.M.I. His dementia prevented us from having a proper farewell in his last days. Nothing is wanting in our parting after a life well-lived in sixty some years as a priest.

The night before his crucifixion Jesus said his farewells to his disciples in the memorial act of the Eucharist where he promised to stay with them and give them his spirit in the days after his death. We are the branches, Jesus is the vine.

At Wendelin’s funeral his brother Ron, also a priest, underscored the message that Wendelin will be with us in the days and weeks ahead. His spirit will inspire us and lead us in faith-filled ways. I must report this is true, as it was for Jesus and his disciples. 

At Wednesday morning Mass following the funeral I was inspired to lead hymns at the weekday gathering where we normally did not sing. I know Wendelin loved music and sang on every possible occasion, even on some that were not occasions. I have noticed a lighter step as I do some of the tasks of everyday life because I feel Wendelin’s inspiration within me.

At the last supper Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me.” Love one another because when you love one another, our love stays alive. When we have lost a loved-one we can remove some of the ache by remembering our times together and the activities we shared like a Sunday meal. We can reenact those precious moments we shared.

But Jesus gives us so much more. In the last Encyclical letter by Pope St John Paul II in 2003 he describes the real presence in the eucharist: “The consecration of the bread and wine effects the change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood.”

Since the Council of Trent in 1563 the Church has held this doctrine to be true. How true is it? There have been many miraculous incidents reported. In 1583, in Vienna, Austria, a protestant set out to prove that there was no real presence. He broke into a Catholic Church and into the tabernacle. He scattered hosts and bit some of them. He stuffed hosts into his clothes and fled.

As he ran, he felt something damp in his suit. He put in his hand and discovered his hand was covered with blood. All the hosts were bleeding profusely. He was arrested and the sacred bread was returned. Many came to worship at the site of this miracle.

Though our senses fool us, the bread and wine are now the body and blood of Christ. You and I have this wonderful opportunity of remembering our loved ones by sharing the thanksgiving sacrifice of love with them and with each other.

In a farewell discourse to his parishioners at Holy Spirit Parish in San Jose, California, Father Brendan McGuire encourages them to “enjoy having a meal around the table,
having the whole family around the dinner table every night.” Savor it now, he says, savor every one of those moments now.

We are blessed to continue loving one another at the eucharistic banquet because that memory will last forever. The Bread of Life, food of a higher order, not only gives us life, but enables God to live in us. (1 John:13).

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