Receiving the Eucharist During a Pandemic

By Brian Vetter, C.S.C.

Brian Vetter, a St. Brigid of Kildare parishioner since 2009 and St. Charles alumnus, is a seminarian in the Congregation of Holy Cross. He is currently at the University of Notre Dame studying for a Master of Divinity degree.

As I have been spending these days of quarantine in Moreau Seminary at Notre Dame, I have found myself unsettled by the fact that because I am in a seminary, I am still able to attend daily mass, something 99% of Catholics cannot do right now. I have often asked myself, “Why me? Why should I be one of the lucky few who still gets to carry on and receive the physical presence of Jesus every single day?” In asking this question, I have come to realize a simple and crucial truth: this is not about me. My reception of the Eucharist has never been about me and will never be about me. While receiving the sacramental presence of God certainly nourishes the spiritual life of the individual believer, the meaning of the Eucharist is radically deeper. The Eucharist is a meal about communion with God and with one another. We gather around the table of the Lord together, as a community, as the body of Christ. In receiving the body of Christ, we become what we receive, and we receive what we already are. As we are painfully learning from this pandemic, we cannot live on our own as isolated individuals. We need Jesus, and we need each other. God made us for relationship, God made us for communion, God made us for love. The ultimate celebration of this love is the Mass, where our God of Love gathers us to share a meal at the table of the Eucharist to remember the reality that God became one of us, shared our pain and our suffering, destroyed death, and gave us the joy of new life, all out of a burning love for us.

When I receive Communion in these days with so many of my friends and family unable to do the same, I bring all of these people with me around the altar. In order for me to live my Christian identity to its fullest, I have to go back out, having received the physical presence of God, and share in Communion with my friends and family. For me to receive the Eucharist with integrity, I cannot keep it to myself. I have to “go forth, the mass is ended,” and, usually over video chat, continue to love and be loved in the many awesome relationships I am blessed to have in my life. Whether we are discussing an episode of Tiger King, joking about a Zoom class gone horribly wrong, or sharing the painful struggles and unexpected joys of life in quarantine, through these moments of Communion, God is at work bringing about His kingdom. By our sharing in our love for each other, we more fully become the body of Christ. As Christ’s body, we can be thankful that some parts have access to the spiritual nourishment that the entire body needs, while we also yearn deeply for the day when all members of this body can once again fully receive this spiritual nourishment in person.