“[E]ven when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 8).
On Wednesday mornings, I am part of a small group, which gathers around such an altar at the Mision Christo Redentor. A member of the church forged the altar, and when the Eucharist is celebrated there, it is, in a way “the altar of the world”.
A few years ago, a Catholic Student Center was opened at Oklahoma Panhandle State University. The building in which it is housed has quite a history. It has been a pizza joint, a children’s day care, and a bar. On Sunday evenings, a small group gathers around an altar there to celebrate the Eucharist, and heaven and earth are united.
This past weekend I was honored to gather around an altar in Arlington, Virginia. I was attending The Catholic Distance University Gala Celebration. There were nine graduates that were able to attend this year. They came from such places as Pennsylvania, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington, and Australia. There were some that I had attended classes with online, or had met in the CDU online campus Café. This was the first time that I was able to hear their voice and shake their hand. We had just met, but in a way, we already knew one another.
The main celebrant of the mass was the newly installed Papal Nuncio for the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. (The Papal Nuncio is the diplomatic representative for the Holy See). During mass, I couldn’t help but think about the country altars that I gather around, and the priests that have been from Mexico, Nicaragua, India, and the United States. This was far from a country altar, and the celebrant was from Italy, and had been sent by Pope Benedict XVI. The world was truly being represented.
As I watched the people go forward to receive Communion, I thought of the history of CDU. I was sure that some of the people must participated in the beginning of CDU. Maybe even some of the first donors? There is no way I could thank them enough for the opportunity I had been given to study theology from my home (aka, the middle of nowhere).
Yet again the Church became even bigger for me, and the world became a little smaller.