With the uncertainty and pain of the coronavirus pandemic compounded by the injustice, suffering, and division rampant in the world today, the need for compassionate outreach and pastoral creativity is ever more apparent. Entering into an intentional process of pastoral creativity begins with a commitment to engage in movements of prayer, reflection, and attending to others that can open your heart to the ways God works within and through you.
At the heart of Notre Dame Vision is the mission to empower young people to recognize grace at work in their lives and respond to God’s call by offering their gifts in service to the needs of the world. For the past eighteen years, this mission has been carried out each summer through four week-long conferences for high school students and parallel conferences for campus and youth ministers.
During the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, I strive to live with intentionality and creativity. At times, I have found myself struggling with a fear of the unknown that paralyzes me as I try to contemplate the many possibilities for what the future may hold. Ultimately, I trust in God as the One who created me out of love, who sent his Son into the world to die for me and to draw me into the life of the Trinity, and who sent the Holy Spirit to guide me. Yet, in the moments when my wonder turns to fear—about the health of those I love, what the fall semester will look like, or when I might next see and hug my family living out-of-state—I cling to a need for certainty and a desire to control.
During the Year of Mercy, I sought to deepen my own practice of mercy through my service as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. That summer during Notre Dame Vision, I encountered a young man profoundly moved by his reception of the Eucharist. As I prayed with this encounter, I experienced a profound renewal of my call to serve as an Extraordinary Minister, and I committed to serving regularly at my parish’s Sunday Mass.
I glanced up as the young man approached, next in line for Communion. He lifted his face, his eyes brimming with emotion as I held up the host and said, “The Body of Christ.” Looking into his eyes as I placed the host on his outstretched hand, he held my gaze with an intensity that took my breath away. He breathed out a soft “Amen” as he closed his hand around the host and lifted his clenched fist up to his chest. Grasping the Bread of Life, clinging to the source of love, he took a deep breath and with every fiber of his being uttered “Thank you!” as tears filled his eyes and flowed freely down his face. His response evoked something deep within me and I could only watch in awe as he consumed the host, a smile breaking across his face as he turned to make his way back to his seat. An encounter of no more than a few seconds, yet one in which God’s abundant mercy and love touched both his heart and mine.