While serving a weekday Mass recently, the only way to remain focused while holding the Roman Missal (a large book that necessitates a strange twisting of myself to hold it upright) was to follow along on the page as the priest read the Eucharistic Prayer. This proved beneficial since I was struck anew by a phrase I have heard virtually every week since birth (although in a new translation since 2011).
“Therefore, as we celebrate the memorial of his Death and Resurrection, we offer you, Lord, the Bread of Life and the Chalice of salvation, giving thanks that you have held us worthy to be in your presence and minister to you.”
The first ninety percent of this phrase had little new consequence for me. Three words, however, caught my attention and remained in my thoughts: “minister to you.”
Being a campus minister, I was thrown off by seeing part of my job title appear in the Roman Missal. I like to think that any Catholic in my position would react similarly—imagine coming upon the word “accountant” in the middle of Mass.
The phraseology of this sentence struck me as odd and, at first, backwards. Minister to you? Generally when I think of my job description, it includes nothing about ministering to—taking care of, attending to—Christ. Sure, I believe I’m furthering his will when I care for and console students—and yes, I know that God is in each of them, but am I really ministering to Christ? He doesn’t need my ministry; surely it is I who need his.
But that is precisely what I do in my job and what we do in Mass. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we carefully serve Christ’s broken Body. We cradle him in our hands, receive him with heartfelt reverence and gratitude. We carry and care for our risen Christ in a very intimate and direct way.
Ministering to Christ, though, continues long after the tabernacle is closed. In my particular case, I am called to take care of his people as a minister. And in doing so, I am asked to care for him. I am called to serve the mystical Body of Christ in every conversation with a student, in every encounter on campus. Each time I listen to a student’s dilemma and offer compassion, I am tending to Christ’s wounds. Radical though it may sound, I am a campus minister not only to my students, but to Christ as well.
We all encounter these situations in which we care for Christ in this way. If we truly believe that we form the mystical Body of Christ along with our brothers and sisters, every encounter with another is an encounter with Christ.
This simple fact is, in reality, mind-blowingly complex. How is it that we, God’s creation, are responsible for taking care of Christ? What kind of backwards logic is this? God’s choice to include us in his plan of salvation does not tell us so much about our own abilities but his generosity and mercy. This concept is an indication of the outpouring of love with which God created us, giving us purpose and freedom and allowing us the dignity to take part in his work—to minister to him.
If, then, we are found worthy to minister to Christ, what does that do to our vocation? In my case, I am called to find Christ in every student, young adult, or parent I meet with. I am to encounter them as they are and minister to Christ in them. I am to take care of them as I would God himself—and that should radically change the way I see my students. If my vocation—first practiced in the Mass, then carried with me to every person I encounter—is to take care of Christ, every decision and every moment of my day is filled with the wonder of meeting, speaking with, and walking with him.
We have been given an awesome responsibility—one which should color everything we do. We are called to do the unthinkable—to live in his presence and minister to Christ.
Molly Daily is a 2014 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. She currently serves as an Intern-In-Service at the Catholic Student Center at Washington University and a Campus Minister at Webster University.