November 10, 2006

Twenty Something / Christina Capecchi

Eucharist is food for the soul

She was ready to walk down the aisle—primed, primped and powdered.

The bride was moments away from her tuxedoed groom, minutes from their vows exchange and hours from their honeymoon.

And she was discussing the joy of Ranch dressing. She had been on a diamond-induced diet that began when she breathlessly exclaimed “Yes!” and involved months of hunger pangs leading up to this day.

Food has a strange hold on us, prompting us to entertain twisted, guilt-ridden head games.

Feasting on a bowl of candy, my friend, Mike, recently told me he eats Milk Duds because they take longer to chew, thus they slow his caloric consumption.

When my classmate, Tanya, splurges on ice cream, she buys the flavor with her boyfriend’s name on the label, so at least she’s not “cheating” on him.

And when my seventh-grade science teacher buys Girl Scout cookies, she once confessed, the Scouts on the box taunt her, pleading, “Eat me!”

Americans’ excuses keep getting more creative—and our waistlines keep expanding. It seems we can’t stop ourselves so we ask food suppliers to impose limits: 2006 became the year of the 100-calorie snack pack.

With the holidays approaching, health experts soon will be cautioning us about empty calories—foods that contain little nutritional value, induce weight gain and don’t really fulfill us.

Our problem runs deeper than chips and chocolate, though. We’re surrounded by cultural empty calories. We binge on reality TV, celebrity magazines, instant messages and gossip.

They may marginally entertain, but they never stimulate nor satisfy. That’s why we linger in front of the TV so long; we keep waiting for something worth watching.

But true fulfillment is being served every day. It satisfies our deepest hunger. The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life.

When I analyze that language, it’s hard to wrap my mind around. An origin of life. A peak of life. Mind-boggling.

And that’s the idea. There’s no way human minds can fathom the work of our genius God who created the small intestine and photosynthesis and the Milky Way.

“Truly the Eucharist is a mysterium fidei,” Pope John Paul II wrote, “a mystery which surpasses our understanding and can only be received in faith.”

He loved the sacrament so much that he proclaimed the last full year of his pontificate the Year of the Eucharist.

The Eucharist holds special relevance to young people. It’s the most powerful antidote to all the ugly emotions that accompany young adulthood: alienation, anxiety, confusion, doubt. It transmits hope. We’re not worthy, yet healed.

Pope John Paul linked young Mary’s “yes” to the “Amen” each of us utters after receiving the Body of Christ. She was asked to believe she had conceived the Son of God through the Holy Spirit. “In continuity with the Virgin’s faith,” he wrote, we are asked to believe the same Lord is present in the consecrated bread and wine.

And each time we receive Communion, we gain grace. We come to resemble Christ a little more.

That’s my humble prayer each Sunday: “Make me a little more like you, Lord. A little more patient. A little less proud.”

I just pick a trait or two I need to work on. I know I have much progress to make. But I’m being nourished along the way.

(Christina Capecchi is a graduate student at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. E-mail her at †

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