On many mornings I walk from my home in downtown Chicago to the "UIC-Halsted" stop on the Chicago Transit Authority's Blue Line subway. After boarding the train, I travel to Oak Park where I meet my carpool colleagues here at WLP and J. S. Paluch, and then we are off to the office.
This beautiful Spring morning seemed no different than others. I arrived a little early—cup of coffee in hand—sat down on the bench at the train station, and began my routine: doing the Chicago Tribune crossword puzzle. I was a bit early, so I let a few trains pass, then boarded the train that arrived at 7:05 A.M.
Two stops later, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The train began to pull out of the station (we were on the last of eight connected cars) and something caught my eye. I looked up from my crossword puzzle and saw that an older man had walked to the door. He reached up, pulled down the red knob (used to open the doors in an emergency), and, after the double doors opened, nonchalantly walked out of the moving train. He hit the platform hard and struck his head on a standpipe as he rolled on the platform. We were all stunned as this incredible scene unfolded. The train stopped and several people were already at his side. He was bleeding and obviously dazed and confused. I phoned 911 immediately and soon police arrived, as well as personnel from the Chicago Transit Authority. Reaction on the train was mixed. One woman uttered, "Oh great, I'm gonna be late and I start a new job today." The man sitting next to me said, "You live in the city long enough and you see everything." I was simply stunned. I said, "This guy is obviously sick or confused or something. I think he needs our prayers." That comment looked like it fell on deaf ears, but who knows? So I sat there after talking with the police, and said a quiet "Our Father." Soon we were on our way. What a way to start a Friday. All I can think of now as I sit here is that poor old man.
As this Easter Octave continues to unfold, I wonder about these sad events that occur around the globe every minute of every day. My response to these events is too often a kind of numb apathy. This morning's event shook me out of that. As I have been doing every day this week, I turned to St. Cyril of Jerusalem when I arrived at my office. Here is what I found in Mystagogical Catechesis IV:
"Therefore with fullest assurance let us partake as of the Body and Blood of Christ: for in the figure of Bread is given to thee His Body, and in the figure of Wine His Blood; that thou by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, mightest be made of the same body and the same blood with Him. For thus we come to bear Christ in us, because His Body and Blood are diffused through our members; thus it is that, according to the blessed Peter, we become partakers of the divine nature."
I don't know about you, but I have spent a good deal of my life trying to figure out what it really means to be baptized, to be confirmed, to be a partaker of the Eucharist week after week. If, in baptism, we have "put on Christ," then the reception of the Eucharist becomes for us the reminder that through the sharing in Christ's body and blood, we "come to bear Christ in us" more and more with each passing day. Perhaps—and I am not patting myself on the back here—this is why I sat on that train this morning with these horrible events unfolding and, after having done my duty by calling 911 and talking to the police, all I felt I could do was sit there and pray the Lord's Prayer. Friends, I think this is what those of us who bear Christ in us can only do sometimes: we pray in the words of Christ, for we are gradually becoming his voice, his hands, his own body here on this earth. This reminds me of a wonderful piece of music written by my good friend and colleague, Steve Warner, who is the director of the Notre Dame Folk Choir. Listen to his "Christ Has No Body Now But Yours" here.
Please pray for this man as your day unfolds, in your own words or in the words our Savior gave us. Gotta pray.