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“To many people the Catholic Church is a symbol of mystery”
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“To many people the Catholic Church is a symbol of mystery”

Catholics believe that every time the mass is celebrated, the bread and wine at the altar are turned into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. For Nnadozie Onyekuru, 23, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Nigeria, the faith can provide lessons – even for the secular minded – in how to treat less fortunate souls.

“May this celebration… dispose us henceforth to be willing to make sacrifices, promote justice and peace in our society so that the hatred which divides us will end, our indifference to the plight of the marginalised will end, the greed which urges so many to keep all they have and not share with their neighbours will end and above all, the pride which leads to trust in ourselves and not in God will end. Amen.”

-Fr. Cletus Gotan, National Eucharistic Congress, Ibadan, 2002.

To many people in the world, the Catholic Church is a symbol of mystery. And indeed, they are right. Yet, to most Catholics, the most mysterious thing about the Church is not the standstill order of her hierarchy, or an existence of secret archives in the Vatican, but an event.

Catholics believe that every time the mass is celebrated anywhere in the world, the bread and wine at the altar are turned into the Body and Blood of their Lord Jesus Christ. This belief in the transubstantiation of the Eucharist is so significant – it is what makes Catholics call their services Masses and their Catechism teaches that it is ‘the source and summit’ of their ecclesial life.

The doctrine was at the heart of the European schisms. Recently, it was brought to the fore with the universal Catholic feast of Corpus Christi (Body and Blood of Christ). But what struck me in the celebration at my local church, was how the officiating priest tried to put the concept of the Eucharist in the context of our secular lives.

We were told that there was no need to celebrate the bread of Christ if we were not ready to share our bread with others. We were told that there was no need believing in a supernatural sharing if we did not practice a natural one. We were told that before Jesus introduced the teaching of the Eucharist, he fed the poor and hungry on several occasions. He did something about people who needed his help.

Hungry stomachs do not stroll on dogmas and solemnities. We could read the statistics and say that there are millions of them but if we look around, the anonymity of these figures disappears. There are always hungry ones in our midst; many times they are hounded from our comfort zones yet they find the courage to keep lurching around our cafes, our airports, our stadia.

All we need is a sixth sense and a heart full of love. I can’t remember which of the Correspondents spoke about the gap between the haves and the have-nots sometime ago but I felt the call and I think that the existence of too many hungry people in the world is a shame. Maybe this is how some people felt when they made the giving pledge.

They count among the wealthiest in the world but what counts is that they have decided to be bound to noble causes not by legal contracts but by generous sacrifices. Some, I guess, didn’t even need a religion to tell them to be more responsible citizens of the world and there are many like them who have done much for others and will continue, with or without a pledge.

We do not have to be as wealthy as they are to pledge to our conscience. We can start by stopping to think that we do not have hungry neighbours. If we stand up to our better selves, we would find out that the hungry ones on the news pages and websites are indeed our neighbours.

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About me:

I am a Nigerian student. I love books. I am young and restless with firm dreams that are only tempered by Christianity. I dream of a world where people, inspired by their common humanity, engage in a global wheel of ideas and do not use history as a tool for blame game but as a lesson for the future. In my spare time, I write stories, speeches and participate in activities that advance the respect of human dignity.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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