Cream cheese made rare appearances in my childhood, and when it did magically find its way into the fridge, it was the fat-free stuff that came in a hard block. Sunday school, however, held the promise of fat-filled strawberry cream cheese with the texture of frosting. It was glorious.
My memories of bagels and strawberry cream cheese are sharp; memories of Catholic teaching are less so. Perhaps this explains my inability to grasp really important parts of Catholicism, like transubstantiation.
Yes, I actually didn’t know what transubstantiation was because I was too focused on cream cheese, and I didn’t learn what it meant until I was 20 and volunteering with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks* for a summer. It was a transformative summer for many reasons. Basically I learned that I knew nothing about Christianity, much less Catholicism.
Eric the Anabaptist was responsible for teaching me lots of important things that summer, among them being:
- how to hitchhike
- the punk stitch sewn with dental floss
- that transubstantiation is actually a really big part of Catholicism
I didn’t believe him at first.
“Is that even a word? That really doesn’t even sound like a word.”
Eric the Anabaptist assured me it was and went on to define it.
After he finished defining it, I was still incredulous. “Lies. We don’t believe that.”
(We totally do.)
Five years later, I’m still trying to grasp it. Sometimes I get dizzy if I think about it too long and then I have to sit down. None of this would ever have been a problem if I’d just put down the strawberry cream cheese bagel.
But I didn’t put down the bagel. So this Lent, I’m focusing some of my prayers on transubstantiation in hopes of trying to understand it a little more. Sometimes people help me during my little journey, which is really great. A few months ago, Liz the Couchsurfer stopped by for an evening and heard of my struggle. A week or two later, I opened my mailbox and presto! A book called Eucharistic Miracles. (Thanks Liz!) I look forward to adding it to my daily prayers and seeing how my perspective changes as I learn more about the Eucharist.
In the meantime, though, where is that strawberry cream cheese?
*(This is totally a plug: If you’re Christian, have a free summer and love the outdoors, I highly recommend applying for one ACMNP’s volunteer positions.)