WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

A New Zealand perspective on Eucharist

Nourished By Eucharist: New Thoughts on an Ancient Theme

Edited Helen Bergin and Susan Smith

Auckland: Accent Publications, 2006.

RRP $35

Reviewed by Cecily McNeill

Nourished by Eucharist is a refreshing,diverse look at the place of Eucharist in the parish community of the 21st century and in the wider society.

I did not intend to review the book. There was a review already written. But I felt drawn into it by the resonances that it held for me in so many areas of my life. For one, my parish priest, Gerard Burns, has written warmly about the entwining of the highly political act of Eucharist and the injustices in the lives of many who find solace there. For another, there were statements and debates about a subject that is close to my and many of my friends’ hearts – that of the exclusion of some for whatever reason.

Susan Smith writes of the compassionate woman with the alabaster jar, of whom Jesus says wherever bread is broken, she will be remembered. But the actions of the woman whom we read about in the Markan and Matthean meal texts are lost to us because patriarchal tradition has been more comfortable identifying her as a sinful woman and, by extension, many Christians have then identified her as Mary Magdalene, the prostitute.’

Maria and Mike Noonan write of Eucharist and family life, particularly a family of L’Arche community residents living with intellectual disability. These people struggle to reason around the exclusion of some in this ecumenical community.

Then there are those writers who share experiences of Eucharist in circumstances that Catholic parishes are increasingly becoming aware of, the parish community without a resident priest. Margaret Butler asks if it is possible to have meaningful Eucharist with a priest who does not share the parish community’s concerns because he is an outsider?

Chris Duthie-Jung retells the Emmaus story from a young person’s perspective. He graphically shows how the church often misses the point with young people whom it expects to come back, instead of adapting to their needs where they are.

This is a refreshing review of an ancient theme as the subtitle suggests with a pungent mix of scriptural theology, and societal challenges. As Gerard Burns says, in Eucharist, as in daily life, we cannot completely separate the human (anthropological and sociological) from the divine (theological)’ [173]. ‘We live in the tension between the “now” and the “not yet” [181] but Eucharist contains the themes of injustice and people’s struggle for liberation from injustice.

The book has been compiled from writings by New Zealanders, some academic, some not so. As one reviewer has already said, my only gripe is that it does not include an indigenous perspective. But to their credit the publishers have acknowledged this country’s other language with a Māori title. My hope would be that it is used extensively alongside the ‘Worshipping Under Southern Skies: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Mass’ programme.