A question. Do you know what the first food eaten on the moon was? The answer may surprise many of you…the Eucharist!
Of the many interesting milestones marked or celebrated this past summer, one that stood out for me was the 50th anniversary of for the first people to set foot on the moon on July 21, 1969. There were acres of articles and hours of programming to mark this milestone but it was a fascinating piece in the Catholic international magazine The Tablet that most caught my imagination and which provided me with the question above.
When the Apollo 11 spacecraft landed on the moon it was some hours before the astronauts actually disembarked and took those first fateful steps immortalised by Neil Armstrong’s famous words. However, it was some other words spoken by Armstrong’s colleague Buzz Aldrin when the lunar module actually landed that fascinated me.
Broadcasting to one of the biggest ever global audiences Aldrin said: “Houston, This is Eagle. This is the LM (lunar module) pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever he or she may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own individual way.”
Aldrin himself had planned how he would use this time a few days earlier while still on earth. He was a devout Presbyterian and together with a few friends he had gathered for a private eucharistic service.
At the end of the service the pastor had given Aldrin a small Communion host, a phial of wine and a tiny chalice which the astronaut packed in a small pouch for personal possessions that he was allowed to take with him. He wanted to express his feeling that what man was doing in this mission transcended electronics, computers and rockets.
It was about communion with God; about reaching beyond humanity, and putting faith not only in science, but also in the aid of a higher power. And so here he was on the moon and having spoken those words inviting millions around the world to reflect and give thanks, he himself opened the bread and the wine.
It was about communion with God; about reaching beyond humanity”
With the gravity of the moon the wine began to move slowly up the side of the tiny chalice. Aldrin ‘received’ both elements and read from John 15:5: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit, for you can do nothing without me.”
In the secular culture of late 1960’s America perhaps it was not surprising that what Buzz Aldrin did inside the lunar module was not allowed to be broadcast. To the listening world there was silence but inside that little space machine parked on the surface of the moon a faithful disciple had kept a promise from the upper room: “Do this in memory of me.”
There is a reason for everything:
A husband read an article to his wife about how many words women use a day – 30,000 compared to a man’s 15,000 words. The wife replied, “the reason has to be because a woman has to say everything twice”. The husband then turned to his wife and asked: “What?”
St John of God Sisters
For over 100 years the St John of God Sisters in Kilkenny have provided communion breads for the parishes of the Diocese of Ossory and beyond.
It was with great sadness that we learned earlier this summer the sisters were closing their Altar Bread department. Countless generations of priests and parishioners are indebted to the sisters and their lay staff for this precious service and ministry which they have provided through the years.
As one door closes, another opens. We are grateful to the Cistercian sisters at Glencairn who will now provide communion breads to the parishes of Ossory either directly from the Abbey or through the St Mary’s Cathedral Bookshop in Kilkenny.