On the last day of our trip to Rome, My friend Amani and I had breakfast in a cafe close to Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore. It was a beautiful Sunday. I was enjoying my coffee and watching the traffic jam at the security checkpoint in front of the church.
We decided to visit the church after breakfast. When we entered the church the Sunday service was not over yet, So we stood in the back waiting for the service to end. At the end of the service, people started lining up in rows to greet the father or the priest, that’s what we thought, so I suggested to line up and pay tribute as well.
We stood in line, it was very long and when I approached I discovered that it was not to pay tribute to the priest! It was something different.
The whole thing took a few minutes, but it felt like hours, and I was confused because I did not know what to do. I was afraid of saying or doing something that shows a lack of respect for the sanctity of the place and the people. I don’t know in this situation what’s appropriate to say or do.
The priest was smiling and gave me a white round thin piece like a biscuit. There was a cross on it. He put it in my hand, and I thanked him, but I do not know if it was appropriate to say thank you or to say something else. A man was standing next to the priest ( bodyguard I think) who asked me to eat that piece and said it in English “eat it here. Eat it now” I got more confused why here and now and what is it this white piece?
We then wandered through the church, but we did not know what the biscuit was and why the priest gave it to the people. When I returned to Boston, I asked my Christian friends about it, and they laughed hard at me. Later after laughing they explained to me that the ceremony is a Christian ritual of the Eucharist and that the piece of an unleavened biscuit or bread is holy bread or Sacramental bread. Roman Catholics believe that the Sacramental bread is the body of Christ.
Catholics believe that they have become the Body of Christ after eating it. Also to remember intentionally what Jesus has done and why He did it.
This new experience made me realize that we do not know each other very well, I mean everybody. Perhaps if we begin to learn and explore the other faiths or cultures and accept each other without any judgments, the earth will be a better place. No need to change other people beliefes or try to pprove they are wrong or not, just respect and accept it as it is. All religions are based on love and peace. So lets spread love and peace around us. Humanity is the only religion in which we all share.
After eating the Sacramental bread, I did not change. I am still Wafaa except that I have expanded my perceptions of the world around me.
Thank you, my Christian brothers and sisters, for giving me that chance.