Day 32: Becoming What We Receive

BY LORI STANLEY | March 16th, 2024
Today’s readings

In today’s gospel, the Pharisees can’t believe that someone unlike them could hold religious authority. This reminds me of stories my parents told about being delayed or denied the Eucharist in Jim Crow-era Louisiana. As African-Americans, my parents were relegated to the back of the bus and to the back of their church, where they often returned from the altar without receiving Communion because they had to wait until all the white parishioners received and sometimes there were no hosts left. Just as Jesus’ roots determined whether or not he’d be honored and esteemed, my parents’ ethnicity raised a question of worthiness to eat at the table of the Lord alongside their white brothers and sisters. In the late 30’s and early 40’s, the Catholic Church could not see that black Catholic men, women, and children were also created in God’s image and likeness and equally deserving of the Eucharist. 

Deacon Joe Stripling giving communion to his wife, Dolores. Photos provided by author.

My late father, Deacon Joe Stripling, was ordained a permanent deacon in the Catholic church in 1977. In a web profile highlighting his 39 years as a deacon, he was quoted saying, “My role is being an instrument of Christ’s love, mercy and compassion, assisting others in their Christian journey and enabling joyful participation in the Sacraments.” When asked why he decided to remain Catholic, my father answered that numerous denials of the Eucharist increased his longing for it and deepened his belief that Jesus was truly present in it. Thinking of him joyfully ministering the Eucharist reminds me of a post-Communion exhortation I have heard in Mass–“Receive who you are. Become what you receive. The Body of Christ.” God is continually inviting us to participate in that becoming! May we restore this sacred Body by dismantling vestiges of exclusivity that continue to diminish and marginalize one another at Christ’s table. 

At which table do you find yourself sitting today? Who is excluded from that table? How many tables have you left feeling empty?

7 replies
  1. Greg
    Greg says:

    Thank you for sharing, Lori. Such a thought-provoking reflection. I am fighting the strong urge to condemn Catholics, Christians, and anyone who has disdain or feels superior to anyone based on race differences. Also, your Dad – – what an inspiring person, a holy and saintly life Deacon Joe led…a man for others. I am so glad I clicked through the links to the article and profile. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for what you do to help others and grow Catholicism in Southern California and well beyond. God bless! Respectfully, Greg

  2. Christine
    Christine says:

    What a noble man your father was, Lori! This morning I gave thanks for the life of this good deacon and asked God to give extra rewards and blessings to his family. God bless you.

  3. Abby Causey
    Abby Causey says:

    Thank you, Lori, for sharing the story of your father. Your father and Black Catholics who persevered and remained faithful to God despite being rejected by the institutional Church, are an inspiration to ALL Catholics, for their tremendous strength, faith, and fortitude. The story needs to be told of how Black Catholics were not welcomed at the Eucharistic table; in Virginia, when 13 Black Catholic churches (and eventually the schools associated with them) closed in the late 60’s and 70’s for the sake of integration, their parishioners were told to attend white churches only to be unwelcomed there. Stories have power, and I am grateful to you for bearing witness and sharing your story. There is still much work to do. With much peace and gratitude, Abby

  4. D. Proctor
    D. Proctor says:

    This story about Deacon Stripling is powerfully beautiful regarding his deep spirituality and love of the Lord. It is also painful because of the exclusion and unwillingness to feed all at the table. Today I went to a Synod listening event in my diocese and, while good, it lacked the necessary diversity to truly be a listening opportunity. The Church must keep the doors open and the table ever expanding, overflowing with loving hospitality.

  5. Kathy Gyulai
    Kathy Gyulai says:

    Incredibly powerful reflection. Thank you Ms. Stanley for sharing the story of the racism your family experienced in the Catholic Church. I am so sad to hear that even in the church bigotry existed/exists. My apology to you and your family. What a testament to your father’s faith that he persisted in faith and even went on to become a deacon.


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