At its conclusion, one of my students raised both arms in victory, a number had huge smiles and even a few had to dry the tears in their eyes. There was a brief pause and then one student said what a few of us were thinking; "I feel as though we've seen a lot of stories like this lately." He's right, but not all illustrate the Catholic principle of communion as effectively and beautifully as this does.
This communion, not to be confused with the Eucharist, is one of three principles that constitute the distinctiveness of Catholicism from other Christian traditions. According to Richard McBrien "Catholicism is characterized by three principles: sacramentality, meditation, and communion. It is a tradition that sees God in all things (sacramentality), using the human, the material, and the finite (mediation), to bring about the unity of humankind (communion).
Communion is the principle that affirms "that even when the divine-human encounter is most personal and individual, it is still communal, in that the encounter is made possible by the mediation of a community of faith."
This story is made possible because both the individual and the community. Obviously Mitchell had an effect on Coach Peter Morales and his teammates. A disability doesn't diminish a desire; he shared the same passion of the community.
Coach Morales placed him in the game with a minute and a half left. His teammates did everything they could to make sure he got the ball. The story could have ended there. Mitchell's dream came true--he suited up and played in an undecided varsity basketball game (see the 28 seconds of Jarien Grant if aren't convinced a 10 point lead qualifies as "decided!") and try as he may, his individual effort came up short....but a dream came true.
But we know about this story, because his dream did come true. Communion. It was from an unlikely person in an unlikely place--the opposing team. Coach Morales said "I couldn't have imagined what happened." Jonathan Montanes connected the dots. He heard the crowd. He saw an opportunity for Mitchell that no one could have seen. In doing what he said was in line with how he was raised, he "treated others as you would like to be treated."
We can debate who is the sacrament--the visible sign of God's invisible grace. Is it Jonathan? Is it Mitchell? but one thing is for sure, this is a story of communion.
At its best, this principle brings unity. It's hard not to see that as both teams celebrated at the end of that game. The sacrament was mediated and yielded communion: union in the Community. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Mitchell and Coach