Thursday, October 12, 2006

Discerning the Body of the Lord

Started October 6, 2006. Posted upon completion.
O Lord, you led me from my father's loins and formed me in my mother's womb. You brought me, a naked babe, into the light of day, for nature's laws always obey your commands.

By the grace of God I was born into a Catholic home. Cradle Catholic indeed.

By the blessing of the Holy Spirit, you prepared my creation and my existence, not because man willed it or flesh desired it, but by your ineffable grace. The birth you prepared for me was such that it surpassed the laws of our nature. You sent me forth into the light by adopting me as your son and you enrolled me among the children of your holy and spotless Church.

Within the first couple of months of my life outside of the womb, I was baptized. I was added to the books and
by the grace of God, entered into a perfect state.

You nursed me with the spiritual milk of your divine utterances. You kept me alive with the solid food of the body of Jesus Christ, your only-begotten Son and our God, and you let me drink from the chalice of his life-giving blood, poured out to save the whole world.

I went to Catholic school. I had religion class and prayers throughout the day. I received my first Holy Communion in second grade with all the other little girls - dressed in a pretty white dress and flowing veil. I wasn't too sure about the whole thing but I knew it was a good thing to do. As I grew, I came to understand what the Eucharist is 'all about'.

You love us, O Lord, and gave up your only-begotten Son for our redemption. And he undertook the task willingly and did not shrink from it. Indeed, he applied himself to it as though destined for sacrifice, like an innocent lamb. Although he was God, he became man, and in his human will, became obedient to you, God his Father, unto death, even death on a cross.
- - -

How beautiful Christ's work on the Cross and what he has done in my life to help me to grow in love for Him. If only more people recognized this amazing gift! Today I was struck both by an utter irreverence and a wonderful innocence before this gift.

Today was a first Friday. This is the one day out of every month that Jesus is exposed on the altar in the mostrance at my church. I couldn't miss it! So, despite being exceedingly exhausted, I dragged myself out of bed and went to the 8 am Mass (which I usually attend daily). After watching my life flash before my eyes several times on the way there (crazy Dallas drivers!), I was very content to be sitting in one of the back pews of the church quietly reflecting on my Liturgy of the Hours for the morning. As I was about to begin the canticle, a young girl, a student at the school, climbed the pulpit and began to practice her reading for the morning. It was a reading from the book of Job - pronounced JAHB, like that thing every one goes out and gets once they turn 16. Was she really that ill-acquainted with the "divine utterances"? I looked up immediately and quietly said, "Job," pronouncing it correctly (JOHB), though I knew she wouldn't hear me. Her girlfriends laughed when they heard her, and she was blushing and the whole commotion was only intensified by the fact that she was still standing in front of a microphone. I couldn't help but wonder how this girl had gone so many years without knowing how to pronounce this book in the Bible. I shook my head and did my best to focus on my prayers again. Little did I know this was only the beginning of a chaotic morning.

For one, the readings were all mixed up. The psalm was said right before the Gospel and I'm pretty sure the second reading was read first. With a new priest and a new music director, things were bound to be messed up with music. It wasn't anything horrific, just a few early starts on the part of speakers and so on. It really wouldn't have been a big deal if there hadn't been children present to giggle at it.

A few rows up was another disruption during communion. The adults receive first (don't ask me why, I'm not really an adult) so I had made it back to my pew and had been praying when the kids sitting in front of me made it back. When one of the girls knelt down again on her kneeler, it broke. Instead of just moving over, they had to laugh and point fingers and elbow each other. The whole class was involved. The teacher was shushing them and unamusedly telling them to move over and cut it out. "Lord, have mercy," I thought to myself. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on my prayers... but I couldn't.

I couldn't stop thinking about how disrespectful the children were. They weren't tiny children. They should know better. And then I was instantly sad... they should KNOW. But do they? Do they really? Certainly they've been taught that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, but have they ever taken a moment to think about what that truly means? They are a living, breathing tabernacle. If they could see - if they could see or even slightly understand - what was truly present within themselves during that time, would they act the way they do? How is it that they can be so oblivious to what's going on? All of heaven is celebrating with us during the Mass. Either they are truly unaware of this, or they just don't care.

After the closing hymn, the students were asked to stand and then genuflect in place, out of respect for the Eucharist which had been placed in the monstrance and was now exposed. When the first row of students was told to stand and genuflect, every other teacher told their class to stand. All of a sudden Jesus was hidden by a blur of slowly moving, chattery children. The teachers shushed them all again and before I knew it the whole church was empty... well, except for a few. I was relieved to see a few sweet, smiling faces as the kids filed out. Respectful, joyful, beautiful. (I babysit them - I have to brag about them.) Those kids really made me smile. I threw up a prayer for them.

For about a half hour, I sat in the front of the church with Jesus and tried to make sense of what had just happened. Before I knew it, the preschool children were coming in for their time with the priest. They were the cutest little things. Despite some stern looks from the teachers, the kids were happy to be out and moving. And move they did! Not one of them sat still the whole time. But they were good listeners. Father read them a story from a children's Bible - the one about Adam and Eve. They talked about it some and then got to ask any question they wanted. Let me tell ya, they may have been little tots but they had some fantastic questions! Oh I just lit up listening to the little saints. They were so interested in everything about the church. They wanted to know about the altar and the statues and the Saints. It was lovely.

However, the moment that struck me the most was when Father asked them a question. He said: "Do you notice anything different about the altar today? Do you see anything new?" Of course the first thing they said was "CANDLES!" haha. Father replied: "Very good. What else do you see? Who or what is that in the middle of the candles?" Very quietly, but with a great sense of enthusiasm, a couple of them said, "God." It made my heart melt.

How can one not get a little teary-eyed witnessing the smallest of our parish gazing in awe at the altar and knowing that they were looking at GOD? Their respect and their humility paled in comparison to what I had seen just moments before. GOD was on the altar and these little ones knew it.

They sang "Father, I Adore You" and soon they were all kneeling at the altar rail on either side of Father, praying to Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament. They prayed for their moms and dads, their sisters and brothers, their friends and pets, and everyone they loved. Oh... it was beautiful. Father, a large but gentle fellow, an incredible man who laid down his life and took up the work that Jesus entrusted to Peter and his disciples, knelt there in front of Jesus and brought the children to Him. "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 19:14).

Sitting there quietly reflecting on all I had just witnessed, my thoughts traveled back to the older girls and boys who were so oblivious to the great mystery that had happened before them. I reflected back on my time in school, on my life at that age. I was the same kid. I knew on some level, but I didn't know like I know today. And it was not necessarily that the school did little to teach me - no, certainly not. I had one of the best religion teachers and she did much to teach us in the ways of faith and morals. But, there's only so much they can do. There's only so much a parent can do. At some point, children must strive to know Jesus for themselves. At some point, a personal bond must be made. How many times have I heard my peers talk about the family rosary that was said every night at the same time? They talk about how they prayed every day but their heart was never there. They had the 'great' Catholic family structure, but they had never had the intimate relationship that perhaps their parents had. Going through the motions does not guarantee that one will embrace the faith or understand it.

I prayed very diligently in those moments - for the students, for the teachers, for the parents. I cannot understand when or how it happens that children go from awe to indifference. I'm not sure it is my place to understand. But I know it is my place to pray for them and for all people who do not know Christ. I remember sitting there reflecting on an intention a friend asked me to take to Jesus. I prayed for her relatives, relatives that do not embrace God. I asked that He show them a sign they could not ignore. I asked Him to come into their hearts and set them on fire. I didn't ask Him to make them Catholic - just to come and live in them. And as I did so, I realized this prayer was not simply for those which I had mentioned, but for all of us. I asked Him to come and live in each of us - to make Himself present in a way which we could not ignore.

Then, when the presence of Jesus Christ is nurtured within us, we will never fail to recall that, Although he was God, he became man, and in his human will, became obedient to .. God his Father, unto death, even death on a cross.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful!! :D

10/12/2006 01:20:00 AM  
Blogger Laura H. said...

a comment from Travis on an rough draft of this post... (he caught me!)

You know I was reading that and it struck so many parallels to my home parish. I do youth ministry with about 150 teenagers, and the majority of them are so wrapped up in the worldly culture that Eucharistic Adoration with them is almost scarry considering there lack of reverence. It has nothing to do with not telling them, because they are told all the time.

Then to think about the little kids, I have friends with small kids and other little kids in the parish who are so respectful and understand that Jesus is present in the Eucharist.

All of this makes me think of 3 things.

1.How right Jesus was when he said

"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven". -- Matthew 18:3

2.Is it easier for little children to accept Jesus in the real presence, and will these kids grow up to be like the older kids?

3.It would be so awesome if every parish priest would take time to pray in adoration with the little children of the parish.

10/12/2006 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger Mhari said...

this is lovely, thank you for sharing.

10/12/2006 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous joshua said...

My prayers are with you.

10/13/2006 09:30:00 AM  

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