Saturday, July 20, 2024

Eucharistic Revival Series: Finding Jesus in the Tabernacle

The parish I attended as a child was St. Anthony of Padua in Butler, New Jersey. The Franciscans of the Holy Name Province served the parish, along with several of their retired friars. On the same block, close to the heart of this little borough, were the rectory, the parish church, the friary of the retired priests and brothers, the parish school and the parish center. My entire parish life was within this block.

Between the sidewalk and the parking lot that stood in front of the “new” school and the former was a granite wall about three feet high, to protect the children from traffic on the street. As a middle-schooler, I realized that it was also a wonderful place to hide from the constant protective eyes of the teachers and playground volunteers.

When I discovered this, my friends and I would slink against the wall up to the church, which was always open for anyone who wanted to pray. During recess, the four of us would pray the Stations or a Rosary or just sit quietly in front of the Blessed Sacrament. We would always time it just right, so that we could sneak back down the block before recess was over. I never knew if any of the Sisters or lay staff knew what the four of us did. The priests who served the parish found us in the church several times recess, but never said anything to anyone – at least that’s what I think! My friends and I did this on and off for two years without ever once getting caught. This is where I fell in love with sitting in front of the tabernacle.

This story reminds me of one of the four remaining Sacramental Mysteries as described by Father Frederick Faber in his book, The Blessed Sacrament.1 The remaining mysteries are below in bold face; the explanations are mine.

Tabernacle – The tabernacle is the reserved place where the Eucharist is kept. It is the place in which the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ is “housed” for the faithful to come and visit. There is a story I heard some time ago that described a developmentally challenged individual who visited the Blessed Sacrament at his parish church every single day as he delivered the morning newspaper. He would open the church door and call out, “Hey Jesus, this is Jimmy! Have a great day!” This young man understood that Jesus Christ is physically present to our lives and our time. Upon entering a church, do we truly own that we are in the true presence of God? If not, then I encourage you to own this reality on a deeper level.

Exposition – When two individuals are deeply in love, they will gaze at each other in silence. Even though words are not spoken, volumes are said between the two. The same happens when we gaze lovingly at Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. We adore Him and He lovingly gazes at us! During these moments, our heart and soul beats with the “heart and soul” of Christ. Spending more time with Him in front of the Blessed Sacrament transforms us little by little into a deeper likeness of Christ.

Viaticum – The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains viaticum in such a clear way.  “… [T]he Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum. Communion in the body and blood of Christ received at this moment of ‘passing over’ to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of the resurrection, according to the words of the Lord: ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’ (John 6:54) The sacrament of Christ once dead and now risen, the Eucharist is here the sacrament of passing over from death to life, from this world to the Father.” (CCC 1524)

There is a second part of the story I shared earlier about Jimmy. At the moment of Jimmy’s death, it was reported that as he received Viaticum a voice said, “Hey Jimmy, this is Jesus! Come be with me in heaven.” What an amazing promise of viaticum!

Procession – “Procession is the function of faith, which burns in our hearts and beams in our faces and makes our voices tremulous with emotion,” Father Faber writes. “… It is a function of hope, for we bear with us our heaven which is on earth already, our reward who has put Himself into our hands as it were in pledge, and so we make the powers of hell to tremble while we tell them by shout and song how sure we are of heaven, and the adorable Sacrament meanwhile flashing radiance unbearable into the terrified intelligences of our unseen foes. It is a function of love, for it is the timid, happy, heartfelt, venturous use of our right to be familiar with Him.”2

Think of the moments of our procession as moments in which we walk side by side with our God. Jesus enters our world so that we might experience Him now as well as in heaven.

The Blessed Sacrament reserved in our tabernacles in our churches is a haven where we meet God face to face. This is why, as a child, I flocked to church. This is why we as Catholics genuflect when we enter our churches. I truly wonder why so many doubt the Real Presence of the Eucharist!

1Faber, Frederick William, D. D. The Blessed Sacrament. New Edition, The Peter Reilly Co., 1958. Pg. 435-440.

2Ibid, pg. 438.

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness

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