Sunday, October 14, 2007


Saint John Vianney, known also as the CurĂ© of Ars, writes this about Spiritual Communion: “There are some who make a spiritual communion every day with blessed bread. If we are deprived of Sacramental Communion, let us replace it, as far as we can, by spiritual communion, which we can make every moment; for we ought to have always a burning desire to receive the good God.”

During the week following my first spiritual communion, I wondered what was happening to me. I was tempted to doubt my act of faith, wondering if I had fooled myself into believing I was experiencing Communion. I was not sure. Yet, gone was the constant rancor in my heart. I was surprised, too, by moments of joy. However, I was so attentive to my preparation for an art show at the end of August that I took less notice of that joy than I should have. In my view, what was taking place at Mass for me was a great idea. I knew it was a gift, but I guessed it was more like a substitute, and not true Communion.

Not comprehending what the Lord had offered me, I remained satisfied that He had taken pity upon me. I had supposed He was letting me participate on a level that was more like seeing, but not tasting. I did not know this spiritual communion was much more than Jesus’ gift to help me feel at ease. I did not realize the magnitude. Like a toddler who sucks a pacifier, I was pleased to leave the church building each Sunday contented.

The next Sunday I again received my Communion by faith, as I had the week before, but this time during the consecration, my doubts vanished. As soon as I swallowed and said, “Amen,” after the elevation of the cup, I felt a wellspring of joy in my heart, and recognized the presence of the Holy Spirit. For the next few weeks, this became a pattern for me during each Mass.

Rich and I continued to sort out our new lives. We were not in perfect harmony, but at least he was not getting an ear-full of woe each week.

One Sunday in August he commented on the difference. I shared with him what I was doing, and he hugged me, encouraged that in a small way I was happier at Mass.

With the art show fast approaching, Rich also encouraged me in my artistic endeavor by helping with the housework so I could concentrate on the rubrics of my craft. Thankfully, he was satisfied with scrambled eggs or pizza for dinner on days I had spent hours in the studio. With high hopes of sharing my images in a large venue, Rich took me to the airport and sent me on my way to Atlanta during the Labor Day weekend. I sensed that this trip would change me, although I hadn’t a clue how that would happen - and I expressed that to Rich.

The first day or so of the art show was enough to convince me I would not participate in that type of venue again. I was not part of the Fantasy/Gamer crowd, and my art did not seem to appeal to them either. This was a great disappointment for me because I had hoped my unique work would fit well within this eclectic group.

On Sunday I attended a Protestant service with our daughter, who lives near Atlanta. My foray once more into an Evangelical congregation was not as satisfying to me as I had expected. After three years in sacramental churches, I supposed the difference of liturgy and unfamiliar songs left me with a spiritual emptiness. I came away confused by my attitude and disillusioned with what I had thought would be a very satisfying morning. What I did not take into account was how the small act of faith I had experienced at Mass had now changed me.

On the flight home, failure and self-pity engulfed me because of the disappointing reception of my art. The past year’s trials paraded before my weary thoughts, and I slumped in my seat.

After a while, I took out a drawing pad from my carry-on and made some notes about my emotional state. I was determined to keep up a good front of cheerfulness – but my heart had gone out of me. I had come to the end of my fortitude and I felt morose. Moreover, I wondered how long I would be able to be as supportive of Rich as I had been. I knew from experience that over time my resolve would languish, causing my cooperation to falter. I loved Rich, and wanted our covenant-marriage to succeed, but on that flight home, remembering the past months, we seemed sorely in trouble.

It never occurred to me that all the difficulty I had experienced, as well as the failure to prosper in my venture, was exactly right for me. I thought my eyes were wide open and I understood all that had taken place. However, I was still blind.

But Jesus was in the process of giving me sight.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Undeserved Gift

Spiritual Communion . . . I had no idea what it was as I doggedly attended Mass with Rich each Sunday, all the while wrestling with my frustration and attempting to cope with all the differences in our lives since Rich converted to Catholicism.

In addition, I found myself yearning to love, and be loved, by Jesus each time I was excluded from the table of the Lord at Mass. I believed Jesus was there, he is always in the midst of those who trust and call upon His name. St. Matthew writes, “For where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20 (New Jerusalem Bible) Jesus was in our midst, but I was blinded by my preconceived ideas of how I could meet Him. I expected to meet him through the moving of the Holy Spirit in song, prayer and during the reading and preaching of the word. And I longed to again meet Him at His table – a longing that all Christians receive at birth in Him.

But, at our Catholic church (I wrongly concluded) I was a bystander at His table and He was not there for me. As far as I could tell, before that Sunday in July, God had heard my heart’s cry, but He had chosen to keep silent. He did not change my situation so as to meet my wants as I had hoped He would.

He had another plan.

I knew from my reading of the Psalms that at times God is silent toward His children . . . but He is never out of touch with us. While God had been silent in my life at other times, His silence had never been this long nor this deep – nor had my longing to hear Him been so intense.

On the Saturday evening before the Sunday Mass I mentioned in the last post, Rich experienced for the first time an hour of prayer devoted to waiting before Christ in the Eucharist (know as Adoration). I remember patronizing Rich as he rambled on in glowing terms about his experience that evening at a local youth rally with our church. I listened with skepticism to his buoyant excitement about praying before the Blessed Sacrament (a consecrated host placed in a special holder called a Monstrance). Rich was sure Jesus would answer the prayer he poured out before Christ’s beloved Presence – his prayer that somehow I would find peace and comfort in the Catholic Church.

I sensed his deep disappointment when I told him I was glad to support him in our new church, but that I was quite comfortable with my Protestant beliefs and mind-set.

To say I was interested in understanding Roman Catholic thought would have been false. I was happy with what little knowledge I had already gained. I pined for my life as a Protestant. Moreover, I was hurt – and irked – that our new church’s rules denied my right as a child of the King to the Communion table.

I was doing my wifely, Christian duty following my husband, and I suppose I expected God to notice.

The Lord’s deafening silence hurt me all the more.

I must say, though, when the Lord’s answer came, it was not the welcome release I had hoped for. Rather, it was an invitation to an action of faith.

Although I’d been baptized in the Holy Spirit for years with the gift (Charism) of other tongues, and I’d known His overpowering peace through the moving of the Holy Spirit in my life, I was surprised that the Lord’s first clear instruction to me in many months was that I receive communion by faith. It was one thing to see His answers to prayer like asking for my shoulder to be healed or the bills to be paid, but it was quite another to receive a direction to do something that seemed opposite to my understanding of how non-Catholics should act.

I might not like the rules – but I knew how to follow rules. And, angry though I was with the Catholic Church’s rule that I could not take Communion, I was willing to comply, because complying equaled obedience to the Lord, and that meant I accepted His direction whether I understood it or not.

Christ did not suspend the rule, but offered me a gift I had not expected nor asked for. All I had to do was receive it.

Long ago, I had learned God is not as interested in our pleasure – or in what we think He should do, as He is interested in our obedience. And the Father likes to take us at our word. When we say, “I will go anywhere for you,” – He will send us. When we say, “I will do anything for you,” – He will ask it of us.

I had made those promises of going and doing many times during my thirty years of attending Protestant worship services. It had never entered my mind that His “sending” and “asking” would involve kneeling in a Catholic church. More to the point, I never imagined Jesus would ask me to receive Communion by faith during the consecration of the bread and wine. I accepted Jesus’ gift not because I deserved it, but because of God’s grace given to me to accept it.

I am a proud, arrogant, peevish woman who could never be good enough nor worthy of such a magnificent gift. I’d smirked at Rich’s belief in Christ’s presence in the consecrated host the evening before – and with razor-like precision, Jesus challenged my Protestant know-it-all attitude by offering me Himself as supernatural food at Mass the next morning.

His mercy is overwhelming.