LET IT aLL sTART hERE
For Catholics who care...
The story you are about to read is true. Only the names have been omitted to offer anonymity. Not everyone who attends a 24 Adoration can expect to experience what is described below, but remember this: If one doesn’t place oneself before the Most Blessed Sacrament (in most cases, exposed), one may never get to experience Our Lord at work in such a poignant way.
So… come closer. Let me tell you the things that I had witnessed....
They gathered in the dark of early morning hours, like co-conspirators: the young, the old, the lame and the nearly insane. The church was quiet and filled with a golden light cast from a grouping of candles that surrounded the solar monstrance, the vessel intended to house Our Lord for the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Pillars of light, kept vigil with Him through afternoon, evening and into night. And like good sentinels, these candles, dared not weary, dared not turn away from their assigned task and extinguish themselves. Our Lord would not ever have said to them: “So, could you not watch with me one hour?” These candles glowed triumphantly!
At the entrance of the church one man said: “Maybe He will show Himself to us tonight.” His companion, standing close by, nodded carelessly in agreement. She had never been in a church at this hour and there were things she did not understand.
They passed a Latin woman who had sat vigil since the Adoration began and she was now well into twelve hours of silent prayer. As they approached her, the woman did not falter, she did not turn from her whispered invocations. She did not care that anyone else had come to sit with Christ. Her veneration was enough…it was something between her and her Lord.
The two passed by a family that had come to worship together. Sleep filled the teenagers’ eyes, but their mother’s gaze was pointed with determination.
The two newcomers knelt as close to the altar as was allowed and bowed
their heads, reverently, as the melody of How Great Thou Art moved along the
walls of that hallowed place, like swirls of light. They had prepared, they had waited, they had sacrificed; and now they were there with their Lord.
Would He come and show Himself to them?
Suddenly, a man’s guttural voice, filled with sorrow, broke through the
trance of late hour, the hypnotic music and the solemn posture of the faithful:
“Oh my God”, he began, “I am heartily sorry
for having offended thee and I detest all my sins….”
Another woman raised her perfect voice in agreement and prayed with him:
“…but most of all because they offend you,
my God, who are all good….”
The man began to weep as strange voices joined his contrition. Their unity,
a force that raised the man’s tear stained words higher and higher into dark apex of the church, had the strength of many. He pleaded the rest:
“… and deserving all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace….”
The small congregation sat for a long time, silently recovering from witnessing the pain and awe the man had shared. Then he began again:
“Our Father who art in Heaven….”
The 7 people, who sat silently in Adoration, picked up his words and carried them in the baskets of their hearts to the altar. This was faith! When the prayer was completed, the Sorrowful Man, having the authority given to one who carried Christ’s cross on his crippled back all his life
“Jesus show yourself to us. Come and
sit with us. Jesus, show yourself.”
He wrestled free from the arms of his aged, black leather biker jacket
and called out again:
“Jesus, show yourself to us!
Then his words fell away, like a stone in a deep well and only his careless companion could hear the sound of his labored breath mingling with the “p”…“l”…“z” of his desires. For a long time only a hymn, vaguely recognizable, could be heard in the church until the Sorrowful Man began his contrition again:
“Oh, my God, I am heartily sorry.… Please.
And then the perfect voice of a woman who had moved into the shadows away from the struggling man and his despair spoke:
“Be still…and know that I Am.”
The command restored peace to all. They sat together for a long time there after… grateful and listened hard for another chance to hear Christ’s voice.
I often think about what brings people to Church.
I do so in response to Pope Francis' invitation to participate in The Call To A New Evangelization. Of course, there are as many ways to bring people to Church as there are people. My personal role as a member of the Pastoral Council at our parish is to figure out what some of these ways are. How do we invite people who are searching for a place to worship to join our community of Faith; moreover, how do we inspire the absentee Faithful back into the parish? My goal is to encourage people to discover what I myself have discovered: That all we need can be found inside the doors of The Church. My Catholic Church is very much my home.
To begin to fill our Churches with people, parishes must become a "home away from home" for it's parishioners and members of the community. In this day and age, sadly, home does not define itself as it once did. For many, it is no longer where the heart is. Home, for some, is not comforting word, it does not describe a place where one feels safe, validated, cared for, appreciated, or the least bit loved. Nor is it a place where one can find help if needed. Many people-- and they may not even be conscious of it-- regard home as something like a motel, that is, a place where they only sleep and shower.
In some homes healthy relationships have not been established, there is no nurturing going on in the home, no life instructions given, and even less guidance provided. In fact, in some cases, family members are left more wounded then empowered by their experience of family life. We are finding that there are a great many "home-less" people who live in well constructed, warm houses.
Happily, I believe I have a prescription for this malady; a solution to the ever-growing, serious situation of half-empty Churches. If we can encourage people to sample parish life, and to experience personal, as well as spiritual growth; if we can offer them a "home away from home" people can recover. Once people have experienced The Joy of the Gospel for themselves, the Church, will in turn, help resurrect that "dwelling place"... that home , which psychologically has come to mean everything.