Vowed to be Consumed, Thursday’s Prayer for Priests

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O my God, pour forth upon thy priests the spirit of sacrifice in its fullness. It is their glory as much as their duty to be victims, to consume themselves for souls, to often live without human joys, to often undergo mistrust, injustice, and persecution.

May they reflect upon what they say each day at the altar: “This is My Body; this is My Blood.”  May they reflect on it and apply it to themselves:  “I am no longer myself, I am Jesus, and Jesus crucified. I am, like the bread and wine, a consecrated substance which has ceased to be itself”

O my God, I burn with the desire of the sanctification of Thy priests…May they keep in their entire person the habit of their noble functions. May one find them simple and great, like the Host, accessible to all and superior to other men.

O my God, make them carry away from the Mass of today the thirst for the Mass of tomorrow, and may each of them, filled with gifts received, have the grace to communicate them generously to others. Amen.

Image by Tom S. Ramek, Jr.  at pixabay.com,

Devouring Christ

lamb and cakeWhen preparing a meal I find it to be more than just about sustenance; it is a creative and prayerful time.

I am blessed to be living a life where good food can be bought—organic eggs and milk, fresh produce in abundance, and Amish chickens at the market (if I arrive early enough!). This hasn’t always been true in my life or yet so for many friends.

Taking the time to fix a simple meal and set the table for one, or making a kettle of soup to share, offers opportunities to pray. For the grace of food, and enough to share, with gratitude I give thanks to God.

With eagerness I approach making meals, especially this time of year when produce is abundant and often picked fresh from the garden. Consuming flavorful and healthy food daily is a delight. It doesn’t need to be a gourmet feast.

The other morning I read a piece in Magnificat by Fr. Robert Barron about consuming the Eucharist.

Given every opportunity therefore to soften his words, or to give them a metaphorical interpretation, Jesus in fact intensifies his language: Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. The Greek term translated by “eat” here is trogein, rather than phagein. The latter is the word customarily used to designate the way human beings eat; whereas the former is the word employed to signal the way animals eat, something along the lines of “gnaw” or “munch.” In short, he scandalously underscored the very realism to which his audience was objecting.”(Magnificat, August 2015, Vol. 17, No. 6, Page 244.)

Not being familiar with that discourse I went searching the Internet and found there to be a considerable amount of discussion about the terminology. None of which particularly moved me spiritually.

What struck me was the aggressive nature of consuming the Body and Blood of Christ.

With awe and some level of primal fear we’ve all watched National Geographic shows of wild beast chasing down, killing and consuming their prey. The beasts have a singular intensity of focus on the food, a thorough intent at devouring all that is there to be had. They tear into bone and sinew, leaving nothing behind to the point of even licking the ground for the last bits of flesh and blood.

I shudder at the imagery.

Reading the words of Fr. Barron, I am disturbed by the intensity by which our Lord indicated that we are to consume him Eucharistically. With intent and full knowledge that this is indeed his body and blood, we are to have a singular focus of devouring him, gnawing into every morsel of spiritual tissue. To seek every bit of nourishment being offered to keep our souls from starvation.

I shudder at the demands of such conviction.

May the good Lord save and guide those of us who prefer tea-cakes to the whole of a slaughtered Lamb.

Image public domain, courtesy Wikimedia commons.

 

The Holy Spirit is a Fearsome Guest

DSC01026 Holy SpiritA few weeks ago we had a visiting priest who had been the associate at a neighboring parish. His homilies often sparked me to take notes, usually on the back of a bulletin during Mass. (Yes, I’ve become one of the little gray-haired ladies rummaging through her purse during the sermon, trying to find a pen.)

Father’s homily on that Sunday was about the Holy Spirit, the Third Person—big emphasis on “Person”—indwelling in us. I was a bit unsure how I felt about the idea of someone, holy or not, inside me. I watched too many scary movies in my younger days in which a creature consumes a character from the inside out—bursting forth from the victim’s chest or skull.

The message the priest offered was more a question. Did I truly believe that God is fully in me, diffused throughout my whole being, and in believing this, was I all-in? Uh, maybe.

His question and my “maybe” were both disconcerting.

Sure, I believe Jesus walked this earth, and no doubts about him being both God and human. I’m pretty confident too about the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, and the Virgin Mary. You know, the whole Creed thing.

I’m all-in, except for this one little toe hold (as I hang on the side of a spiritual cliff): Fear of being fully alive with love. It’s a terrifying responsibility to accept caritas.

There’s an other-worldliness that accompanies abandonment to the fire of friendship and love with the Holy. It compresses the ability to live in the world. That intensity for God used to be called “zeal”—and today, if it’s too far beyond what might be considered acceptable, it’s often called “delusion” at best, with “psychosis” a close second.

Some of us lack the ability to contain ourselves when the Holy overwhelms our emotions. Again I was reduced to sobbing at Mass after communion. It’s happened before, and I know I’m not the only one who’s experienced this. It’s the moment when the Person of the Holy Spirit within fully connects with the presence of the Eucharistic Jesus when consumed; a supernatural communion in a frail human being.

The woman beside me understood. She saw the need to protect the joyous and encircled me in her arms as a befuddled priest, deacon, and seminarian—along with most of the congregation—looked on.

The overwhelming passion of God’s love exaggerates our awareness of the smallness of our hearts.  It’s the sensation of the Holy that has bound itself to our flesh and blood, the reality that I am now His hands, His eyes, and His spoken Word in a world obsessed with itself.

I am pleading with Our God: Don’t let me go crazy, don’t let me be so consumed by you that the Holy Spirit bursts through my chest at every encounter with others.

As if I can place a condition on being all-in.

(Image by beatrizlobo, morguefile.com)

Feed Me. Now!

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Image morguefile.com

Mass was at a church that had been reclassified, rather, to use the Bishop’s words, “suppressed” as an Oratory. After a priest created a rift in the faithful the number of parishioners had dropped. The decline in the worshipping community never regained its former attendance. 

I sat back and lifted the kneeler having offered the prayers brought with me. I looked at the many beautiful, although disparate images and statues about the modern octagonal structure. On the wall behind the altar a modern mosaic framed a crowned and stylized risen Christ the King. To each side of it were hung large cloth portraits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and matching Immaculate Heart of Mary, reminiscent of 1950s prayer cards. Each of the side walls framed an assortment of Marian statues and images, statues of saints, and portraits and crucifixes of Jesus. It felt crowded, jarring, as if by adding more, more holiness would come. 

We stood as the priest and deacon advanced down the main aisle. I groaned to myself. The priest was in his nineties. He is a holy and dedicated priest who had served our churches well and for a very long time. Of late he would get confused while at the altar. His homilies would ramble on and on as he included bits of well worn verses from the whole of the Bible. Cohesiveness had escaped him, though the love for shepherding had not. It was going to be a long service. 

The accompanying deacon exaggerated all that he deemed appropriately holy. His slow and deliberate affectations, and singing everything, were a distraction. When he read the Gospel he paused for drama. At every. Single. Word. 

My expectations for being nourished by the Word of God were thwarted. I was irked by the whole of it all with these two presiding. I was not into Mass and numbly recited the Penitential Act, barely listened to the readings, and mentally checked out as the priest hobbled to the ambo for what I anticipated to be one of his long disjointed homilies.

Finally. We were at the point of the Eucharistic Prayers.

After the aged priest offered a cursory, and what appeared painful, genuflection, the tremors in his hands stopped as he raised the host inches above the altar. Having lowered his arms we the congregation chanted “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…” And it hit me—my judging heart had come close to silencing communion with God! 

The shame of my critical nature caused me to pause before I moved into the communion line. I realized I needed the Eucharist more than ever that morning. Tears welled up as I ate and drank His body and blood and felt—begged—the words “…and my soul shall be healed.” 

I didn’t understand why I felt impatience toward a loving and dedicated priest who for decades had given powerful homilies that fed the soul and encouraged the mind.  And what business was it of mine how a deacon is inspired at Mass? 

I am still praying about my sense of entitlement last Sunday…and a strong need for Grace.