Category Archives: Blessed Sacrament

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Why I Kneel For Jesus

Receiving on the hand had long been part of my routine, before it finally came to my attention that there was another, more preferable way. I suppose I just hadn’t given it all that much thought, sadly. In grade school we’d been taught the proper hand positioning, but my generation missed out on the altar rails and their purpose.

Yes, intellectually, I knew that the Body and Blood of Jesus is truly made manifest in the Eucharist, but I’d adopted a “casual” reverence. Hands crossed I quietly waited my turn in the communion line, until reaching the Extraordinary Minister at which point I accepted the Blessed Sacrament in my palm.

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Sensing the Presence of Jesus

Halfway into my second round-trip drive of the day, I was sitting in the van with a sleeping baby waiting on my son’s confirmation retreat dismissal. Listening to some dull music on the radio while scanning statuses on Facebook, my thoughts weren’t concentrated on anything particularly weighty when suddenly my ears perked up like our puppy’s do if he senses something important invading his environment.

That familiar chanting of benediction sounded into the air as external speakers transmitted Father’s prayers to the world beyond the sanctuary walls. Though I couldn’t exactly make out the Latin from the seat of my van, my heart knew the words. Captivated, I recognized that my Lord was exposed inside. Without seeing, I sensed His true Presence. How beautiful it must be to live next door to that chapel, I thought. To hear that signal often, the melodic litany of praises, seemed to me an envious prize.
At the same time, a small cardinal appeared on the ground beside my vehicle catching my sight. It darted about before ascending bare limb by bare limb up the neighboring tree. That bird seemed an apt representation of my state as the words of benediction lifted my mind closer and closer to heaven along with my feathered companion.
The remainder of my waiting couldn’t extend long enough. I would have liked to continue resting at the foot of that unseen altar entertaining the meaning of that bird, but my son appeared signaling departure time. Back in the chauffeur business, I recalculated the GPS and my mind toward home.
Turning onto the main road, the spicy perfume of incense filled my nose reminding me of the chrism oil used to anoint the baptized and confirmed. Sniffing in an attempt to determine the source, I realized the sweet scent had attached to my son’s striped sweat shirt. The aroma lasted throughout the 50 minute trip home leading me right back to my daydream of His Presence.
Without a direct word spoken to me, my senses identified the Lord. It didn’t require an overt action or conversation to raise my awareness. So, too, it can be with us when we testify to our beliefs. When those around us hear our choice of words, watch our actions or study our demeanor they will form an opinion. If we speak with charity, move with tender purpose and love unconditionally they will sense the presence of Jesus.
While last week’s visible sign of ashes has been washed away, lent is the perfect time to ask ourselves if strangers can still see the marks of faith on our brow. Rather than attempt to be like the Pharisees who made a show of their penances and prayers, let our every day words be like litanies and our common place actions like prostrations that lead the observer toward home.

The Dream. A Blessing is Bestowed.

Nightmares, bizarre dreams, bodily aches and bladder activity interrupted much of my pregnancy slumber. Rarely did a nighttime pass undisturbed, but I suppose that is all par for the course in getting ready for evenings with a newborn in residence. Thankfully, the lack of restfulness meant that the plots and details of my nightmares drifted quickly out of my memory shortly after my eyelids lifted. Maybe that’s why I am so intrigued by one dream in particular because it didn’t fit the pattern. Although in hindsight the timing of my sleepy encounter also inspires my curiosity.

Now let me first say, I’m not superstitious and I steer clear of those dream interpretation books. Dreams, on their own, are little more than fleeting stories conjured up by the quiet mind while the body is at rest (at least that’s my thoroughly unscientific thought on the matter).
Well, in my dreamy state, I was seated in a room full of friends and fellow seekers. At the head of the room was the Blessed Sacrament encased within a simple, gold monstrance. The seating arrangement was such that my friends and their families were facing Jesus, but I, flanked only by strangers, was positioned on the right of the room so that I could only see the side edge of the monstrance. Knowing that my line of sight wasn’t a requirement to offering Him my adoration, I was still somewhat disappointed that I couldn’t stare longingly at His manifest Presence. And something seemed to be weighing heavily on my mind, although I don’t know what that something was.
While caught up in prayer and some sort of internal struggle, a priest walked over and stopped next to my chair so that he was pressed up against me. My attention diverted, I looked up at him. For a moment I thought it was John Paul II as his face was initially hazy, but then I realized (in my dreamland state) he was a diocesan priest. All dressed in snow white and gold vestments, he was a vision of peacefulness and reverence like I’ve never fully encountered in life.
I whispered, “Father, will you please give me your blessing?” And he smiled the warmest smile and asked, “Do you need a blessing, child?” I told him I really did and with that he silently laid his hands on my head and the blessing ran over me so that its power was unmistakable.
That was on a Thursday. The following day my labor would take hold and prepare my body for the 3 a.m. Saturday arrival of my eighth child (two weeks before his expected date).
So what, I suppose, you might be thinking. You had a nice dream, good for you. Truly it was just a lovely state of my mind for a bit of the evening, but it reminded me of the real power and grace that we can receive through blessings.
Like many other sacramentals, perhaps blessings have been largely forgotten. Most of us are familiar with the cinematic depiction of young couples seeking the premarital blessing of the girl’s father, but beyond that how often do we witness this action of our faith?
What exactly is a blessing you might be wondering. Here’s a good explanation given by Fr. William P. Saunders:
Blessings come under the category of sacramentals. A sacramental is a special prayer, action or object which, through the prayers of the Church, prepares a person to receive grace and to better cooperate with it. Unlike a sacrament, a sacramental does not itself confer the grace of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, like a sacrament, a sacramental helps the faithful to sanctify each moment of life and to live in the paschal mystery of our Lord. By celebrating a blessing, the faithful can also sanctify various situations and events in their lives. Blessings are signs to the faithful of the spiritual benefits achieved through the Church’s intercession. Throughout sacred Scripture, we find how God issued various blessings. In all, in bestowing His own blessing, God declares His goodness. We in turn bless God by praising Him, thanking Him for all of His benefits and offering to Him our service, adoration and worship. When we invoke God’s blessing, we implore His divine benevolence, trusting that He will respond to our needs.
Back in the day, when my now husband was still in pursuit of my hand, he asked my father for his permission to marry me. At the time it was more a gesture of good will on his part, but nonetheless what he was really looking for (even if perhaps without realizing it) was a blessing, a tangible sign of approval and a reflection of God’s favor on our union.
Our parish priest reignited this tradition for our family, so that we often ask his blessing during trying times, before long trips and in times of celebration. With the institution of the Blessing of the Unborn, he offered me so much comfort and pastoral care from the very first days of this latest pregnancy. And whenever we encounter a visiting priest, Father encourages us to get an extra blessing from them as well. What a treasured reminder of Christ’s goodness at work in our midst.

Perhaps, my dreamy blessing is worth my pondering because it helped me recall that I am never out of the Creator’s reach. Eyes opened or closed, His aid is never more than a prayer away. Certainly, that thought helped me through the throes of labor pains which I endured the next evening (and that in and of itself was a welcomed benefit). But, too and maybe more importantly, the dream led me to bless God throughout the days to follow. To praise Him for the peace and renewal I felt when I woke up (which it turns out I’d really need), to offer Him my physical suffering as I worked through the labor, to thank Him for the strength of my body which allowed me to deliver my son into the world, and to recognize His very real countenance in the face of my newborn son. 


Healed by the Eucharist: How Jesus Removed My Depression

I struggle from time to time with depression. Sometimes there are triggers like lack of good sleep or hormonal shifts that stir-up those feelings of sadness and malaise. At other times it seems to strike me out of nowhere. Difficult to fully describe, it feels as though a phantom menace has leaped up behind me and laid a heavy weight upon my shoulders which I cannot shake off. 

Visualization helps me, so when that overwhelming sadness engulfs me, I picture myself swimming in the ocean of my mind. At times, the waves of tears wash over my head and I feel like I am drowning, but than I remember that waves ebb and flow and I simply need to float for a while until I gain the strength back to swim.

Off My Radar

Having been months since my last bout, depression was completely off of my radar when the kids and I enjoyed some vacation time with family. Then, a combination of triggers and circumstances left me vulnerable and the phantom seized the opportunity. 

Mothering and teaching seven children, running a household and being a helpmate to my husband keeps me busy enough, but those every day tasks become torturous when I’m bearing what feels like a 300lb. weight on my back. So it was this passed Saturday, talking myself through the day. “Get up out of bed, take a shower, vacuum the family room, dust the furniture,” I instructed me; keeping myself focused and pushing through the desire sit down and weep.

Dragging The Anvil

In the early evening, we readied ourselves for Holy Mass as a family, all the while I was dragging my weighty anvil of unidentifiable sorrow and silently sniffling back the tears. Sliding in the pew between two of my little ones, I began to breathe a little easier knowing that I could at least find a little rest while in my Father’s house. 

Then the Lord began to speak to me, through the readings and the gospel, and I listened intently to all He had to say. The Word reminded me of Elijah, who prayed for death (1Kings 19:4-8) before lying down under the broom tree. An angel woke him twice and told Elijah, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!” Yes, I understood Elijah, I’d prayed that prayer. I heard Jesus say He was the Bread of Life, Who had the power to raise me up. Transfixed by our priest’s homily on the Eucharist, my lethargy seemed less important. 

Approaching the Eucharistic minister, I could think of nothing else, nothing but Christ. I recognized that I, too, needed food for my journey. Eagerly, I dropped to my knees and received the Body and Blood of my Lord and my God, Jesus Christ. Walking to the chalice, I repeated, “Let there be more of You, less of me, more of You, less of me.” And I prayed for healing, again.

No Thunder Claps Were Heard

There weren’t any claps of thunder nor lightning bolts, but my smothering malaise disappeared. Unaware initially, I simply enjoyed the fellowship that followed Mass and it was my husband who pointed out the transformation. On the way home, he noted the change in my mood and I became aware that my depressive feelings were lifted. 

Realizing that God knew all along that I would need to hear those words of empathy and encouragement this Saturday evening, astounds me. In truth, He speaks to me every day, but perhaps I’m not always a good listener. Perhaps, I will be allowed to bear this cross of suffering again some other day, but today He raised up and I am thankful so “I willpraise Yahwehfrom my heart; let the humble hear and rejoice.” (Psalms 34:2) 

Christ fed me His Living Bread, He healed me and strengthened me for the journey. For truly, He is the Living God!

**I hesitated to label this healing as a miracle when I first wrote this post, but 3 years later I am confident that it was. Since receiving Jesus on that particular day, I have never again suffered from depression.