Reuniting with the Eucharist

“How did we get here?” I thought as I entered the empty sanctuary of my home Church. I barely recognized it. The doors were flanked by sanitizing stations, the holy water fonts long dry. The pews were vacant with many rows taped off by yellow plastic reading “Caution”. Bright post-its were left where people had touched so others would not; a flag for disinfection.

I cleaned my hands & grabbed a post-it on the way in but I didn’t sit. Instead I went as close to the tabernacle as I could without stepping onto the altar. I dropped to my knees,  genuflecting. Then taking a moment to stare at the small, glistening doors and the flickering candle reminding me of Jesus’ presence therein. I began to pray and before I knew it I was laying flat out on the floor. I put my hands on my forearms, tucked my face into the crook of my bent elbow & tried my best not to think about viral shedding.

At that moment, I handed everything to the Lord. All of my anxiety, all of my pain, all of my uncertainty and my deepest longings. For healing, for light, for change but most of all for Him.

It had been months of social distancing and stay at home orders. Masses were still being celebrated but, without the congregation. Though I tried my best to make it special, Sundays in the living room just weren’t the same. The sanctuary where I lay prostrate, the one that held so many memories, was only open for private reflection. I missed the smell of the incense, the music, the echo of a house full of prayer, even the fussy babies but the comfort of Jesus’ true presence was what I needed. I ached to receive Him again in that most intimate way- through the Blessed Sacrament. “How much longer, Lord?” I asked though silent tears.

A while later, I peeled myself off of the ground. I thanked my King and left the bright pink post-it on the floor where I had laid. Reluctantly, I walked down the aisle I once strolled as a bride, past the empty pews, once filled with friendly faces and turned to bow in reverence. As I stood up, I locked eyes with the Divine Mercy image. Before I could pray my soul cried out, “Jesus, I trust in you!” 

I had come quite a way the past few years in living a more sacramental life and the quarantine threw a wrench right into it. As the weeks & months drug on with no end in sight, God met me where I was. I leaned into our domestic church, spiritual communion, vocal prayer and meditation. I delighted in the little things and tried to live the Little Way. I found a renewed hope for the future thanks to the tenacity and inventiveness of the mystical body of believers here on Earth to worship God regardless.

Though I accepted the penance of the wait and tried my best to make it special, streaming the sacraments just wasn’t the same. There was still an empty space in my heart that could only be filled by his true presence. The weeks rolled by without change. I watched the news and checked parish websites, waiting eagerly for permission to go back to my Father’s house. Then one morning a text popped up on my phone from our Church. It said that Mass would resume and that I should make a reservation and wear a mask when I go.

Well I was so relieved and excited I didn’t know what to do! Knowing that I could receive the most blessed sacrament again, I resolved to make a really good confession that Saturday afternoon.

Cut to Saturday: I am working on the house, in the thick of cleaning and Momming when it hits me: “Confession!” I gasped. I threw on my shoes, secured the little kids with my teen and dashed out of the house. By the time I got to our parish across town it was too late. Confessions had been heard and there was no one around. So I went to a neighboring parish. They were having Mass for everyone who reserved but reconciliation was over there too.

I was crushed. I resigned myself to the fact that, though it would surely rip my heart in two, I would have to go to mass without receiving. That is until the holy spirit whispered “Our Lady’s” across my heart. It was then that I remembered the friary. I knew about it because it is only a block or two from my husband’s work. The kids and I often meet him for lunch during the week and every time we’re near we pop into the chapel. We all love going there to light candles, pray with the friars, take in the sacred art and join in the perpetual adoration of Jesus. 

Of course, due to Corona, we hadn’t been in a while, but I knew that someone would be there, they always are! The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate: modern-day saints living in poverty and silence in the midst of the bustling city. So, I called my oldest to check on the littles before leaving the sticks and heading downtown.

I parked, fed the meter with the change in my cup holder and hurried down the sidewalk. My heart leapt when I saw the doors of the chapel. A Marian statue watched over the street below, tucked between the police station and the shouts of “Black Lives Matter!”.

I entered the Church silently, still on the surface but anxious within. I bent my knee at the doors and took in the image of a priest kneeling before the altar. “In the name of the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit” he said, as he began to pray the Franciscan Crown Rosary of the Seven Joys of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I joined the prayer, forcing myself to focus. I had never felt such hunger and longing as I squirmed in my seat and begged for intercession. I scanned the dim sanctuary and spotted a friar sitting in a pew in the back but I dared not interrupt. So I prayed and waited, growing more distracted and anxious with each passing mystery, until I resigned to the drawing out that was occurring. My heart changed in an instant as I saw the beauty of the merit that this and all my waiting was affording me.

I refocused with an unexpected joy and prayed fervently along with the priest who spoke slow and steady and clear. Two decades longer than my usual daily devotion, it felt as if the exquisite agony of that moment could go on forever. It was simultaneously the most touching and most difficult rosary of my entire life. 

We concluded the prayers and I swallowed my pride to approach the friar in the back. Because people were still meditating in the chapel, I whispered “Will you hear my confession?” He said yes, of course and we headed to the confessional. Once I drew the heavy velvet curtain on my side and said my opening prayer, I unloaded like I had in the sanctuary days before. I confessed my sin, my longing, my despair. I explained my absent mindedness, my running around and my want to receive worthily with tears in my eyes. At one point I actually heard myself say “I’m starving.”

The priest apologized to me, saying that the separation from the sacraments had been a real disservice to the faithful. He absolved me and said “You don’t need to wait until tomorrow. Follow me to the sacristy.” And so we went. 

He lit candles around the crucifix just for me, donned a vestment just for me, read the readings and prayed the mass, just for me. He placed the sacrament on my tongue and said “Sit in the chapel and pray. He is with you for about 20 minutes. Come where you are fed.” he said, “Come here.”

He went out of bounds for me that day in a way I had never really experienced. By showing me the Franciscan way of love: Commitment to shepherding the faithful, feeling the plight of the poor (and poor in spirit) and ministering to all people. 

The experience healed a brokenness in me I didn’t know I had by revealing the unique love God has just for me. Reuniting with him in a way so profound and unexpected seemed tailor made to enrapture my soul. It’s been two months since but the impact that day and the simple, holy lives of the friars had on me has been felt ever since. I go there regularly now to receive the sacraments and the more traditional and reverent style of worship suits me, challenges me, and nourishes my hungry heart.

Our hometown Church is open for Mass again with limited attendance. I look forward to the day that I can return with my whole family to recall the beautiful memories and smile at the friendly faces, but until that day — and forevermore, I am blessed to go where I am fed.

We Are an Easter People

This Lenten season started like any other for Catholics. We buried the Alleluia, celebrated somber Masses & began our fasting. With Churches all over simplifying decor, drawing nearer to Gethsemane. We are making our way through the desert when we hear the news that the pandemic sweeping across the globe is upon us.

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All Things New

Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; Though they be red like crimson, they may become white as wool. -Isaiah 1:18

Daily Mass Reading for 3/10/2020: The day of my tattoo removal

Loving the skin I’m in. I’ve gone through phases with this concept. Over the years I’ve come to embrace my milky complexion, my freckled cheeks, even the silvery stretch marks on my thighs but one thing I always loved was my tattoos. Continue reading “All Things New”

See Yourself Through The Eyes of Love

Sunday morning I bundled up the kids & headed to Mass solo while my husband worked his 8th day in a row. I asked my oldest to help me wrangle the littles & prayed that things would go smoothly. Mass has been an exercise in humility lately trying to keep my 18 month old boy from bouncing out of the pews & not having my husband there as usual meant I was on my own this time.

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Mystical Rose, My Missing Puzzle Piece

The first time I remember praying the rosary as an adult was for a silly, vain intention. My wedding was approaching & I had my heart set on a beautiful, sunny day. My mother has always been close to the Blessed Virgin Mary & had given me a little fold-up card with the prayers and mysteries on it. She told me to pray with an intention and make it something big. That way, if God saw fit to deliver, I would know that my prayers were aided by the devotion.

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A True 180°

This morning I walked out onto the back porch & faced the sun beams streaming through the trees. I quieted my heart, asking God what the day might hold. I breathed in the summer air, not yet touched by the humidity promised in the lingering haze. I stretched & smiled because I know each morning, each day is another chance.

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I Never Meant to be a Catholic Blogger, or Even a Catholic & Why I’m Staying Both

2018 was a purely experimental year for this blog and for my writing but, I knew that I wanted to share relatable and encouraging stories inspired by my life. It goes without saying that my spirituality encompasses and is at the heart of every experience I have and everything that I do. The love of God and the many forms that it takes in my life is always my inspiration. I knew that this truth would come through some in the creative storytelling style of my writing. Maybe in undertones. Maybe even overtones. What I didn’t plan on exactly was God taking over completely.
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If you knew me ten or even five years ago, you may be surprised to see my zeal for God and the Church. Back then I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me that I would be a holy water keeping, blessed candle lighting, novena saying, rosary wielding, joyful Catholic.
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Advent Reflection

We had the first snow of the season here a couple of weeks ago and this year I am determined to change my perspective on the cold and darker months. It really was a lovely snowfall.

My family baked, snuggled and went to bed early. I laid in the dark wrapped in my blanket, basking in the incredible silence that accompanies the flurries. I listened to the flakes piling up and the sound of a plow scraping down the street. The next day I decided to make my Advent wreath and cheerfully clipped and gathered the beautiful things that grow and dwell alongside us in our little woods.

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St. Joseph and the Blended Family

I was managing a small chiropractic office and the doctor I worked for was talented and nice but also eccentric and quite a talker! The only two employees in the small home based practice, we chatted all day between patients. With his kids running in and out, family was a common topic of conversation. At the time I was expecting my second daughter, the first child that my husband and I would share biologically.

One day during a lull while discussing my growing brood the doc asked, “So, how does your husband feel about the new baby on the way?” I smiled and responded that naturally, we’re both excited and a little nervous. “Our oldest is in 3rd grade already,” I said. “It’s like we’re starting over!” He laughed in sympathy, then said “This will be a whole new adventure for him though since this is his first child.”

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The Living Word

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am not known for my organization! I find it really helpful to have lists and routines for myself and my family. Even if only followed loosely, I find that it helps us not to be so scattered. Some things you can allow to fall off the list and defer it to the next day but others are a must do!

As I was discussing my attempt at a more orderly home with my family I expressed the importance of making time to pray and read God’s Word each day. I told my 11-year-old daughter that she needs some form of the Word to be part of her day, each day whether it’s a devotional, church, music, or Sunday school–That night I suggested we watch a movie about the miracles of Jesus together.

My preteen rolled her eyes and sighed saying, “Mom, I know all of those stories! I’ve seriously heard them a hundred times! I already know everything!” My husband and I chuckled as I sighed and rolled my own eyes with exaggeration. I regrouped and explained to her that none of us will never know it all!

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