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”

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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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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Finding Time With God

Yesterday was tough. Really tough. It was one of those days. You know the kind. Where it all seems to be falling apart and you can barely keep it together. Where you run on coffee and adrenaline. One of those days that you just don’t stop. I knew there was a lot to do that day and wanted it to start off with some quiet time with God.

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Ordinary Days, Extraordinary Love

Ah, Love!

What comes to mind when you hear the word? Is it canoodling in the candle light? A kid-free five-course meal? Long walks on the beach? Champagne and bubble baths? All the mushy clichés of Valentine’s Day?

Though these things are undoubtedly delightful, in marriage love goes deeper than roses and chocolate. When you build and share a life together it is less often ideal than it is real and love is found in the ordinary days and simple moments.

Love is found in small gestures. It’s holding hands in church, arms wrapping around me from behind when I’m busy in the kitchen, a knowing smile across the room, and meeting for lunch amidst a busy day.

Love is found in trust. Never fearing that the hand I hold would strike me in anger or reach out to another for affection, but instead guide me in love, brush away my tears, and gently cradle our newborn’s fuzzy heads.

Love is found in our weakness. It’s talking me down when I panic, convincing him we’ll make it through when finances get tight, him reassuring me if I’m down, and me rubbing his back after a hard day’s work.

Love is found in the trenches of parenthood. It’s tag-teaming dirty diapers, picking up where one left off during an exasperating lecture, throwing our hands up and laughing (instead of losing it) when the kids won’t listen, the dog is barking and the house is a mess.

Love is found in our frustration. It’s kissing each other good night even if we had a bad day, choosing to speak calmly when we might want to shout, serving each other when we’d rather not, and talking it out when we’d rather walk away.

Love is found in our friendship. It’s poking fun at each others small quirks, laughing until our sides ache, saving stories from the day to tell each other later, and feeling the years dissolve when the connection sparks like its still new.

Love is found in our comfort. It’s telling me I’m beautiful in my sweatpants and bun, cuddling in front of our favorite TV show, unashamedly sharing junk food and limbs draped lazily over one another in slumber.

Love is found in our memories. It’s the old inside jokes that still crack us up, the same Christmas ornaments on the tree each year, the milestones we’ve reached together, and the many obstacles we’ve overcome.

Love is found in our futures. It’s the way he looks at our children, when he lets me know that they look up to me, knowing that through all of life’s changes our devotion will remain, and knowing that no matter how old I get he’ll always be two years older!

True love’s path ouside of the pages of a romance novel usually isn’t packed full of breath taking moments and grand gestures but rather punctuated by them. Proposals, weddings, babies, and anniversaries; the rarity is what makes them so special. Yet, the routine can still hold such beauty to enjoy so long as we don’t overlook it!

So, if your Valentine’s Day looks less like a room full of flowers and balloons and more like grabbing takeout so no one has to cook, don’t be upset! Smile at each other between bites and play footsie in your fuzzy socks. Seriously, who needs a 3ft teddy bear anyway? Your ordinary love is extraordinary simply because it is yours!

❤ Cait

Joy to the World!

The theme of this third week of advent is joy! We light the pink candle and look forward in joy to Christmas which (unbelievably to me!) is now only days away! There are so many things in my life which bring me joy that I could choose to write about today, my husband, my children, a good book and a hot cup of coffee..but, since we are looking forward to the coming of Jesus into the world I would like to focus on him, our ultimate and eternal wellspring of joy!

The joy that comes from my relationship with him cannot be contained in my heart and spills over into every area of my life. Carrying his spirit with me enhances everything and gives even the smallest things a sense of wonder and deeper meaning. When you come to know the Lord you understand that all things are a gift from him. Think of the joy you feel or witness in your children on Christmas morning when they eagerly unwrap their presents and reveal what treasures await them. That is what a relationship with the Lord can bring to your daily life. How can you not feel joyful and thankful when you are constantly receiving gifts?

It is not always easy to see everything as a gift but, when we live in a state of gratitude it leaves little room for malcontent! Joy is our inheritance in Christ and we can claim it! Choosing joy and seeing things through his eyes just makes everything richer, deeper and more meaningful.

When I am walking through the woods and see a beautiful tree or the sunset I see more than just scenery, I see the beauty and power of God’s creation and feel happy that he created such a gorgeous world for us to live in. Or when I look at my children, I see more than just cuteness (although they are quite cute!) I remember that God knew them and set them apart before they were even born, he has plans for them which I can’t begin to imagine, and he formed them in my womb and allowed me the honor of actively participating in their creation. It’s nothing less than miraculous!

Or when I look into my husbands eyes and appreciate all that our marriage means to me and our family and how much pleasure comes with it and to know that it is also something that honors God and personifies the gospel! Or when I am pursuing my passions to write and read and create with my hands, a need that God himself placed within me. These things I enjoy so much are more than hobbies, its the avenue through which his will in me will be accomplished. Or when I see others through the loving eyes of God and appreciate how different he made us all and see the good in them and it makes me want to bring others happiness or speak words of encouragement to them when they are down. I want to share the joy that I have found so everyone can experience it!

Joy can be a choice. With so many difficult things in life and negatives to focus on we can choose instead to think positively, view ourselves and others positively, speak positively, appreciate and focus on what we have rather than focusing on what we lack. When I remember how much I have to be thankful for it is difficult not to feel joyful. Gratitude proceeds and breeds more joy. Even my trials take on meaning, I know they are shaping me into the person I’m meant to be and even in those dark times I can see God’s light shining and hold on to the glimmer of his promises.

So when we are opening our presents on Christmas morning lets remember what they are to represent, the gift of salvation and a daily, enriching, interpersonal relationship with God through his son. Let’s remember that the spirit of this holiday and the people who surround the tree are far more a gift to us than anything that we could find under it.

Merry Christmas!

❤ Cait