(As you know, I love the simple, the straight-forward…the little whispers we get from God. This story from our reader, Sandy Brenner, is a story of one of those gentle little kisses on the forehead we often get from God when we need them – and if we are still enough to listen -CJ)
By Sandy Brenner
One day, not too long ago, my daughter Christina asked me, “Mom, why do you cry after communion?” Well, here is the answer to that question.
Several years ago, I was inspired by a story told to me by my sister’s husband, my brother Michael, from the words of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska. The story was that of a vision of the Virgin Mary bringing water to the souls suffering in purgatory. I bought St. Faustina’s autobiography which took me over a year to complete just the first half. The reading was difficult for me and finding the time to read even more so. But, by the time I reached the latter part of the book, I found myself in awe of the life this woman led. Such suffering she endured with unexplainable physical ailments. Yet, through all of her physical suffering, her only desire was to receive the Eucharist every morning. Through her, Jesus made known his desire to have a painting made of his Divine Mercy, and Divine Mercy Sunday, the Sunday after Easter, was instituted by the Catholic church. In one of his visits with St. Faustina, Jesus told of how some souls receive Him in communion with such little regard that He leaves them immediately, taking with Him all of the graces He had to give. St. Faustina had visions of the child Jesus during the consecration of the mass. She would pray to Jesus to remain in her through her day until she could receive Him the next day. Her prayer was to be in constant union with Him. This little nun was given such great faith and was witness to the greatest miracle of our church.
As Catholics, what makes us different from other Christian faiths is the sacrament of the Eucharist given to us by Jesus at the Last Supper. This gift was given to us so that He would be with us in this world until He comes again. Performed only at a Catholic mass, the bread and wine consecrated truly becomes the body and blood of Christ. This is truth, yet it defies the physical laws of the world as we know it. This truth can only be accepted through faith.
I found myself one Sunday observing that we, the people gathered for mass, are lacking in faith. If the physical body of Christ was recognizable on the altar, surely no one would have the desire to ever leave this place. If we looked upon His earthly face rather than a cup and wafer, faith would not be necessary. We would bow down before Him and never want to get up. People would come from every part of the earth to see Him if His body and blood were recognizable. As Catholics we are supposed to have the faith that He is present in the Eucharist we receive. Yet, it seems that this faith is gone when mass is frequently missed and our minds are preoccupied with the things we need to do. That day, I knelt prayerfully and asked God to help me understand. I had always believed in this Eucharistic miracle, but I did not understand it.
Each Sunday, for multiple weeks, I repeated this prayer. To help with my understanding of this mystery, I bought a book about Eucharistic miracles. I read about consecrated hosts bleeding on the altar, about people seeing the face of Christ on the host in the adoration chapel, and other miracles that have both healed people and increased their faith. But then God gave me a miracle of my own. He clearly showed me, in my physical world, that He heard my prayer.
When you ask God for a gift of faith, when you ask Him to heal your blindness, He will always answer your prayers.
While our church (St. Thomas More in Centennial Colorado) underwent long renovations, mass was held in the school gym. The gym was always packed, including all of the chairs set up in rows on the gym floor, but also all of the stadium benches. My husband, being 6′ 4″ enjoyed the leg room that the bleachers provided. So we had a spot on the third row up from the floor that we typically sat in. Every week, communion was the same. The people on the right side of the bleachers processed to the front of the gym to receive communion from the priest on the right side up front. The people on the left side of the bleachers processed to the left side and received communion from a deacon. To avoid people walking on each other, the usher called the last/highest rows of the bleachers first so that the bleachers would “refill” from the top to the bottom” – Very organized and well orchestrated, and done this way for literally months. We all became pretty well practiced with this method.
One Sunday, during Mass, I pondered some of the miracles that I had read about and wished that our community could also be granted one. I looked up to Father Andrew holding the consecrated host and saying “This is my body, which has been given up for you”. As all priests have their typical way of breaking the host, Father Andrew always holds up a host that is triangular in shape. I thought to myself “Jesus is a triangle”. Strange, yes, but this is what I thought to myself. Then, communion began. As always, the people seated in chairs on the stadium floor went to communion first. When it came time to usher the the people sitting in the bleachers, the ushers did something that was unprecedented. They called us from the lower/front bleachers first. But stranger than that, they actually ushered the right side of the bleachers to the left side of the altar, and the left side of the bleachers to the priest giving communion on the right side in front of the altar. I actually remember giving my husband a look that his was crazy chaotic. The lines were twisted and overlapping – very unorganized (I am a little OCD). What were they thinking?
When it was my turn to receive communion, my heart exploded as Father Andrew placed a triangular shaped host, one of the other pieces that was broken during the consecration, in my hand.
In my heart, he place the knowledge that this was the answer to my prayer. Probably two hundred or more people received communion from Father Andrew before me. The people at the top of the bleachers should have received communion first, but they did not. I should have received communion from the deacon, but I was led to Father Andrew, our pastor, who placed Jesus in my hands – Jesus in the shape of a triangle. I asked for a gift of knowledge. I asked to understand His presence in the Eucharist. I asked for the gift of knowledge through wisdom, but instead received the gift of knowledge through faith. I didn’t understand this miracle, I just knew it. He loved me. He made Himself known to me in that triangular shaped piece of bread.
Though this miracle shook me and brought me great joy that God would give signs even to the smallest of his children, I recognize that the greater miracle is that given to me now at mass. When I receive communion, I truly feel His presence. I never really understood until it was given to me: Faith is not believing. Faith is knowing. I no longer have the desire to understand His presence, because I know it. This is the greater gift. This is the greater miracle. When I drink from the cup, I have the unwavering knowledge that I am drinking the blood that came from Christ’s wounds. I am overwhelmed by the understanding that my sins contributed to his suffering and crucifixion. Even if all of my sins were cleansed, I would still not be worthy to consume His body and blood, and yet I am permitted to. His presence fills me and I pray desperately, as St. Faustina did, that He remain in me. I pray that he finds my soul a worthy place to make rest and not leave, taking His graces with him. As I kneel in adoration the tears inevitably come.
This is why I cry. Because faith is knowing, and God has graced me with faith. I pray that this gift be given to each of my children as well. All you have to do is ask. If you ask God to strengthen you, and to show you the truth, He will, and it will add beauty to your life that is unparalleled.