I have been in love with my Roman Catholic Faith since I can remember. If I had to pick out the moment my heart belonged to the Church, it would have to be My First Holy Communion Day . I was just short of my eighth birthday when the Blessed Sacrament first touched my lips. By no “accident of birth”, it was several years before the changes of the Second Vatican Council were ordered implemented and so my special day was in Latin in the misnamed “old Mass”.
To me, there was nothing “old” about it. I was in a magnificent white dress and veil, just like a miniature bride. The nuns (who still wore full habits including a sheer back veil over their face during Mass with the parish) had taught us well. I understood Who I was receiving and how that was possible. Yes, even at 7 3/4 years old it is possible to understand Transubstantiation!
The Holy Mass was offered in all it’s glory, replete with Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus sung at the moment I received My Lord. I remember to this day, waiting and trembling with goosebumps what was about to happen. (I’m getting goosebumps writing about it)
Yet, I always felt like more was to come. During the holiest week of the year – Good Friday, five years later, it happened. I was older, wiser (so I thought) thinking everyday about the day I could enter the Religious Life and be with Him forever. I wanted to be a Carmelite, of course, and to walk in the shoes of the girls Martin and share my Spouse with the other nuns.
I had asked my Mom if I could go to church on that Good Friday at noon. The Liturgy of Good Friday did not start until 3pm. My mother, not surprised by my youthful exuberance, looked at me and said, “I guess you want to be alone there from noon to 3.” I love my mother. She got it, she knew exactly what I wanted to do and didn’t make a big deal out of it. She was coming back at 3 with my Dad and the rest of the family. She scurried me upstairs to get ready and I was dropped at the steps of the Church at 11:50 am, right on time.
The church was open (of course it was, remember this was awhile back) and I walked in thinking that there would be others to sit and pray during the three hours that changed the world. I was delighted (in my childish way of being selfish) to have the Church to myself. The preceding evening, my family and I attended Holy Thursday Mass witnessing a moment from Heaven with the magnificent music and the Altar of Repose. (My Dad always did the Altar of Repose for the parish, so I am subjective). My favorite part was after the Procession with Our Lord and the “Pange Lingua” I would run back to the church to get a front row seat for the Stripping of the Altar. “Deus meus…” was chanted as all the magnificent trappings of Holy Thursday were put away. When it was finished I would sit there while my family prayed at the Altar of Repose and I would stare at the open and empty Tabernacle that had just held the King of Kings. Good Friday was around the corner and I couldn’t wait. It was always my favorite day of the liturgical year and still is. Chanting the Reproaches every year, I still feel the sense of awe but also feel the cleansing effect of the Precious Blood spilled for me and for the many.
I am so sorry, as you can see I get swept away! I entered the church very quietly, whispering a prayer of petition that no one would be there. My prayer was heard and answered. I spent the next 2 1/2 hours by myself in the stillness of an empty church. The Blessed Sacrament had been taken out of the Altar of Repose and placed in the wooden tabernacle in the sacristy. The doors to the Sacristy were locked tight and the Sanctuary candle dark. The Tabernacle on the high Altar (no altar tables forced into the Sanctuary obstructing the view of the Holy of Holies) was wide open and empty as the night before and the lingering smell of incense still hung in the air like mist to the senses on a rainy day.
I sat in the first pew on the right. I remember that the stained glass windows were open and the sunlight and warm, sweet Spring air drifted in like a pilgrim to witness this holiest of days. I remember tears coming to my eyes but having a smile on my face. I sat back against the pew and then it happened. A whisper in my ear. It startled me that I sort of jumped and turned to the right. No one was there. I wasn’t frightened as one would think. I firmly believed in my Guardian Angel so I sat back with an even bigger smile on my face. This day was for me and Him. He died for me and I would die for Him. If that meant dying to the world and going to a monastery, great! If it meant being a martyr, I was ready.
What I was not ready for was what happened next. There comes a time in a Carmelite’s life or in the life of anyone desiring to be a mystic, that intense prayer and abandonment to Divine Providence can bring you to a place unimagined by the human mind.
I heard the voice of Him. He said to me, “You will always belong to me”. As I leaned back unafraid, I felt as if my head was on His Shoulder. In the still, small voice of my heart He spoke and I came to Him.
I am not a visionary. I am not one who hears interlocutions. I am not a mystic, but someone who strives for mysticism. I experienced a sliver of what mysticism means. From that day I have never been the same. I know that those reading this want me to give you a happy ending like my Jane Austen novels. God willing, it seems now that might just happen. His plan for me might be different than the fascination of a young girl desiring the Religious Life but His Plan is HIS PLAN for me…
His Plan for all of us in the Body of Christ? That is much more clear. No matter how the world attacks Him and His Church, His Pope and the Truth, we will survive. He promised us that.
Pray for the Holy Father and for Pope Emeritus Benedict…and please remember these are OUR HIGH HOLY DAYS! Let us show the world who we are: Roman Catholics who are willing to suffer and die for our Faith…
In His Suffering, Death and Resurrection,
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