Every Monday night during jail ministry we have a Mass, or do a liturgical service, based on the previous day's (Sunday's) readings. Yesterday was the feast of Corpus Christi, which is of course all about the very real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
I don't know what it is about Mondays this summer, but if there is a torrential downpour to be had, it happens Monday night. Tonight was no different - the little Accuweather app on my phone popped up with a tornado warning (pshaw) as I left work and while it stopped for the drive to the detention center, we sat in the multi-purpose room with the winds and rain howling around the building again. Rain is always nice, though, especially during summer, and especially when you are in a place so clinically, purposefully cold. It reminds you of what's outside - the fact that there is an outside.
There was just three of us tonight: two volunteers and one inmate. He is our regular, and we always marvel at the way these discussions help us all gain a deeper understanding of scripture. We covered a lot of ground, and I shared my own feelings on how the Eucharist is not the "easy" part of being, or becoming, Catholic. Some of the first Apostles left Jesus when he began speaking about his body and and blood because it is such a radical idea. For me, it has been much easier to think "God is love" and leave it at that, rather than get into really examining the sacrifice and the reality found in the Host. If that is how you come to the Church, that is fine, but eventually you must see Jesus there in the Communion. I say "must," because otherwise you are cheating yourself - you get this pinch of reality, when there is so much there that God is offering you.
A few weeks ago I did adoration, really and truly, for the first time. I have had other, brief experiences which were parts of some greater activity, so I don't feel they count. It was one of the nights when we arrived at the jail to learn programs were canceled for lock down, and it was of course another rainy Monday, with the rain water gushing in the streets. Cajethan had the brilliant idea to spend that hour, instead of just turning around and going home, to visit the Eucharist for perpetual adoration at St. Agnes. I was secretly thrilled at his suggestion because it had been on my heart for some time. I relished the opportunity to just sit with Christ - not even have to pray the Rosary or anything else, not attempt a grand and deep meditation practice, not read some holy person's words - just be. Look to the monstrance, feel peace and just be.
And that's exactly what happened. There in that little chapel, with the floods soaking the earth outside, the devoted beside me adoring in their own ways - I looked at Jesus inside the monstrance and let go. How and why does that happen? Why does it work? Is it the beauty of the monstrance and the altar? The prayers of the faithful suffused into the very air of the room? Is it because there is no wrong way to adore? Of course there are appropriate and inappropriate ways, but sitting vs. kneeling vs. praying vs. reading - Jesus is just happy you're there with Him. I think that must be it. And if you are open to it and faithful, you feel it.
What a wonderful gift we have as Catholics. This is why we kneel before the pew; this is why a church without the Sacrament on Good Friday feels so horribly empty. Jesus gave us the gift of himself on the cross long ago, yet he also gave us the gift us his person in the Eucharist to be seen and met every day. If it seems too good to be true, just sit with Him for a while. Ask to understand, and allow his Presence to enter your heart. What you feel may be impossible to explain to any other person, and that's fine. After all, that speaks to the very nature of our personal relationship with God. He is waiting for you, and He already knows you.