Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the life-altering car accident. Pain has been my constant companion ever since. And, this year, a pain siege preceded and continues during this time period: elevated, exhausting, preemptive pain.
I decided to drive to the morning Mass in the local parish, which is for me quite a drive, regardless. I had not been for a couple of days, and it was not easy to make myself go--not so much due to the pain of body but due to the emptiness and coldness of the people there, and the priest with so many, many unhealthy issues. It is quite sad, all in all.
I arrived and entered. I decided to see if anyone would smile or give eye contact, or even speak on the way into the vestibule. I met a woman in the parking lot and smiled at her. She did not respond. No human effort at connection. In all fairness, she had just finished off some conversation using a speaker phone or such. Her mind was elsewhere, although she did see me. How could she not as I smiled and slowed, just feet from her as we walked in?
People there do not genuflect before the Tabernacle. It is an odd arrangement. The tiny chapel is just off the sanctuary and body of the church proper. The chairs face a small altar; the Tabernacle is behind the chairs. Nothing is bolted down, but they evidently do not want the Tabernacle behind the altar and facing the people as they sit in the chapel. I always have an urge to turn my chair around and face Him.
However, on this morning (yesterday), I genuflected and had the distinct essence that Christ is not in that tabernacle. I said so, within. "You are not even in there, Jesus, are You?" No, I really do not think so. I suspect the Host is not actually consecrated in that parish, in that church.
I had encountered a couple other people upon entering that chapel. They are stone cold, unflinching. I smiled and sent love from within me. There was never any flicker of warmth. The one woman who had given me a hard time the first day I had returned, nearly two weeks ago, glanced uneasily and shifted in her chair. The woman who was exasperated and had not recognized when I wore my glasses a week prior and asked, "Who IS this woman who has been coming here?", walked within inches of me, gray and sad as hardened granite.
It would all be wonderful if they were stones. There is a natural beauty and strength in granite. But it is not suited to human beings who claim Christianity as their belief system. I asked within of His Real Presence, "Is this the immolation You desire of me, or is the path of greater suffering and sorrow to not be here, and rather that I should suffer in isolation in the confines of my little fixer-upper?" I asked if I was to remain for Mass there, that He would inspire any one of the human stones to indicate by any motion or sign of warmth or joy in being there. After all, we are bodily inches from one another awaiting the supernal feast, the Mass with all seven Sacraments present as well as the reality of His Living Word. Where are our souls in His and our humanity as well as spirit?
I knew this would be my answer to remain or to depart. There was no warmth of life. I departed. I passed the priest on my way out, as he waits until the very last to come out of his office, away from his desk where he keeps thick volumes of poetry of such I had read in my undergraduate English Literature days. I wondered if he would speak, smile, or show any sign of recognition that a human person with a soul was passing him in the vestibule. Nothing.
It was as well to return to a sacrifice of mass in my little mess here, filled with overwhelming manual labor of which my pained body is barely capable of completing. I stopped at the bank in the village, first, and the tellers and assistant manager immediately waved, greeted, and offered a cookie and coffee. I was the only customer in the bank, and it struck me how the quiet other than the verbal greetings, was filled with holy, human kindness and warmth.
It struck me how the carpet and the walls of the small bank reminded me of the Catholic church chapel. The wood counter behind which two smiling tellers stood, each one offering that I could come to their window, eager to assist in my financial sustenance and need. It reminded me of an alter behind which a priest ought stand, welcoming and happy to have human souls come to be served and filled with His Real Presence, to be shown the portal of life sustenance through which all souls will eventually pass into eternity.
But how different the two and seemingly cross-purposed. The bank was more a chapel, more filled with His Real Presence in essence, than the chapel with the unwelcoming, wary Catholics and the detached, aloof, unhappy priest.
I declined the packaged-type cookie at the bank but helped myself to a cup of coffee and headed back to Te Deum House. I spent most of the day in bed, trying to assimilate the 30 years of much suffering from the split second of drunk teen hitting our car, as well as the 19th anniversary of my confirmation as a Catholic and the added 19 years of much suffering from those who have had such difficulty accepting and utilizing for good, one such as me.
By evening I was able to do some watering and planted a handful more perennials I had found on clearance on my way back to my Patmos from three days of helping out the one daughter who has remained in contact with her mother. I was watching a grandson while the parents worked, and it was there that the pain siege began. I praise His Real Presence for getting me safely back to this Patmos despite the grinding pain.
I will call my spiritual father and ask of him: Is the path of greater suffering, is the immolation more to remain away from the sad and stony Catholics and a tabernacle seemingly devoid of His Real Presence? Or is it for me to continue to insert myself among those most uncomfortable with my human presence, which it seems to me nothing more than my causing them consternation and occasions of sin?
To me, the isolation of removal and having to face the reality of the dearth in that parish and the priest who has not fallen in love with his vocation, which represents the mindset of so many Catholics I have met, is excruciating suffering and profound immolation. I will wait to hear what the spiritual father opines. He sometimes says he does not know but usually comes up with an idea or solution.
I'm not at all sure that His Real Presence actually intends all this suffering, particularly the suffering in the midst of people who one would hope to be filled with His Real Presence in faith, hope, and love. But if He is not in that Tabernacle, and if the shepherd is not in love with his work, that would certainly explain the acres of wasteland and the fearful and unfruitful sheep.
I suppose this is what gets to me the most, however. The oppression I have experienced, the suffocation from within the Church repeatedly, over 19 years, seems to have snuffed the wick within me and broken this my bruised reed. I feel as if I am somehow not doing God's will, not being utilized for good in the Church or elsewhere, not using the many gifts and talents He has given me from birth as well as those developed in life.
I so want to be useful and helpful, to glorify God, to build up His church, to inspire others and bring love to all. I yet have so much love in me, so much love to give. Yet it is not being accepted. I suppose only His Real Presence knows for sure all the reasons why. I have been praying and asking all the more if I am to go out to the Gentiles, where previously in my life the fruit and goodness, the love, was utilized for His glory and the benefit of others, where those who came to worship were happy and alive, warm and receptive to the reality of His Real Presence within souls.
I do not think Jesus wants us to make of His Real Presence, a farce. He is warm, alive, throbbing, pulsating, vibrant, light-smiling even in whatever suffering. A flaming wick He does not snuff. A bruised reed He does not break.
It seems I have been crushed down into the ground by heavy, cold stones and ground into dust from which no remnant of seed remains in which there will be germination and new life.
I consider the young prodigy artist born of a Catholic-reared but fallen-away father and agnostic mother: Akiane. God is utilizing her in her visions and in locutions, to paint images of Himself and of Heaven. The family as a result has converted to Christianity. Not Catholicism, or so I could not find in research, but most likely evangelicalism.
It is Akiane's painting of Jesus that the young boy, Colton who spent extended time in Heaven when he nearly died at age four, that Colton says is the truest image of Jesus, at least of the Jesus he was with. A God-glorifying and faith-filled book and movie about the young boy's experiences, written by his minister dad, has inspired thousands and thousands as to the reality of Heaven and of God.
God is blessing the Gentiles for their faith and their living out of the Gospel message of loving Him above all things and of loving others as oneself. I think the second part of Jesus' greatest commandment, is squelched in many parishes. There may be love of distant others, such as the poor in other countries or those in the soup lines, but where is the love of the person sitting inches next to us? There is acceptance of those who are different physically, but not of the spiritually unique.
One can only surmise, although I have perhaps a clearer estimation, of the horrors that Akiane or Colton would have been put through, and their gifts suffocated, had they been Catholics.
I realize this sounds harsh, but there is truth to it. The truth hurts at times, but it also is necessary if we desire to face ourselves. My experiences may help in understanding why the PEW research shows one in ten Catholics leave the church and not due to doctrinal disputes. Check out the article by Fr. Reese, SJ. It is found online--I believe it was published in the Jesuit paper, NCR(eporter).
God bless HIS REAL PRESENCE in us! Little children, let us love one another for love is of God.