What else is there to do but become a saint?

And how else to become a saint but through the Blessed Sacrament?

Our salvation is our union with Christ in the bosom of the Father. Christ become Sacrament is not the less Christ for His being Sacrament. So our unity with the Blessed Sacrament is, in every way, our salvation.

This Sacrament is the path, the means, the end. Down this path is a most sweet beckoning towards the victimhood of the Host.

Little Nennolina of Rome, Venerable Antonietta Meo, wrote this at six years of age not long before her death:

“Dear Jesus, I want to be always always on Calvary beneath Your cross and also want to be Your lamp that burns day and night before the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.”

She was a lamp indeed – and more than a lamp, for she became a little host, a little sacrament, united with Christ and His victimhood in the bosom of the Father.

Venerable Nennolina, pray for us!

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Christ-Child

There’s nothing to fear from a little baby. Especially not this one. Place your finger in His palm and He’ll wrap His hand around it without a thought for your faults. It’s what babies do, but this baby makes all things new. He’ll make you new. Kiss the child; He’ll kiss you back. Stay there and adore Him, in the company of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the farm animals. A newborn can’t see very far, so you’ll have to get very close. And up very close to this child, there is nothing but peace and innocence, the kind that restores whatever you lost. He brings nothing but healing in His tiny hands, and the radiance of infinite love in His sweet face.

There’s still time

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Jesus is coming soon, but that means Mary and Joseph are looking in at the inn, knocking on the door. Is there room? Is there still time? Advent is not over. There’s still time! There was no room in the inn – but perhaps, one can imagine, what of the innkeeper’s own room? He had the chance to host the King, to gain the Kingdom of Heaven with his hospitality, but to do it he would have had to clear out his room, perhaps sleep outside the door or in the stable, and be a little uncomfortable for a short while.

Joseph is knocking. Mary is heavy with child. Christ wants to be born in your home. The salvation of your soul depends on it. The Kingdom of Heaven is yours to gain, but you just need to be a little hospitable. What sins are there to clear out? What hinders your welcoming?

“I don’t know how to start making room” – St. Joseph is practical, so ask for his help. “I want to regain the longing of Advent” – Holy Mary is burning with a longing beyond all telling, so soon to be fulfilled, so ask for her heart.

What will you see when you prepare properly for Christmas? A Face…

Love

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In addition to my previous post on Our Lady of Guadalupe:

Those eyes of Our Lady…they’re looking off, down, to the side, ever so maternally, and also contemplatively. Just imagine for a moment they turn to you. I don’t know what I’d do; I’d be just utterly struck dumb. She’s so lovely and full of love.

But of course she is looking at you, and at me. We never leave her gaze. Right now the Mother of God, crowned with twelve stars, clothed with incandescent light, is praying for you and beseeching her Son, by all the sufferings, sorrows, and joys of her life, to rescue you from whatever mire you might be in. And He has seen fit to give to her the disposition of all the graces He earned by the sufferings, sorrows, and joys of His own life. She is so near. Call on her and she will guide you ever so gently to Christ, who loves you.

United to Jesus Christ, we become, in Him, adopted children of His Father. United to Jesus Christ, we become, in Him, adopted children of His Mother. She loves you.

Guadalupe: icon of Jesus

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Consider the Virgin of Guadalupe as the icon of Jesus enwombed. He had already dwelt in her by faith and by the singular pouring out of sanctifying grace at her Immaculate Conception, a grace which of course was not just for a moment but permeated her entire being like thick dew for every moment of her existence until the present time. Now he dwelt in her as her Son, soul and divinity, and body and blood that he took from her. He may have been as small as a pea, but He had already saved the world by the obedience of His incarnation.  The sun had gone into the moon, and the moon ought to have burnt up, but no, it was perfectly prepared, and burned without being consumed. It was entirely transparent to the sun within. Look at it and all you see is sunlight. The light surrounding Our Lady of Guadalupe – that’s the sun’s light from her child. How very like to a church tabernacle she is! Or perhaps it’s the other way around.

I want to become that small: small as an embryo, completely dependent on my heavenly Mother for my life and breath. Give me this grace, Holy Mother. I look to you, beautiful Lady of Guadalupe, and adore the Christ within you, and I ask to be drawn into your own loving contemplation whenever I receive Holy Communion.

How can it be that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

As a postscript: Since Christ sanctified human nature in every stage of life as he passed through it, it follows that he sanctified too the hidden childhood of the embryo. He gave dignity to all the children who have died in the womb in their sweet innocence – whether by natural causes or by murder. All of them shall be knit back together with the rest of us at the resurrection of the dead, and then, I think, we will see how much Our Lady of Guadalupe dearly loved them and kept them in her prayers for the sake of her tiny Son.

 

Random thoughts

In today’s OF Gospel, Zacchaeus’ salvation begins with his desire to see who Jesus is. In his seeking, Jesus sees him in turn, and invites himself into Zacchaeus’ house. “If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him.” (John 14:23)

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the icon of Zacchaeus’ salvation. She is the one who, more than all others, sought the face of Jesus. She came as a very young girl to the temple of God – and in return God has come to her and made His abode with her, and through her, mysteriously, He makes His abode with us.

Mgr. Charles Pope has some wise words about the Four Last Things on his blog. He says, and I paraphrase, that we often think that Heaven will correspond to our own idea of personal fulfillment. It doesn’t! If Adam was discontent with Paradise, and Lucifer with Heaven, then we should take care lest we seek happiness apart from God. What is the remedy? It is the Face of Christ. In adoring Him and seeking his Face, like Zacchaeus, we will find that Christ is the one who has come to seek us – and in doing so he changes us completely and makes us fit to enter into His temple.

Christ, be my heaven.

The Lord

I say, “stay with me.” The Lord says, “then stay with Me.”

Ite, missa est. Deo gratias. Linger a little longer as a living tabernacle while the lights are going out and everyone is leaving. This is a gift for you. Look how quickly you enter a desert of silence. Stay silent while Jesus, dissolving within you, brings you into the mysterious communion of the Holy Trinity. Stay here and keep watch.

What about another moment? A few have gone by, now, already a few minutes of moments strung together like rosary beads. Another minute with Jesus. You want to stoke a flame of adoration? Remain longer by the fire. This is what you were born to do: adore. All this sadness for your sins, for others’ sins, for offenses against Jesus – here is where to repair the broken bonds, all of them. The flame will weld you to Jesus. Stay, and console the Lord. Stay, and give thanks. Adore.

Praying well

Fra Angelico, Saint Dominic adoring the Crucifixion. Convento di San Marco, Florence

Before I was Catholic I always wondered how to really pray well. I’d see the spiritual seem to enter into the presence of God and I’d wish I could get that close. I’d close my eyes and raise my hands in a praise song and try to lift my heart up to God. Perhaps I did to an extent. I will mention, also, that I found praying the Scriptures to be the best way back then. It was hard to go wrong with that. It still is! But there was a place deep inside that still thirsted. For me, it was very hard to be still with God. Errant thoughts would come and I thought I’d messed up in some obscure fashion. I had some good models but no saints beyond the first century to follow. Perseverance didn’t come easily when the object of my prayer was not definite.

Then I found Catholicism, and I was returned to sanctifying grace. Initially a highly intellectual journey, my heart gradually found anchors, and one night – all night, really – I found myself in front of the exposed Host in a golden sunburst monstrance, looking at the Sun to Whom my life belonged.

I couldn’t stop looking. “My Lord and my God!” ran through my mind repeatedly. At other points I meditated on all my life until now leading to this moment, or on mysteries of the Rosary. However, what gave me great peace was that I didn’t have to specifically think thoughts so much as fix my eyes on Jesus. I’d found the secret, to me at least, of praying well. I forced my eyes to stay open as the night wore on, because I could not possibly be doing anything better with my life right then than to adore, adore, adore. And thanks be to God, it was far simpler than I had ever feared.

As I continue down the pilgrimage of Catholic life, I’ve come to understand a little bit more about other kinds of prayer. But for me, what I love best is that simple gazing with Christ Himself as the object. And I know that Christ Himself is gazing back.

The Beatific Vision consists of beholding the Face of God unveiled. Adoration is a foretaste. With St. Ambrose, I pray and give thanks:

Face to face,
Thou hast made thyself known to me, O Christ;
I have found thee in thy mysteries.

Night adoration

Here’s a little corner of my room. At night, the construction next door quiets. So does my mind. It’s easy to spend that time before sleep on the introspection and worry that accompany the silence – or on distracting myself from that prospect – but I’d had enough of that. Why not turn my mind outwards towards the King of Love? So I knelt before this little shrine, leaving no light on but the electric candles lighting the Holy Face of Manoppello along with faces from my current roster of heavenly friends and the Pope. And keeping that mysterious gaze from the Holy Face in mind, I transported myself to the chapel where I first encountered Jesus at great length: a humble “chapel of reservation” with glass for walls, a twenty-four hour access code, a back facing the murmuring midnight traffic of a sprawling town, a smattering of chairs, one kneeler, and the only thing that mattered, the One Thing Necessary, Christ hidden in the tabernacle. I prostrated myself before Him as if I were there in person. It was like coming home.

Or, in a sense, it was like getting to work. Leaving myself open for Christ to work in me. Joining Christ as He commenced His great work, the Passion, in the dark garden, and perhaps offering Him some little consolation. Joining others, like Fr. Macrae, when they offer Mass or awaken in the night to flee to Christ’s arms. Working, somehow, for those who left Christ in their despair or who never found Him in the first place, who now lie awake without peace. For these Christ held vigil and died. But for Christ’s mercy I would be there myself, again.

And when my life didn’t turn out how I thought it would, I felt here the impulse to dredge up my list of failures lessen. For in the invisible radiance of His Face I found Him upon Whom my life turns.

Mary, the ideal of the communicant

This tabernacle sits in a side chapel of St. Sulpice in Paris. Here, St. John gives Holy Communion to the Blessed Mother. Think of all that’s going on here. The young priest whom Jesus loved is given God’s mother to be his own at the foot of the Cross, and now he gives Jesus back to her. The sorrowing mother who had received Jesus on behalf of the entire world at the Annunciation in a little embryo and seen Him taken up to Heaven receives Him again in the guise of bread – and still for the salvation of the world. The hands that give her Jesus are Jesus’ own through the priesthood of St. John. The connection between Annunciation and Holy Communion is not lost on us, much less on her. She repeatedly gives her Fiat over and over again. She becomes again and again the perfect tabernacle of God.

And though she has passed through her great trial of suffering at Calvary, it is in union with the Eucharist that she suffers afresh for love of her Son. Whenever her Son in the Blessed Sacrament is desecrated or abandoned, she feels the pain of seeing her Son crucified, and her communion becomes a reparation of love.

So we can ask Mary to help us, and to acquire her spirit of total submission and reparation when we take Holy Communion. For my part, when I go up to receive, it’s still difficult to get my mind around it all, and being in a state of grace does not remove the sense of unworthiness. All I can really do is entrust the communion to the Blessed Mother, give my thanks, and then stop worrying, because she knows best how to receive Him.

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