October 6, 2010

Pro-Tected

In religious life it becomes critical to notice and remind ourselves of the spiritual gifts and privileges our daily life. I have found that I must be careful to rekindle my own appreciation and gratitude for these graces, lest I take them lightly and my spiritual life become insipid.

For example, these lines from The Seven Storey Mountain have struck me ever since I first read them:

"If I could not wear the religious habit, I would at least join a Third Order and would try my best to get a job teaching at some Catholic College where I could live under the same roof as the Blessed Sacrament."

To live under the same roof as the Blessed Sacrament. I remember thinking about that as I went to sleep after my first day of religious life. What a privilege it was! The Lord in his mysterious Presence was no longer Someone I had to go visit. He was right downstairs, waiting for me who was now happily without excuse for any failure to visit.

After ten years of sharing a home with the Blessed Sacrament, however, it's easy to take it all for granted. Here's the tabernacle, which we have just like we have a microwave or a TV. I know that it's shocking, but it's easy to slip into such an insensitivity. I remember the first time I saw a religious pass in front of the Blessed Sacrament without making any reverence, either the genuflection we make in the Roman rite, or the bow that seems to be substituted for it (by what justification, I don't know) in religious life. I was totally shocked. After these years, I don't even pay attention to such things. Sometimes I don't even reproach myself appropriately when, in my own distraction, I do it myself.

This is why I have found it vitally important for my own religious life to constantly remind myself of the great spiritual supports and privileges of this life. They hold me up. There was one of the old friars who used to ask me how I was each day. I would say, "Thanks to your prayers, Father, I'm still slightly above spiritual ruin." Silly, for sure, but there's some truth to it. In religious life, whether you feel like it or whether it seems to mean anything to you that day, you still go to chapel and recite the Divine Office with the brothers. As much of an unrecollected mess I might be on some days, I still have the privilege of living under the same roof as the Blessed Sacrament, and I can't pretend that his Presence doesn't hold me up. These are deep gifts and spiritual privileges, and like it is with so many things in the spiritual life, my task is to stay grateful and not take them for granted.

4 comments:

Karinann said...

To live under the same roof as the Blessed Sacrament...
I have that privilege whenever I am on retreat or working as a team member on our Rachel's Vineyard retreats. I always sleep better during those privileged and blessed days!
God Bless!

Anonymous said...

One of my fondest memories from Rachel's Vineyard occurred on Saturday night. I went to bed that evening and couldn't fall asleep with everything spinning around in my mind. So at one o'clock in the morning, while everyone else was asleep, I departed my room in my pajamas and just sat down on the floor at the foot of the cross in the chapel. There was solace there alone in the dark emptiness of the chapel. I don't know how long I sat there, but I eventually fell asleep and woke up at peace that morning. There is a part of me that envies a priest's ability to meander into a dark, desolate church and just be alone to camp out with God. You can always find a bar open at one o'clock in the morning, but the Church's doors are locked in fear of vandalism and looters.

Julia said...

That is what first drew me to discern the religious life, the desire of living under the same roof as the Blessed Sacrament.

I remember it was a few months after I first began practicing the Faith (I had been baptized and received first Communion as a child, but not much else). I was going to daily Mass at college and always tried to arrive early to pray. At first it was just five minutes early, then fifteen, twenty... Soon enough I was making it a point to arrive at the chapel ninety minutes before Mass each day to pray, no matter how tired I was or how dry prayer was. And still every day when I was preparing to leave the chapel after making my thanksgiving after Mass, my mind would linger on why I was leaving the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

That's when I realized that maybe something was up. :)

Rachel Gray said...

Excellent advice!

In my parish I always feel encouraged to see others showing signs of reverence. That kind of thing is catching.