I recently visited the Boston area to bury my mother, who passed away in October. On the Sunday morning of her memorial reception, I attended Mass in a suburb.
When I went to the parish nearest where I was staying, I could not find the tabernacle. I had no idea in what direction to genuflect when I took my seat. It was only after the Consecration, when someone went into a darkened chapel along the side to get some of the reserved Sacrament, that I saw where it He was.
At the end of Mass, I went to the darkened chapel to pray the Rosary before the Tabernacle and poured out my gratitude for Christ’s physical presence there.
I used to go to pray in non-Catholic churches. Back during an immensely difficult trial when I was in my late 20s, I would go to a little Anglican Church in Bear River, Nova Scotia, that used to be left unlocked (until vandals broke one of the beautiful stained glass windows). There I would pray, wrestling like Jacob with the angel, until God replaced the anguish and turmoil I was experiencing with His peace. If it took two hours, I would not taking “No’ for an answer to my pleas for help. And God was always faithful.
But now, I wonder if I could do that now, that is, to go inside any Christian church to pray. Well, I suppose I could, but it would not be much different from praying in my living room before my icons.
Even if the Catholic church building was shaped like a spaceship, vs. a beautiful building glorifying God that tabernacle light would make all the difference, even if Our Lord was banished to a hidden corner or separate chapel.
A friend sent me a link to this article published earlier this year at The Catholic Herald about what surprised Cardinal John Henry Newman after he became a Catholic. It certainly resonated. Fr. Ian Ker writes:
And so it was that the feature of his new religious life as a Catholic that most struck him came as a complete surprise – namely, the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in Catholic churches. He wrote in a letter to a close friend, herself about to become a Catholic a few months later:
We went over not realising those privileges which we have found by going. I never allowed my mind to dwell on what I might gain of blessedness – but certainly, if I had thought much upon it, I could not have fancied the extreme, ineffable comfort of being in the same house with Him who cured the sick and taught His disciples … When I have been in Churches abroad, I have religiously abstained from acts of worship, though it was a most soothing comfort to go into them – nor did I know what was going on; I neither understood nor tried to understand the Mass service – and I did not know, or did not observe, the tabernacle Lamp – but now after tasting of the awful delight of worshipping God in His Temple, how unspeakably cold is the idea of a Temple without that Divine Presence! One is tempted to say what is the meaning, what is the use of it?
Go on over and read the rest. Lovely!