Hey everyone! I got back from retreat yesterday afternoon. It was amazing! We had talks, Mass Saturday and Sunday, opportunities for adoration twice on Saturday, and time for silence and reflection. The theme was “Holy Eucharist and Carmel.” Our retreat master, Father Francis, who is a priest with the Order of Discalced Carmelites, centered the talks around Our Lord in the Eucharist and the impact He had on the lives and teachings of St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Therese of Lisieux. He also included St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta, as well as the place of the Eucharist in the life of the Church overall.
What struck me most was that in the teaching of St. Teresa of Avila, she states her confusion about people wishing that they could have lived in the time of Jesus. She points out that in the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus is just as present to us now as He was 2,000 years ago. Now, of course we are all taught this, and we believe it when we go to Mass and receive Him, but have you ever really sat down and thought about it, letting it sink in? We have Jesus present to us in the Blessed Sacrament, either exposed in the monstrance or reposed in the tabernacle, all of the time! If we can’t get to daily Mass, we can always go into a church, or (if we are blessed to have a parish with a perpetual adoration chapel), step into a chapel anytime of day, even if just for a few minutes. HE IS THERE! And He wants us to come to Him and bestow us with graces necessary to persevere and obtain our salvation.
St. John of the Cross always made time for the Eucharist in his daily life and he called the reception of the Eucharist “the union of the soul with God” and always felt that life was death, because living was being with God. He also encourages us to go beyond the tangible means of praying and communicating with God and entering into what we can’t see, namely, Jesus’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. Our faith is expressed most in this way precisely because we are believing in what we can’t see. St. Therese of Lisieux echoes St. John’s teaching by calling the Eucharist “the necessary means to achieve union with God” because it is God Himself Who is entering into our souls. We allow ourselves to be “eaten by Him” just as we are consuming Him. He desires to find our souls to be like “another heaven.” St. John Paul II says that we should not just receive Jesus, but contemplate Him and His descending in order to be united with us. How can we further enhance our reception of Communion and really make an effort to enter into this mystery and welcome Him into our souls?
Going back to St. Teresa of Avila, Father Francis told us a story of a vision she had during Holy Mass where demons were around the neck of the priest during the Consecration. God showed her this vision to make her understand the power that the words of consecration have and the mercy of God in deigning to come down and give us Himself despite the state of the priest’s soul. Although this was the message, I couldn’t help but think that it also shows us how much we must pray for our priests! They are the guardians and handlers of the Body and Blood of Christ and our teachers in the spiritual life. Let us all pray fervently for them, that they may be diligent in guarding against ending up in this state, particularly during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It may not matter for the faithful who receive, but would be a great tragedy for the priest himself if he stood in persona Christi while in this state.
St. Teresa of Calcutta points out that the Eucharist and serving Jesus in our neighbor, particularly the poor, are closely connected. By receiving Jesus and spending time with Him in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, we receive the strength and graces necessary to carry out this duty. St. John Paul II tells us that the Church draws Her very life from the Eucharist. Yes, at this retreat we stressed the importance of It in Carmelite life, but only because we are secular members of the Carmelite Order. In our catechism, we are taught that the Eucharist is the source and summit of ALL life. Period. Therefore, no matter what our vocation and state in life, let us always look to the Eucharist for our foundation and the strength we need to serve God and others.