Just a year ago, a few friends and I escaped from the biting cold of the night by ducking into a chapel that glowed with the light of a few peaceful candles. We had been taking a merry walk around the woods, talking about things that only teenage Catholics on fire for the Faith would find worth mentioning. It was a beautiful moonlit night; we spent a while rambling in the forests of Princeville, Illinois. It was the first night of our vocations discernment retreat at the Community of Saint John, and we were elated and inspired by the aura of holiness and peace that we had found.
As our eyes became accustomed to the dim flickering lights of the chapel, we noticed a solitary figure standing in front of the altar, facing away from us. Whispered words came to our ears; as we heard them, our knees dropped to the cold stone floor, our hearts singing in awe. Right before our eyes, the celebration of the Eucharist was taking place.
In a little freezing chapel in the midst of farm fields and forests, the greatest Gift came from Heaven to earth.
We felt like intruders, almost. The priest lifted the spotless Host. Although we could not see Father's face, we knew that he completely adored the Eucharistic Lord. He knelt, overcome with love.
How fortunate we were to experience the mystery of a private Mass! How blessed I feel, looking back on the beautiful moment of the Elevation of the Host. In that second, God put a renewed sense of wonder and reverence into my heart. The simple beauty of the chapel, the flickering lights, and the purity and whiteness of the Host shining through the darkness and shadow ~ all of this lends itself beautifully to that moment where the veil that separates Heaven and earth was drawn aside.
But I suppose a challenge might be to love Him even when we do not thrill because there is no beauty, or when it takes effort to love Him. For we know that if a relationship is based on feelings, then it will surely crumble; if I said that I loved Christ because He appeared beautiful in special moments, I would be denying the strength of the cross. When Christ’s passion and death are displaced from the grand equation of the story of salvation, everything becomes futile. We cannot follow Him to the glory of His resurrection without enduring the Cross, for the two are wedded together.
Thomas a Kempis wrote, “Jesus has always had many who love His heavenly kingdom, but few who bear His cross. He has many who desire consolation, but few who care for trial. He finds many to share His table, but few to take part in His fasting. All desire to be happy with Him, few wish to suffer anything for Him. Many follow him to the breaking of the bread, but few to drinking the chalice of His passion. Many revere His miracles, few the cross.”
If your idea of Catholicism is to seek and find the most “feel-good” experiences that you can get, you’re doing it wrong. Very wrong. Love with only joy and without the moments of suffering is pointless, really. The Screwtape Letters say that the troughs and not the peaks are where growth in holiness occurs; it is there that we must strive for what we seek, instead of having placed on a beautiful dish before us.
It is a hard challenge that speaks to every one of us; may we, O Lord, ever embrace your cross as well as your resurrection!
“The most beautiful credo is the one that is pronounced in the hour of darkness” ~ Saint Padre Pio
The sixteen-year-old young lady who goes under the nom-de-plume of Peregrin (variation of Latin for "traveler", "foreigner") is ever searching for the good, true, and beautiful as she journeys back to her true home. She blogs at Traveling Home.