Every Catholic church is a sacred place. Each church is the very House of God because Jesus Christ is really present there in the Tabernacle. Today it appears many Catholics have forgotten this truth.
What about you?…
What is your attitude, dear soul, as you enter the church? Today we often observe people sitting around chatting while they wait for Mass, just as though they were in a coffee shop waiting for their order. Is this correct?
Let us listen to what Blessed Jacinta Marto of Fatima, who saw Our Lady, has to say about this matter. The following episode happened shortly before her death while she was staying in a Catholic orphanage run by religious sisters:
Jacinta spent every possible moment in the chapel kneeling, or when she could no longer kneel, she sat in the choir, her eyes riveted on the tabernacle. But in her ardent love for Jesus, she could not overlook the little discourtesies of visitors. “She saw some people who did not show proper reverence in the chapel,” the Superior mentioned, “and she said to me, ‘My dear Mother, don’t allow that. They must act before the Blessed Sacrament as it is proper. Everyone must be quiet in church; they must not speak. If these poor people knew what is waiting for them!’ I went downstairs to speak to the people who were misbehaving in the chapel, but I did not always have success. When I returned she said, ‘What happened?’ I told her they would not listen. ‘Patience”, she replied, her face showing her sorrow over the irreverences of the people, ‘Our Lady is pleased with you. Will you tell the Cardinal? Yes? Our Lady does not want us to talk in Church.'”
Those are very strong words for a ten-year-old girl; yet they are to be expected since Our Lady Herself had taught her the grave necessity of proper reverence for Our Eucharistic Lord.
And An Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory confirms this testimony:
…those faults which attack Jesus directly, Jesus present in the Tabernacle, are punished with terrible severity in Purgatory. (p.37)
Attention Solely on Our Lord
To make your visit to Our Eucharistic Lord pleasing to Him, your attention must be centered completely on Him alone.
St. Peter Julian Eymard, the 19th century “Apostle of the Eucharist,” instructs:
Watch a saint enter a church. He goes without concerning himself with those who are already there. He concentrates on Our Lord and forgets everything else. In the presence of the Pope we hardly give a thought to cardinals or bishops. And in heaven the saints do not idle away their time honoring one another; to God alone they give all honor and glory. Let us imitate them; Our Lord is the only one in church.
Remain quiet for a moment after you have come into church; silence is the greatest mark of respect, and the first disposition for prayer is respect. Most of our dryness and lack of devotion in prayer is due to our lack of respect for our Lord on entering the church; to our disrespectful posture.
Examples of the Saints
The examples of the Saints can be beneficial. These three are given us by Fr. Stefano Manelli — once an altar boy for St. Padre Pio — in his book Jesus Our Eucharistic Love:
One day, after he [Bl. Contardo Ferrini] entered a church to visit Our Lord, he became so absorbed in adoration, with eyes fixed on the tabernacle, that he took no notice when someone robbed him of the mantle spread over his shoulders. “Not a bolt of lightning could distract her”, it was said of St. Mary Magdalene Postel, because she appeared so recollected and devout when adoring the Blessed Sacrament. On the other hand, once St. Catherine of Sienna happened to raise her eyes toward a person passing by. Because of this distraction of an instant the Saint was so afflicted that she wept for some time exclaiming, “I am a sinner! I am a sinner!”
Today, many think bodily posture is unimportant and thus they assume the most casual and relaxed posture in prayer. St. Peter Julian Eymard teaches otherwise:
You owe Our Lord exterior respect, which is the prayer of the body. Nothing helps so much the prayer of the soul…. He [Jesus Christ] gave us the example of exterior worship by praying on his knees; tradition tells us He prayed with arms outstretched in the form of a cross and lifted up to heaven. The Apostles have handed down to us this manner of praying; the priest uses it during the Holy Sacrifice….Our piety is agonizing because we lack this external respect. I know that we should not tremble with fear before God, nor be afraid to come into his presence; but, on the other hand, neither should we seem to be despising him.This same Saint goes on to say:
An austere posture helps us to pray better; but we refuse this help in order to satisfy our sensuality. We imagine we are tired; how often our imagination deceives us! … And even supposing that we are really tired, why are we so afraid of suffering, which gives wings to prayer? We should at least have even then, a becoming and grave posture. Let the lay people sit down if they are tired, but in a becoming manner; they should not slouch in their seats. Let them not take any position that would tend to weaken the soul’s energy and render it unfit for prayer. We religious, however, should remain on our knees; that is the correct position for an adorer.
In our own times, Pope Benedict XVI — while still the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — made it clear:
It may well be that kneeling is alien to modern culture — insofar as it is a culture, for this culture has turned away from the faith and no longer knows the One before whom kneeling is the right, indeed the intrinsically necessary gesture. The man who learns to believe learns also to kneel, and a faith or a liturgy no longer familiar with kneeling would be sick at the core. Where it has been lost, kneeling must be rediscovered, so that, in our prayer, we remain in fellowship with the apostles and martyrs, in fellowship with the whole cosmos,indeed in union with Jesus Christ Himself.
Jesus’ Eucharistic Heart Suffers and wants to be Consoled
Blessed Dina Bélanger of Québec (d. 1929) understood well Our Lord’s plight in the Holy Eucharist because of the offenses of ungrateful men. She states in her autobiography:
Jesus is seeking souls to console Him. His Eucharistic Heart is suffering. Oh! How it is suffering…! He desires souls that are totally abandoned to his Love; sensitive souls that not only refuse Him nothing, but seize eagerly upon every opportunity to give Him pleasure, who anticipate his desires and surround Him with attentions, small in themselves yet very great because of the love that prompts them; souls that offer Him all those trifles that his Goodness scatters through each moment of an entire day, those thousands of trivia that, fragrant with pure love, are like a brilliant bouquet of roses.Jesus is suffering… How few souls understand the complaint of his Heart in the tabernacle…! Some hear them; very few, alas, understand them!”
How much disrespect and irreverence is shown to Our Lord in our times in his churches. The importance of reverential silence, of keeping one’s attention solely on Our Eucharistic Lord and of exterior, bodily respect has been almost completely forgotten. Be aware that Our Lord, always meek and humble, became severe with the moneychangers in the Temple. Why? They were desecrating the House of God. Scripture says: “The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up.” (Jn. 2:17) And again: “…if any man violate the Temple of God, him God shall destroy.” (1 Cor. 3:17)
Always take great care then to visit Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament often, and to do so with the greatest respect. His Eucharistic Heart is burning with desire to pour out graces lavishly on those who do. St. Alphonsus Liguori promises: “You may be sure that of all the moments of your life, the time you spend before the Divine Sacrament will be that which will give you more strength during life and more consolation at the hour of your death and during eternity.”
When Receiving Holy Communion?
Many are aware that it was Pope St. Pius X who encouraged frequent and even daily Holy Communion. Few, it seems, are aware that along with this he also stated that “assiduous preparation should precede and suitable thanksgiving should follow Holy Communion.” The Minutes Following Holy Communion
The following excerpts from Fr. Manelli’s book on the Holy Eucharist (mentioned earlier) should draw your attention to the importance of taking great care to make good Communions:
“The minutes that follow Communion”, St. Mary Magdalene dé Pazzi said, “are the most precious we have in our lives. They are minutes best suited on our part for treating with God, and on his part for communicating His Love to us.”
And Fr. Manelli cautions:
“How insensitive… for someone to receive Communion and leave the Church at once as soon as Mass is over, or as soon as he has received our Lord! We may remember the example of St. Philip Neri, who had two altar boys with lighted candles go to accompany a man who had left the church right after his Communion. What a beautiful lesson! For the sake of good manners, if for no other reason, when a person receives a guest he pauses to give his attention to him and takes interest in him. If this guest is Jesus then we will only have reason to be sorry that his bodily presence within us scarcely lasts fifteen minutes or a little more….
“…oh how we should watch ourselves here! For if it is true that of every Communion Jesus ‘gives us a hundredfold for the hospitality we show Him’, as St. Teresa of Jesus declares, then it is also true we must answer a hundredfold for neglecting this hospitality.”
All these words should fill you with a holy fear, moving you to follow Fr. Manelli’s advice and: “…resolve to do everything possible so
that thanksgiving after Holy Communion lasts at least 15 minutes and nothing takes precedence over it. These minutes in which Jesus is physically present in our souls and within our bodies are heavenly minutes in no wise to be wasted.”
Then again, endeavor to move beyond fear. Rather, motivated by your love for Jesus and by your desire to please Him, you will make this resolution and always give your Jesus these 15 minutes — and perhaps more. For as St. Alphonsus Liguori has said: “Alas! A quarter of an hour is too little.”
Certainly there can be times when real necessity may keep you from fully observing these 15 minutes, but be careful. St. Pio Pietralcina, on hearing a penitent confess omitting his thanksgiving because of “some ministry,” sternly remarked: “Let us see to it that our being unable is not just being unwilling. I always have to make my thanksgiving; otherwise I pay dearly.”
How To Make Your Thanksgiving
You have seen the importance of making a lengthy thanksgiving after receiving Jesus Holy Communion, but what should transpire between Jesus and the soul in these treasured moments, and how should this time be spent? Fr. Manelli tells us:
The time of thanksgiving after Holy Communion is the most ideal time for an intimate exchange of love with Jesus. Let it be a love of total self- giving, thus returning Jesus’ love so whole-heartedly that there is no longer two of us but one, so to speak, in soul and body. Let it be a love that vivifies and unites — He in me and I in Him, so that we may be consumed in the unity and uniqueness of His love.
…In truth, in Eucharistic Communion rightly received, the soul realizes, in a heavenly virginal union, a nuptial love for the Spouse, Jesus…The Saints all agree that thanksgiving after Holy Communion should begin with silent adoration. St. Louis de Montfort suggests:
After Communion while you are interiorly recollected, introduce Jesus into the Heart of Mary. There give Him to his Mother. She will receive Him lovingly, will adore Him profoundly and will render to Him in spirit and in truth many honors which we cannot render Him because of our deep ignorance. … Keep yourself profoundly humbled in your heart, in the presence of Jesus in Mary.
And St. Peter Julian Eymard suggests:
Having received Jesus and enthroned Him in your heart, remain quiet for a moment, not praying in words, but resting in silent adoration; like Zacheus, like Magdalen, prostrate yourself in spirit with the most holy Virgin at the feet of Jesus; contemplate Him, filled with wonder at the sight of
Proclaim Him King of your heart, Spouse of your soul, and hearken to his voice. … Say to Him: “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.”
Lay your heart at the feet of the heavenly King. … Offer your will… consecrate all your senses to His divine service.
Bind your intelligence to his throne that it may nevermore go astray; or rather, lay it beneath His feet that He may press forth therefrom all pride and vanity.
Do not disturb your soul so long as it is recollected, at peace in the presence of the Lord; in this gentle slumber on the Heart of Jesus, it receives grace which nourishes it, unites it most sweetly to its Beloved, and profits it more than any other spiritual exercise.
When this moment is passed, begin your thanksgiving. …”
Remain in intimate union with Jesus for at least 15 minutes. Use formulated prayers, prayers from your heart, or remain in silence with your Divine Guest. Then, before leaving, recite the Magnificat in union with Mary. Tradition tells us that She repeated this prayer each time She received Our Lord.
Preparation Before Holy Communion
Besides making a lengthy and devout thanksgiving, proper preparation is necessary to insure that your soul has the best dispositions at the moment of reception. St. Peter Julian Eymard teaches us that the most important disposition for making a good Communion (after that of being in a state of Sanctifying Grace) is desire. Listen to his words:
The necessary and essential condition for Communion is the state of grace. Virtue and piety are advisable, but good will and an ardent desire may take their place. Unfortunately, people often go to Communion half- heartedly and with a very faint idea of what they are receiving. Therefore, that we may avoid this fault, let us consider, among the conditions suitable for Communion the one that is first and most important in securing to us the fruit of the Holy Eucharist; that is, desire….
This hunger for Communion God Himself must place in our hearts, else we should never wish to receive Him. …
Man lives by desire, seeking nothing, undertaking nothing of moment but what he has long desired. Well, a divine desire urges us to receive Communion, a desire so strong that it gives us courage to approach the Judge of heaven and earth without dying of fear. This hunger for God excuses our temerity. Surely, the poor unfortunate who takes a loaf of bread in order not to starve to death is not a thief; his need excuses him….
The true reason then, for receiving Communion is the hunger one feels for it. … If you are not growing spiritually, if you are not becoming stronger, you are not eating enough, or else you are eating without appetite. Arouse yourself, recognize your need at any rate, even if you cannot feel the hunger of love.
St. Francis de Sales gives this advice to the laity in making their preparation for Holy Communion:
Begin your preparation for Holy Communion on the evening before by many loving aspirations and transports and retire a little earlier so that you may rise earlier in the morning. If you awake during the night, immediately fill your heart and mouth with words redolent of love by which your soul will be perfumed to receive its Spouse. Since He is awake even while you sleep, He is prepared to bring you countless graces and favors if on your part you are ready to receive them. In the morning get up with great joy because of the Happiness you hope for.
Once in Church, before Holy Mass begins, continue your preparation with fervent Acts of Contrition, Humility, Faith, Hope, Love and Desire.