I consider St Therese of Lisieux a special spiritual sister. Her childlike relationship with Jesus has taught me the beauty of a life lived with simple love, and this has changed everything for me. I wanted to show her some brotherly devotion by attending the canonization Mass of her parents held in Rome this October 18th. As providence would have it, not only would I be participating from the plaza of St Peter’s, but I would help distribute Communion along with a large number of my Legionary brothers. That meant I got a special blue ticket that could get me just about anywhere, or so they told me.
As an inexperienced country bumpkin from Midwestern America, I tried to just follow the crowd into the basilica. We entered through a restricted side entrance, thanks to my all-powerful blue ticket, and started making our way through the security checkpoints. I was pretty nervous, keeping that ticket in hand in case any accusing eye wondered what I was doing there. I even displayed it in the sacristy as I was looking for the washroom… Talk about up tight. We waited in a vacated St Peter’s basilica for an hour and a half until Mass began, wandering from the tomb of St Peter, to the Pietà, to the tomb of John Paul II, back to the tomb of St Peter, etc, praying, marveling, and blending in with all the bustling cardinals, monsignors, sacristans, and acolytes, there at the heart of the Church.
As Mass was about to start, they led the Eucharistic ministers to their place on the plaza’s sanctuary, right at the top of the steps leading to the basilica. There we waited next to the massive pillars holding up that eternal world-renowned façade, 30 feet from the Holy Father’s chair. Mass began. Pope Francis came out, and we got to watch from our front row seats as he elevated the parents of St Therese to the altar along with two other saints.
Yet the greatest grace was yet to come. During the offertory, we re-entered the basilica and were given the vessels containing previously consecrated hosts. We stood at the entrance of the basilica in 2 long lines for the rest of the Eucharistic prayer until Communion. It is hard to express what it is like to have God Almighty in your hands for that long. To look down at him silent there and press him to your heart. There’s nothing that can compare. There’s nothing you can’t ask. What divine ingenuity that found a way to come so close. Only God could fathom such a gift. There we were, all of us, pressing the Eucharist to our hearts as we heard the muffled voice of the Vicar of Christ continue the Mass in the plaza outside. Words don’t do it justice.
I closed my eyes and pressed him intimately to my heart. Yet this isn’t a once in a lifetime experience for me. In fact, for me, it’s daily. Christ has touched all our hearts in the Eucharist. Every time we receive him we experience this same ineffable gift, this inconceivable union, this divine ingenuity. This day I witnessed it powerfully over and over again in my own hands as I gave him out to faithful of all countries, colors, rites, and languages. But no less powerful is that personal and intimate touch of God, coming into our hearts each time we receive Communion. Never take for granted so great a gift. Let Christ touch your heart.