Praised be Jesus Christ, and Mary, His Most Holy Mother! This week we continue our meditation on the Most Blessed Sacrament.
In a small work entitled Genuflection before the Most Blessed Sacrament, the well-known writer, Gaume, writes:
“You are well acquainted with the Most Reverend Mermillod (Cardinal Gaspard Mermillod, bishop of Lausanne and Geneva, Switzerland from 1883 to 1891), that saintly Archbishop and eloquent apostle. He told me that while he was still vicar at Geneva he converted a Protestant without knowing it, by merely making a genuflection reverently before the Most Blessed Sacrament.
“He had the pious custom of paying a last visit to the Most Blessed Sacrament in order to attend to the perpetual light (sanctuary lamp) and to see if the doors were locked and to assure himself that no one was hidden in the church, for he feared that a sacrilegious robbery (of the Holy Eucharist by anti-Catholics or devil-worshippers) might be committed. When he had carefully looked after everything, he knelt on the altar steps for a short time, after which he made a reverent genuflection, kissed the floor as a sign of profound reverence before the Most Holy Sacrament and then returned home.
“One evening, believing himself to be alone in church, he finished his devotions as usual. Upon rising from his knees, he was startled by a noise. Suddenly the door of a confessional opened and a very distinguished lady came forth. ‘What are you doing here at this hour, Lady?’ asked Mermillod.
“‘I am a Protestant, as you know,’ she answered. ‘I have been present at the sermons you have given during Lent on the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. Your arguments have convinced me of the truth of this doctrine. Only one doubt remained, and that was – pardon me for saying it – does he himself believe what he says? I wished to see if, when alone or in secret, you would conduct yourself before the Holy Eucharist as one who believes in It, and I had firmly resolved to be converted if your conduct corresponded to your words. I came, I have seen, I believe…’
“This lady became one of the most zealous Catholics of Geneva.”
(From the booklet “The Holy Eucharist Our All” by Rev. Lucas Etlin, O.S.B. [1864-1927] TAN Publishing; re-published 1999.)
From time to time I sadly hear of Catholics who leave the Church for “Bible” churches, “Born Again” churches, or Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, and many others. You probably know of such individuals yourselves. Whether it is highly entertaining and enthusiastic music, Bible Study, the minister’s preaching or particular community events and involvement, or whatever aspect it may be, they find something(s) that appeals to their senses. What is most sad is that when they do, they leave the Church that out Blessed Lord Himself founded on the rock of Peter, and they leave the Sacraments, most especially the Blessed Eucharist – the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ – who is made present to us in the Sacrifice of the Altar by a validly ordained Priest at Holy Mass.
To walk away from the Catholic Church and Christ in The Most Blessed Sacrament for another faith community either means that one is formally rejecting Him, or most likely never really believed in the 'Real Presence'; for if one did...how could anyone ever leave Him? This is not an effort to criticize other Christians and their love for our Lord, but rather to emphasize the everlasting gift of the Holy Eucharist. For it is not what we have but Who we have present in our lives...and Who, more correctly, has us called us into in His.
The Lord Himself instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. The Holy Eucharist nourishes, sustains and fortifies our souls. What Jesus proclaimed to His Apostles then, He proclaims to us now: "This is my Body... This is my Blood". What Jesus commanded His Apostles then, He commands us to this very day..."Do this in remembrance of me." This "remembrance" is not a symbolic reminiscence of the past but rather an acknowledgement that His Eternal Sacrifice is made present for us every time Holy Mass is offered. We come primarily not to receive or to “get something,” but to give ourselves to Him Who has given Himself for us.
“May the Heart of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament be praised, adored, and loved, with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the Tabernacles of the world; even to the end of time. Amen.”
The woman from Geneva who witnessed the sincere reverence of the unsuspecting priest came to believe. We the Faithful should already have a deep love and belief in the 'Real Presence'. Therefore, with sincere reverence, let us be mindful of Who is before us on the altar and in the Tabernacle, and genuflect before our loving and living King!
Benedicat Virgo Maria!
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda