Tag Archives: Eucharist

Thoughts Upon The Cross: Speak Life

by Howard Hain

Sandro Botticelli, The Last Communion of Saint Jerome, early 1490s (detail)

Botticelli, “The Last Communion of Saint Jerome”, early 1490s, (detail), The Met


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Heal us.

In the form of bread.

Our tongues like cribs.

You come to rest.

A sacred place.

A mother watches.

A father can hardly believe.

Greatness simply conceived.

Silent.

Yes let us be.

Help us not to speak.

No words can be.

No thoughts except those that flee.

Yes.

Hold our tongues.

Into quiet place.

Stillness.

Let us wait.

Till hear You cry.

A hungry child.

Tucked in for night.

A drop of milk.

In reality blood.

In the form of wine.

The angels sing.

Holiness explodes.

Heaven down to earth.

Saints to and fro.

Blessings forth.

Grace abounds.

The sick are healed.

The blind can see.

The lonely find friends.

Children unwanted?

They finally reach home.

We look.

We see.

We wonder.

How could it be?

It’s Him!

It’s Him.

Right there.

The One nailed to the tree.

Alive again.

Within my mouth.

And at my right hand.

And to the left.

And straight ahead.

And there!

Yes, there too!

In that hopeless situation.

We thought all was lost.

But, no, it’s Him.

He really does care.

And He calls us over.

To Himself.

And yes.

Silence changes forms.

It’s again time to speak.

What else can we do?

The Eternal One.

The Son of Man.

The Conqueror of Strife.

Let us smile at one another.

Let us speak life.


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http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/435728

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Morning Thoughts: Taste and See

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“What does it taste like?”

This is the main question I hear from eight-year-olds who are about to make their First Holy Communion.

At first, I confess, I saw it as quite cute, “childlike” if you will— their little focus on the very obvious—the actual physical experience of eating something—something they have never eaten before.

But once again, the “teacher’ plays the fool. No, not “plays” the fool, in this case the “teacher” is actually the fool.

Grownups can be so busy moving on to the “real” point that they often miss the healthiest part of the meal.

And we think it’s the children who are obsessed with sweets?

———

Of course, I was not the one to correct my own error. The only true teacher, Jesus, and the only true guide, The Holy Spirit, once again came to the rescue.

———

It was about 8:20 on an ordinary weekday morning. I had just left the pew and got in line to receive Communion. And as I walked toward the altar I found myself quietly asking: “What does it taste like?”

There I was, a full-fledged adult, a “mature” believer, in line with all the eight-year olds of the world—though with one great exception—I was probably the only one who lacked sincerity.

Not that I didn’t really wonder what it tastes like. I did. But my “bigness” wouldn’t leave good enough alone. I quickly translated the simple into the complex: “What does it taste like?” became “What is heaven like?”

Not a bad question, of course. But not the one being asked. Once again, I was rushing right to dessert. But not so the eight-year-old. No, the eight-year-old is much more straightforward, sincere, genuine, and ironically, no nonsense. He and she are much more down-to-earth, which in this case, strangely enough, brings them much closer to heaven.

Their question is simply what it seems. They have no hidden pomposity dressed up as profundity. They are simply asking a quite simple question.

“What does it taste like?”

And if there’s any need for more elaboration concerning such a straightforward question, it should only make their point simpler, not more complex. For example, I guess in order to help us adults see more clearly what they mean, perhaps it’s safe to say that the eight-year-old is literally asking: “What does this thing that I am about to put in my mouth, that you tell me is the real, actual body of Jesus Christ, a man who died almost two-thousand years ago, really taste like?”

Good question.

And to allow the eight-year-old in me to answer, I say, it kind of tastes like cardboard.

Good answer.

It’s dry, bland, you might even say, stale.

Kind of what you’d expect, at best, from something two-thousand-years-old.

Kind of what mankind has tasted on a daily basis since the beginning of time, since the time Adam and Eve were sent forth from the garden to work for their daily bread.

Life can be like cardboard.

It can be dry, bland, you might even say, stale.

It can even be what we come to expect.

At least for us adults, for those of us who only take things at face value.

For, you see, the child in his or her utterly face-value question reveals his or her astounding trust and playfulness within the much deeper mystery of what truly exists but cannot be seen. For there is another question, one that eight-year-olds don’t ask nearly as often when it comes to First Holy Communion.

They hardly ever ask: “How can that be?”

They move right past the “how” to get to the “taste and see.

———

No matter the age, what brings sincerity is faith, and what increases faith is sincerity.

Therefore all questions safely asked from under the umbrella of faith are not questions casting doubt.

No, they are genuine gestures of childlike wonder, that simply ask in one way or another:

“What is this faithful reality going to be like for me?”


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“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

—Psalm 34:9


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—Howard Hain

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Friday Thoughts: Short and Simple

tintoretto-christ-washing-the-disciples-feet-1548-49

Tintoretto, “Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet”, 1548-49

 


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Pray, brothers and sisters,

that my sacrifice and yours

may be acceptable to God,

the almighty Father.”


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Tall and handsome.

Big and powerful.

Profound and exciting.

A great adventure starring a great hero.

Doing the dishes.

Just the right combination of hot and cold.

Mostly hot of course.

And the cold, that splash of sobriety is so we don’t get burned.

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ crucified, I commence the dishes…

———

The sponge is important.

It need be clean and effective.

For how can one wash with something dirty?

And yet, even the best is hardly perfect.

After a single use it’s bound to show signs of deterioration.

So you add more soap and hope for the best.

Our Father, who art in heaven…

———

The circular motion of water, upon and around each dish.

Turn, turn, turn…

Rinse, rinse, rinse…

Like the axis of the earth.

The equator slightly tilting back and forth.

Side to side, to ensure proper runoff.

Such a delicate balance.

Then put aside to dry.

Sunlight works best.

Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…”

———

The drain cannot be ignored.

The little netting, catching all sorts of iniquities.

Now very clean hands.

Cleansed thru humility.

The dignity of work.

Reach down.

To grab what has been left below.

The rejected, the unwanted, the forgotten food.

A Eucharistic portion.

Not washed into the drain.

Yet separated from what is considered clean.

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

———

I find two towels work the best.

One, somewhat clean, to wipe down the faucets and the edge of the sink.

The other to dry shriveled-up hands.

And to be hung, upon the little bar.

The one that crosses the oven door.

Awaiting the warmth.

The warmth that bakes our daily bread.

May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.”

———

It is all really very simple.

Short and simple.

He died. We live.

We die. He lives.

One dirty dish at a time.

One Eucharistic encounter at a time.

Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”


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Thanks be to God.”

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—Howard Hain

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Morning Thoughts: Such Small Spaces

 

ingres-madonna-of-the-host

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, “Virgin Adoring the Host” ca. 1850s

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Lord God, how is it You fit in such small spaces?

The Creator of all, the Maker of all things, He who knows every hair on every head—how is it Lord You fit in such small spaces?

The Light of Light, the King of Kings—the Heaven, the Earth, and all their Glory—how is it Lord You fit in such small spaces?

How is it Father that You fit in a cradle?

How is it Lamb of God that You fit in a host?

How is it Author of Life that You fit in a word?

How is it my Lord and my God You fit in such small spaces?


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—Howard Hain

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Friday Thoughts: Acceptance Speech

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Just start walking.

Leave the pew behind.

Everything else falls away.

All that was dead comes to life.

Pastures and valleys. Fields and streams.

Tiny violet flowers on the walls of quarries.

Wood and stone. Water and wine.

Teardrops and smiles.

A poor boy gets in line.

Just a taste. A nibble. A crumb from the table.

But he looks at his clothes.

But it’s all he’s got.

Just keep walking.

You’ve left the pew behind.

Everything else has fallen away.

All that was dead has come to life.

A thorny bush now a fruitful tree.

A man raises his hand:

“The Body of Christ.”

A child opens his mouth:

“Amen.”

A shepherd boy ascends to the throne.


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—Howard Hain

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28th Sunday C: The Gift of Life

 

To listen to this week’s homily, please select the audio file below:

Some years ago, I visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC with a cousin of mine who fought in that war. We were passing along the wall where names of those who were killed in that war were inscribed, when he stopped and pointed to a name.

One day, he said, his artillery unit was ordered to a forward position; he was the officer in charge. Just as he was ready to get into the helicopter, word came that he was wanted for a meeting at headquarters, so he got out of the helicopter and told a junior officer to take over; he would join them as soon as he could.

That day the unit took heavy fire; the name he pointed to on the wall was the officer who took his place.

“Why am I living and he’s not?” That’s a question he keeps asking, he told me. “Why am I alive?”

That’s really the ultimate question in today’s readings. The lepers who were cured by Jesus were facing death. There was no cure for their disease. Leprosy was so frightening then that those affected by it were driven from their homes and families to live in isolated places and forbidden to go near anyone. Jesus gave them the miracle of life.

It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor. Namaan, the Syrian general, whom we read about in our first reading, was one of the most powerful people in the world, but he had leprosy; it was a death sentence. In desperation he went down to Israel looking for a cure, a miracle. Washing in the Jordan River, he received the miracle of life.

The ten lepers were cured, our gospel reading says, but only one was truly thankful. The other nine seem to take the life they were given for granted. Do those nine represent most of us? The one who was thankful was a Samaritan.

Namaan, the Syrian, was also thankful. He went to the prophet Elisha after being cured and offered him gifts. No, the prophet said, life is God’s gift, not mine, and he wouldn’t take anything from the Syrian.

“Then at least let me take some dirt from this place, ‘two mule loads of earth,’” Namaan says, “so that I can take it back with me and  stand on it and remember and give thanks to God for what I have received here. “ He won’t forget the gift of life and how to use it.

That’s the great challenge we all face–not to forget that life is a gift and it’s been given to us by God to live well every moment, each day, as long as God gives it to us.

Our church is a place of thanksgiving. Above all, our church is a place where we give thanks. Our Mass is also called Eucharist, an act of thanksgiving. “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” “It’s truly right and just” that we do this. In this place we remember the God of Life who gives us life. Here too we receive a promise of life beyond this, greater than this, through Jesus Christ.

We have been given the gift of life, a precious gift. Don’t take it for granted. We thank God for it and try with all our strength to live it as we should.

Peaceful Thoughts: A Quiet Nap


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A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

—Mark 4:37-40
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Lord,

Teach me to be kind

Show me how to be gentle

May I always bring peace to each and every situation

May I never do harm

Let me always be merciful

Let me never judge and never condemn

I need you to teach me, to show me, to encourage me to be more like You

With Your help it is possible.

———

I believe in You, Father

I trust in You, Jesus

You, Holy Spirit, I know are always loving me

Please let there be peace

Please let all the world be still

Please let all children hope and dream and know that You are God

The God of Kindness, of Gentleness, of Peace, of Mercy, of Forgiveness…

The God of Absolute and Perfect Love

The God who will never forsake us, whose promises are certain and real…

God, You are Love.

———

Let Your presence calm the waters

For the waves rock and the boat fills

And Noah has already come ashore

You, Lord Jesus, pray upon the mountain, You walk on water, You rest within the storm…

You still all

You question our faith

You tell us to simply ask

You promise that we shall receive more.


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And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

—Luke 17:5


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—Howard Hain

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Friday Thoughts: Being qua Being


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Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.

—Matthew 6:28


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Does a flower make pronouncements? Does it define itself? Does it box itself in with titles, names, and distinctions?

And yet, “not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:29)

———

A flower simply exists.

And its existence glorifies God.

There is no need for it to do more.

By its very existence it magnifies what cannot be further magnified: God’s Presence, God’s Glory, God’s Beauty…

———

“I’m a flower.”

“I’m a rose.”

“Look at me!”

Statements such as these we shall never hear.

Flowers are divinely indifferent to the world’s definitions and distinctions, to its approval and applause.

After all, it’s a person who receives the medal at an orchid show, and not the flower herself. No, her finely-placed petals would only be weighed down by such metallic-based ribbons.

What a gift it is to simply exist.

———

Flowers don’t cling to seasonal life.

When it’s time to go, they gracefully drop their heads and lose their pedals.

Never has there existed a man as poor as a flower.

Never has mankind so possessed the richness of fleeting, transitory, and momentary life.

It’s their genius to instinctively believe that death leads to new abundant life.

———

Flowers graciously receive:

Ladybugs, drops of dew. Beams of light, the relief of shade.

Flowers give and receive as if not a single thing has ever been made by man.

They welcome sun as well as rain.

They never cry over fallen fruit or a stolen piece of pollen.

They quietly applaud instead, rejoicing that their little ones have the opportunity to travel abroad—perhaps even the chance to help nurture a neighbor.

———

A flower, perhaps most of all, knows it place.

It never wishes to be bigger or thinner…greener or higher…it never dreams of being more like a tree.

A flower’s blessing is simplicity beyond you and me.

———

Christ is a flower.

He is the one true perfect eternal flower, through whom all other flowers partake, toward whom all other flowers reach.

Christ is a flower. His ways are not our own. He simply exists. Bowing His head. Dropping pedals. Feeding hungry bees. Giving and receiving. His identity is crucified—leaving nothing behind but being “qua” being.


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If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

—Matthew 6:30


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—Howard Hain
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(Dedicated to Brother Jim, a man who knew how to simply exist.)

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Friday Thoughts: Pray the Mass

Paul Cézanne Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses) 1895-1905

Paul Cezanne, “Bathers” (Les Grandes Baigneuses), 1895-1905 

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“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

—1 Thessalonians 5:17


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Come with me. I love to go. I so love to go. The Mass in its abundant overflow.
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“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16)
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Come with me. It doesn’t matter what language you speak, nor what color skin your flesh happens to wear. Come. Be one with the Lord.

Pray the great prayer of the Church. Pray with sinners like me. Pray with all God’s Angels and Saints.

Pray the Mass. O, how God loves for us to share, to participate in Christ’s salvation of the world!

Living sacrifices. Gifts of bread and wine.

Come. Come. He is so very real. So much love. His Liturgy kisses each individual brow.

Begin your day by adjusting your ear…

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Psalm 95)

Pray the Mass. Live it at home. Hour by hour. Minute by minute. Work through the Mass as you work through your day—knowing that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is being celebrated at every moment throughout the entire world.

———
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“The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.”
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Antiphon to Antiphon. Introductory to Concluding Rites. Let the Mass order your day.

The Sign of the Cross upon opening your eyes.

“Kyrie, eleison…”, as you rise from bed.

A morning shower beneath God’s infinite reign of mercy: “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

Read. Confess. Sing. Proclaim.

Wash the dishes. Run to the store.

Always praise. Yes, always praise: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.”

Head to work. Attend a meeting. Go for a run.

“Alleluia, alleluia”:  The Gospel Acclamation.

It’s almost high noon. Enjoy the Sun. The light of God’s face. Hear the Holy Spirit’s instruction and inspiration for the day. Hold up your wounds, pray in union with God’s Crucified Child…

Offer the Universal Prayer while waiting for the bus…

Intercede for the entire world: the salvation of souls, the conversion of sinners, a unified church, the remembered and forgotten souls in purgatorial fire…

…for the sick, the persecuted, the poor, the imprisoned, the hungry, the thirsty…for every single soul for whom God wills us to pray…

For all the intentions of Jesus’ Most Sacred Heart.

———

“I believe in one God…”

Time for lunch.

Prepare the table. Acknowledge God’s goodness. Accept His gifts:

“By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ…”

Live. Breathe. Be free and at ease.

Let the Eucharistic Prayer flow into the core of your being:

“Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord…”

“…Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts…”

Watch as angels ascend and descend…your gifts borne “by the hands of God’s holy Angel to His altar on high…”

A priest at this very moment lifts the hands of Christ:

“Through him, and with him, and in him…”

———

Afternoon arrives:

“Behold the Lamb of God.”

Ask Jesus to come into your soul. Properly position yourself at the foot of the table:

“Lord, I am not worthy…but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Jesus thirsts to enter. Learn to open wide. Beg God on bended knee. Beg Him for the grace to generously give and graciously receive:

“The Body of Christ.

The Blood of Christ.”

“Amen.

Amen.”

———

Sitting in traffic. Waiting on a call. Wanting to get home.

“Period of silence or song of praise.”

Rest beneath the external chaos, enter the internal peace of the Kingdom that resides deep within. Remember that Jesus—Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity—continues to transform your entire being.

Stop and go. Almost home. Evening approaches.

The prayers the priest says quietly at the altar—pray them too—ceaselessly in the silence of your consecrated heart.

“Lord Jesus Christ…free me by this, your most holy Body and Blood…

…keep me always faithful…never let me be parted from you.”

Park the car. Say hello to a man who’s homeless. Briefly visit a confused elderly neighbor. Prepare to sit peacefully around your kitchen table. Practice patience. Hug and kiss the kids. Allow the joy of Christ to radiate outward from the eternal spring within.

At the close of supper, give great thanks, and call to mind an after-communion prayer:

“What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what has been given to us in time may be our healing for eternity.”

———

Now circle around and approach the end of this blessed day much like the way you began—for somewhere out there—Mass is just about to begin:

“The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.”

Brush your teeth. Prepare to sleep the sleep of a most blessed mystical death. Ask Mother Mary to help you dress for the flight.

“May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

———

Kiss your wife goodnight.

Turn off the lamp.

Close your eyes in God’s perfect peace. The Mass at your right hand. Its liturgical rhythm steadily beating within your sacred heart.

Darkness descends.

“Go forth, the Mass is ended.”

The best is yet to come.

Faith. Hope. Love.

Eternal Life.

And as always: “Thanks be to God.”


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“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…”

—John 3:16


 

—Howard Hain
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(Note: All italicized quotations are from The Order of Mass, unless otherwise indicated.)
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Friday Thoughts: Walled Garden (2)

(Please note: This is part 2 of a piece entitled “Walled Garden”. To read part 1, simply click here: Friday Thoughts: Walled Garden (1))


pissarro orchards at louveciennes 1872

Camille Pissarro, “Orchards at Louveciennes”, 1872

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And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

—John 19:27


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On leaving the convent I came upon the friar I noticed on my way in. The little dog was no longer around. We approached each other as if we had met before. He was kind. He was middle-aged. He was simple. And then the strangest thing occurred. He took me by the arm, the way men stroll in Italy, arm-in-arm, during the evening passeggiata—the evening stroll.

But I had never met this man before.

Yes, it is certainly strange to have an unknown man approach you and link his arm in yours.

He led me toward a dirt path. We strolled. We spoke little. He didn’t speak English and my Italian was tiny. But it was nice. Peaceful. It didn’t feel strange. I only now use that word, for from a somewhat forced “objective” perspective, it seems that it had to be.

He was a man of God. And he saw I was too, before I had any idea God had undeservedly entrusted me with such a gift. The gift of loving God. The gift of wanting Him more than I could ever explain. The gift of being an outcast here in this world of time, a wanderer, a pilgrim, a crusading knight of Lady Poverty—of being—in yet again, some strange kind of way—a lady-in-waiting—patiently and painfully anticipating the exuberant arrival of the one and only eternal groom.


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He brought me to what appeared to be an old foundation. I understood from what few words we exchanged that this was the remains of an abandoned orphanage. And then we began to head back toward whence we came. I remember offering him some bread that I had in my bag, purchased that morning in the city of Assisi up above. He lightly touched his stomach with one hand and shook his head “no”—a kind, polite, gracious, and utterly grateful, “no-thank-you” kind of “no”.

When we arrived at the door of the convent I understood from his gestures that he was inviting me to see something inside. It was clearly something that I had not yet seen. I motioned “yes” and we entered. We climbed a staircase and walked down a hallway. We were in an area not open to the public. The walls revealed its age. And we approached a door. A wooden door. And he unlocked it with an old large skeleton key. He opened the door and motioned for me to go inside, quietly informing me that this is Saint Clare’s cell. I entered and he remained outside. He gently pulled the door closed.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I was safe. I knew I wasn’t locked in. I was pleasantly confused. I looked around. It was small. It was literally a cell. Enclosed. All stone. A low tight arched ceiling. Bright. Dark. Cozy. Warm. Beautiful.

A tabernacle. A womb. A virgin’s womb.


 

At the end of the somewhat rectangular shaped room was a small alter-like shelf. I knelt before it. I have not the slightest recollection of what I prayed.  Of what I thought. Of anything spiritually taking place. I was just there. And I remained a few minutes. And then I left. I opened the door and I was all alone. No friar. I closed the door behind me and made my way back down from where I had come.

It seemed as if nothing extraordinary had happened. It was all so normal. So everyday. Yet it was nothing of the sort. It was extraordinary. It was an encounter. I think. Perhaps.


 

I think of little Mary. Alone in her room. I think of a gentle breeze and the sight of a bowing angel.

“Hail, full of grace…”

What a name, what a title to be given!

Gabriel holding the key that opens the door.

The young, chosen, highly-favored virgin agrees to hear his message, to walk arm-in-arm with him, to accompany him to she knows not where. She agrees to accept God’s invitation.

The Holy Spirit comes upon her simple life, her simple way, her simple manner.

The power of the Most High overshadows her daily existence.

Our Father confirms her trusting posture, her grace-filled instinct to utter the purest of prayers:

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“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38)

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Jesus entered a private, off-limits room. He made His home there.

And He never left.


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“…when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret…”

—Matthew 6:6


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—Howard Hain

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