This is the tabernacle door above the ad orientem altar in my little rectory, which is so tiny that some of the parishioners call it “the hut.” It is a great consolation to be allowed to have a suitable chapel dedicated to our Lord. I know not all priests have this consolation. I think of those unjustly imprisoned by the self-congratulators such as wrongfully convicted and imprisoned Father Gordon MacRae. I think of the priests and bishops faithful to the Church in China being smashed down in labor and reeducation camps. I think of the priests imprisoned by Saudi Arabia because they dared to say Mass in a locked bedroom of a locked apartment.
On this Sunday when most Catholic parishes around the world celebrate the great solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus, Corpus Christi, I bring you a personal confession of a dark and dirty secret. Perhaps it speaks to a bit of insanity on my part, and I’m making myself rather vulnerable to commentary by my fellow priests and those who for mere sport shoot their words of slander at me, but, nevertheless, here goes
When I was a teenager, just 16 years old, and had my driver’s licence, I would take my heap of rust that might politely be called a vehicle, and drove up to another part of Lake Wobegon in my native northern forests. I would park my car behind the beautiful church with its gorgeous German imported (1800s) stained glass windows, and make my way up into the sanctuary with it’s massive hand carved wood ad orientem high altar with it’s moving Calvary scene, take a left into the priest’s sacristy and a right into the little corridor behind the altar that would make its way over to the other work sacristy. But then I would stop halfway across, open a little broom closet door to my right, squeeze myself in to the little space, close the door after me, and rest my head against the wood box that was jutting out into the ever so dark and dirty closet, knowing that an inch away was the glorious tabernacle with the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Prince of the Most Profound Peace, the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception, seated upon His throne, God Most High, shining His mercy upon the universe.
And there I would stay, my little version of being hidden with Christ in God. I mean, what’s a 16 year old know about the spiritual life? I would think about the Trinity, going through, with and in Jesus to our dear Heavenly Father by the fiery love of the Holy Spirit, perhaps thinking I knew some theology but knowing I am missing everything there is to know nonetheless. And there I would stand in my dark and dirty closet, knowing that my dark and dirty soul couldn’t possibly grasp the glory of the Most Blessed Sacrament right next to me, but wanting to be there anyway, close to Jesus, hoping he didn’t mind my boldness, my silliness, my idiocy, my lack of decorum. And there I would recite the Angel’s prayer of reparation for those who do not believe, who do not adore, who do not love Him, Jesus, God’s own Son. Yes, I would also just sit in the pews, but I wanted to be close to Him who is coming to judge the living and the dead and world by fire, hoping that that fire would purge me first of all that which is dark and dirty.
Confession, by the way, is a favorite sacrament, where such intimate joy is to be found. Be not afraid. Any dark and dirty secret, like lack of trust in God, can be revealed before the fiery love of Jesus, even as He brings your heart close to His. That’s a love that all can see, and yet it is also hidden away, a treasure that we carry in our souls, in our hearts, by that grace which will turn to glory, please God, in heaven. Jesus is good and kind. He also has a sense of humor about our little attempts to be close to Him. How silly I was! But, when I pray, I’m like the tiniest little boy playing before Jesus, apologizing that before Him, I just don’t know how to grow up. I’m glad He said something about it being necessary for us to be like little children if we are to enter the Kingdom of the heavens. He is good and kind.
Praised be Jesus! Praised be the Most Blessed Sacrament!