... and what your parish can do, too.
My parish, like so many others, is closing its doors to Masses available to the public for the time being. We are just one of countless parishes with a good and devout pastor, warm parishioners, strong fellowship, and a choir that would make even the most grudging attendee want to join in song! There are faith-filled ministries and people who go out of their way for each other. It’s hard to part company with these friends for the coming weeks. But the hardest thing for all of us to part with, from our church to yours? Being in the Real Presence of Jesus and receiving Our Eucharistic Lord at our parish home.
While we understand the decision of our dioceses that suspend all Masses up to and including Holy Week and Easter, so many of us who find ourselves in this situation deeply miss receiving the Eucharist. While it’s deemed imperative and potentially life-saving for all who can to remain home-bound and “flatten the curve,” our parish came up with a concrete gesture of love to the Blessed Sacrament. This idea: “Letters to the Real Presence,” a small gesture of love we parishioners might perform as a proactive way of visiting Our Lord in the Eucharist, of physically keeping him company somehow, even as we cannot be there in person to receive Him.
The plan: as a little act of love, ask parishioners to send cards and letters to the Real Presence, care of our pastor. This way, Our Eucharistic Lord, who deserves every bit of adoration we can lavish upon Him, will feel our company this Lent by seeing letters pour in to be placed in front of the tabernacle during this time when, out of necessity, the Blessed Sacrament has been kept from us. This is a visual, concrete reminder of our longing for the Eucharist. Our priests can keep Our Lord company in the way that none of the rest of us can, now. But at least the laity can flood Our Eucharistic Lord with reminders of our love, our prayer intentions, our “I miss visiting you” cards. Perhaps our notes can symbolically keep him company in Gethsemane, a physical reminder of the way our prayers are meant to stay close to Him.
It might be a small thing, but Mother Teresa told us to “do small things with great love.” And best of all, it’s a way to involve the laity, and our children, in a concrete action to express the pining we feel for our Lord. Let us hunger and thirst for Him, let us feel it so strongly it makes us appreciate the return to the Eucharist like never before … but let’s take the opportunity to express it in a way we won’t soon forget.
We want to make our good fathers, our priests, who miss their flock, smile as the cards and letters and even family photographs of the faithful come pouring in. As the letters, notes, and cards arrive at the church, they are gathered by the pastor and put in a large basket on the altar, near the tabernacle. Placed before our Lord, it’s our way for our humble parish to decorate our church this Lent and leading up to Holy Week, an outpouring of love and longing. It unites us together in a visible, tangible way. Perhaps our letters might still be there upon our return to church! That would be awesome, actually. What a reunion!
We wouldn’t want to leave a friend or family member alone for weeks without a note. How much more we should want to keep Jesus company — not just in prayer but with some gesture. It may be to Our Lord as simple as a a child’s stick figure picture drawn in love is to its mother and father. But hopefully, it will be as welcome and endearing to Jesus as that child’s note is to us. Plus, it gives us a chance to reflect on our longing for the Eucharist and to write down those devotional thoughts and feelings. It can be any outpouring you write prayerfully or the simplest and briefest of messages, such as this sample: “Dear Eucharistic Lord, I love you and long to receive you soon. Know that I will stay near you in prayer wherever I am, but I am glad that this little gift of my letter will physically draw close to you. Please know my heart goes with it. And when I return to Mass, I will be ever more grateful to receive your Real Presence.” Humbly, Parishioner Name Here
If this idea, “Petitions and Praise: Letters to the Real Presence,” touches your heart, please share this everywhere you can so that the idea might spread. Please share with your pastor and parish community so your church might join in. For indeed, what an outpouring of love and longing our Eucharistic Lord deserves! Our pastor is filming the private Mass being offered at our church each Sunday, and parishioners can see the basket with their letters is present even when they themselves cannot be; in this unprecedented time. And so, our church may be empty of people to sit in the pews or light candles… but they are not empty of love or of meaningful decoration! What a way to show we truly believe Jesus is really there: body, soul and divinity… in that tabernacle! What a way to show we long to keep Him company.
May this time for all of us be a call to action, a way to wake up to remember how the Real Presence in the Eucharist desires our companionship… here’s one small way to remember it. But St. Therese of Lisieux taught us all to “remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you can do in love.”
May you and your family be held in His Eucharistic Love!