This little booklet is written to encourage the practice of making visits to the Blessed Sacrament and comes at a good time in the run up to the International Eucharistic Congress in June of this year. It is a 21st century update of a booklet written in 1745 by St Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorists. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) used the term transsubstantiation to describe the change that takes place at Mass when the Eucharistic Prayer is said over the bread and wine and they become the body and blood of Jesus. The sacred hosts are preserved in the tabernacle at the Blessed Sacrament chapel both for bringing to the sick and for worship by the faithful.
This booklet contains twenty-eight beautiful meditations and prayer for a short visit. They are engaging and contain a warm and deeply authentic spirituality. The first three are given as “tasters” below.
Fr. Richard Tobin is a native of Rosslare, Co. Wexford and grew up in Dublin. He taught in the Philippines for six years and on his return to Ireland, has been stationed in Dublin, Limerick and Esker. He is currently a member of the Dundalk Redemptorist Community.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Some Eucharistic hymns
119 pp. Redemptorist Communications. Purchase this book online.
If imagination is ‘the creative capacity to picture the world otherwise,’ we can see how necessary it is to keep us going on the journey of life. Without some imagining of a different future we would, in dark times, succumb to apathy or despair.
Born into a troubled, unpeaceful world (which tried to murder him in his infancy), Jesus grew in wisdom, age and grace, experiencing life with ever more intensity and depth. Gradually, a new imagining of how-things-ought-to-be possessed him. His Father had not created the world for it to be dominated by greed, violence and untruth, but by charity, peace and the truth that sets people free.
The term he used to summarise this new vision was the Kingdom of God, that is, a world under the rule of God’s love. Although not capturable in textbook clarity, it was far from being a vague idealism. Jesus spelt it out in action – in healings, forgivings, exorcisings, and in happy gatherings for meals at which all were welcome.
He spelt it out further in his parables – stories of such craft and imagination that they rank among the greatest ever composed.
But the crowning masterpiece of his imagination was the parable-in-action that he created when he performed the first Eucharist at the last supper.
In its original form it is a simple four-part ritual with a few expository words: He took bread, he gave thanks, he broke the bread and gave it to his friends, saying, “This is my Body, given for you.” Then the same with the wine: “This is my Blood, poured out for you. Do this in memory of me.”
In this spare action he gathered up his whole life, his coming death and resurrection, the future life of his Church, and the final destiny of all things.
Ever since, the Church has been ‘doing this’ as he said, repeating his simple ritual but spreading it out in time and spelling it out in further words and actions, so that we may the better absorb, and be absorbed by, its richness and mystery. We humans need time and space to properly experience the deepest realities.
In the ceremony of the Mass the original four-part ritual is still there, structuring the whole. We take bread (Offertory), we give thanks (Eucharistic Prayer), we break the bread and share it (Communion). To prepare ourselves for all this, we first read from the scriptures, to alert ourselves to the love of God that is always active in our world but is particularly concentrated for us in our Eucharistic gathering.
Keeping the Bread of Communion in the tabernacle is a reverent prolonging of the Mass, to give us more time for adoration, thanksgiving, and further prayer. The practice of visiting the Blessed Sacrament has been going on in the Church for hundreds of years. It has been the occasion of countless souls coming to God and being drawn into deep union with him. “Like an eternal noontide,” wrote the Russian poet Osip Mandlestam, “the Eucharist goes on forever.”
Nearly three hundred years ago, St Alphonsus published his book of Visits to the Blessed Sacrament, which became, and remains, a classic of devotional writing.
This present book is offered in continuity with the spirit of that lovely work. May it enable its readers to blossom into prayer as they give their time and their hearts to the One who invites them: “Come to me all you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will refresh you.”
Richard Tobin, CSsR, St Joseph’s, Dundalk, Co Louth
Visit 1 – Jesus looked
God pervades our entire being, body and soul, and our entire being, body and soul, responds to God. Prayer is indeed the raising up of mind and heart to God, but we pray, too, with our bodies – with our feet when we walk to Mass or to Holy Communion or on pilgrimage; with our hands when we hold them out to receive the Body of Christ or to make the Sign of the Cross; with our ears when we listen attentively to the Word of God or to uplifting music or to the lovely sounds of God’s creation – winds blowing, rain falling, waves breaking, birds singing. We pray, too, with our eyes – when we gaze at the crucifix, or a holy picture, or at the symbols and actions of the Mass.
A man in his middle years only discovered real prayer (as he put it) when the priest in Confession gave him as penance to sit in the church for five minutes and simply look at the tabernacle. “After a first few bewildered and unnerving minutes, I let go of my uneasiness and inclination to flee, and found myself face to face…”
St John Vianney, the Curé d’Ars, noticed a man who spent lengthy periods in the parish church, totally still. The Curé ventured to ask him how he spent the time. The man replied simply: “I look at Him and He looks at me.”
Both of these examples recall the Bible’s description of prayer as ‘seeking the face of God.’ ‘It is your face, O Lord, that I seek,’ says Psalm 27. All methods and practices of prayer are intended to lead to this face-to-face awareness. When it happens, we gently lay aside whatever exercises we have been using: they have done their work.
The Gospels frequently tell of Jesus coming face to face with people and looking at them intently. We do well to notice these occasions and to dwell on the intensity and far-reaching consequences of his gaze.
He looked up at the terrified adulterous woman and asked, “Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she replied. “Well, neither do I,” he said. “Off you go now. And don’t sin anymore.”
He looked at Nathaniel under the fig tree and saw him to be a person without guile.
He looked at Peter on their first meeting and said, “You will be called Cephas… the Rock.”
During his trial he looked again at Peter who had just denied him three times. Peter’s heart broke, under this gaze of pure love, and ‘going out he wept bitterly.’
Lord Jesus, here I am in your presence,
Looking at you, and looking for you,
longing for you to look at me
with your compassionate, understanding eyes.
Do not let me shy away from your gaze.
“I am not here to condemn you,” you say to me.
“I died for you. I have given you my body and blood.
Accept my gift and let me see your face, so dear to me.
Yes, I see into your deepest soul,
and know you through and through,
more forgivingly than you know yourself.
As I said to St Angela, ‘it was a joy to suffer for you.
And if I had to, I would do it again.”‘
Lord Jesus Christ,
have mercy on me, a sinner!
Visit 2 – Stillness
All the troubles in the world, said the French philosopher Pascal in the 17th century, come from the fact that we can’t sit still in a room, alone. Nothing in all creation, said Eckhart, the great Dominican theologian in the 14th century, is so like God as stillness.
Earlier yet, God himself said in Psalm 46, ‘Be still and you will know that I am God.’
When you become still, beginning with an alert but comfortable physical posture, things begin to happen.
At first there is usually a delicious letting-go – of tension, of uptightness, of having to hold yourself together.
Then, since we’re not used to relinquishing control, you may become restless, or agitated, or even a little bit afraid. Smile yourself through this stage. What is there to be afraid of?
Settled again, you’ll notice your senses begin to grow sensitive, especially your hearing. Sounds that are there all the time, but that you normally don’t notice, begin to become quite distinct – traffic, a distant voice, the little coughs and shuffles of people around you. A world of sounds, and there are you in the centre of it, breathing calmly, beginning to delight in it all.
Your mind may be still jumpy and scattered. Give it something to focus on, a phrase of prayer that repeats itself over and over within you: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Or, “Lord, here I am.” Or, “Come, Lord, come Lord Jesus.” (Or any prayer that is in tune with your soul and your need).
The stillness deepens and gradually suffuses your being, within and without.
Is this stillness like God, as Eckhart said? It’s all around you (like God), it’s within you (like God), it’s ungraspable (like God), it’s mysterious (like God), it’s healing (like God), it’s peace-giving (like God). We could go on.
And will God keep his promise, ‘Be still and you will know…’? God always does, in God’s good time.
Lord Jesus Christ, you say to me:
“See, I stand at the door and knock.”
So courteous are you, so respectful of my freedom,
so wishful to be in my company.
There are times when I cannot stand myself,
and yet you want to be with me.
How forgiving and how accepting is your love.
It was your custom, the Gospels tell us,
to go off to lonely places to pray,
to be in utter stillness with your Father.
Draw me into that stillness now.
Here in the Blessed Sacrament you are silent and welcoming,
radiating peace and love.
Let your peace wrap me round,
and fill every corner of my being,
stilling my racing thoughts and unquiet feelings.
Help me to become still and come to know – that you are here.
In the stillness may I come to delight in your presence.
You are my Lord and my God forever.
Visit 3 – Here I am – Hineni
Throughout the scriptures, whenever God calls someone for a particular task, God usually calls twice, indicating urgency: Abraham! Abraham! Moses! Moses! Samuel! Samuel! And the response of the chosen one is invariably, “Here I am” — Hineni in Hebrew.
Much is packed into that simple answer. It signifies total readiness and willingness to be at the Lord’s disposal, to do his will at any cost.
This word and attitude is most complete in the response of Mary at the Annunciation: “Look at me! Here I am, the handmaid of the Lord.” Scripture also puts the word on the lips of Jesus when it attributes to him the line from Psalm 40, ‘Here I am! I come to do your will.’
“My food,” Jesus says, “what nourishes my soul, is to do the will of the One who sent me.” Down the centuries, countless souls have discovered the same. In doing — or trying to do — the will of God, our humanity reaches its greatest heights.
We grow only gradually into the attitude and truth of “Here I am.” It is easy to say, but not easy to mean. We find this if we use it as a word of prayer: “Lord, here I am.”
When I begin to say it I am not here at all: I am all over the place, my thoughts and feelings everywhere except here. But I smile at myself and go on quietly repeating, “Lord, here I am,” allowing the phrase to gather me into itself and gradually make me present to the Lord.
The first “Here I am” is not very true, but as I repeat it, it becomes more and more true, and I find myself more and more here, more and more attentive to the Lord.
The Lord, on his part, is totally here for me. “Here I am,” he says to me. “This is my Body given for you. This is my Blood shed for you.”
My Lord and my God, you know what I am made of.
You know the limitations of my mind and heart.
You know how hard it is for me to collect my scattered
thoughts and give you my full and steady attention.
My mind is like a balloon constantly floating up to the clouds
and having to be brought back again and again from its wanderings.
And yet, with all my scatteredness – Here I am!
My wish is to be more and more here as the time of my visit unfolds.
Let the realisation of your presence dawn on me ever more vividly.
Let the mystery of your everlasting love embrace me.
Let the tenderness of your mercy reassure me.
Let the smile of your delight in me brighten the darkness of my soul.
I will say over and over the word you have given me to answer your call:
Lord, here I am! Lord, here I am!
Forgive whatever is sinful in me.
Heal whatever is unhealthy in me.
Calm whatever is agitated in me.
Soften whatever is hard in me
And fill me with your peace.
Lord, here I am.