Someone asked me quite seriously the other day, “What do you personally get out of Adoration?”
It was a question that gave me pause. How do I explain? If you already accept the belief that the consecrated Host is in fact Jesus Christ, it seems plain to me that you would immediately settle yourself with the certainty that you are in Jesus’s presence, and nothing else would matter. I have to go back a bit, because I wasn’t always one hundred percent convinced; it took knowing a fantastic priest to get me there.
I am a cradle Catholic (to use an over-used phrase); I am, I suppose, somewhat inculturated to Catholicism. I took a rather long break in my twenties and reverted in my thirties, and now at this point in my life, I look at it as either accepting it, part and parcel, the whole kaboodle, the entire package, or accepting none. I choose all.
In making that choice (although I don’t consider it a choice, as such, when there is nothing significant or of use to choose from–one might as well choose a lump of stone if one is hungry, or to clothe oneself in fire if one is naked), there is the reality of Christ proclaiming “This is my Body,” and “This is my Blood.” Therefore, if Christ is who He says He is, the Eucharist is what He says it is, and I’m content.
However, I also know that as a human being, I suffer from a dense intelligence and benighted knowledge, or however St. Thomas Aquinas puts it. I know I do not have the wherewithal on my own to simply will myself into believing a wafer is the Son of God incarnate; I must ask for the grace to believe. And in asking “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief,” I am perforce strengthened. It is a mystery; however, when discussing this with poor souls who want concrete evidence and mystic experience and descending angels, I find they usually are not satisfied with “It is a Mystery.”
The priest I know for whom the Presence of Jesus is as necessary as breathing taught me to rest in silence before the Blessed Sacrament and to expect the unexpected. Many times, if we’re honest, we don’t REALLY want Jesus to be manifest to us, either in the species of bread or in the flesh; given the choice, the priest says most people are incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of Jesus, Our Lord and Savior, plonked down right in front of us. And yet, if you believe in the Real Presence, that is exactly what occurs. A Protestant once told him he didn’t think he believed that WE believed in the Real Presence, because if Jesus was really there in the room (even disguised as a wafer in a monstrance), he would never ever want to leave him. I believe St. Jean Vianney would concur.
Adoration, for me, is often (not always) somewhat like opening the Ark of the Covenant. I don’t mean there’s a floor show or melting Nazis; on the contrary, it’s usually silent, with the exception of bodily noises and often a feeling of being a complete clod creaking away on the pew. There is, however, a moment where the conversation gets intense. It becomes very much Me and Thee, and usually whatever complaints or hurts or disappointments I bring before Him are completely blasted away. If you’ve attempted Adoration in the past and had an unfruitful experience, I’d suggest attempting it again, this time without preconceived notions of what you should experience, and rather–just sit with Jesus. Wait for Him to speak. Consider Whom it is you go before; imagine it is your Judgement; imagine it is your moment to talk to Christ. If you had the chance, what would you say? Say it now! Consider too that even if He never makes His Presence known, even if you do not feel something, that you are still in the Presence of your Lord and Savior–and wait for that to settle in.
I’m not a very good apologist. I can’t speak from theology or offer scientific proofs or rebuttals to atheist challenges. What I’d rather do is speak from personal experience in my limited way and encourage others already on their journey to continue forward, to seek Christ in all things, and to never lose sight of His love.
Melissa Johnson is a regular Catholic Link author. This article was first published in her blog, which you can find here.