Lourdes, Communion and My Conversion

Lourdes WaterAlthough I begin each day with prayer and try to keep every day holy, I must confess that I do not go to mass every Sunday. Or even most Sundays. Although I went through a painful annulment process last year, I do not receive communion as often as I should. However, this past Sunday did not begin like other days.

I was in an extreme amount of pain. I had been praying hard for healing of the Treyden Kurtzweil family (Saving Treyden on Facebook), people I probably will never meet. I too am a parent, and I am also a grandparent of a beautiful, healthy 8-month old boy. And even then it has been hard to imagine the grief Cassie and Travis must be experiencing. I have two vials of holy water from Lourdes that belonged to my mother. I had never opened them, not even when my elderly mother was dying. I did not feel that would have been right. God’s will trumps holy water. But Saturday morning I did open one, blessed myself with it and prayed for the healing not only of Treyden but especially for his family. Although I saw no moisture on the tip of my finger, it felt cool on my forehead, unnaturally so. Like alcohol evaporating. Except that the coolness lasted a long time.

I was disconsolate with grief. How could so many prayers from so many people go unanswered? My prayers and my grief had taken me out of myself for a change, and in so doing, I was able to step back and take a good, hard look. I realized that the person I saw was himself in desperate need of healing. How disordered and self-indulgent his life had become. He was only able to see this when he became concerned about someone else.

So Sunday morning I took the bottle of Lourdes water again and blessed myself. My prayers would not only be for the Kurtzweils but for my own healing as well. I was desperate. Let’s be clear about what happened next: I do not hear voices. But I might as well have, because my next thought came as a complete surprise. You anoint yourself with holy water when you could be receiving the body and blood of my son.

The power of this thought was irresistible. I would have to go to mass. Instead of finishing my usual prayers and the mass readings, I prepared myself for mass and receiving the Blessed Sacrament.

The opening hymn was “Jesus Christ, the Healer.” Tears began to well in my eyes, and I could not even choke out most of the words. The water from Lourdes had sent me exactly to where I belonged. I had not realized the daily mass readings would be about death and healing, about the sons of two widows being brought back to life. I had not realized the whole theme of the mass would be about Christ’s power to heal. I had not realized Father Andrew’s homily would be rooted in all the funerals he had attended and about grief and how shared grief brings us closer together. And most certainly I had overlooked the healing power of the Blessed Sacrament.

During the entire mass, I felt I was truly living something miraculous. The deep healing my soul needed so badly had begun. When we really need Him, God will be there for us.  If He can be there for me, I am sure He is there for Treyden, Cassie and Travis in their time of deepest need.

Spiritual Communion

SPIRITUAL COMMUNION

I bought The Blessed Sacrament Prayerbook by Fr. F. X. Lasance while I was going through the church annulment process. I was in crisis. Twenty-nine years earlier I had entered a very brief and painful Catholic marriage. We divorced and two years later I remarried outside the church. Thereafter I could not receive communion. Due to the circumstances of the first marriage, I had only one crucial witness who had much personal knowledge of our marital situation. He was way late in responding to the inquiry of the diocese, and I could not contact him. I sat down in despair, face to face with the possibility I might never be able to receive communion in the church again.

I examined my options (i.e. leaving the Catholic church for another), and they were completely unacceptable. After twenty-nine years I had not undertaken the annulment process lightly, because I knew it would be very painful. I was finally ready to be completely Catholic again. I cannot say that I was ever completely unsympathetic with the Church’s “let no man put asunder” position on marriage. I took refuge in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1651, which offered me some encouragement and which I quote in part: They (meaning people like me) should be encouraged to listen to the Word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts to justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace.

If you do not have a Catholic Catechism, get one! There is a good Kindle version too. Hold it close. It is far easier reading than the tax code and full of more wisdom and guidance than I ever would have expected.

During this time I also became aware of what is called spiritual communion. Saint Alphonsus Liguori is the author of the following prayer of spiritual communion, which appears on page 174 of the BSP:

“My Jesus, I believe that thou art in the Blessed Sacrament, I love Thee above everything, and I long for Thee in my soul.

Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.

As though Thou wert already come, I embrace Thee, and unite myself entirely to Thee. Allow me not to be separated from Thee. Jesus, my sweet love, wound, inflame this heart of mine, so that it may be always and all on fire for Thee.”

Wow. Divorced and remarried Catholics take heart! God still wants you. He still offers you His Grace. At that moment I resolved that I would become a practicing Catholic no matter what. If I were to be left with nothing more than spiritual communion and the wonderful devotions and prayers to the Blessed Sacrament that are in this book, then so be it. I was already familiar with the BSP, because it is an old prayerbook than can be downloaded (along with many other wonderful Catholic books!) at Sancte Pateror by doing a search at Google Books. But I decided I wanted a copy of my own to hold in my hands. It is currently published by Loreto Publications.

Postscript: The BSP has far more than just prayers and devotions to the Blessed Sacrament. It is over 1200 pages long and is an endless source of grace and inspiration for Catholics, and I will refer to it often here. I might also add that my witness did come through for me like a trooper, and I am in full communion with the Catholic Church.

Loreto Publications