It’s Sunday and you’re standing in the pew at Mass making the sign of the cross to signify the celebration has almost concluded. As Father descends down the marble steps of the altar, the recessional hymn begins. There’s your cue! You grab your coat and slip your left arm through as your right hand holds the hymnal open, and then you quickly transfer the book to your left hand to complete your multitasking. Verse one—done. That’s good enough, right? You signal to your wife, husband, kids, whomever, and make your way into the aisle, genuflecting to Jesus in the Tabernacle, and ascending to scope out the herd of people ahead of you for any friends that may await you in the narthex. You process slowly toward the back of the Church, noticing the volume slowly rising as you near the doors. By now you’ve decided to skip all the chit-chat and beeline it to the parking lot, hoping to avoid that agonizing 20-car line in the left turn lane, waiting to make an escape onto Woodstock Road and get on with the many activities of the day.
If you’re like me, you’ve gone through this same sequence of hurried events at the end of Sunday Mass countless times throughout your life…or perhaps, this chain of events sounds pretty relatable to you currently. What’s the big deal, right? The priest is off the altar and Mass is over. Time to move on with my hectic life, savoring every moment of the last hours of the weekend before the busy work (or school) week begins, right?
About a month and a half ago, I went on a weekend retreat in the beautiful Denver Rockies at the Shrine of St. Frances Cabrini. Besides the spectacular snowy scene outside my bedroom window and the much-needed prayerful escape I experienced at the retreat house, I was profoundly touched by the company I kept during that St. Valentine’s weekend getaway. One of the guests at the retreat was Father John Riley, a holy, energetic priest who currently resides in Virginia. On Sunday morning, before many of us left to catch our flights and begin our car trips back to our hometowns, Father said a beautiful Mass in the small, serene chapel, as snow fell outside the chapel room windows.
I had noticed the previous day that Father had immediately proceeded out the chapel doors and into the crisp air on the patio of the retreat house at the conclusion of our Saturday afternoon Mass. As I knelt and prayed in the chapel, my gaze was drawn toward the window and rested on Father Riley, who paced slowly around the patio and into the freshly fallen snow, as his fingers graced across his rosary beads. I was captured by the immense sense of peace that seemed to absorb him outside, in the cold, quiet Colorado air.
On that Sunday morning, Father gave a moving homily about God’s plan for our lives, but it was a side note to this theme that stuck with me. Fr. Riley reminded us that we were soon to be tabernacles. Living houses of Christ Himself inside of us. In a few short minutes, we would be consuming the Savior of the World on our unworthy tongues, and He would dwell in us more physically in that moment than He had in the past day. Savor the next little while with Jesus, he told us. He’s powerfully present inside of you—inside the tabernacle of your very own body.
Those few minutes after each Mass are more sacred than many of us stop to realize. It’s not that this concept of our being living tabernacles is anything new to most of us, but, sadly, it is something that many of us tend to forget. Start taking some time to be with Jesus after Mass. Perhaps consider kneeling for three additional minutes — just three minutes — after the recessional hymn ends to remind yourself of Who’s inside of you before you head back into that unceasing chaos and noise outside. More now than ever, you are a living tabernacle. It helps me to reflect on that for a couple minutes after each Mass — to “arm” myself with the graces I just received in this beautiful sacrament before continuing with my day.
It’s Sunday and you’re standing in the pew at Mass making the sign of the cross to signify the celebration has almost concluded. As Father descends down the marble steps of the altar, the recessional hymn begins. You finish the song of praise and…There’s your cue! You kneel down and offer thanks for Jesus giving Himself to you — for allowing you to be His unworthy tabernacle.
Here is a beautiful prayer that Blessed Mother Teresa used to pray with her Sisters of Charity. This prayer (one of my all-time favorites) may be one that you can find great joy in praying at the conclusion of each Mass. I have found a tremendous sense of peace in reflecting on Cardinal Newman’s prayer, much like the peace I had seen in Father Riley and hope to have at the conclusion of each Mass:
help me to spread your fragrance wherever I go.
Flood my soul with your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly
that my life may only be a radiance of yours.
Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with
may feel your presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I will begin to shine as you shine,
so to shine as to be a light to others.
The light, O Jesus, will be all from you; none of it will be mine.
It will be you, shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise you in the way which you love best,
by shining on those around me.
Let me preach you without preaching, not by words but by example,
by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do,
the evident fullness of the love my heart bears for you. Amen.