I came from an irreligious background and I equated being spiritual with having a ‘holier than thou’ attitude which I certainly didn’t find appealing.
Much later in life I finally met someone who was ‘good and spiritual’ and didn’t make me feel inadequate, so I could see the possibilities and did try to adjust my thinking and actions.
This still didn’t lead me into any spirituality I could recognise in the Eucharist, but a few years ago I started prefacing each prayer I made with one to the Holy Spirit:
‘Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of thy love.’
Much to my shock I have had that prayer answered in ways that still stun me.
We are lucky in this area to have a chapel in a shopping centre and to be able to attend Mass there on any day we feel the need. While I was not a regular attendee, I did take advantage of the opportunity if I had missed Mass on Sunday and wanted to make up for that, or at special times such as the anniversary of my husband’s death on 9 September. A couple of years ago I had been quite sick during most of July with the flu so when I got on my feet again I went to the chapel simply because I hadn’t been to Mass for weeks.
At the Mass the Life In The Eucharist (LITE) program was advertised to be held the following weekend. Without hesitation I filled in the enrolment and sent it off – normally, I would have procrastinated until the program had finished. I’ve always given credit to the Holy Spirit that I was able to be at the chapel to hear about the program and to be part of it.
I can’t tell exactly which part of the program changed my feelings regarding the Eucharist, but the talk I remember most included the matter of politeness. It is very impolite to get up from the table after having a meal with a friend without a word and rush out of the house. This happens at Mass so much and I have been guilty of it myself. I really am not able to explain why I found this topic so compelling; perhaps the idea of Eucharist as a ‘meal with a friend’ said something to me that I needed.
On the Monday after the LITE weekend I could hardly wait to get to the chapel to sit there in front of the tabernacle and just feel at home, at peace. I have been a regular attendee since that time.
Then we had a notice in our parish newsletter that people were needed to take Communion to a nursing home in our parish so I put my hand up for that. The person who had been quietly doing it for years was diagnosed with a serious cancer and could no longer continue. Then the person who had been going to another larger nursing home around the corner from our parish church was also diagnosed with cancer and someone was needed to take up that challenge. Now two of us visit the small nursing home every other week, but for the larger home, the parish has never been able to get anyone but me to do it.
During the follow up of the LITE program, one of the questions was about mission. Do I have a mission? I really feel that I do. Since I’ve been going to these nursing homes I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to receive the Eucharist regardless of age or infirmity. My mission is to do my part to see that this happens at the nursing homes and in someone’s home if I’m asked to go there.
What do I do if I’m not engaged at Mass, if the priest is boring or annoying or pedantic? The only way I have found to cope with this is to sit right up at the front with my missal; then I am taking part in the whole of the service. These prayers are my prayers even the ones the priest says alone, such as, ‘Wash away my iniquity and cleanse me of all my sins.’ I don’t have to have a rapport with the priest to feel that prayer in my heart and soul.