This past little while, I've tried to get into the habit of taking the kids to daily Mass. It started out as a mere whim that we should go before attending the parent and tots group that meets on Monday in the basement of the Church. Before I had kids, I used to go to Mass every day if I could. Not out of some expectation or desire to look holy, but because I honestly find so much strength and beauty in Mass, and want to have that deep feeling of what my true foundation is not just Sunday, but every day that I can muster it. Taking kids can be kind of crazy, especially if you're alone with 4 little ones who seem to be auditioning for a part in a "Where the Wild Things Are" play or something.
One day last week when we went, I had what can be described as a challenging experience. I literally had 2 kids rolling in the aisles. And not with laughter. With impossibly loud tears. We were a true spectacle. I was, of course, flustered, flabbergasted, and simply done with it. We had to spend the bulk of Mass in the Foyer, watching through the glass all the action in the Sanctuary. For all the intense wildness that was my kids, when it was time to get in line for Communion, they calmed (slightly) and we managed to walk to the front so I could received the Eucharist. It was in that moment that I remembered why I come to Mass at all: To receive the body and blood of my Saviour, under the simple appearance of wine and little circles of unleavened bread. This little oasis of peace and grace and mystery helped me fumble my way through helping my kids calm down enough to make our way through the end of Mass.
On the walk home, we were stopped by a woman remarking upon the number of my kids. The usual "your hands are full" sorts of comments, followed by how good (and good looking) they are. She asked us where we were coming from and I simply said from church. One thing led to another, and this very kind woman revealed to me that she had been to visit our church for her grandson's first Communion. She was obviously moved by his excitement, but felt fundamentally that she was unnecessarily excluded from our Communion, and that that wasn't precisely fair. Assuming I didn't know, she went on to lecture me about the fact that the reason she couldn't receive the Eucharist was due to the fact that she wasn't Catholic, and didn't believe that our Sacrament was the true Body and Blood of Christ. Explaining that I was aware of this point of faith, I thanked her for her being respectful enough not to "sneak up" and receive as had been suggested by one of her friends there with her. I told her for the same reason I would not seek to receive Communion at her Church if I had an opportunity to attend a service. (I've attended services at many different denominations, and am always so pleased to praise Christ with other fellow believers.) She went on to tell me that her friend, who is a parishioner at my parish, told her that very few if any Catholics really believe that our Sacrament is truly the Body and Blood of Christ, and that we, like many other Christians, simply believe it to be a symbol. I was floored. Confused. I felt my mouth go dry and tears well up in my eyes (luckily I was wearing sunglasses). I managed to explain to her that while that may be true of some, it certainly wasn't true for me and many of my dear friends. I am entirely convicted that the Sacrament that I seek out every Sunday (and any other day I can wrangle 4 kids to go to daily Mass) is indeed Jesus, and not a symbol. Now it was her turn to be shocked. She clearly believed that I was a rare case. I was so overwhelmed by this moment as an opportunity to witness, but something really struck me as odd about the situation.
As I walked away from this incredible conversation, I couldn't help but wonder what had really bothered me about this conversation. I felt so much grace that I could represent my faith with kindness and conviction, and that both of us left with promises of prayers for each other.I think I've figured out what bothered me. It wasn't the woman, who was very kind and open with me. I'm sure many people wonder whether Catholics truly believe in transubstantiation, and I'm sure there are many Catholics that struggle with this mystery of mercy, but it pains me that people would say that Catholics in general outright don't believe. It makes me wonder where the failure lies. Is it in our lack of formation? Or that we fear to speak up lest we be ridiculed? Or that we don't feel like we need to speak up as it isn't important? Whatever the reason, I understood in that moment more than ever why we need a new evangelisation. We need to learn again what our Faith means, what it means to us. We need to be challenged to unafraid to believe with our whole hearts and souls, even if what we believe seems foolish to others.
I reflected on the mystery of the Eucharist, and was left with a feeling of deeper conviction. If God could humble Himself enough to become incarnate in human flesh, why couldn't He choose to incarnate His flesh and blood again in the appearance of bread and wine? In Isaiah 53:2, the prophet describes Jesus: "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." (NIV) God didn't desire that we should seek Him out because He was beautiful, but rather that His Godliness should attract us. This same magnificent mystery draws me to the Eucharist. Again we see God before our very eyes if we are able to see beyond the outward appearance.