An encounter with Jesus ‘as real as you standing there’
So Bishop Barron basically wrote my next column for me with his piece on the priesthood in the early Church in the Catholic Weekly of 12 June.
This is very providential because I’ve been a bit distracted. My father is approaching death now. I wasn’t planning to write about this, because he’s nearly ninety, lived a good life, and is not in any pain. I’m quite enjoying helping Mum plan the funeral.
But I was with him today when his parish priest brought him Holy Communion at home. When I went back to see Dad, for the next half hour or so he talked about this particular Holy Communion as the most beautiful one of his entire life.
“To think that Jesus came down in His majesty, and into my own body”, he said, and was unable to say any more, simply shaking his head.
He was full of joy just from contemplating this one Holy Communion, which he said had never happened to him before. He had a genuinely mystical experience of receiving the Real Presence of Jesus. The only experience he could compare it to was that of his first Holy Communion, which he could remember all sorts of odd details from.
He told me, “There are people all over the place in the Church who this happens to, and they never tell anyone”. He found this remarkable because he said that all he wanted to do was to tell everyone about it. That’s why I’m writing this column.
Dad talked a bit about the great Masses said in cathedrals, trying to get across to me the beauty of this joyous experience of the Real Presence in his own body. He was very anxious that I should believe him and understand how wonderful it was that God really lived with us.
The more he talked about it, the more enraptured he became, but always peaceful and joyful. He said how much he hoped that his wife, my mother, would experience something like this as well. I have never seen or heard my father talk this way about Holy Communion, and it made me cry from happiness. God is so merciful and so kind, in so many unexpected ways, and especially to my father as he approaches death.
An old nun once taught me the devotion to Our Lady of Unexpected Joy. This may or may not be an actual thing, but it works for me. Being with my father as he approaches death had already brought me the unexpected joy of enjoying caring for him at home with my sister. The second unexpected joy was this catechesis on the Real Presence.
‘Eucharist’ means thanksgiving, and this is something for which to give thanks – that the Real Presence is so very real; as Dad said later to my mother, “As real as you are standing there”.
The Blessed Sacrament really is a foretaste of Heaven. Pure Love came down from Heaven and filled my father with the gift of His own self.