I spent the first week in January at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Parish in Dripping Springs, TX. This was the first of many parish assignments during which I can make connections with priests whom I will eventually be serving with in the Diocese, see how different parishes operate, and spend time with the people whom I will eventually serve. Fr. Charlie Garza (Aggie grad, class of 2002) is the pastor there, and it was incredible to see the way that he cares for and loves the people who fall under his care. It was a fantastic reminder that ultimately all of my schooling is for the purpose of service. Great motivation for the new semester.
At the Convent
On my first night in town, Fr Charlie took me to serve at a Mass for a small community of religious sisters (Terminology – Nuns are cloistered, Sisters are active “in the world”). The women were members of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. The order is dedicated to teaching and they are exploding with women. They were founded 18 years ago with 4 women, and today they have ~120 women with an average age of 28! They have exceeded the capacity of their home base in Michigan and are currently building a second priory in the North Austin area. Currently 10 women live in town, teaching at three different schools, but eventually they will be able to house ~100. Holy women.
Back to the story – When I first entered the house, I was amazed by how eager and grateful the sisters were for Father Charlie to celebrate Mass. Sr. Annunciata made a seemingly innocent comment, “It’s so sad to come home to an empty house.” I agreed, but she followed up with, “And we’re so excited to celebrate Mass so Jesus can be back in the tabernacle… It’s so lonely without Him.” It took me a while to connect the thought, but I realized that this woman was in love with Christ in a way that I can only hope to imitate one day.
You see as Catholics we believe that bread and wine consecrated at mass literally become, in essence, the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This is a defining, core teaching of the Church. According to the Catechism, the Eucharist is “The source and summit of the Christian life.” Jesus is actually there. Not some representation or symbol. The real deal, and therefore a huge deal. After distribution, the priest puts any leftover Eucharistic elements (the body) into the tabernacle (the shiny gold box thing). The tabernacle is literally a holding place for God, and He resides there waiting for us to approach Him in prayer. The sisters have a tabernacle at their chapel, but it was empty because they had been out of town and not had a Mass celebrated recently (More on the Priest’s role here).
In this case, Sr. was not expressing some loneliness about not having a family to come home to. She wasn’t sad that the lights were off in the living room or that the fridge was empty and they were out of Dr Pepper. She was expressing a profound sense of loss that her spouse, Jesus, was not present in the house. What a powerful statement. This woman is so madly in love with Christ and has such a deep understanding of the reality of the Eucharist that she wanted nothing more than to have Him present again in her abode. This wasn’t a planned speech or statement intended to make a point, rather it was natural topic of conversation. On retreat last week, Fr. Joshua Whitfield said, “A Catholic’s life story should be told with Eucharistic grammar.” I can safely say that Sister is living out that call and inspiring me to do the same.
What a witness
Currently listening to: Domincan Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist