I entered our parish chapel for Eucharistic Adoration at 3:30 pm today and had a sudden thought. What if Jesus is really present in the Blessed Sacrament? What if God is really here? Doesn’t that change things? I sat at a prie-dieu, pulled out my rosary beads and, since I had been awake since 3:30 am, promptly fell asleep.
I woke 45 minutes later with a stiff neck but a clear head. I craned my neck to make sure no one had caught me napping. Still alone, I opened a book I had brought and began reading. It is a long time since I have read with such concentration.
I finally went home at 5:30 for dinner with my wife. We traded notes on our day, and I asked about my wife’s painting teacher, who interests me because she is Catholic. I have been introduced to the teacher only once and probably wouldn’t recognize her on the street, but I know we have something in common.
“That reminds me!” my wife said and hopped up from the table. She returned with a small folded sheet of paper that is the reason for this post.
The paper is a photocopy of a tiny four-page booklet whose cover says it was published by St. Ignatius’ Guild Room, Fortieth Street, bet. Fifth & Sixth Avenues, 1877. The title is “Fifteen Minutes Before the Blessed Sacrament.”
My wife told me that her painting teacher had sat behind me one day at Adoration, unbeknownst to me, and had thought I might find the booklet interesting. The first interesting thing about the booklet was the inscription at the top of the title page:
“Miss W. G. Tillingham at the time of confirmation.”
Clearly, the original booklet had been given to Miss Tillingham, perhaps still a child, as inspirational reading 134 years ago. It found its way to my hand on a day when I had wondered more deeply about the Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. I opened the booklet and began reading:
My child, it is not necessary to know much—to please Me, it is sufficient to love much. Speak to Me as thou wouldst to a mother, if she drew thee near to her. Are there any for whom thou wouldst pray to Me? Repeat to me the names of thy relations, thy friends; after each name, add what thou wouldst have Me do for them. Ask much, ask much; I love generous souls who forget themselves for others.
Tell Me of the poor whom thou wouldst relieve, the sick whom thou has seen suffer, the sinners thou wouldst have converted, those who are alienated from thee whose affection thou wouldst regain. For all, say a fervent prayer. Remember that I have promised to hear all prayers that come from the heart; and is not that a prayer from the heart which is offered for those we love, and who love us?
Are there graces thou wouldst ask for thyself?—write, if thou wilt, a long list of all thou desirest, of all the needs of thy soul, and come and read it to Me.
Tell me simply how proud thou art, how sensitive, egoistical, mean, indolent—and ask Me to come, and help thee in all the efforts thou makes against it. Poor child, do not blush; there are in Heaven many Saints who had thy faults; they prayed to Me, and, little by little, their faults were corrected.
Do not hesitate to ask Me for blessings for the body and mind, for health, memory, success. I can give all things, and I always give when blessings are needed to render souls more holy. To-day, what wilt thou have My child? If thou knewest how I long to do thee good! Hast thou plans which occupy thee?—lay them all before Me. Do they concern thy vocation? What dost thou desire? Dost thou wish to give pleasure to thy mother, to thy family, to those on whom thou dost depend? What wouldst thou do for them?
And for Me—has thou no zealous thought for Me? Dost thou not wish to do a little good to the souls of thy friends whom thou lovest, and who have perhaps forgotten Me?
Tell Me in whom thou art interested, what motives move thee, what means thou wouldst employ.
Bring Me all thy failures, and I will show thee the cause of them. Whom dost thou wish interested in thy work? I am Master of hearts, My child, and can lead them where I will. I will bring round thee all who will be necessary to thee. Be tranquil.
Hast thou not troubles? Oh, My child, tell them all to Me, fully. Who has caused thee pain?
Tell Me all, and thou wilt finish by adding that thou wilt pardon, thou wilt forget; and I will bless thee.
Dost thou dread something painful? Is there in thy heart a vain fear which is not reasonable, but which is tormenting? Trust thyself wholly to My care. I am here. I see everything. I will not leave thee.
Are there those near thee who seem less kind to thee than they have been, and whose indifference and neglect separate thee from them, while thou canst see nothing in which thou has wounded them? Pray earnestly to Me for them, and I will bring them back to thee, if they are needed for thy life’s sanctification.
Hast thou not joys to make known to Me? Why dost thou not let Me share thy happiness? Tell Me what has happened since yesterday to cheer and console thee. Was it an unexpected visit which did thee good—a fear suddenly dissipated—a success thou thoughtest thou shouldst not reach—a mark of affection, a letter, a gift which thou has received—a trial which left thee stronger than thou supposed? I have prepared it all for thee. Why dost thou not show thy gratitude, and give Me thanks?
Hast thou promises to make to Me? I can read the depths of thy heart. Thou knowest it—thou canst deceive men, but not God. Be, then, sincere.
Art thou resolved no longer to expose thyself to this temptation? To give up this object which leads thee to evil? Not to finish this book which excites thy imagination? No longer to give thy friendship to a person who is not religious, and whose presence disturbs the peace of thy soul? Wilt thou go at once to do a kindness to this companion who has hurt thee?
Well, My child, go now, take up thy daily work, be silent, humble, submissive, kind, and come back to-morrow and bring Me a heart still more devout and loving. To-morrow I shall have more blessings for thee.
There is something in me that resists the child-appeal of this booklet. I think this is because there is something else in me that hesitates to ask too much in prayer, particularly for myself. But isn’t this somehow related to another something in me that is slow to accept the Real Presence, something that even questions the immanence and absolute power of God?
If Jesus is present in the Eucharist; if God is there in the Adoration chapel; then why would I not get down on my knees and beg for everything possible?