While meditating on the topic of this post, a sweet memory from several years ago came to mind. My my oldest son must have been 4 or 5 years old and wasn’t feeling too well. He had laid down on our bed to take a nap. I think it must have been supper time or something, because I went in to wake him up to see if he wanted to try to eat.
I didn’t say anything, but I sat on the bed next to him. I could only make out a vague lump of kid huddled under the covers and couldn’t tell if he was awake or asleep. He let me know he was awake by speaking.
“Hello, daddy.” he said.
“Hey, sweetie, are you feeling better?”
“Good. How did you know it was me? I didn’t say anything.”
“By the shape of you, daddy.” he said.
It was too dark for him to see my features and he never heard my voice, but he knew me instantly by the dim silhouette in the darkened room. He could do this because of our daily contact and interaction. When you’re that age, daddy ranks right up there with Spiderman and Buzz Lightyear, so you can spot him right away, even in the dark.
Jesus said that His sheep would know his voice. In the beginning of my wading out into Catholic waters I was urged forward mainly by reading and listening. I read the Church Fathers, Church documents, apologetics and theology and, from my experience with Jesus in the Scriptures and in my life, heard His voice there. The same happened many times when I listened to teachers, apologists and Catholics I asked questions of. I’m very thankful for and believe God has used all of the above.
I can’t, however, say that I ultimately read and reasoned my way completely into the Church. There was something else. It’s admittedly very subjective and I don’t really write it here as an apologetic for the unconvinced. This is more a statement for those who either are where I am or have been where I am. This is a statement of encouragement, communion and solidarity.
I have to honestly say that one thing had as much or more to do with my decision to join the Catholic Church than anything I read or heard: being in the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
There was very little middle ground for me on the whole “Real Presence” thing. It was one of my strongest objections to the Catholic faith back in my anti-Catholic days. I saw it as rank idolatry to take a thing made my the hands of man, bow to it and call it “my Lord and my God.” Upon further reflection, I realized that the actions of St. Thomas when the Lord showed him His wounds would have been the same if Jesus hadn’t been God.
There is a palatable difference for me in place where the Lord is in the Tabernacle or exposed in a Monstrance. Again, this is subjective, but I have to admit that this awareness came as a great surprise to me. The first time I visited an adoration chapel, I left that place with the definite impression of having been in the company of Someone bigger than myself.
As time went on, and I started to attend Mass and share experiences with other “convert”, “revert” and “cradle” Catholics, the Real Presence of Christ became more and more evident and real to me. I went from saying “rank idolatry” to saying “holy, holy, holy” and joining St. Thomas in his exclamation: “my Lord and my God!”
Even behind the accidents of bread and wine and the Zwinglian hang-over of my early theological training, I knew the Lord was there. I had known Him for years through the Spirit and the Word and I could see Him there now due to the gracious gift of Faith. Even in the darkened room of the limits of human perception, I knew he was there by the shape of Him.