March 18, 2005

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Communing with the past during Holy Week

The past two weeks, I have shared information about the Eucharist. The first column in March encouraged readers to spread the news about gluten-free Commun­ion hosts for those suffering from celiac disease. The second column shared a story and some websites to help better understand the real presence of Christ in consecrated hosts. Now, as we approach Holy Week, I am more personal.

I was educated by the Sisters of Christian Charity in grade school, by another order whose name I forget because their sisters only prepared me for confirmation while I attended a public school a couple years, and by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in high school.

Even today, sometimes when I give reasons for doing or not doing ­something, I resort to this explanation: “I am a good Catholic girl.” There have even been times in public when someone says, “What’s a good Catholic girl like you doing in a place like this?”

No, I wasn’t frequenting bars, but I’ve been known to attend programs dealing with supposedly taboo subjects and I’ve listened to speakers of diverse faiths, a few of whom I discovered were anti-Catholic. As an adult, I have tried to understand ideas and beliefs from various viewpoints.

In my youth, the “good sisters” (how I still think of women religious ) stressed repeatedly the real presence of the Lord in the Eucharist.

The one story I recall best is that of a village (unknown time and place) where invading soldiers plundered the Catholic Church. In order to intimidate the people and desecrate the house of God, one soldier nailed a consecrated host to a wall. To his horror, the host bled profusely. The soldiers fled, and witnesses knew the Blood of Christ literally saved them physically, just as it does spiritually.

Because of such stories, my spirit was imbedded with strong reverence for the Eucharist. However, I also learned not to touch a consecrated host. Only a priest could. Then, after Vatican II, the practice of receiving the host in one’s hands became standard practice. Surely, readers can understand why I trembled and nearly “sweat blood” when I accepted the host in my hands the first time. What an impressionable young woman I was!

Holy Week is now upon us so we can focus upon our Savior, who actually did “sweat blood” during his Passion. As we repeat our traditions, we can learn, share our love and pray anew. Yet, with youthful spirits, we can also walk with Christ toward Easter with fresh gratitude for our faith, the Church’s teachings, the good sisters, our exemplary priests and other religious—and our memories.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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