When I was in undergrad at Maryland, I had an experience with the Eucharist that changed the way I understand the True Presence. Tonight, in Mississippi, I had another.
I’m spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my grandfather and his wife on the Gulf coast. My dad’s family isn’t religious at all, so I used MassTimes to find a Catholic Church nearby and went to the vigil Mass this evening. I passed the church at first; Google Maps told me it would be on the left, but it was clearly on the right. I had enough sense (and experience with getting to lost) to know to turn around, though, so I made it to Mass just before the opening hymn.
I slipped into the back, opened up my hymnal, and joined in the singing. We were sitting in chairs instead of pews because the church was flooded to the roof by Hurricane Katrina, but if I hadn’t read that on the website, I would never have known. I’m not sure what triggered it, but all of a sudden I started to feel dizzy and my vision blurred. I get vertigo ocassionally, but never as bad as that unless I wake up sick. I barely made it through the opening prayers, which included the introduction for the double baptism this church’s Father Bob celebrated. (What is it with priests named Bob? I know 3 in the South alone.) I finally had to sit down and try to breathe.
Sometime during the first reading, I knew I had to get out of that room. I picked up my things and spent the rest of the Liturgy of the Word breathing as much fresh, rainy air as I could stand. Finally, I felt calm enough to go back in. I felt like I was having a panic attack, or that something was smothering me. It might have been triggered by a moldy smell in the church, but I’m fairly sure they cleaned that all up when they rebuilt, and I’m not allergic to mold.
Later, during the preparation hymn, I had to sit down again. I debated whether I should risk going up to receive communion. Then I realized that if anything would make me feel better, it’d be Jesus. So I joined the line, and received under both species as usual. I’ll never be able to explain it, but as soon as the Eucharist was in me, I felt better. So much better. It was a small miracle, but so significant that I will never doubt the power of the Eucharist again. Sometimes God makes the sun move backwards, and sometimes he just makes you feel better. Either way, he’s always there.
Happy new liturgical year, friends.