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TabernacleI felt a hand fall on my shoulder and heard a familiar voice say: “Dignity! Dignity at all times!”
 
It was Jack Troy, an usher in the parish where I grew up.
 
I had graduated from altar server to usher when I was about 17.
 
Without the ritual of the Mass to restrain me, I was a little disorderly in my new role at first. I was waving the collection basket around like a baton when Jack came up behind me.
 
“Dignity at all times,” he said, and added, “you’re in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.”
 
That was an expression that I heard often when I was a kid.
 
That wasn’t only because I frequently needed to be reminded of it; it was also because the level of awareness that Christ was present in the tabernacle was very high in those days.
 
It was commonplace to see people bless themselves, or to see men remove their hats, even if they walked past a church on the sidewalk outside — because they were conscious of crossing in front of tabernacle.
 
Inside, people spoke in hushed tones. Men removed their hats; women kept their heads covered; no one walked past the tabernacle without genuflecting.
 
I’m not one to argue for a return to the 1950s when the culture of the Church was very different from what it is now, but I think the basis for all that reverence was important, and I think we have to be careful not to let it slip away from us.
 
This is a matter of balance.
 
For example, whereas the tabernacle was once at the center of every sanctuary, in many churches in more recent times it has been moved to a side altar or a Eucharistic chapel.
 
The reasoning behind this change was that the focal point during the celebration of Mass should not be the tabernacle but the sacrifice being renewed on the altar.
 
Another consideration is the healthy idea that a church should be a welcoming place, not a forbidding place—a place to which people come in joy, not in fear and not out of an ill-defined sense of obligation.
 
Our challenge is to maintain a balance between those positive changes in our practice and outlook and our core belief in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist that is celebrated on the altar and that reposes and is adored in the tabernacle.
 
Children are growing up in a skeptical, secular, materialistic culture that is not hospitable to such an idea. On the contrary, children are likely to hear an idea like the real presence of Christ dismissed and even ridiculed.
 
If they are to embrace the truth that Jesus is literally present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist they must learn it from adults who embrace the truth.
 
They’re more likely to learn if they see us go to church with both reverence and joy; if they see us participate in Mass not as solitary individuals but as part of a loving community; if they see us genuflect or bow our heads with purpose when we are before the tabernacle; if they see us receive the Eucharist, not by snapping it out of the minister’s hand and walking away, but by taking it into our own hands as something sacred and consuming it while facing the altar; if they see us treat the cup, whether or not we drink from it, as if it were the same vessel from which Jesus shared his blood; if they see us participate in the liturgy from beginning to end—not in a rush to get away but overjoyed at being once again in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
 
This post also appeared in The Catholic Spirit, Diocsese of Metuchen.
 
Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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“Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets”
(Luke 9:16-17).
 
Bread is a simple, filling food, the mainstay of the poor. Until relatively recently in history, bread or other grain products made up the bulk of most people’s diets.
 
In Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt’s account of his impoverished childhood in Ireland, he describes going to confession, ready to atone for stealing bread for his hungry family. He expected the worst from the priest, but the priest offered instead a scathing indictment of the social conditions in which young Frank was forced to steal bread for his very survival. The priest told the boy that he was not a sinner but that rest of the community might have something to atone for.
 
That priest was echoing the compassion of Jesus in the gospel story of the multiplication of loaves and fishes. The Lord knew that the people who had gathered to listen to him were hungry. Yet, he didn’t let them remain hungry nor send them back to town where they may or may not have found provisions. Instead, Jesus broke bread and some simple fish, blessed them, and distributed them to the crowd.
 
Just before we receive the Eucharist at every Mass we attend, we pray that God will “give us this day our daily bread.” Yet many go without food while we enjoy more than enough and throw away what we don’t care to eat. What does it mean to receive the Body of Christ while others go hungry? Eucharist is about helping to satisfy spiritual hunger, and it nourishes us for the work of bringing about justice, of providing for the hungry, and working to eliminate hunger. Eucharist is about living who we are as the body of Christ in our world.
 
The next time you are offered the body of Christ, think about the work it is giving you the strength to do. Pope Benedict the XVI said it well: “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.”
 
– How does thinking about physical hunger affect your experience of receiving the Body of Christ?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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TrinityFrom earliest times, our ancestors have recognized and been awestruck by God’s love for us and his mercy in creating and sustaining us. The Book of Proverbs revels in the idea that the creator “found delight in the human race” (Proverbs 8:31). And the Psalmist sings a song of wonder: “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?” (Psalm 8:4-5).
 
Shortly after becoming bishop of Rome, Pope Francis explained that “God is not something vague, abstract, but has a name: ‘God is love.’” This love is not sentimental or emotional, “but the love of the Father who is the source of all life, the love of the Son who died on the cross and rose, the love of the Spirit who renews man and the world.”
 
This we know as the Trinity, one God in three Persons, the central mystery of our faith, beyond the power of human reasoning to understand or explain. The Trinity, Pope Francis says, is “the face which God himself revealed.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you'” (John 16:12-15).
 
The feast we celebrate this Sunday is all about relationships. The Trinity offers us a model for living in right relationship. The Trinity is at the center of what being a Christian is all about: being in right relationship with our God, our brothers and sisters, and our world.
 
How can we begin to understand the relationships within the Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? The Father cannot do anything but love, and that love is poured out in creation and in the sending of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. God’s love is so immense that one can make sense of God as Father only as He is in relationship with the Son and the Spirit. We can’t understand Christ as God’s son without thinking of the Father as sending forth Christ. The Son makes sense only in returning to the Father. God calls the Son back, and the Son chooses to return to him The Spirit has moved throughout history, inspiring the prophets so that in the fullness of time Christ came to earth and redeemed us. That presence of Christ continues today through the Spirit, as we are continually called back to Christ through the way we live and love.
 
We are made to be in relationships, because we are human beings who are created in the image and likeness of God. And through our baptism we are adopted as God’s children, as we are plunged into the relationship of the Trinity—we are literally baptized “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
 
Only in relationships are we fully human, fully alive, as God has created us to be. The Trinity is a model of this sense of radical interconnectedness to which we are called—and it is through the Trinity that all our right relationships flourish.
 
Relationships are inherently dynamic—they change and grow, as do the people within them. They are meant to be life-enhancing, and at their best, allow each of us to become more fully who we’re meant to be.
 
The Trinity offers us great encouragement but also great challenge. For in and through others we are led to God; however, we are also called to help lead others to God. The Trinity is a model that can serve as a great witness to how we are to live, love, and grow throughout our lives.
 
– How are you imitating the model of God’s love in your relationships?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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Holy_SpiritThe prophet Elijah sought God in windstorm and earthquake and fire. But he heard God only as a “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). In Psalm 46, we are advised to “Be still, and know that I am God.”
 
But after more than a week of prayer in the upper room, the apostles were visited by the Paraclete, who came like a wind that shook the place where they were hiding and poured out tongues of flame.
 
The apostles, their souls now on fire, boldly went out into a perilous marketplace to announce the good news of God’s love. Jesus had fulfilled his promise that “the Spirit of truth” would come to guide them to a new understanding of God’s redeeming mercy.
 
“Now they would no longer be ashamed to be Christ’s disciples,” Pope Francis said in his Pentecost homily last year. “Filled with the Holy Spirit, they would now understand ‘all the truth,’ that the death of Jesus was not his defeat but the ultimate expression of God’s love.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Holy Spirit of Truth,
grant us the same courage you gave to the apostles so we, too,
may be bold witnesses to the Father’s loving mercy.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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