When I was disassembling the first of the Mass kits mentioned yesterday I found a half of a host. It was buried underneath the lining so it could have been there for years without anybody noticing it. The question became immediately, “Is it consecrated?” How would one know? So used the option of dissolving the host in water and then putting it down a secrarium. But I’ve known some men over the years who have surprised me with their natural reverence for the Eucharist for whom this would not have been an option.
When I was in the seminary I was employed for the summer at St. Gregory the Great parish (just down the street from St. Clare) and was sent in with a few other gentlemen to the old convent to clean it out as it was going to be converted to other purposes. Cleaning one cell out with me was a young man, a true guy’s guy, who I did not know to be a strong Catholic, at least not yet. We waded in through a carpet of dust on the floor and began by pulling the bed away from the wall. The dust was twice as thick where the bed had been and there were a couple of items discovered abandoned there.
The first was a holy water bottle with, presumably, holy water in it. I still have this bottle (albeit with fresh holy water in it) in my kit in the car. Sticking my hand in the dust I also retrieved a host. I remember being a bit stunned and holding it up in the palm of my hand said, “It’s a host. Do you suppose it is consecrated?” Before anything else could be done or said, this young man snatched the host out of my hand and consumed it. I was amazed and speechless. Friends, under all normal circumstances this was truly a disgusting event, but to him, all he could see was the glory of God.
Later, after the initial shock had passed, I asked him if he had ever considered becoming a priest and he responded by saying that he had thought of it seriously, but nobody ever mentioned it to him leaving him feeling unworthy. And then became pretty serious about a young lady. It was from that point that I started mentioning priesthood to any young man who showed the slightest interest or potential. I wonder if that young man who should be in his 30s now has any idea how deeply in that single action he had effected a future priest’s reverence for the True Presence.
A second story of an act of conspicuous reverence for the Eucharist concerns a priest of this diocese. On hospital rounds he gave viaticum to a patient that was so far on the road home that her body ended up reflexively rejecting the Eucharist. This priest, far more brave of a man than I, without thinking (which was probably best) consumed the host so that in no way could it be defiled. I don’t know that I recommend that (in fact I don’t, there are other reverent and safe ways to handle the situation) but the love and devotion to the Eucharist he displayed that day was a striking declaration of his belief in transubstantiation: that the Eucharist truly is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
It just goes to show that you never know who you may be inspiring and how your example and story may be spread without your knowing it.