Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

28 February 2014

If I But Touch

Most Thursdays our parish has Eucharistic Adoration from after the 7:30am Mass to 10:00pm, interrupted by the 12:10pm Mass. While giving the Benediction last night, I touched the monstrance to my forehead before resting it on the tabor (the platform for the Blessed Sacrament), and then knelt behind the altar for the Divine Praises, all the while touching the legs of the tabor. During our simple Thursday night offering of Compline and Benediction, this is what I normally do.

While I had no palpable spiritual experience, I was just then reminded of that one Gospel account:
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured." Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. (Mk 5:25-29).
There are retreat experiences built around that Gospel in which a cloth is draped about the monstrance, and participants are invited to approach the altar and grasp the cloth. I know of a woman who is fond of reaching out during Eucharistic processions to touch the celebrant's humeral veil. In times of testing, many people will finger their Rosary or Jesus Prayer beads and scarcely get a word out; but God sees and hears them.

Call them (or me) flaky, but there is something valuable about such pious activities: the deep desire for physical contact with things divine. The sacraments accomplish that very thing in the properly-disposed soul; but we also can use sacramentals such as Benediction, as well as retreats, to arouse devotion and affection.

Of course there is the perennial temptation to look inordinately to sacramentals, affording them more attention than the tangible, divinely instituted, efficacious signs of grace. Presuming a person's fidelity to the sacraments, let them have their legitimate way with sacramentals. They enkindle a deeper faith, hope, and charity in the hearts of their partakers. They fill the interim between Masses--the "human meanwhile"--with longing for the times of fulfillment.

5 comments:

  1. Thank you father for this very beautiful reminder of the breath of our faith.

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  2. We persevere, thanks to your good prayers!

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  3. I agree with you Father, about the sacramentals. Thank you for presenting this gospel story in this way - our need to touch Jesus. God bless you.

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  4. Do we not also do this as we enter the church and renew our Baptism each week with the Holy Water? The 'magic' of touch, of feeling something tangible, heightens our senses and sometimes re-ignites the passion we feel inside for our Lord.

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    1. Blessing oneself with Holy Water is another "sacramental," and yes, it does accomplish a renewal of devotion (often, though not necessarily, experienced as a deep feeling) in the soul already in communion with God. Thanks for reading, Jenn!

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