I’ll never forget the time Cardinal Raymond L. Burke schooled me on eucharistic adoration. I was a Protestant, Yale-educated pastor with a relentless curiosity — and more than a bit of misunderstanding — about Catholicism, so I visited the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis on Corpus Christi to see what the Catholics were up to. His eminence was the homilist and he quoted Exodus 16:33: “So Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come.’” He commented about the eucharistic implications of preserving the manna in what was essentially a gold ciborium in a tabernacle for adoration.
At the time, I was growing into a fuller understanding of the Blessed Sacrament, but adoration was still a bridge too far. I knew — I just knew — it wasn’t scriptural. Until, that is, that fateful day when I realized the Church is a far better reader of Scripture than I ever could hope to be.
I recently heard the story that the Venerable Fulton Sheen told about an anonymous Chinese girl who lived during the Communist Revolution that occurred around 1950. The newly triumphant Communist soldiers entered a small Chinese town for the first time, went into the Church, and arrested the priest. They then pulled the Blessed Sacrament out of the tabernacle and scattered the hosts on the floor. This little girl knew those hosts were Jesus and that He was lying alone and uncared for on the ground. So each night she would sneak into the Church, spend one hour in prayer with the Blessed Sacrament, and consume one of the hosts. On the very last night, when only one host was left, a soldier caught her. The priest, who was locked up in a nearby room, heard a single gunshot and as he looked through the keyhole he saw the little girl crawl across the floor to pick up and consume the final host. She then fell down dead on the floor. When Fulton Sheen later heard this story, he vowed to keep a holy hour every day.
Jesus is the Bread of Life, the food of the human soul. There is nothing more important. All other food is corruptible and often full of lies and false promises. God doesn’t offer us health and wealth, power and glory, and to make our wildest dreams come true. What He gives is so much more valuable — He offers us Himself.
In trying times, we must grow into our Catholic identity and increase our adoration of the Eucharist: The way we approach Holy Communion, how we prepare for Mass, the way we keep silence in Church in the presence of the tabernacle. Maybe it’s time to get back into the habit of saying an act of thanksgiving after receiving, to start genuflecting when passing before the tabernacle, to go back to confession to prepare our hearts, to come to Mass five minutes early to kneel and pray. It’s Jesus who makes us holy and keeps the Church pure.
In the Eucharist, God gives us all of Himself. Give Him all of your love in return.
Father Rennier is parochial administrator of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in St. Louis. A former Anglican priest, he was ordained in 2016 under a pastoral provision for the reception of Anglicans and Episcopalians into full communion with the Catholic Church. He and his wife, Amber, have five children.