In the US a recent survey revealed that only 26 per cent of Catholics under 40 believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Here in T&T and indeed the Caribbean, though we may not have those statistics, those that we do have indicate Mass attendance is severely down among Catholics. What speaks to this continuous haemorrhaging of the Body of Christ in the Church?
Perhaps it is because so many of us attend Mass expecting to get something, but our hearts and minds are not prepared for the encounter. Holy Mass is participation in, with and through the Body of Christ that leads to a fuller relationship and unmitigated joy in the encounter with our Lord in our walk in everyday life.
Joy springs from thanksgiving. I discovered this years ago when I found myself living a joyless life though at the time, I thought I had faith and attended Mass regularly. I had almost everything; yet I had nothing.
It was in this life of paradox and discontent that I began to “knock, seek and ask” and to explore what was missing. Two things from scripture kept and held my attention. The Last Supper and St Paul’s heeding words to the Thessalonians as he tried to guide the early Church were “Rejoice always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (Thess 5:16–18).
The words “God’s will” struck a chord. Jesus gave thanks at the Last Supper knowing His demise was soon to come, giving us the Eucharist, which means ‘thanksgiving’. I began to realise that there was something deeply significant in Paul’s advice to “give thanks in all circumstances”, especially since Jesus demonstrated that, too.
I began to explore thanksgiving as a daily spiritual practice; bought a journal; and began to write daily. It was a hard discipline. On the horrible dark days, I wrote simple things like “breathing, water, fresh air, sunshine”.
About six months later, as I grew more convicted and my relationship with God deepened, I wrote, “challenges, enemies, understanding”. Reading inspirational quotes on thanksgiving and the power of gratitude also helped.
One quote even referred to gratitude as “white blood cells for the soul and the antidote to negative emotions”. The discipline of the daily practice lasted for six months and continued sporadically after that. It has left a deep impression on my life to this day and it made me realise how much in this fast-paced world, problems and strife often loom larger than God’s grace and mercy, which is always available.
I named the practice ‘Cultivating a Eucharistic Heart’ because receiving the Eucharist took on a whole new dimension of meaning and significance. Gratitude for God’s divine providence, which is always and everywhere, makes life joyful, although there is pain and disappointment.
These are the steps:
Fruits of the practice: more contented way of being; prayer is continually a quiet stream of gratitude flowing beneath the ups and downs of daily life; less complaining; less inner noise; a deepening relationship and joy in the Lord; a possible burning in the heart on receiving the Eucharist.
Recommended: disciplined, daily practice for a minimum of three months to one year.
By Jacqui-Theresa Leiba – a parishioner of St Patrick’s RC Church, Newtown, Port of Spain. She is a wife, mother, author, teacher and a member of the group of Spiritual Directors at Emmaus Centre, Arima.