A cock should crow before you’re very far into this essay. It’s a Friday morning, somewhere after 7 a.m. I’m standing in line at a coffee shop. There are several people ahead of me, several behind, when the woman directly in back of me comments on the obvious shortage of help at the espresso machines. I let her know that of all the days in my life, this is one in which I’m in no hurry. I offer her my place in line, but she declines.
She asks then, what it is that I could possibly do for a living that would put me at such peace. I go into an elevator speech about working for an Anchorage non-profit, and it is here that we should insert the crowing of that rooster loud and clear.
“I need to find a job like that,” she says.
I like my job. But truth be known, I have just spent the last hour and some odd minutes in the presence of Christ. Not figuratively. For real. Right there, not 30 feet away. I have just come from adoration, where I have knelt and prayed and felt the welling of emotions: glad for the gift of Eucharist, tearful and intimidated by Christ’s Passion, yet elated by what that means. Giddy that my faith grows with each visit, but mostly I feel an overwhelming internal warmth in the privilege of spending time in silence with him.
When I was young and serving as an altar boy, I used to ponder our existence in heaven: hanging out in the clouds, singing hymns with angels and such. This was, of course, in the grandiose assumption that I’d get there in the first place. Thoughts of fishing and hunting and other secular activities that defined my happiness on Earth clouded the concept, and I couldn’t bring myself to imagine my identity with God forever without at least some hint of boredom. At the same time I have to admit that for decades I was perplexed by transubstantiation. I believed in the presence of God in the Eucharist as a matter of faith but struggled with it in reality.
That all changed when I began my weekly forays to adoration at St. Michael Catholic Church in Palmer. Let me preface this with the fact that I am no stranger to prayer, to reading the Bible — or anything else that can satiate my hunger to be closer to God. My wife, Cheryl, who goes to adoration on Thursday evenings, had actually pledged for the time slot, between 6 and 7 a.m. each Friday, but we found that it worked out well as the preamble to my Friday commute and I came to inherit this blessed hour each week.
In my visits during the first year or so I fell into a repertoire of praying the rosary, the Divine Chaplets, reading the works of Thomas Merton and the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. But what I hadn’t counted on was how God works miracles within the hollow spots in our minds. On one particular morning I had finished my rosary and had reclined to the pew to gaze at the host in the monstrance, when Christ’s presence hit me.
It was life changing — and I could not look away. Suddenly, nothing else mattered. Impending obligations at my job melted to nothing, as did the deadlines at the magazines, the to-do lists at home, the pain in my left knee, that clunking noise in my car. Never have I felt at such peace, and it struck me that I had gained a glimpse of how perfectly fulfilling it will be when we are with God. Forever. And for the first time in my life, I did not need to concoct a mental picture of heaven!
Other revelations to come out of my weekly visits have been an increased anticipation with the coming of holy days, and Mass every Sunday morning. Moreover, I have been left with an ever-deepening trust in the face of hardships, to accept my cup with gratitude when I compare it to the cup that Jesus endured, and to trust in God to serve me the perfect cup during my short stay here on Earth.
Not that secular life should be trivialized, but to play on the cliché about not sweating the small stuff, and that it’s all small stuff, adoration enables me to meld my secular and spiritual lives in proper proportions, and to see myself as the stumbling (make that sinful) character in a movie, in which only God knows how it ends, and for how long it plays. As for my part, my free will, I can’t wait to get back every Friday morning, where I can be with him and revisit his Friday morning of not really all that long ago.
Until recently, I thought I’d have the gallant answer had I been in Saint Peter’s predicament after they’d hauled my Lord away. I pray daily for spiritual strength, to do God’s work. I pray that my love of Christ will shine through me from the sanctuary of our church in a way that the next time it gives pause to the people in line at an espresso shop I’ll have courage to answer that, “Yes, I am among those who are with him and that I have just spent the last hour and some-odd minutes with Christ.”
The writer is a freelance journalist and a parishioner at St. Michael Church in Palmer.