YES, THEY HAVE TAKEN OUR LORD…[Originally shared Holy Week 2017]
Sometimes well meaning Catholics tell us they are envious of our monastic lifestyle. Usually it is because they misunderstand the level of spiritual combat it entails daily. But when we hear of “holy envy” regarding our experience of Holy Week and the Triduum, it might be justified, but not in the way they expect. Yes, we have more time to savor and contemplate the mysteries but there is pain and loss and mourning too.
On Holy Thursday afternoon, we remove the Blessed Sacrament from our tabernacles in the Chapel and Oratories, keeping only Viaticum in a restricted Oratory that is essentially ‘off limits’ so as to intensify the reality of his absence from us. It is a precious, and almost painful, offering for nuns used to living a life of Eucharistic Adoration. In our schedule the Mass and Adoration are hinge points of everything else we do from the sublime to the mundane so this removal strikes us to the heart.
As we feel tangibly Our Lord’s absence we are invited to offer its unique pangs for the priests most in spiritual need. We were founded for this reason, this spiritual apostolate for ‘other Christs’ in their struggles and difficulties. Yes, we pray for all priests. But the Triduum, with its very nature of palpable loss of the Eucharistic Presence of Our Lord, Our High Priest, offers us an opportunity to keep some specific categories of priests much closer to heart. Those who cannot actively participate in the solemn festivities due to:
•age, illness, or circumstances that deprive them of not only of health and energy, but even freedom of movement and congregations (think of those persecuted, abducted, held captive, under house arrest, missing etc.)
•priests who are themselves betrayers, deniers, and rejecters who have willingly absented themselves from Our Lord. Those who have betrayed, denied, and rejected him – for their conversion, repentance, and salvation.
•and the special category of those priests betrayed, denied, rejected in the pain of false accusations, unjust condemnations, and the stigma of those removed from active ministry perhaps only able to exercise their office in hidden anonymity, alone, and face these days, most meaningful of all for priests, with a solitary pain that Jesus alone knows and bears with them.
At the moment, by necessity, we celebrate Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil with the local community foregoing some of our internal monastic customs that typically mark these high holy days. It is another offering we can raise for these beloved priests in gratitude for the gift of the Priesthood and the Eucharist. It gives us a chance to rejoice with the Church in thanksgiving for all her priests and those to come.