Praying to the Spirit Within All of Us

Hank Mattimore
Reproduced with Permission

She is a large Latina woman but still manages to get down on both knees to genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament, exposed in its glittering gold monstrance. Her grand daughter, a little tyke of about three years old, goes down on her knees with grandma. The old woman makes her way to the front of the chapel and, arms outstretched, prostrates herself before the altar. The little girl does the same.

There are seven of us in the chapel, mostly older, although there are two women in their late twenties or early thirties. The quiet is broken only by the not unpleasant sound of pre - school children laughing in the school yard next door and by an older man who lets his rosary beads rattle against the bench.

I am not personally acquainted with any of the people who kneel with me yet I feel at home with them. They are fellow Catholics who share with me a common heritage.

There was a time when the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was more celebrated than is the custom in the modern Church. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for Benediction was a common practice then especially during parish retreats or 40 hours devotions. Somehow I can't help feeling that we have lost something by jettisoning too quickly these long standing traditions.

Catholics of a certain age can't help observing that our prayer life has undergone a subtle shift of emphasis away from the adoration of the real presence of Christ under the appearance of bread. We wonder if the "real presence" of Jesus in that gold monstrance on the altar is any more "real" than God's presence in the winds and the stars and indeed, in you and I.

To me, to think in this way is not a diminution of the meaning of real presence but an extension of it. Of course God is there in the white host on the altar but this is a god who lives in all of creation. The Spirit is within us just as "really" as He is in the bread. We stand on sacred ground wherever we tread, including in this place where Jesus is exposed under the form of bread.

I shake myself, determined not to let my left brain lead me into matters of theology. I came here to pray, to talk to God and to listen to the Spirit. There is emptiness in me, a longing to listen to the Spirit, wherever He or She is hanging out.

What I do know is that I find it easier to pray when I am praying with other believers in this little chapel. The words of Jesus come back to me - "Whenever two or more are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them." Even private prayer is always about community; we are all connected when we are gathered in His name, We may not use the same words but our aspirations are the same, Our souls hunger for intimacy with the same Father and Mother of all of us.

The strong sense I have that the Latina woman is praying to the same loving God as I am is empowering. My eyes turn towards the little girl. Her innocence lights up the front of the chapel better than any sanctuary lamp. Her dark brown eyes follow me as I get up to leave. I can't resist giving her a smile and a wave. The Spirit in me reaches out to the God within the child, her grandma and all who share this moment of quiet together.