Bewitch the Mind and Ensnare the Senses

We read chapter books aloud as a family before bed. This has been part of our bedtime routine for a few years now. We’ve read things like Winnie the Pooh, The Secret Garden, Howl’s Moving Castle, My Father’s Dragon, and now, much to my delight, we’ve commenced on the epic adventure of Harry Potter. We just introduced Severus Snape (so of course I had to show them the video Puppet Pals and now my house is filled with people chanting, “Ron, Ron, Ron Weeeeeasley!”). Snape’s opening lecture is so good. His language is so vivid. I almost pulled out the YouTube clip of Alan Rickman’s performance to show them, it’s spot on.

“I can teach you to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses. I can tell you how to bottle fame, brew glory and even put a stopper on death.”

Severus Snape, Sorcerer’s Stone

While we don’t live in the world of Harry Potter, our senses can be bewitched and ensnared even without potions or potions masters. This happened to me at the start of quarantine.

I had gone out to our workshop where we have an old spare refrigerator. I keep extra milk out there, thaw meat, etc. I went to get the last gallon of milk, promising myself that as soon as I got back inside I would hit submit on the grocery order. On the way inside I noticed the date on the milk.

Sell by: 2 days ago.

Ugh!! No!! I couldn’t believe it. How could I have let that happen? Now we had no milk and in our town, the grocery pick ups at that time were days of waiting before your scheduled time.

Maybe it isn’t too bad, I told myself. Let’s see if it passes the sniff test. Maybe we can squeak a day or two out of this before it has to go. Once inside, I opened it up and hesitantly smelled. Bad.

One last hope. The taste test. I was highly doubtful, but it was a whole gallon of milk. I couldn’t dump it without exhausting all my options. So I poured the smallest glass and with a grimace, took a sip.

Shocked face, it was FINE! I couldn’t believe it. My eyes said it was past due, which informed my nose it was clearly done for. I’m so happy I tried one more sense before giving up.

This made me think of the Eucharist. Here we have simple bread and wine. Our eyes tell us it’s normal bread, our nose smells the aroma of wine. Even here our taste confirms what our eyes, nose and touch tell us. But wait, there’s one more sense. What do we hear? We hear Jesus’ words:

This is my Body, which will be given for you, do this in memory of me.

This cup is the new covenant in my Blood, which will be shed for you.

Luke 22:19-20

Our eyes are deceived. Our taste, touch and smell leave us wanting. Our ears hear the truth and our soul responds. The incredible gift of the Jesus in this Sacrament of Sacraments is beyond our physical senses.

As things slowly begin to open back up we will be privileged to once again receive this miracle. I hope and pray we enter even more deeply into the mystery of the Eucharist. It is both the source and summit of our Catholic faith. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote a prayer about the mystery of the Eucharist which we still sing today. Below are the words to his famous Adoro te devote which speak so much more eloquently than I ever could about Jesus’ true presence in the Eucharist.


1. Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

2. Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.

3. On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

4. I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

5. O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

6. Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what thy bosom ran—
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

7. Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory’s sight.
Amen.

The Pearl of Great Price

Jesus told a parable about a merchant who found a pearl of great price. Overjoyed at this discovery, he sells all that he has in order to acquire it. This parable, and others similar to it, are part of a series of teachings about the Kingdom of Heaven. Even one small glimpse is worth sacrificing everything we have.

We are living in a turbulent time. In the midst of school suspensions, sporting events cancelled and family members in various stages of quarantine, it can be challenging to know where to turn next. These sacrifices we are making as a society weren’t voted on, and in most cases our opinion wasn’t sought out. And yet, the gift of sacrifice is waiting for us to make good use of it.

In the Christian tradition, the act of sacrifice is an act of life and love. Jesus Christ’s paramount example of selfless sacrifice on the cross is how God saves us from our sins and opens the gates of Heaven. We are called to participate in that same act when we offer our smaller, daily sacrifices with love for the good of others. Before a few weeks ago, these sacrifices might have included letting someone go before us, listening to a friend’s concerns for longer than we had anticipated, making someone else’s favorite meal instead of your own, etc.

Today, our sacrifices have gotten much larger. They now range to staying home from work, creatively stretching a bag of beans into multiple meals, monitoring toilet paper usage, cancelling our own events and celebrations, handling our children’s disappointment when their activities are cancelled and learning how to “do school” from home.

I think no matter what our situation, the biggest sacrifice we are being asked to make is one of time. Time is a tricky thing. There never seems to be enough, and at the same time (hehe, see what I did there?), we struggle when there is an abundance of it. We are each facing a unique situation which presents an undetermined amount of time that must be spent at home. When, in recent memory, have you been actually required to stay home? The last time you were grounded perhaps?

What an incredible gift this could turn out to be! What a pearl of great price to acquire! There are so many thing you could get done! In fact, I would challenge you to make a list, right now, of all the things you’ve been meaning to do and haven’t had or wanted to find time for. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Finished? Did you remember to switch out your winter and spring wardrobe? How about paint the back bedroom? Or finally organize the closet in your son or daughter’s room? Don’t forget scrubbing the crayon off the wall by your toddler’s crib from who knows how long ago (just me?).

Now, if you’re like me, you probably just got overwhelmed by all the “things” that need to get done. You’re list, though full of great tasks, is missing a critical element. The people who you will be spending this unstructured time with are more important than any to-do list. The people, be they big or small, young or old, are waiting for you to be present with them. They are waiting for your gift of time.

You have time to talk to your grandma on the phone for as long as you and she like. You have time to write the thank you notes from Christmas or a birthday. You have time to make home-made play dough, and then actually play with your kids with it. You have time to read that book, “Just one more time, please!” You have time to say a whole rosary, maybe even uninterrupted if you wake up early enough. You have time to teach your son or daughter to sew, whittle, crochet, garden, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom properly, take your pick! You have time to bake cookies (and then probably put them in the freezer), to celebrate a friend’s birthday after we all get to congregate more than 6ft from one another.

So step back and take another look at your list. Take a moment and close your eyes. The sacrifice of staying home could bring your family a pearl of great value. How do you hope to strengthen your relationships with the people in your home, family and community during this period at home? Pick one or two things that at the end of all this, you want to look back and say, “Wow, that was awesome. Without this concentrated time we never would have done x, or y, what a gift this time turned out to be.”

It’s not going to be easy. I’m not saying that every single moment of this time needs to be spent in togetherness. Be sure to carve out time for yourself, your own growth and mental health. Go for that run, read that book, swing on the swing, make a home altar and spend a period of time each day in silence. Whatever it is, your time together will be all the more fruitful if you are also taking the time to care for your wellbeing.

These sacrifices are challenging indeed. But as we go forward into this unknown territory, the landscape does not need to be as daunting as some might make it out to be. The light shines a bit brighter when we embrace our sacrifices and and discover the pearls God is waiting to shower upon us.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

God’s Delight

Sweet baby Gabriel is 4 months old now. He is in that wonderful stage of alertness, awareness, wiggles and giggles, all beautifully packaged in an immobile ball of chub. He is so generous with his smiles and laughs. He loves to watch his brother and sisters make faces, sing songs and share all sorts of funny noises to elicit one of his fits of laughter.

It’s impossible not to smile when Gabe, or any baby, smiles at you. There is something infectious about their simple joy. Gabe doesn’t seem to tire of smiling. Anything and everything delights him, even if it is the 20th round of “Wheels on the Bus” or his toes being constantly tickled. Without fail, Gabe will light up the room with his sweetness.

As I was playing with Gabe the other day, something hit me. My face, smiling in love and affection, was all Gabe needed to burst into a smile. Over and over again, he continued to find joy in simply seeing my face. It made me wonder if this is a taste of what it’s like to be in God’s presence.

A baby doesn’t need a reason to smile. Out of sheer delight and simplicity they burst into laughter. Over and over again without fail, Gabe’s smiles are guaranteed to brighten my day. How much more so will I find God, He who is Love itself?

God’s love for us is boundless. We delight Him in every way when we seek His presence in our lives. That smile from a baby which so easily fills our soul with joy? It’s microscopic compared to the joy we will feel when we stand in God’s loving, glorious presence.

I’ve shared a Chesterton quote before here. For those not familiar, GK Chesterton was a prolific and highly important writer in the early 20th Century. In his breathtaking book, Orthodoxy, he explores the idea of delight in repetition.

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

Gabriel’s “Do it again!” smiles bring us all delight and joy. I’ve heard it said that babies are the most perfect people because they have most recently been in God’s presence. Perhaps this is why one of a baby’s first milestones is to smile. They only knew joy and love while with God, isn’t it miraculous that one of the first things they are able to share with us is a piece of that joy.