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.

Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you!

It is Thanksgiving morning and my pies are all made and cookies are decorated (I was the dessert lady this year). We just got back from Mass and are watching some of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a tradition from Ben’s family’s Thanksgiving mornings that we are carrying on with our kids. They are loving dancing to all the music and seeing the incredible performers. Rosie is especially excited for Santa’s announcement that comes at the end.

Before heading to church I realized I never even drafted a blog post for today and I wondered if I would have a chance to write something. I also had to pause to try and put into words all of the many things I am thankful for this year.

We have so much to be thankful for. 3 beautiful children, a 4th growing well as we anxiously await their birth. We not only have a home that fits our family during our transition, we are in the process of buying a home in Del Rio, where we will be moving early next year. We are surrounded by family without needing to travel, something that Ben and I have not had in our 6 years of marriage. We are healthy, our children are thriving, Ben has a job that provides for our needs. There is much to be thankful for.

I am especially thankful for our Catholic faith and the continuity it gives us as we move from place to place. The familiarity of the liturgical rhythms  offer our kids a sense of security and hominess beyond anything we could provide. Today at Mass I was able to see this in full force with John and it really hit me just how grateful I am for this faith community.

John had a good first half of Mass, but started to get upset when he had to share some of the things he brought into church. His new thing is to be “grouchy” and put on a sour face. This was, of course, during the consecration. As we waited for communion to start, John was at the end of the pew. I told him he had the opportunity to “make a change” (our key phrase for the kids to let them know they need to turn their attitude around or consequences will ensue). Since he was on the end, he could have the job of leading our family to communion, leading our family to Jesus. He stood up a little straighter and said “I can do that Mommy.”

We waited for the pew in front of us to empty and then John led us. He made sure Clare stayed behind him and didn’t run into anyone. He did a good job. When we got back I told him that he did well. He was beaming and said to me,

Mommy, I made a change during communion! I’m not grouchy anymore!

Be still my heart! Isn’t this exactly what the gift of communion, of Jesus’ very Body and Blood, is supposed to do to each of us? What an incredible gift Jesus has given us. Eucharist is food for our journey of life. But it is also a powerful, the most powerful, agent of change in our lives. When we receive Christ, we are more intimately brought into communion, union, with Christ and with each other. We change.

There are a great many things to be thankful for. Eucharist even means thanksgiving! I am so thankful that I didn’t have anything written for today so that I could share this beautiful experience of joy, transformation and gratitude with you.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us!

thanksgivingDaily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Seeing Myself in an Unexpected but Expected Place

We had a rather rough Mass this week. John was having a difficult time listening and had to be quarantined next to Ben away from the girls. Rosie had a tough morning before Mass and some of her sluggish obedience came with us to church. Clare. Well, let’s just say the whole parish community gathered (roughly 300-400 people) knew exactly where Clare was, knew which book she wanted read and knew I was wearing a new necklace.

As you can imagine, I can’t tell you a whole lot about the homily. I did manage to hear some of the Gospel but I have no recollection of the first reading. I only know the second reading was one of Paul’s letters to Timothy because when the reader said it John shouted “Mommy! It’s St. Paul! He’s talking to his brother Timothy!” Very exciting stuff going on here folks, very exciting.

As we approached Communion I wasn’t exactly feeling prepared. I tried as best I could to focus on what I was doing and more importantly, Who I was receiving.

“The Body of Christ”I vaguely heard. I was making sure Clare and Rosie didn’t end up with a different family after receiving their blessing. I don’t think I even managed to make eye contact with the Eucharistic Minister, something which I make a point of doing.

Eucharist: Seeing my reflection in an expectedly unexpected place. Daily Graces at dailygraces.net
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“The Blood of Christ” I was told, but thoughtfully and directly. The minister had waited for me to look at her after making sure to point Clare in Ben’s direction. This briefest pause made all the difference.

I connected with her over the chalice she was extending to me. We were of similar height and when she offered me the cup which was holding Jesus’ most precious Blood, I looked inside. Many parishes choose to use red wine, for obvious reasons. However, there are some parishes, ours included, that opt for white wine.The lighting was just right. The cup was still rather full and golden in color which enhanced the clarity of the wine.

As I looked into that cup, I saw my reflection.

For that moment, the whole world stopped.

St. Augustine, in one of his sermons on the Eucharist tells us

Be what you see; receive what you are

It was a profound moment. Here in front of me is the Blood of Christ, the most precious gift Jesus gave us. He offers His Body and Blood as true food and drink which transform us more completely into Himself. Lumen Gentium (paragraph 7), one of the encyclicals that is from the 2nd Vatican Council, explains this mystery:

Really partaking of the body of the Lord in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with Him and with one another. “Because the bread is one, we though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the one bread”.(1 Cor 10:17) In this way all of us are made members of His Body, (cf 1 Cor 12:27) “but severally members one of another”.(Rom 12:5)

When we receive the Eucharist, which is Jesus fully present in both the Body and the Blood, we are no longer solely ourselves. We are at that moment fully communed with Jesus and with the whole Church, the Body of Christ.

In a way, seeing my reflection in that cup was a physical representation of what was spiritually happening to me. To see my reflection in the Blood of Christ was to see myself in Jesus and Jesus in me. Anyone else getting flashbacks to Simba in The Lion King when he looks in the pond and sees a reflection of his father while hearing the phrase “Remember who you are.”?

This was a moment of clarity, of realizing who I truly am and who I am called to be. I am a child of God, made in His own image. I am called to be Christ, to reflect His love, mercy and forgiveness to each person I encounter. We are all called in our own unique ways to the same mission. So in a way, I should expect to see my face reflected in the Body and Blood of Christ. Not because I am the important one in this image, but rather because Jesus shines through me when I allow myself to be fully united to Him.

It’s a little confusing and convoluted I know, I  rewrote that last paragraph a bunch of times trying to get it right. The main point is this: Jesus. And how our union with Him became clear to me for just a moment when I saw my reflection in His precious Blood. I think if I try to say more I’ll just end up getting you and myself more confused. Often spiritual things like this are beyond our words to describe them, try as we might to fully understand what happened. What matters is that we reflect, we try to understand and we share our experience with others, even if we can’t grasp it all.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com