If you talk to enough people about their first experience of Catholicism, you’ll run into more than a few who mention how they just randomly walked into a church one day, not sure why they were doing it, and ended up unexpectedly feeling profoundly moved. As Catholics, we know that feeling comes from the presence of Christ, truly present in all the tabernacles in all the churches around the world. It’s as if Christ is calling out to people as they walk by parishes, yearning to draw unsuspecting souls to Himself in this surprising way.
The graces that flow from this kind of impromptu experience are inspiring, not only to those who find themselves walking into a church without knowing why, but to all of those who hear their stories in the years that follow.
The unfortunate reality, however, is that parishes aren’t always able to leave their doors unlocked throughout the day. It’s easy to say they should, trusting in God to keep the church safe and noting that the benefits of people having a place to pray before the Eucharistic Presence of Our Lord outweigh the cost of anything that might be done by people with nefarious motives. Sadly, in many places around the world, the costs of leaving the doors unlocked all day may end up being more than a parish is willing to risk.
I stumbled into this reality earlier this week when I walked from work to a nearby parish on my lunch break, hoping to pray in the silent presence of Our Lord in the midst of an otherwise hectic day. The doors to the parish were locked, and I felt sad that I wasn’t able to be with Him in the way I felt I needed to. I got up on my tiptoes, peeked through the window, and saw the tabernacle, however, and I was caught off guard by an instant peace that washed over me.
It became immediately clear that I was in the presence of Christ. Sure, I wasn’t in the church, but I was closer to Him than I had been prior to walking across town. I sat down on the stoop and began to pray. His presence was made clear. I felt Him in my heart; I felt Him all around me, and I realized that there was actually something quite powerful about praying outside of a locked door while Christ looked out from the inside with a loving glance that I experienced in the depths of my soul.
As I continued to pray, my mind filled with the story of Jesus appearing to His disciples when they were meeting behind locked doors. He came to them through locked doors and the experience ended up being one that changed the course of the Church forever.
While my experience outside the doors of Saint Catherine’s parish obviously pales in comparison, it was still a beautiful reminder of how God can take our efforts and transform them into something powerful even when they don’t work out in the way we planned. It was a beautiful reminder that God will not be stopped by the practical things in life, that He will find a way to get His grace to us, no matter the obstacles. It was a beautiful reminder that He is truly present.
It was a beautiful reminder that grace comes to us, even through locked doors.
Copyright 2019 Tommy Tighe