There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us. – St. John Vianney
One of the greatest blessings of living in a convent is being able to live with the Blessed Sacrament; the Real Presence of Christ. Throughout the day between taking classes and fulfilling duties I could stop and take several minutes to spend with Jesus in adoration before the Tabernacle. When a young woman would come on a discernment retreat and ask me what my favorite part was of being in religious life, I would always tell her being in the constant presence of His sacred dwelling place, the “Holy of Holies.”
The most beautiful experience for me was when I was able to spend long periods of time alone with only Jesus, such as when I would be assigned to clean and polish candle holders and the candelabras, or sweeping and dusting the chapel, which would always take a longer period of time to accomplish such tasks. It was not the type of tasks that brought joy to my heart, often they were tedious and even frustrating at times, but it was that these small acts enabled me to do something with great love for Jesus, Who was right next to me physically in the consecrated hosts, hidden before my very eyes. My day always began and my day always ended with me being in the physical presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ, my beloved bridegroom.
As a sacristan for a bit more than two years I spent most of my time in the chapel. Every morning as I placed the sacred vessels upon the credence table and removed the altar covers before placing down the sacramentary and setting the corporals in place I would also prepare for the Mass interiorly with such peace because I knew that Christ was right there with me before me in His golden dwelling place. The final morning that I would ever be in the convent tears gently flowed down my face as I whispered, "I love you, and I'll miss you," as I ran my fingers down the front of the tabernacle veil, and placed the key into its proper place for the very last time. After Mass that melancholic day I was in a terrific agony as I gazed upon the golden dwelling place with tear-stained eyes and a heavy heart. I genuflected and made a very conscientious sign of the cross before walking out of the Immaculate Conception Chapel forever.
It is difficult to describe the immense pain that I felt knowing that I would never be in that Chapel again, and that I would never have the same kind of alone time that I had with Jesus daily in the convent. For two years the first Person that I greeted in the morning before the long shadows cast through the stained-colored glass windows, and the last Person that I encountered as the thick darkness descended across the hilltop was always the Son of God, Jesus, in the Blessed Sacrament. In the solemn, stillness with only the sounds of the mourning dove and the wolves howling in the wind it was only Christ and me, where I would gaze at Him and listen to his gentle whisper in the quiet of my own heart.
Can you feel the fragrance of Paradise which diffuses Itself from the Tabernacle?- St. Philip
I feel a sort of what can be described as a“holy envy” in that I wish that I still lived in the same place as where Christ dwells in the Sacred Host, in such closeness to the Eucharist. Religious sisters are truly and incredibly blessed and receive the honor of being able to actually live with the Blessed Sacrament, and can visit with Jesus in the Tabernacle as often as they desire to visit him.
I gained such a deep love and appreciation of living in the constant presence of the Blessed Sacrament as a religious sister when the Coronavirus pandemic began to spread rapidly across the United States with hundreds of cases a day in New York alone. We could no longer have a priest come to celebrate Mass for us at the convent since Masses could not be celebrated anywhere publicly in the Archdiocese of New York. But we still had the Eucharist thanks to the beautiful priests who would consecrate extra hosts for us at their private Masses and bring them to be placed in the Tabernacle. I knew how special this gift was to have the Eucharist all day and everyday, and to be able to receive Holy Communion during a Communion Service as I knew so many of our Catholic brothers and sisters could not receive the Sacrament, and were not able to physically come to Church to be with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass. - St. Pio of Pietrelcina
I strongly desire for all religious sisters and nuns to truly understood how blessed they are to live with the Blessed Sacrament because they have the most precious gift on the earth given to them by God, a treasure that is daily and continuously before them. I would trade anything and everything in this world to live so close to Him each and every day again in the Eucharist, and that is my greatest cross in this life, not living with the Blessed Sacrament. In religious life in a convent one's schedule is set before her, but out in the world, the reality is that it is not simple for the rest of us laity to make multiple visits to our parish Churches throughout the course of a day, or even just to make one holy hour. Often it is a challenge for Catholics to be able to have that special alone time with Jesus.
I am truly blessed that I can receive Holy Communion, and each day before Daily Mass I am able to spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in my parish Church. It feels as if I was able to take a small part of the convent with me in this world, and that is what I cling onto and what keeps me going each day. Although, I cannot live with the Tabernacle any longer, I know that when I receive Jesus in the Eucharist that He dwells within me, and that I become a Living Tabernacle. The Eucharist is my entire world as Christ Who is hidden in the tiny consecrated host is my everything. And although my heart remains heavy and I continue to mourn the loss of not being able to physically dwell in a house of the Lord in His Holy Presence; Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, I embrace this cross because I know that any cross that we receive is a precious gift that can only bring us closer to Him.