“God dwells in our midst, in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.. He remains among us until the end of the world..”
(St Maximilian Kölbe)
Carfin Grotto is the national Scottish shrine in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes and St Therese of the Child Jesus, built by the late Canon Taylor and the miners of the Motherwell area. Set in sprawling countryside to the east of the town of Motherwell, it contains a replica of the Grotto at Lourdes, as well as various chapels, shrines, numerous statues and a Reliquary Chapel which contains one of the largest collections of Relics outside of Rome.
Carfin also has the ‘Glass Chapel‘, dedicated to Our Lady. Originally part of the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988, the Chapel was purchased and rebuilt within the grounds at Carfin. It had been intended to dedicate the Chapel to ‘Our Lady, Star of the Sea’ – however, the plane crash at Lockerbie took place in December of that year, while the Chapel was being constructed. And so, it was finally dedicated to ‘Our Lady, Maid of the Seas’ – reflecting the name of the plane involved in that terrible event and commemorating the lives of those who were killed that night.
Beautiful though the little Glass Chapel undoubtedly is, the real Treasure is inside. For there, every day during the pilgrimage season between the months of May and October, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed daily for the adoration of the faithful. On weekdays, there is daily Mass and also solemn evening prayer and Benediction.
We are very fortunate to have the Blessed Sacrament available to us in this way, for three reasons. Firstly, the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest of all treasures, more priceless than gold – and yet, freely availably to us; not only in the reception of Holy Communion, but in the Tabernacle and within the Monstrance for our adoration. It is, as the Second Vatican Council rightly called It – ‘the Source and Summit of our faith’. Secondly, we live in a place where we are free to celebrate our Faith; in many places of the world, people suffer and die for professing their Faith and are not able to do as we have the freedom to do. Indeed, there are so many new Martyrs these days, it seems as though the world is running with their blood. And thirdly, we live in a very secular world where the spiritual life is often the butt of not only jokes, but also of great irreverence and – sometimes – outright sacrilege. For this reason alone, so many of the Churches are now forced to keep their doors locked.
Throughout the centuries, the Lord has kept His promise – “I will be with you always, until the end of time”.
Here He resides, the Silent Prisoner of the Tabernacle and the Monstrance. And during all of these centuries, the Church has pointed us constantly toward the Blessed Sacrament, by the example and through the teachings of so many Saints and Popes. Our own Pope John Paul II had this to say –
“Christ is present in the Eucharist, in the sacrament of His death and resurrection. In and through the Eucharist, you acknowledge the dwelling-place of the Living God in human history. For the Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Love which conquers death. It is the Sacrament of the Covenant, pure Gift of Love for the reconciliation of all humanity. It is the gift of the Real Presence of Jesus The Redeemer, in the bread which is His Body given up for us, in the wine which is His Blood poured out for all. Thanks to the Eucharist, constantly renewed among all peoples of the world, Christ continues to build His church: He brings us together in praise and thanksgiving for salvation, in the communion which only infinite love can forge..”
(St John Paul II’s World Youth Day homily, Sunday 24th August 1997, Paris, France)
These are most definitely the Days of the Blessed Sacrament, a time of great mercy and grace for the Church and for the world. Great initiatives are underway across the world which focus us on the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, including the new apostolate we have come to know as Nightfever, taking place regularly in so many Churches, where people are invited to spend a moment in the Presence of the Eucharistic Lord. Also, we have World Youth Day taking place right now in Krakow, Poland – again, with a deep focus on the Blessed Sacrament.
So what is the value of a moment spent in the Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist?
In his beautiful encyclical ‘Ecclesia de Eucharista’, St John Paul II reminds us that –
“the Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church”.
This Sacrament is the one around which we gather as Christians, the one which binds and holds us together in His Name, and the one which expresses the reality of what we believe, the reality of the words of the Lord in the Gospel – “this is My Body”.
St John Paul touches on this explicitly when he writes –
“For the most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself”.
The Holy Father notes some of the highs and the lows of recent decades –
“The devout participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic procession on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is a grace from the Lord which yearly brings joy to those who take part in it. Other positive signs of Eucharistic faith and love might also be mentioned. Unfortunately, alongside these lights, there are also shadows. In some places the practice of Eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned.”
Speaking of Eucharistic Adoration, St John Paul goes on to say –
“The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church. This worship is strictly linked to the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The presence of Christ under the sacred species reserved after Mass – a presence which lasts as long as the species of bread and of wine remain – derives from the celebration of the sacrifice and is directed towards communion, both sacramental and spiritual. It is the responsibility of Pastors to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of Eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in particular, as well as prayer of adoration before Christ present under the Eucharistic species.”
St John Paul talks about a ‘profound amazement and gratitude’ when we contemplate the reality of Christ in the Eucharist. Realising before Whom we kneel in adoration, it is hard for the soul not to be filled with this sense – although we should bear in mind that at times, the Lord (for reasons best known to Himself) withholds this sense from us and we may feel little or nothing at all. However, it is important to remember that any feeling (or lack of it) is purely sensory and changes nothing of substance.
Describing something of his own personal experience, the Holy Father writes –
“It is pleasant to spend time with Him, to lie close to His breast like the Beloved Disciple (cf.Jn 13:25) and to feel the infinite love present in His Heart. If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the ‘art of prayer’, how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How often, dear brother and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from It strength, consolation and support! This practice, repeatedly praised and recommended by the Magisterium, is supported by the example of many saints.”
Moments spent adoring the Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament are most definitely moments of great graces and mercy – we have the testimony of the Saints, both recent and from the more distant past, to assure us of this. Perhaps this has been your own experience, too. These moments are the closest we can be to Heaven whilst still living upon the earth.
Blessed be Jesus, in the most holy Sacrament of the Altar.
The full text of Ecclesia de Eucharista (St John Paul II)
© Main image used by kind permission of the Guardian of Carfin Grotto