“O let me plead with you, dear ones, to spend at least ten minutes after Mass—I am making this the absolute minimum, ten minutes—and ask Jesus to teach you to realize the personal, intimate character of His Love, to realize the predilections He has shown for you, drawing you to His Heart and giving you the privilege in Holy Communion of resting on the Heart of Uncreated Love.”
~Father Gerald Fitzgerald, s.P.
Last month in my Oblate formation lesson from the Handmaids of the Precious Blood, I found the above direction from Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald,sP, to spend ten minutes in a silent prayer of thanksgiving following each Mass, to be quite daunting, and I wrote to Mother Marietta about my difficutly with that request and shared my letter to her here on this blog with these words:
"I usually have no problem dwelling in silent prayer after receiving Jesus in Holy Communion and I cherish those few precious minutes that I have alone with Him, but I need to look at how I can stretch that minute or two to a full ten minutes after Mass is over. I see that I have a lot of work to do in this regard and I know that it will require a change of habit and a change of heart as well."
After only one attempt to stay after Mass in prayer which was interrupted with visits from other parishioners and the sound of the priest locking the Church doors which prompted me to shorten my ten distracted minutes and leave the Church sooner than I had planned, I gave up even trying to stay with the Lord for ten minutes and put the thought of it out of my mind.
Then I received the next lesson from Mother Marietta, HPB. This lesson which I am currently reading and reflecting upon is centered on the Holy Eucharist and again in this lesson I found the same words from Fr. Fitzgerald pleading for those ten minutes after Mass. I felt disheartened because I knew that there is no way around it, God is calling for me to spend that time with Him each day and I cannot refuse.
I was surprised to find that I almost felt a repulsion to spend that time with the Lord and I looked for excuses as to why I couldn't do it such as having to give up my exercise time and how it might look to others who already see me as quite over the top in my faith and I wondered if I should abandon my dream to become an Oblate of the Precious Blood, thinking that this one simple request for a short period of time each day was one request too many upon my already burdened shoulders. I wondered if possibly, this wasn't the right time in my life for me to embark upon this new and holy endeavor.
I spoke with my husband and children about it and those dear ones encouraged me to continue on the path and helped me to think of ways that I could fit ten extra minutes of prayer into my daily schedule. They assured me that my fears about how my extra time in church would look to others were unfounded. They reminded me that I have always told them not to worry about what others think of them, but to be leaders in the faith, doing what they know is right despite the taunting and teasing of others. Sometimes we need others to remind us of the advice we give when we ourselves are the ones in need of advice!
So today, after Mass and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Devotions, I kissed Jack and Mary good bye as they headed off to school, and I fell back to my knees to begin spending ten minutes with the Lord. I closed my eyes and soon the voices of everyone else who had been at Mass drifted away and I was alone with Jesus. When I opened my eyes once again, I found that the lights had all been turned out and the only light that shone was the flickering candle beside the tabernacle and the devotional candles on either side of the church. Then I saw a man enter the side door, bow to the tabernacle, stand in prayer for a short time before bowing once again and leaving. I thought that he must have been a school parent who simply could not come near the church without coming in to spend a few short minutes with the Lord and my heart was uplifted by his prayerful presence.
Shortly after he left, a woman from the bereavement committee came in to prepare the church for a funeral and I looked at my watch and found that 15 minutes had passed. I left the church and began the treacherous drive to work through the ice and snow and I thought about my mother and her final days on this earth.
"Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." ~Matthew 26:38
When my mom was in the hospital recovering from a second surgery to remove a brain tumor, my son Jack, who was six months old at the time, and I, went to visit her. We only had a few short minutes to spend with her because my husband was expecting us back home. With that short visit we were able to bring a little bit of needed joy to my mom. She was especially pleased to be able to see her beloved grandson whose smile lit up the room. She told us that she was very frightened and lonely and begged us to stay a little longer but I refused because something (which to this day I cannot remember what) was very important at home and we needed to be there. It was the last time that I saw my mother alive. Shortly after we left she developed a headache and slipped into unconciousness from which she never recovered. She died three days later on Mother's Day. I have always regretted the fact that my mother needed me in her final days of life and I refused her my presence for something that was clearly so unimportant that I can't even remember what it was.
So tomorrow I will remain with the Lord for ten minutes after Mass, just resting in His love with a heart full of gratitude for the great gift of His Eucharistic Body. And I will do so again and again, day after day. Jesus is begging me to stay with Him to relieve some of His fear and loneliness and there is nothing that is more important than answering His desire for my company with a short and thankful visit after Mass.