Of course, so far, there has been no Mass or Communion; maybe that will come later. Now we have a chance to experience a little how to live purely from within.Ever since reading this Carmelite saint’s beautiful words of relinquishment years ago, I’ve often reflected on her calm resignation, but without supposing this would be applicable to my life. Suddenly, overnight almost, it is, to me and many others. Perhaps providentially, I’d also recently reopened He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek, an American priest who spent time in a Russian gulag during the same war that claimed the life of Stein, a.k.a. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. It helped me in this moment of deprivation to recall Ciszek’s writings, especially his account of the deprivations he’d experienced when denied the Eucharist for five long years while detained in Lubianka.
I turned to God in prayer, made frequent acts of spiritual communion throughout the day, but I literally hungered to be able to receive him once again.Later, while in prison camps in Siberia, Ciszek once again — though through great peril — was able to celebrate the Mass, often in unusual fashion.
We said Mass in draft storage shacks, or huddled in mud and slush in the corner of a building site foundation of an underground. The intensity of devotion of both priests and prisoners made up for everything; there were no altars, candles, bells, flowers, music, snow-white linens, stained glass, or the warmth that even the simplest parish church could offer. Yet in these primitive conditions, the Mass brought you closer to God than anyone might conceivably imagine. The realization of what was happening on the board, box, or stone used in place of an altar penetrated deep into the soul.All of these reminders have helped me come to terms with this new reality. As we face, together, the losses brought by this worldwide crisis, and having to abandon some of the practices to which we faithful have become accustomed, calling to mind the plights of others can help us realize that while the lack of the Eucharist is a true loss, these deprivations can help us learn, like Stein suggested, how “to live purely from within.” Edith’s suggestion seems to be the answer to this question: “What will we do without the Eucharist?” For if our holy brothers and sisters in Christ who suffered and went without our Lord could manage this loss, so can we. The Eucharist is a supreme gift that many of even the most appreciative of us sometimes take for granted. But God will not abandon us in its absence any more than He did His other beloved children who went without, and yet whose lives were lived for Him alone. Let us look to their examples of courage and remember that we, too, were made to be saints. Perhaps this is our chance to take this quest seriously. Above all, remember God’s promise that He would be with us always. With that in mind, let us take heart together, praying fervently for one another in constant hope. Q4U: Have you ever had to live “purely from within”? How will you prepare to do so now?
Copyright 2020 Roxane Salonen
About the Author
Roxane B. Salonen, a wife and mother of five from Fargo, North Dakota, is an award-winning children’s author and freelance writer, Catholic radio host, and speaker. Roxane co-authored several spiritual works, including “What Would Monica Do?” (Ascension Press, September 2022) and writes a regular diocesan column, “Sidewalk Stories,” about her encounters at an abortion facility near her city. Her work can be found at RoxaneSalonen.com