“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!” laments a young man who struggled for over 30 years to embrace the creator because he was restrained by his infatuation with created things. Now, however, having finally perceived the beauty and truth of God, he yearns for God as if he had fallen in love for the first time.
What Augustine experienced, we want to experience. Some of us have been so accustomed to receiving the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist that our eyes become dim and our hearts lose a bit of that warmth of the original fire. How do we, like Augustine, fall in love again with Beauty ever ancient, ever new?
We all love a good love story movie and we watch despite knowing its ending because we are not looking for novelty, but for a word or gesture that makes us remember our own love story.
Patrick grew up in a Christian family that always strived to live the teachings of Christ. His parents were loving and his childhood was filled with joy and innocence. When Patrick went to college, he desired continued growth in his faith and began looking for a community of believers with similar values. He assumed that his Christian peers would gather on Sunday and do their best to live the teachings during the week, just like the experience he had growing up. Unfortunately, all the Christian groups met either on Wednesday or Friday evening. The only “Christian” group that assembled on Sunday was the Catholic group at the Newman Center. He was hesitant to join this group for he had heard from not a few friends that Catholics have a penchant to create their own traditions and this made him nervous. Nevertheless, Patrick did not want to judge based on hearsay and he really wanted to worship on Sunday. “The Catholics” was his only option.
He recalled vividly that first Catholic liturgy. The Mass started with the procession of the cross and ministers and Patrick thought to himself, “Here it is with the first of many Catholic creations”. Then the priest started with the sign of the cross and Patrick was put at ease. The proclamation of the readings was a little ritualistic, but at least the Catholics actually read the Bible. Myth busted. The sermon was surprisingly short, but filled with content for reflection. Then everyone automatically stood up and recited the creed. The automatic communal change of postures and memorized prayers made Patrick feel a little out of place, but seemed to put everyone else at ease. Until now, everything seemed to have a natural flow. However, when the Eucharistic portion commenced, Patrick was completely outside of his element. What he thought was symbolic in the consecrated host was not treated as such. All the people around him were on their knees and their gaze transfixed on the host. At the elevation, all the students bowed and fell on their faces. He saw in one girl’s eyes a combination of awe, adoration, and contentment such that he had never seen before. Returning his gaze at the words, “take this all of you and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood,” Patrick was suddenly struck with great fear. It was the same Beautiful voice so familiar throughout his life now audible to his heart.
Patrick entered the RCIA that same year, became a Peer Minister at the Newman Center the following year, and entered seminary after the third year. Now at every Mass, he hears that same voice and gazes on that same Beauty, but from the other side of the altar as Father Patrick.
* Abbot of St. Martin Abbey Lacey, Washington
By Fr Marion Nguyen, osb *