by Dermott J. Mullan,
always felt welcome there. In the heat of summer, there would be a refreshing
coolness inside. In the cold of winter, I would find warmth there. When I was a
teenager, I liked to cycle for miles along the country roads near my home town
I would rarely, if ever, find any other visitor when I would arrive. But the flickering of the sanctuary lamp would let me know that the Master of the house was at home. I sensed that He was ready to make me feel at home for however long I wanted to “watch with Him”. I never got the impression that I was limited in either the duration of the visit or in the choice of topics for discussion. He allowed me to pick and choose whatever I wanted to mention. Some times, I might want to say a prayer about an upcoming examination. At other times, I might talk to Him about a particularly difficult homework problem that had been assigned by the math teacher in high school. On one unforgettable occasion, the main theme was thanksgiving for finally letting me see a particular bird (the European kingfisher) that I had long been wanting to catch a glimpse of. Sometimes, I would have nothing in particular on my mind, and the visit would consist of nothing more than sitting in the pew and looking at the tabernacle.
the topic of prayer, or lack of it, I would eventually get up from the pew,
genuflect to the Master of the house, and go outside to start the cycle back home.
There would be no telling how much time might elapse before I would come back
again to “watch with Him” in
the sense of welcome that I felt was not something that belonged only to
than forty years have elapsed since my last visit to
One particular memory stands out: it occurred in a tiny village in France, not much bigger than Killyclogher. The village is off the beaten track, and is almost impossible to locate on a map. There, in the little Church, as I sat in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, I read about a certain parishioner who, over a hundred years ago, used to spend long hours before the very same tabernacle. The pastor asked that parishioner one day: “What do you do for such a long time?” To which the reply was “I look at the good God, and He looks at me”. The pastor (none other than the saintly Cure of Ars) was especially pleased with that answer: he liked to tell the story for years afterwards in hopes that others would also learn the value of making visits to the Blessed Sacrament.
Where did my faith in Christ, especially my belief in His altogether unique presence in the tabernacle of a Catholic Church, come from? The answer is not a mystery: it was passed on to me as a gift by my parents. They valued the Real Presence, and showed their appreciation by making quiet visits to the Church on top of the hill near our home. When my father was leaving for one of his evening visits, he had a characteristic phrase that he always used: “I’m going up the length of the Church to say a mouthful of prayers”. Where did my parents get such a faith? From their parents before them. The chain of faith in Ireland can be followed all the way back to the fifth century, back to that remarkable man St Patrick. He brought the faith to Ireland, and along with the faith, he brought the power to ordain priests. In the course of the past fifteen hundred years, thousands of Irish priests have ascended the steps of the altar, and spoken the words that every time bring Christ Himself down to earth again, just as St Patrick himself used to do. And when the Mass is over, the remaining hosts are placed in the tabernacle so that parishioners can come in at any time for a visit. I owe a debt of incalculable gratitude to Ireland’s patron saint for the gift of faith.
Because of that faith, I know that if I ever return to Killyclogher, and push open that old door once again, the Master of the house will still be there, as welcoming as He was more than forty years ago. Catholic Churches, with their flickering sanctuary lamps, are the most tangible sign I know that Jesus Christ is truly ”the same yesterday, today, and forever.”