Talking across the miles

As a young priest I learned a lesson about love from an elderly couple. He, a rural doctor holding clinics deep in the backblocks of Hawkes Bay, was often away from home weeks at a time. Before leaving, he’d hide tiny love-notes around the house and in his wife’s drawers where she would chance upon them. Though he was physically far away, his wife would have a sense of his presence.

The gap that death leaves

C. S. Lewis, the great Christian writer, married late in life. When his wife, Joy, died of cancer he wrote a work entitled, A Grief Observed. Her parting left a huge hole in his life. He’d once been a confirmed bachelor, but then Joy’s wit, dynamism and love of life filled his existence. He had no sense of how much she had become part of him till she had gone.

Jesus as an abiding presence

For devout Jews the temple in Jerusalem was the seat of God’s presence. The priests left loaves of bread – called the Loaves of Presence – in the inner sanctuary, presumably to recall and thank God for the manna which had served as food during their forty years of wandering in the desert (Cf Mk 2.26).

When the first Christians celebrated Jesus’ death it was originally thought that it was being a powerful witness to his death which had set them free. But as the memory of Jesus faded and those who knew him in the flesh died, a change gradually occurred. The consecrated bread and wine began to be kept for those who were sick or absent. More and more this abiding testimony of his love was seen as a gift for the Church, revered and cherished.

From this arose the devotion to the real presence of Jesus in the consecrated bread and wine in the Catholic tradition. There, believers – and seekers – can come to pour out their hearts’ needs or to sit silently with the one who knows and loves them best. They can be present with the Divine Presence.


Father Neil Vaney

Next steps

This writing is based on the content of ‘What Catholics Believe’, Booklet 6, ‘The Mass’ referencing page 16 – 17. Should you like to read more just click either of the links below to download ‘Booklet 6’ or the complete set of ‘What Catholics Believe’.