Sr. Therese Marie
The most fundamental and intimate form of prayer in which we find Christ occurs through the sacraments. The sacraments “are essential, absolutely essential,” reflects Sr. Therese Marie, “the mass especially because it’s the exchange of His body and blood.” In this exchange, “like the marital exchange,” we receive Him in the “nuptial embrace,” which is vital when discerning whether or not to marry Him through joining a religious community. Furthermore, if we are called to this form of marriage, mass “will be the center of [our] vocation…and community” since the Eucharist and other sacraments are Christ’s “ultimate gift” of Himself to us.
In addition to the Eucharist, regularly receiving the Sacrament of Confession is essential during the discernment process. Just as in the Eucharist Christ embraces us, in Confession we embrace Christ, “allowing Him to love us.” Meeting us in our sin and weakness, Christ exemplifies what true love is during Confession because He “loves all of us, not just a part.” “We’re not just loved when we’re virtuous,” but He loves us in our sin, without loving the sin. This concept is essential to understanding nuptial love because in that marital embrace, Christ meets us where we are, knows our hearts, and loves us completely. To enter fully into this love in Reconciliation, try doing a daily examination of conscience. This examination must take the form of gratitude and of repentance: let yourself “go through the day, and see where the Lord has loved [you], see where [you’ve] let Him love [you].” Look for where you have “let Him love,” “serve,” “defend,” and “protect” you throughout the day, and how you have “made a home for His children.” This protective and merciful love is what Confession is actually about, the “mystery” of how Christ “loves us as sinners” without “resentment,” and longs to receive us.
Continually finding Christ in this love in new and present ways can be a challenge, and oftentimes we may find ourselves merely going through the motions. However, we must “not take [the sacraments] for granted” but remember how they make Christ present in our lives. To do so, we must “know Who it is we are receiving” in them, recognizing that both the sacraments “and prayer are essential” and that in them Christ Himself longs to embrace us. When we find our minds wandering during mass or not present before Confession, we must remind ourselves of these facts, and “ask for the grace of receptivity.” “It is a grace not to go through the motions,” but it is a grace we must ask for in prayer. Such prayer should be the beginning and the ending of each sacrament, acting as a bookend to the sacrament. For example, pray with the readings before mass, and take a time of thanksgiving after mass. Do not replace a personal relationship and dialogue with God with a reception of a sacrament, but instead enter deeper into a sacrament through involving prayer.
Prayer revolves around the sacraments, and the sacraments revolve around prayer. Both prayer and the sacraments find their source and summit in the mass, particularly in the nuptial embrace of the Eucharist. This embrace requires us to prepare our hearts and our souls. Contemplating on a homily by Fr. Patrick R. Schultz, Sr. Therese Marie reflects, “The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a preparation for the union that happens at the mass.” In it, we are “spiritually disrobed as the Bride” of Christ, and He sees and loves us in our vulnerability. In the mass, He holds us in the embrace of the Eucharist. “A beautiful mystery,” she concludes, “a beautiful mystery.”