By Vanitha Nadaraj
JUNE 3, 2021: For the longest time, I was in a place where I knew what the Holy Eucharist was and at the same time did not really know. There were days when I’d walk up to the altar in full reverence for Holy Communion and upon receiving return to my seat knowing that it was the Body of Christ that I had just consumed. Then there were times when I didn’t know what all that really meant. There would be so many questions within me but I brushed it all aside and told myself that I should just learn to live with the questions.
This changed after I attended the formation called Presence: The Mystery of the Eucharist at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Puchong in July 2019 by the Augustine Institute. My husband and I had attended two other formations by the institute at St Ignatius Church in Petaling Jaya and were hungry for more.
For a good part of our married lives we were preoccupied with raising a family, providing for the children and chasing careers. God was often forgotten. We would attend masses and observe the necessary rites, but that was all. He was never our priority and neither was He ever mentioned in our conversations.
I am ashamed to admit that there were even times when I had to force myself to go to masses and almost never prayed for months on end. Once the children had all grown up and we were in a semi-retired mode, that was when I realised how far I had gotten from God. Months of repentance followed and then came the desire to have more of Him in my life.
So on Monday evenings we would try to beat the after-work traffic along the Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong to get to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. We, along with almost 100 parishioners, would all head down to the basement to a makeshift hall to watch the teaching video on a large screen and then break out into groups for discussions.
Something in me changed. My husband used to say that I had a very casual attitude when going up to receive Communion and I always told him that I was going joyfully before the Lord. But somewhere between the weekly teaching videos and the engaging discussions under the caring facilitator Johny Nagarethenam, I began to see the Eucharist in a different way. The realness of the thin wafers given out during masses hit me. It was the Body of Christ. I then became totally convinced and the earlier doubts were hardly ever there anymore.
With each passing day, Communion became more and more relational and less and less ritual. There is that closeness of Jesus at that moment when the Holy Communion is in my mouth which is not just personal but it makes me feel like I belong to a great big spiritual family and that I am not alone.
There’s a slightly different feeling when I see the exposed Eucharist, held upright in a monstrance at the altar. I am instantly drawn to the humble thin wafer in the grand and glittering casing. I feel like I am in the presence of Someone so familiar and Who is the most important and powerful Person in the universe. It does not matter which parish I am in, the feeling is always the same. This is probably how it felt being in the Holy of Holies in the temple that Solomon built for God.
It feels like He is waiting for me to come to Him. I like that feeling of being so physically close to His Body and the intimacy in receiving Communion. This made my time in front of the Eucharist all the more special. I’m looking forward to churches opening again and to be in front of the monstrance and just being in His presence.
And I look forward to attending mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church again. The church sits in the middle of a commercial area like a smooth unblemished pearl in a crowded sea bed. The exterior looks nothing like the usual Catholic church. It has two flat roofs that overlap and lie flat on a circular structure. The wall does not seem to have corners, it just goes all the way around. Inside the church, the tabernacle and crucifix are in an enclave with tiny holes at the back that are covered with blue and green glass. When the light shines through these holes, they look like water bubbles.
Before the pandemic and its lockdown, you would find parishioners from the African continent cleaning the church and its surroundings on Saturday mornings. They are also the traffic wardens during mass times. They work silently, without much fanfare and it is so obvious they do it from their heart, a heart that is overflowing with the love of God.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church will always be to me a parish about humility and service, and also the place where I discovered a deeper love for the Eucharist.
This story was published in the January issue of Catholic Asian News. Republished here with their knowledge.