This article was written by Rev Thierry de Roucy in the French Magzine of Heart’s Home “D’un Point-Cœur à l’autre” #22 published in March 1998.
During our last stay in Bangkok, we met a young Thai boy who often comes to visit Heart’s Home. His name is Pii Pop and he is about 25 years old. He’s a catechumen and will be baptized at Easter. He kindly makes his car available to the Heart’s Home missionaries when they need to help somebody in the neighborhood. One evening Pii Pop drove us back to the rectory where we were staying. His English is quite broken, so we could only speak a little. I asked him: “How are you preparing for baptism?” I was expecting him to speak about his catechism classes or the way his progress was followed. Rather, his answer reached the heart of the mystery. He answered: “I try to learn what love means. It’s such a long path!” This struck me.
“It’s a long path!” When we tell a young person who wants to know about Heart’s Home that the mission simply consists of loving, he usually feels like it will be easy. Our explanation reassures him. We could have asked of him much more difficult things, such as knowledge in medicine, in agriculture, or education. But the only requirement is love. During the training period, the missionary is often torn between two feelings. Either he feels like he will master the mission or he is terrified that he will fail, especially after hearing testimonies of former missionaries: “I will never manage, I won’t be patient enough, I won’t be able to give so much of myself”. At this point, he is overwhelmed. This becomes a very special time of grace: the mission seems to be impossible - and indeed it is! But he has understood that even if the mission is impossible for him, nothing is impossible for God!
The Eucharist has a central place in the Heart’s Home mission. To stress its importance, we place the tabernacle in a beautiful, central place in our home. The presence of the Blessed Sacrament is a requirement, without it the community’s life will always remain a bit confused. Every day the missionaries receive communion. If they don’t spend one hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, the day seems empty and meaningless. They don’t see it as a duty, but as a necessity, a need of their heart. This reminds of a story I was told by Father Daniel-Ange, a friend of mine. The children were asked to tell why they go to communion. Frederick, 8 years old answered: “I go because I have to.” Catechists were shocked. The other children did not get it. I remain alone with the child and I try to explain him what it is all about. “No, it is not my parents, nor the catechists, nor the priest. But (he was about to cry) it is Him (putting his hands on his heart) that asks for it." Then he added, a little bit more relaxed: “You know, he is inviting me insisting in.” Sometimes, when they complain about being so busy and tired with trying to face all the needs of their friends, I tease them, asking: “Why not reduce the prayer time, if there is so much to do in the neighborhood... What do you think about that?” Disconcerted, they look at each other and answer: “Father, who will teach us how to love, if not the Eucharist? Where will we get our strength back?” Some who started their training period confused about the purpose of adoration, now answer bluntly: “If you ask us to pray less we will never make it!” And if we talk about taking the Blessed Sacrament away from one of our houses, if the area is not safe enough, I can tell you that their answer is no less sharp! They would rather watch over it night and day with weapons rather than have it taken away from them!
To love as the Eucharist loves
To learn how to love was the purpose Pii Pop gave to his time as a catechumen. I am sure that the more time goes by, the more it will be difficult for him. If you are interested in “carving” you will be able to improve your knowledge and your skills with some training, but it seems that as far as love is concerned, the more you try to put the Lord’s commandments into practice the more it seems impossible. More than ever, you wonder what love means and more specifically what is Christian love.
In my mind, I cannot stop pondering these questions; the answers give meaning to my life. As a Christian and a priest my only mission is to love and to help people to love God. When I read the Gospels, the Incarnation, the Passion, and the Death of Jesus teach me a lot: “There is no greater love than this, to give one’s life for one’s friends...” “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies...”. But concerning love, nothing helps me more than the contemplation of the Eucharist. To love is to be hidden, to be given up and to be consumed. The Blessed Sacrament is the clearest expression of Christ’s teaching about love. We can read the Beatitudes, the Gospel of John’s Farewells Speech or the saints’ lives but nothing explains better what love is than the little host alone on the altar or in our hand... It does not challenge anybody, it begs and it respects our liberty. It does not shout; its language is the silence of privacy. It only offers itself and it is at anybody’s disposal.
I know a priest who used to give this penance: “Go and spend a little time in front of the Blessed Sacrament!” Maybe there is no better penance. Sin can be defined as a lack of love. We all know that our virtuous efforts are not enough to keep us from offense. To be released from our sins, we must let ourselves be touched by love, struck by Him, overcome by Him. The Eucharist must imprint itself upon us, its image must be upon us. Indeed, the Eucharist is the path of the Church, the path of our communities, the path of each one of us. The Holy Spirit is working on identifying this Bread, which is the Church, with the Blessed Sacrament. He wants our flesh to become like the Eucharist. This is what we ask during Mass at the Epiclesis. A quiet and humble love
Love wanted to live substantially among us without either noise or row. Its only word is its presence. Its only message is its presence. And its presence is so hidden, so discrete, and so humble that it is almost absent. The epitome of its presence looks like an absence! The epitome of love looks like passivity! The Word of the Father has the face of silence! How deep is the mystery of Faith!
All of this is disconcerting, but we want to follow. And since love looks so much like silence and humility, we know that our foundation should not be set up with bustle but with discretion and simplicity. The infant Jesus arrived in our world by night, in a small and unknown barn, unexpected by people. So we too must slip into where God sends us without any fuss. We should avoid advertisement, we need to fear noisy announcement. It does not look like the presence of the One we want to exemplify. He will not be present in any other method of evangelization other than Incarnation.
However, this silence is a struggle. It is so easy to doubt that God could express Himself in the darkness of Bethlehem and in the monotony of Nazareth. Faith must always drive us back to the contemplation of Mary’s Child in order to understand that the best way to announce the Gospel is love rather than brilliant feats or rousing strategies. Faith should bring us back to contemplating the Blessed Sacrament present in so many churches all around the world. Through contemplation we may learn that our beauty does not depend on our efforts, but on the quality of our adoration and the intensity of our compassion.
Love offers itself
When Christ gives his disciples the bread saying: “This is my body, take it and eat it!” When He gives them the wine saying: “This is my blood, take it and drink it!”; it is the accomplishment of the mystery of the Cross. At Golgotha, Christ is a genuine offering. The Son puts everything in the Father’s hands and everything is given for humanity’s sake. He keeps nothing for Himself. According to St.Paul, Christ became emptiness, and His destiny is fulfilled by His death.
The life of a Christian is an offered life. In Christ, nothing belongs to him; everything is given to the Father. This is reality, a baptismal reality. However, it requires one’s whole life to incarnate this gift. All that is ours must become a gift. Each minute can be offered. In a way, our life is a long Mass in which silence and words, offertory and transubstantiation follow one another―a Mass that everyone celebrates as a victim and as a priest. In the Heart’s Home commitment, this Eucharistic aspect of our lives is apparent. In front of misery, in front of our neighbors’ poverty, each volunteer is suddenly aware of his own wealth, from the innermost treasures to the most outer ones, and he deeply feels like he has to give. “I have to free myself from this or from that”... and eventually, “I have to offer my life”. Grace reveals to the missionary that now, giving it is the only way for him to become richer, the only way for him to possess this pearl that will quench his tremendous thirst, the only path to unify his life. Nothing can distract him anymore. His entire self will lean towards unity because everything is offered. But this offering will extend well beyond the dimensions of the missionary. Before he had never had so much to put on the Paten: lives, endless suffering, screams and large smiles. He walks down the streets as a priest walks in the rows to collect the bread offering. He knows that everything must be offered to create the New World... nothing can remain here below: neither an ounce of mud, nor a beginning of sin, nor a piece of poverty. Everything has to return to heaven. As if they were divine ragmen, our missionaries seek in the slums and in their friends’s hearts what they will offer each day. Their mission is a priestly one. It is a princely mission. That is why they would never trade it for any other mission.
A love that gives itself as food to be eaten.
In Capernaum, Jesus’ audience had been scared, and understandably so. Didn’t he say that he was “the bread” given to his own people as food? No other master before had given himself to be eaten by his disciples. During the Last Supper, He says to the apostles: “This is My body, take it and eat it.” The evangelists do not say it but they must have been amazed. And he was not only saying He was bread, He was giving Himself to be eaten. He was there, in the apostles’ hands.
Soon after, the lives of His disciples would become bread for others. But at that moment, it was too early to realize that; they were too astonished at seeing Him give Himself. However, before long one would be crucified upside down, another beheaded, yet others would exhaust themselves serving people, would teach people until exhaustion, would catch leprosy treating the sick... all of them would become bread in which the Holy Spirit would continue to pronounce the same word He had spoken through the One: “Take it and eat it!”. The saints are offered as bread for this world. Their perfection is measured by their exhaustion: the less they are, the more they are. This is also the way to measure the missionary’s gifts. This path is tiring, and yet, do we not tire ourselves out doing unworthy things? We can complain about the difficulty of this path, but it remains our source of joy, a source of new fullness because it is the only path that leads to our destiny. Indeed, the gift of self is the fulfillment of all vocations: the mothers have to be food for their children, the teacher for his disciples, the missionary for the people in the neighborhood, the doctor for his patients. Discerning our vocation is not about knowing if one has to give oneself, but rather it is about knowing whom we are called by God to feed. To love as the Eucharist loves is to love as God loves; it is to let yourself be food for others, in giving your heart, your strength, your time, and the ones you love. It is giving your life so that others may live, and giving all this love with joy and thanksgiving.