“When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to Him about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where He is present for your happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence.”— St. Francis de Sales
When I was about to make my First Holy Communion, my Catholic school offered the opportunity to purchase religious items to mark the occasion. They turned one of our larger classrooms into a mini religious-goods store filled with all sorts of items, including white gloves, white Rosaries, Holy Communion remembrance books, and religious jewelry, along with small statues of the saints, the Blessed Mother, and Jesus.
I can remember walking into the room and my mother’s encouragement to buy something that I really wanted, something special that would help me recall this significant moment of my life. I think we were both surprised by my choice. I have always been a girly girl who loves her share of bling. But I didn’t make a dash toward the delicate bracelets or lace gloves. Instead, it was a statue that caught my eye and tugged at my heart. It was Jesus holding a chalice. At the bottom of the statue were two adorable angels and below them the words “Panis Angelicus”—Latin for “the bread of angels.”
Decades later, I still have that statue and was thinking about it not too long ago during Mass. My husband and I are blessed to be back in our home parish, the same one where I went to school. As I was looking up at the altar and the image of the resurrected Christ—the same image I saw walking up the aisle to receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time—an upcoming talk that I would be giving in the spring also came to mind.
While I have never mentioned my statue during my reversion story, in reflecting on the journey of this statue and its impact on my life and faith, I just felt I had to work it into my presentation somehow. After all, even though it’s now in two pieces, the main part of the statue is still under my pillow. That’s the same place it has been since I walked into that makeshift store and insisted that I had to have it. It traveled with me to college, our first apartment, our first home, and our current home, where my husband and I have lived now for twenty-six years.
Despite falling away from the Church for some time, I still received comfort and encouragement knowing the statue was there. And once I came back home to my religious roots, I realized the statue was a reminder that Jesus was and is always with me, no matter what.
It was a miracle of sorts that I never lost that statue despite all the packing, unpacking, cleaning, and the regular day-to-day activities of a busy household that cause many treasured items to disappear every now and then. And this was what I was pondering and praying about during Mass: how to incorporate this little miracle into my presentation. I wanted to express how God can use all sorts of items, images, and experiences to let us know that He means what He says.
It was then that suddenly I noticed the hymn that was being sung. It’s not one that we hear very often anymore at Mass, and if we do hear it, it’s usually during the holidays or at weddings (and this was during Ordinary Time). The hymn was none other than “Panis Angelicus.” It was written in the thirteenth century by St. Thomas Aquinas in honor of the feast of Corpus Christi, which is connected to the Eucharistic miracle in Orvieto, Italy.
It was hard for me to maintain my composure. What are the chances that beautiful hymn (again, one not heard very often) would be sung right as I was thinking about my Panis Angelicus statue? Oh, and did I mention that this was just days before I headed back to Italy to lead a pilgrimage, with my first stop being none other than the beautiful Etruscan town of Orvieto? It was no coincidence but another Godcidence or “God-wink.” It was indeed a hug from heaven and an early Christmas present, one that I will never forget.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken,Hebrews 12:28
let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and
- When was the last time you expressed gratitude to God?
- What are you most grateful for in your life right now?
- What are some ways you can express that gratitude to God more regularly?
- Are you aware that expressing gratitude is a form of prayer?
- As the saying goes, do you see your glass as half-empty or half-full? Why
- How is your prayer life?
- Have you ever heard from God when you didn’t think you were actually praying?
This article is adapted from a chapter in Teresa Tomeo’s Listening for God: Discovering the Incredible Ways God Speaks to Us. It is available as an ebook or paperback from Sophia Institute Press.
image: Christ & the Mass via Renata Sedmakova / Shutterstock.com