The Silent Strength of the Blessed Sacrament

In 1996, when Mother Teresa’s health was deteriorating, she was often in the hospital. One of the priests who attended to her said that she always wanted to have the Blessed Sacrament in the room with her, and she was given that grace. 

In the book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, the same priest tells the story of a time when Mother went into heart failure, and a tube was inserted down her throat to help her breathe and to relieve the pressure on her heart. When at last the time came for the tube to be removed, the doctor—who was not Christian—had an unusual request for the priest.

“Father, go home and bring that box to Mother,” the doctor said.

At first, the priest didn’t know what he meant. “What box?” he wondered—a shoe box?

“That box,” the doctor went on, “that temple they bring in and put in her room and Mother looks at it all the time. If you bring it in the room Mother will become so quiet.”

Then the priest understood that the doctor was talking about the Blessed Sacrament.

“When that box is there, in the room,” said the doctor, “she is just looking and looking and looking at that box.” 

Even though he didn’t know what the box was, the doctor had witnessed the effect of the Eucharist on Mother Teresa—an effect so strong that he ordered “that box” to be put in her room to help her heal. 

Fifteen Minutes in the Chapel

Sixty years earlier, on the other side of the Atlantic, a man named Al was picking up his daughter Anne from school to bring her home for lunch. But his little first-grader ran past him, calling out behind her, “I have to run into church and pray you become a Catholic!”

Al was a very good man. He was a hardworking and devoted father and husband. He was patient and selfless. But there was one thing he couldn’t understand. Why was his wife such a fanatic about her religion? 

Al was a nominal Protestant. His wife, Mary, was a fervent Catholic. Her unwavering devotion to every single teaching of the Catholic Church mystified him. His friends at work told Al his wife was a fanatic, and he believed them.

Then he got a new job, with a new boss that he liked and respected. One day, he found out that this boss was Catholic. 

“My wife’s Catholic, too,” Al told his boss. “But she’s a fanatic.”

“Why do you say that, Al?” his boss replied.

Al explained the way his wife followed all the Catholic Church’s doctrines, even the most controversial ones.

“No, that’s what she’s supposed to do,” the boss answered, reassuring Al that his wife was not a fanatic but simply a faithful Catholic.

Then, his boss invited Al to a retreat. Al didn’t know what a retreat was. But he said yes anyway, because his boss was a good guy.

At the retreat house, there was a beautiful chapel where the men signed up to take turns praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament for fifteen minutes at a time, all through the night. 

Al signed up for a 2 a.m. slot. When the time came, he spent fifteen minutes praying before the Blessed Sacrament. 

Those fifteen minutes changed his life forever. By the time he left that chapel, Al had come to believe that the Blessed Sacrament was really and truly Jesus. 

When the retreat was over, Al arrived home walking on air. He told his family that he couldn’t wait to go down to the church to receive instructions from the priest. 

And that’s how it came to be that Al and his little daughter Anne received their First Communion in the same year. 

Meanwhile, Al’s son—who was also named Al, though he went by the nickname Bud—was 13. He liked to get into mischief. But when Bud saw his dad waking up in the middle of the night to do a holy hour, he wanted to go, too. And so, Bud started accompanying his father to the church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. 

Sometimes, Bud was so fast asleep that he couldn’t be woken when his dad tried to get him up for the holy hour. When that happened, Bud would always feel badly about it when he woke up the next morning, wishing he had been able to go. The time he spent with his dad in front of the Blessed Sacrament was precious to him.

More than 80 years later, I heard this story from Bud—although that’s not the name I called him. I knew him as Father Al. 

My dear friend Father Al “Bud” Hewett passed away in 2020 at the age of 95. One of the things people remembered most about him was his great devotion to praying before the Blessed Sacrament. In fact, he had his “own pew” in the chapel at his parish in New Jersey—everyone considered it “Father Al’s pew” because he was practically a permanent fixture there. 

When he would visit my family in Ohio, well into his 90s, sometimes he would stay up talking with us far into the evening and past his bedtime, but still, no matter how late he left our house, he would always stop by our local perpetual adoration chapel on his way home. 

Throughout his priestly life, Father Al would always say that he got his love for the Blessed Sacrament from his father, and that it all began with those fifteen minutes in that chapel.

Silent Grace

Mother Teresa and her doctor were separated from Father Al and his dad by a vast ocean and over half a century. Yet, all of them witnessed the same grace, in the silent strength of the Blessed Sacrament. 

In silence, the Blessed Sacrament waited, offering divine strength for Mother Teresa, and for her doctor. Without words, Mother “looked at looked and looked” at Jesus with such love that her non-Christian doctor recognized His healing power. 

In silence, the Blessed Sacrament waited, offering divine strength for Al, and for his son. Without words, Jesus revealed Himself to Al, who returned His love with such authenticity that his son began to love Him, too, just by watching his father’s example. 

In silence, the Blessed Sacrament is waiting, offering divine strength for all of us. There, in Jesus’ Presence, hearts are healed. Doubters believe. Children adore. Vocations grow. Quietly, powerfully, Jesus shows us the truth, that He is real. And He is love.

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

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Maura Roan McKeegan is the author of a number of Catholic children's books, including the award-winning Old and New series, which introduces children to biblical typology. Her latest books are Julia Greeley: Secret Angel to the Poor (Ignatius-Magnificat); Beloved Son: Joseph and Jesus (Emmaus Road); and The Poorest Shepherd (OSV). She is co-author, with Scott Hahn, of Seven Clues: A Catholic Treasure Hunt (Loyola Press). Her articles have appeared in various magazines. You can contact her at [email protected]

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