As we return to Mass, let’s love Christ as much as he loves us

From a window in his rectory, where the priest was imprisoned, he glimpsed a familiar sight: the little girl stole into the empty church, knelt, and prayed fervently. After an hour of prayer, she bent over, face to the floor, and received with her tongue a single Host.

There had been 32 Hosts, scattered and trampled by communist soldiers days before, when they arrested the priest in this Chinese village, pried open the tabernacle, and threw the contents of the ciborium on the ground, before barring the church.

The little girl had knelt unnoticed in the back of the church that day. Each night, for 32 nights, she risked her life to sneak back into the church, make a Holy Hour, and consume one more Host. On the last day, just moments after she consumed the one remaining Host, she made a small noise that awakened the soldier on guard. From his rectory window, the priest watched in horror as the soldier beat the girl to death with his rifle.

When Fr. Fulton Sheen — later Archbishop Sheen, acclaimed writer and radio and TV personality — heard this story, it changed his life. It kept him true to his promise to spend an hour in prayer before the Eucharist daily. When, shortly before his death, he was asked, “You have inspired millions. Who inspired you?” he replied not with the name of a famous person but with this story of the 11-year-old Chinese girl, whose name he would never know.

On March 13, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron is allowing the general dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass to expire, though particular dispensations still apply. In his letter, the archbishop reminds us that “God did not come to us virtually. He came to us — and continues to come to us — in the flesh. As Catholics, unmediated contact with the Real Presence of the flesh and blood of Our Lord in offering this sacrifice to the Father is irreplaceable and essential.”

St. Thomas Aquinas explains that one of the reasons Christ instituted the Eucharist is because friends want to spend time together. Christ loves us; He thirsts for our love. We also should thirst for Him — for His Presence and for intimate union with Him. And, when this thirst comes upon us, He awaits us with the most tender proof of His affection: His own self under the appearances of bread and wine, so that we can, quite literally, eat Him.

The fire of thirst blazes in these words penned by St. Josemaría Escrivá: “Good child: see how lovers on earth kiss the flowers, the letters, the mementos of those they love ... — Then you, how could you ever forget that you have him always at your side … yes, Him!? — How could you forget ... that you can eat him?”

Let us beg Him that we never forget! Let us try to spend time in His Eucharistic Presence. And let us value His love at the price He valued ours — the price of His Body and Blood.

Sr. Maria Veritas Marks is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.