Letter from Fr. Allen: June 15, 2018



Dear friends,

How do we treat things that are precious? With care, of course. I recently read a fascinating (to me, anyway) book with the quirky title, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts, by Christopher de Hamel, in which the author takes the reader, as it were, on trips to libraries across Europe and North America where he examines twelve of the most precious medieval manuscripts in existence, and relates those experiences to the reader, telling not only the history and significance of the manuscript (for instance, a Book of Gospels produced in Rome in the 6th century and which is almost certainly the same volume sent by Pope St. Gregory the Great to St. Augustine of Canterbury, the great missionary to England), but also the actual process and more tactile sensations of handling the book - what the manuscript feels like, what it smells like, and so on. 

But of course these are rare, fragile books and may only be viewed under careful conditions. So de Hamel describes his encounter with the famous 8th century Book of Kells, Ireland's most precious cultural artifact, which resides in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. The book was brought from its vault to a specially secured room. A humidifier had been brought in earlier in the day to make sure that the atmosphere was at the optimum condition for preservations of the vulnerable parchment. There was a special table, "prepared in advance with foam pads, a digital thermometer, and white gloves." But even the white gloves were not for de Hamel, who was to keep his hands to himself. Instead, the library's chief keeper of manuscripts carefully turned the pages "with the extreme tips of his fingers, usually from top and bottom simultaneously."

I know that medieval manuscripts are not likely so fascinating to you as to me. But what should be common to us all is the careful, thoughtful handling of a rare and precious things. No doubt we all have our own personal objects which we treat with comparable care: children may look, perhaps, but certainly not touch.

And if we are so about an object, a thing, how much more so must we be careful in handling, in touching, a person - not just with thought and care but also with, if I can put it this way, "charity aforethought." I thought of this last Sunday as I held little Westy Miller and conferred upon him the sacrament of Baptism - what a gift to hold in my arms this little child, so tiny, so vulnerable, but willed and intended and redeemed by God, infinitely precious.

All of which is to say each time we make our Holy Communion, we are receiving not just something, but Someone, our Divine Redeemer, and so it is important that we do so with thought, with care, with love.

Below you will see a short video which is helpful for thinking about this - not only in what the Church requires, but also how those objective requirements serve and enhance our own devotion in faithfully receiving our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. So watch, and then at Mass "taste and see that the Lord is good."

God bless you, 
Fr Allen

P.S.  Several of you have asked about the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States not to hear the appeal in the dispute within (between?) the local Episcopal/Anglican diocese(s). I will indeed have a little something to say about that soon, but for now, please do pray for these brothers and sisters and Christ, for many of whom this is a very painful and uncertain time, and let us resolve again to be a community always of joyful and peaceful Catholics, whose life together is a sign of the unity Christ desires for his Church.

“How to Receive the Eucharist” from the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon