Each time I prepare myself to receive the Eucharist, I hear a little voice, whispering, “Peace.” It’s not the Holy Spirit invoking wisdom upon me, but instead my 2-year-old daughter Madeline, who refers to communion time as “peace.” As soon as she sees the Eucharistic ministers take their positions throughout the church, she vibrates with excitement, her little body twisting and twitching like a dragongly’s wings, and says, “Peace!” Going up with Mommy to receive a blessing and watching me eat this mysterious piece of food is one of her favorite parts of Mass. She also loves giving peace after reciting the “Our Father” and eagerly offers her hand to anyone who will accept it. (This always surprises me because my daughter can be quite shy with strangers, but she comes out of her shell and doesn’t need Mommy’s legs to hide behind. There are no strangers when it is time to give peace.) I’m not exactly sure when she started also referring to communion as peace, but every time I hear her whisper that word, I think Madeline is on to something when she likens receiving the Body of Christ with the word peace.
By nature, I am not someone who easily attains inner peace. Okay, so that’s an understatement. I am too often consumed by anxiety and worry. Some of my worries are trivial like when will I find the time to take a shower, or will my 2-year-old ever want to pee on her big-girl potty. Sometimes I worry about the big picture. How are we going to get through these years of residency (my husband is a radiology resident) on such a tight budget? Is my growing baby okay (our second child is in utero)? Is my mom okay (she deals with myriad health problems, although you wouldn’t know it by her trusting and sunny disposition)? I seek solitude, but when I have it, my mind starts racing. Too often these worries (most of them unfounded) take their grip on me even though I know that this kind of fear is an absence of faith. Which leads me to another worry: Why can’t I be more faithful? What’s wrong with me?
God, I know, would probably say nothing other than the fact that I am human. However, I know that one of my problems in my endless quest for inner peace is that I want something dramatic to happen in my faith life. A dove to descend upon me while I am praying. A vision of Mary to appear before my eyes. A moment when I literally feel Jesus’ embrace. A clear voice to speak to me and to tell what I need to do to follow Him. A real, tangible sign as clear as a billboard on the highway so that I can’t miss what God’s trying to say to me. But that’s not how it works for most of us. There are no lightening bolts. There are no opportunities to place our hands in Jesus’ wounds as Thomas did. There are no saintly apparitions to guide us in our decisions. Yet, that doesn’t mean God isn’t speaking to us. We may just have to look a little harder, pray a little more often and seek out the Eucharist as much as possible. Too often I am waiting for this profound moment when Christ comes to me and rids me of my fears and anxieties. In my waiting, I grow more anxious, all the while forgetting that there’s a simple yet deep-seated way to feel Christ’s presence in my life. Each time I receive the Eucharist, I am inviting Christ into my heart and taking him with me. I am getting a taste of peace.
The other day I was at daily Mass. As always, I heard Madeline whisper, “Peace.” But at that moment, I was also glancing up at the crucifix hanging above the priest’s head as he doled out our daily bread, and I felt a warm rush inside of me. I’ve experienced it before, and it is just what Madeline calls it – peace washing over me. I want to bottle up the indescribable feeling that seems to come from nothing (there are no flashing lights or booming voices speaking to me), but it’s fleeting. I can’t quite wrap myself around it, but I know that in that brief yet profound moment, I am drawn closer to Christ and experience true peace. And what’s amazing is that God was speaking to me – through my daughter and through the symbol of the Crucifix. If only I listened and paid more attention to what he has to say to me every day.