Fr. Joseph Evinger authors the “Questions I was Afraid to Ask” column for the Diocese of Bismarck. This article, which was published on March 3, is reprinted with the diocese’s permission.
By Fr. Joseph Evinger
Fr. Joseph Hajduch, C.PP.S., who served at St. Paul’s in Halliday for some years was a close friend of my family. After his retirement he moved back to Carthagena, Ohio where his community lived. Every year, Fr. Joe would write us a couple times. To this day, I can remember the excitement in the house when we received a letter from him. Somehow, seeing his hand writing and reading the words he wrote, filled us with joy. He was in Ohio and we were in North Dakota, and yet he was present to us in some way through these letters.
Most of us have been told since we were young that God is everywhere. Yes, God is everywhere. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all three persons of the Blessed Trinity in their divinity, are present in every location and at every moment. At the same time, we intuitively know that God is not present to us in the same way that another human being is present to us. God is so much greater than we are and yet so close. It was He who knit us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). His omnipresence is why we can pray to God wherever we are. Yet, because we are wounded beings with bodies and not just spiritual, we so often fail to recognize His divinity even if we have the best intentions.
Every year, Fr. Joe would try to make a trip back to North Dakota to visit past parishioners. When he came to our place he would toot the horn of his blue Jeep the last couple hundred yards till he arrived at the house. I can remember the excitement in the air when we heard that sound, but most especially when he got out of his Jeep. Seeing the smiles on Dad and Mom’s faces, hearing him talk to us brought his presence to a whole new level. It wasn’t the same as those letters. Now, he was literally present to us in a whole different and more real way. We could hear his voice and experience his presence. He was before us body and soul. He was actually at our house, and it was great.
With the rise of new technologies, I think it is easier for us to understand what presence is. Today, we can have a picture of someone, a letter from someone, text messages through cellular and digital devices. We can make a phone call and hear someone’s voice from the other side of the world, and we can see each other face to face on FaceTime, Skype, and many other video applications. In all of these manners of communication, we are present to each other in different ways. Nevertheless, none of these ways of communication or presence is the same as being in the physical and real presence of the human being whose picture you have, whose letter you have received, whose voice you hear on the telephone, or who you see live on screen. Knowing that a person is a few feet away in a Jeep or standing next to you changes everything. You don’t even have to be talking to them. Just being in their presence changes the way you act and think.
Therefore you likely can see that coming before the Blessed Sacrament is not the same as praying to God at home. It’s different. In the Blessed Sacrament, He’s really present in a fuller way. He becomes present with His body, blood, soul, and divinity. The bread becomes God. The wine becomes God. Hidden? Yes, and He’s there, fully. When one’s heart is open to encountering God in the Blessed Sacrament, one can experience a greater joy than I experienced when Fr. Joe tooted that Jeep horn and entered our house.
The benefit of praying before the Blessed Sacrament as opposed to praying elsewhere is that in front of the Blessed Sacrament you are just a few feet away from God in the same way the apostles were. Relationships can grow when you text or phone a person. But, nothing comes close to when two people are present to each other in the same room. Relationships with God can grow when we pray at home or elsewhere, but physically coming into God’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament brings it to a whole new level.
If your closest friend only talked to you over the phone choosing never to come visit you, even when you invited them, there would be an ache in your stomach and you would doubt the amount of love they have for you. In the same way, if we choose only to pray to God at home and never at Mass or before the Blessed Sacrament, can you imagine the sadness we would bring to Jesus, especially if we are fully capable of visiting and adoring Him in person? Both are good, but praying before Him in the Blessed Sacrament is better and helps us to encounter Him more fully than in the home.
Fr. Evinger is pastor of St. Joseph in Killdeer, St. Paul in Halliday and St. Joseph in Twin Buttes. If you have a question you were afraid to ask, now is the time to ask it! Simply email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org with the “Question Afraid to Ask” in the subject line.
To read more about our Josephs and their connection to St. Joseph, click here.