Eternal Reality

This week I was able to sit at the feet of Jesus, in His presence in the Eucharist. Our parish just started offering Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for 12 hours every Tuesday, and I jumped on it. I stepped out after dinner dishes and got back in time to help with brushing teeth and bedtime; it was perfect. I had been wanting to establish the habit of regular Adoration for a while—not just experience it here and there at special events or retreats. I had sensed God drawing me into His presence in the Sacrament; and when I knelt facing the Eucharist in the quiet chapel I knew why. 

He knew that I regularly need my vision to eternal reality restored. He knows that I get repeatedly sucked into the world’s version of what is “real.” It can so quickly consume, take over, and distract my heart from living for heaven; and when that happens, I—we all—lose our peace.

In our journey through this life there are endless sources constantly pulling us out of the eternal reality. Numerous siren calls lure us off our heavenly course with compelling whispers: “Maintain your pride, flatter your vanity, shower yourself with comforts.” Slowly we drift from the safe currents of Eternal Truth, sailing for a time among falsely calm waters of what the world assures us is most real. We are suddenly alarmed when we find our ships dashed against perilous rocks. We have lost our anchor in true reality; we’ve become untethered from the eternal.

In the silent power of His presence, I was immersed in the eternal reality. It was as if I had stepped through a veil into another world. I could still see the physical world around me; I knew well what waited for me outside those church doors. But the presence of God and the promise of what will never change—a hope for here and a home being prepared for me—was overwhelmingly present and real to me. I was able to see truly the lies that I let in; I was able to right my course, because I was making myself available to God and cooperating with His grace. When we run to Him, He draws us into His harbor, which always restores our eyes of faith to a supernatural view. 

But that ethereal view isn’t visible from every stance. In fact, when we step out into the world away from His presence, there are many vantage points that angle out the eternal perspective. We can’t commune with eternal souls through glowing screens; we are unable to minister to Christ himself when we turn away from the faces that bear His image, faces of poverty and pain that make us uncomfortable. The endless compulsion to acquire more leaves us with less and less assurance of spiritual wealth. The over-extended and margin-less lives we live leave no room for contemplating eternal realities. 

Yet…when we find ourselves at such hopeless vantage points, we may always accept God’s gracious invitation of re-entry into true reality. He is there for us when we choose to step into those moments of grace and locations of His presence. Whether an hour in silent Adoration, a Sabbath Sunday’s inactivity and rest, or the quiet of early (or late) moments in the personal prayer of our “interior castles,” the Father is waiting to change our hearts, right our course, and renew our view of what is eternally real for our human souls. 

We go back into our physical reality with fresh life and clear vision. We live our vocations and look on the people in our lives with eyes of faith: “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it…” (Philippians 1:6). 

I came home from Adoration with the image of that heavenly glow radiating from around the Eucharist; and as I tucked little people into beds, I was aware of that veil of re-entry and the grace extended to see with heavenward vision. 

Copyright 2020 Jessica Ptomey

Podcast (January): Flannery O’Connor Stories

As we announced a couple of months ago on The Catholic Reading Challenge, we will be spending 2020 reading 24 different short stories by 12 different authors. Each month we will focus on one author, reading two stories by that author. During each of our bi-weekly podcast episodes (on the 15th & 30th of the month) we will discuss the stories in turn.

We are starting our year of short stories with the person who is arguably the master of the genre — Flannery O’Connor. Here are our selections:

Both of these stories can be found in this complete paperback collection of O’Connor stories. I did find PDF versions of “The Displaced Person” and “Parker’s Back” that you can easily print off too.

Those who are already familiar with O’Connor’s work need no introduction to her. But for those of you who have never read her stories, I would say this: she is probably unlike anything that you have ever read. In fact, for most of us who have grown up in a thoroughly modern (philosophically) world, her writing will probably be shocking. Well, that was her intent. She strategically employed violence in her stories (whether symbolic or physical) to “shake” her audience awake to truth about themselves. We will discuss her methods and common themes this month on the podcast. And we will dive in with our discussion of “The Displaced Person” in our first episode of the new year. Mike and I are looking forward to this discussion!

Copyright 2019 Jessica Ptomey

Christ Has Come to Be with You

Wonderful things often happen when few know they are taking place at that moment. That night in the Bethlehem stable was certainly the greatest of these. Quietly, in the solitary presence of Mary and Joseph, our savior came into our world.

Inns at max capacity and homes full of people slept on obliviously. Kings and rulers in palaces were none the wiser. Only a select few were given the gift of knowing the good news soon after. Humble, ordinary shepherds on a hill heard the angelic announcement that the Shepherd of Souls, from the line of the shepherd-king David, was born. Three kings followed a star that would lead them to the One who sits on the eternal throne.

But at first it was just the Holy Family. Christ’s birth came silently and privately. The great joy of the coming of the Promised One was realized first by this chosen couple. It was intimate and personal, the opposite of the birth of any earthly king. 

I had been meditating through Advent this year, and now through this joyous Christmas week, on how the coming of Christ in our hearts, daily, is meant to be the same quiet, intimate, personal experience. He comes to us in our humility. It is not a fanfare on display to the world around us; it is the precious, private stillness of His presence in the mangers of our souls. 

What is of course miraculous is that this is accomplished simultaneously in every heart. His coming to each of us is so personal; it is always our own quiet moment, like a mother’s singular embrace of her baby right after birth. The crowds don’t know what happens here; no loud announcements have yet been made. He just comes to us individually, lighting our darkness, filling us with joy. And then, it is our lives that become the proclamation. We become the angels on the hills; we become the star that shines the way. But it is humble beginnings; it is an intimate initial encounter.

During this Christmas week, seek the quiet, humble stable. Look for His birth in your hearts with new eyes and new appreciation for the intimate and personal way that your savior comes to you. It’s a manger of hay; it’s a cross of wood; it’s through simple bread and wine. It’s in the broken human heart. He comes and transforms us, and once transformed we transmit His glory and radiance to the world around us. 

This truly is the wonder of Christmas: Emmanuel, “God has come to be with us.” He has come individually, personally, to each of us. Embrace the quiet coming of your king. Delight in it. He has come to be with you. 

Copyright 2019 Jessica Ptomey