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Column: Archbishop challenges readers to pick another box


by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

This week is the third in a trilogy of columns inspired by “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light” — a book of formerly unpublished writings of this remarkable contemporary saint.

Last week, I quoted the recollection of the counsel given by Mother Teresa to one of her Missionaries of Charity priests on how to become a holy minister of God’s love.

This same priest, who had the opportunity to spend time with Mother Teresa during the last months of her life, related an episode that occurred during one of her hospitalizations:

“Mother had the grace in the latter years, to have the Blessed Sacrament in her hospital room, and she always wanted it with her. . . . She had another heart failure [in August] right before our eyes. A tube was put down into her lungs to assist her breathing and relieve the pressure upon her heart.

Before the tubes were finally removed, [the doctor] said, “Father, go home and bring that box to Mother.” For a second I wondered, “What box — shoe box?” He said, “That box, that temple they bring and put in her room and Mother looks at it all the time. If you bring it and put it in the room Mother will become so quiet.” I realized he meant the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament. He said to me, “When that box is there, in the room, she is just looking and looking and looking at that box.” The Hindu doctor was an unknowing witness to the power of the Eucharist over our Mother” (page 328).

In the first column of this series, I noted Mother Teresa’s profound love for Jesus in the Eucharist. The effect of the eucharistic presence of Our Lord upon her was observable even to a non-Christian doctor.

I am asking every Catholic during this coming year to commit to praying a daily rosary and making one hour of eucharistic adoration each week. With the very full and fast-paced lives so many live, such a time commitment may seem impossible.

Those my age remember life before the flat screen when almost every American home had as its entertainment center what was referred to as the “television box.” Of course today, most TVs are sleeker, and there are even more entertainment options — e.g. Internet surfing, computer games, iPods, etc.

How many of us spend much more than an hour a week in front of a television “box” or some other screen? Do all of these entertainment options and the time we spend before them leave us more peaceful, happier or more serene? There is a great cynicism and even nihilism that underlies so much of what is presented as entertainment. Much of what we choose to give our time to does not inspire and ennoble us, but leaves us with a sense of emptiness.

I am so pleased that so many of our parishes offer and promote eucharistic adoration, with many having adoration chapels that are accessible 24 hours a day. I challenge you to give up one television program a week, or perhaps an hour that usually is spent on the Internet, in order to make time for one hour of prayer and adoration before our eucharistic Lord.

Do this experiment for the next six months: Give at least one hour a week to eucharistic adoration and observe if there are any changes in your life. I am confident you will find the peace and strength that Mother Teresa and so many others have experienced when they gave time to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.

Cardinal William Keeler, the now-retired archbishop of Baltimore, some years ago invited the people of his archdiocese to write to him sharing their experiences of the difference that eucharistic adoration made in their lives. He published some of these testimonies in a book.

I am not certain that we are going to publish a book, but I would be very interested in receiving from members of the archdiocese written descriptions of your own experience of praying before Jesus, uniquely present in the Eucharist.

I am very fortunate to have in my residence a beautiful chapel. The tabernacle is just a few steps from where I sleep. A few steps the other direction is the living room with a television “box.” My own resolution for the coming months is to spend less time in front of the “box,” which presents so much tragedy and disordered behavior and leaves me with an internal emptiness, and more time before the “box” Mother Teresa gazed at so intently, and from which she derived so much strength and peace.

About the author

Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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