Wednesday, 19 November 2008

"Popping In"

I have recently started watching, extraordinarily enough for the first time, the television adaptation of "Brideshead Revisited." I have read the book many times and find that it is the sort of book which seems to change shape every time I do so. I first read it almost exclusively for the jolly larks and nostalgia, rather skipping over the adultery, the pain and, really, most of the religion. Every subsequent reading has led me to concentrate on something new, looking beyond the teddy bear and Brandy Alexanders, and watching the televised version has had the same effect. Recently, something that Cordelia said, when Bridey talks of closing the chapel, struck a chord with me.

"We must have the Blessed Sacrament here," said Cordelia. "I like popping in at odd times; so does mummy."

"Popping in" to visit the Sacrament has become more and more important to me recently. I am very fortunate that directly next to the place where I work, there is a church in which it is possible to kneel in the ante-chapel (Not the ante-chapel. What do you call the ante-chapel in a church?) in view of the tabernacle, even when the main church is locked. I frequently visit after work or during a break to say the office, or the rosary, or simply to kneel in prayer for a moment or two. Often while I am there, other people come in for a few minutes to do the same thing.

When I was at university, I would often visit the chapel during the day for a few minutes here and there and this was something that I missed when doing postgraduate work at a university which did not have a chapel. It was very valuable to have the opportunity to sit or kneel in a beautiful and (generally!) quiet environment. The church I "pop in" to now is neither so quiet, nor so beautiful, but it has one thing that my student chapel did not have: the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the sanctuary. I can (and should, more than I do) pray to God anywhere, at work, at home, on the bus and it is all very good. Praying before the Sacrament, however, is an even greater source of strength and consolation, one which I find hard to describe.

As an undergraduate, I was able to go to daily Mass, and this is something I miss greatly. Now, because of tedious things like jobs and where I live it is much more difficult to go to Mass during the week, and because of a mixture of legitimate practical reasons and sheer laziness, I rarely do so. Things like visiting the Sacrament, praying the rosary on the bus, or saying the angelus (being in earshot of the angelus bell is another benefit of my work place!) are important substitutes for the daily services of my university days.

To draw yet another, rather more frivolous comparison, with those halcyon days of libraries and essay crises, my religious life now has become rather more like my social life was then. In those days it wasn't really necessary to arrange to meet my friends, I just bumped into them, or popped round to visit. Sadly, this is no longer the case with my friends, scattered far and wide as we are. I can however, still "pop in" to visit the Sacrament. And, with Jesus, you never feel that you ought to be writing an essay instead.


  1. Richeldis, thank you for this: it really is quite splendid.

  2. I feel so happy having read that, Richeldis!

    I know what you mean about how one *ought* to to pray during the day. Saying "Oh, my God!" and rolling one's eyes skywards is something, but not as much as it could be!

    I have sometimes found an almost physical sense of God in the strangest places, and not just in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I once knelt for what seemed like hours in front of a bare wooden cross in the crypt of a tiny chapel in a small town near the Czech-Polish border. Someone had put some pebbles, twigs and leave by it from the outside (it had just become spring after 5 harsh winter months) and, faced with a simple demonstration of the complexity and beauty of God's creation, found myself weeping.