By: Ashley Blackburn
I was at mass this Sunday and the children’s choir was singing the song, Lord Prepare Me To Be a Sanctuary. As the priest and Eucharistic ministers were preparing for communion, I bowed my head and prayed. Looking down at my pregnant belly, I began to reflect on this new life within my womb. My womb has been a sanctuary for this child in order for the new life to develop and grow. With every Eucharist that I received during this pregnancy, the child within my womb has also received Jesus. How much more I yearned to feed this child as many times with the Eucharist in these last few weeks before my due date!
And then Jesus flooded me with an even deeper insight, which was so beautiful that I knew I needed to share it. We often hear of Mary being compared to the tabernacle in that she bore in her womb Jesus, just as the tabernacle does today in every Catholic church across the world. With this, we see Joseph taking on the role of being the protector of that tabernacle (Mary’s womb) and the life within it (Jesus). Joseph took Mary into his home, protected her from danger of being stoned to death, and traveled with her to Bethlehem. He was there for her in her in what the world would have considered a “crisis” and took on the responsibility of protecting her and the baby within her womb from harm.
By looking at the Holy Family in this way, we can also then turn to the human family as a reflection of this same image. Every pregnant woman is a tabernacle. She is carrying within her womb new life, both a physical life and an eternal life of a soul. This new life is both given and sustained by God. By carrying this eternal soul within the womb, the mother is in essence carrying another portion of the Body of Christ… a portion outside of her own participation in it. With this, the father takes on the role of protector of this tabernacle. He is to look to Joseph as a model of what this protective role truly means. I dare to say that this role is one where the father must LISTEN to God, then TRUST in His call, and finally FOLLOW the will of God. Both the mother and father of every child conceived have a responsibility to model the Holy Family.
But this image is not only true and reflective for expectant mothers and fathers. It also is true and reflected through the priest. The priest, as a model of St. Joseph, has also taken on the role of protector of the tabernacle and of Jesus present in it. At the consecration when the priest participates with the Holy Spirit in turning ordinary bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus, he is reflecting what a man does when conceiving a child with his bride. The woman’s egg is made up of ordinary cells, which can do nothing on their own accord. But through the union with the sperm of the man, along with the life-giving action of God, a new life and an eternal soul are created. Similarly, the bread and wine are ordinary and can do nothing of their own accord. It is through the cooperation of the Priest, ordained and bound to the church that his spoken word brings forth the Holy Spirit, and the bread and wine become a the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. After this action, both priest and father are called to take on the role of protector. Protector of this new life that they have participated in creating. Protector of the tabernacle or womb in which this life is housed. One “Father” brings the life giving bread for all of us. One Father participates in bringing forth a new member of the Mystical Body of Christ.
And so with this, what voice do our fathers and priests have in the world today? Many priests are being asked to be more “tolerant” and give communion to non-catholic spouses who have no inclination to become one with the church or those who are knowingly living in grave sin with no indication of repentance, and without calling them to conversion. Likewise, fathers have been for years asked to be more “tolerant” by giving up their role as father and protector of the new life within the mother’s womb. Men are often a forgotten victim of the impact of abortion and feel they are not allowed to speak about it. While our culture tells us it’s the woman’s body, the reality is that the woman did not create the new life within her womb alone. Both the father of the child AND God were involved in this creative act. Similarly, the bread and wine cannot create the Eucharist alone, Jesus becomes present through the cooperation of the priest AND the Holy Spirit.
In light of this reflection, it is our men, our fathers, and our priests whom God is calling upon at this time. God is calling you to RISE UP. God is calling you to take on your role as protectors of the tabernacle. He is calling you to imitate St. Joseph by LISTENING, TRUSTING, and FOLLOWING His will. Be not afraid… Take Courage… By stepping into this role, you are not being “intolerant”, but instead you are bravely and boldly accepting your God given responsibility as protector.