Maybe I am a little biased, but I think our Chapel has unique blessings. Perhaps it is the more than 30 angels imaged there, or all the pictures and statues of saints. The numerous floral arrangements with blossoms from the grounds might also contribute. It could be the lingering aroma of incense from our daily Holy Hours blending with the burning wax of our many votive candles. Then again just maybe it is the sound of the flowing fountain on the plaza just outside or the cooing mourning dove. Of course there may be an eco or two left from the last major celebration when trumpets and flutes harmonized with organ and voices. Surely each of these adds to the blessings.
But none is truly the source. We repainted our Chapel a few years ago and during the long process the visual was far from what it is now. But it was still a sacred space. Try as we might, there are days when the flowers are a bit wilted, at least until the sister sacristan gets a chance to clean them up. We do have some little skunk friends that have over powered our more holy fragrances from time to time. But it does not detract from that unique element pervading the Chapel. Jet planes, muffler-less cars, and screeching crows have drowned out any pleasant sound now and again. And believe it or not, we sometimes sing off key and the instruments are not always perfectly tuned. Nevertheless, Sacred Heart Chapel is special in (dare I say it) a mystical way.
By now you are probably asking the same question as I. Why? What makes the difference?
I think it is what happens here.
The Chapel is the dwelling place of Our Lord, truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. It is the place in which those women who have been consecrated to Him come to meet Him in the intimacy of the sacraments and prayer. Here His Brides daily consummate their union with Him by the reception of the His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. It is also here that they come in order to restore any area of their relationship with Him that has suffered due to their sins. This we call Reconciliation. It is their first destination in the morning and the last place they visit before retiring.
The Chapel is anointed because of the relationship that takes place there, producing such a fruitful love that all who visit are impressed by the exchange.
There are many specific examples I could relay for you, and every sister probably has her own treasury of things she has witnessed in our sacred space. But a few nights ago, I saw something that put this whole thought process in motion.
We had just begun an 8-day retreat for women religious. It was the first night, about 9:30 p.m. I went into the Chapel to pray Night Prayer after a rather long day. I was not on retreat but when I walked through the doors I could feel the prayer of my sisters on retreat. I sat in the back pew and watched the few sisters still in the Chapel praying. Most had already retired to their rooms, getting the rest they would need to pour themselves into the retreat.
An elderly sister caught my eye as she began to make the Stations of the Cross. My first thought was that it was awfully late to start such a lengthy devotion, but that just shows my generosity has not yet reached her capacity. I have a ways to go.
Station by station she moved along the aisle, one hand holding her cane, the other gripping the pews for balance. I noticed she was doing something with her hand after each station, her left hand to be precise. I was edified and humbled when I realized that after she had recalled each step of Our Lord on the way to Calvary, she was kissing the ring of her profession, her wedding ring.
Stooped with age and slowed with infirmity, she is still the Bride of Christ. A faithful Bride, still very much in love with her Divine Bridegroom. But even more, very conscious of His faithful love for her.
That is just an example. Many of you probably have had your own moments of grace in Sacred Heart Chapel, and you understand my point. The grace is for the individual at the moment, but somehow it lingers on, touching the lives of all who come. A place of refuge? A slice of Heaven on earth? Call it what you will, it is tangible the love of God is present here.