When a door opens before you, do you walk through?
I’m not talking about metaphorical doors, but actual physical doors. Maybe the kind that are triggered by a sensor, or perhaps are opened by a kindly or polite person. Like me, you’ve probably had the experience of not intending to walk through a door, but once it was opened before you, you did it anyway.
Late in the afternoon a few days ago, I was walking through the main shopping district of Linz, Austria. My wife and I were in the final days of a Viking river cruise up the Danube to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We’d had a full day already in the amazingly well-preserved late medieval town of Ceský Krumlov in Czechia, and Amy was back on the boat resting. I was taking in the sights of a street fair in Linz when the Ursulinenkirche, the Church of the Ursulines, rose up before me.
The church appeared to be closed. Two large glass doors guarded the wooden entrance common to Catholic churches in Europe, and a crowd was gathered around a group of performers who were using the church steps as a stage. Knowing that it’s not uncommon for Catholic churches in Europe to be closed for a few hours in the afternoon and then to reopen in the evening, I decided to check the hours on the church, and perhaps return after dinner on the ship.
As I walked up the steps, searching for a sign with the hours, the glass doors swung open before me. While the performers were standing on the steps, the doors hadn’t opened for them, so I was surprised, but not as surprised as I was when I saw the wooden entrance door swing open, too. Now I couldn’t turn away and wait until after dinner; I had to enter the church.
After genuflecting, I took the obligatory pictures of the interior, then knelt to pray. I felt the sudden urge to make a spiritual communion, though I hadn’t in other churches we had visited over the previous week. “Though I cannot now receive you in the Sacrament of Communion,” I prayed, “come into my heart. Purify it, sanctify it, make it like unto Your own.”
I left the church refreshed and still marveling at the automatic doors that had drawn me inside. The exit door, I noted, didn’t open automatically. Though I had pushed open at least a dozen exit doors in other churches since we began our trip, this time that, too, felt significant.
I walked to the next block — literally, right next door — to the Karmelitenkirche, the Church of the Carmelites. Again, the doors swung open for me, and I walked in to find that Mass had just begun. “Though I cannot now receive you in the Sacrament of Communion …”: And now I could. I walked up the aisle, not as a tourist but as a member of the Body of Christ, genuflected, and took my place in a pew.
We sometimes make too much of the little things that happen in our lives, but more often we don’t make enough of them. “Nothing by coincidence,” our pastor, Father Tony Steinacker, is fond of saying; “everything by divine providence.” A door opens; a prayer of longing springs to my lips; another door opens; and I receive Our Lord – body, blood, soul and divinity.
A year ago, at the first meeting of the Executive Team for the USCCB’s National Eucharistic Revival, we discussed how we would know whether the revival had succeeded. I said then, and I’m more convinced now, that perhaps the biggest measure of its success or failure will be how often anyone can try the door of any Catholic church in the country and find it unlocked. If we truly believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, why would we ever want to keep anyone from walking through a door and coming into his healing presence, even if only for a moment or two?
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