"By reason of His immensity, God is present everywhere; but there are two places where He dwells in a particular manner. One is in the highest heavens, where He is present by that glory which He communicates to the blessed; the other is on earth—within the humble soul that loves Him."
— St. Alphonsus Liguori
We know God is present at Mass. We know He is there during the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at Adoration. We can sense the presence of God when we are praying in a beautiful place or when we are inside a cathedral.
In these instances or under these circumstances it might seem easier for us to use our senses and realize that God is with us. Yet God is all around us. Everywhere. All day, and all night.
Our daughter attends a Catholic college (Belmont Abbey College) which is only about 30 minutes from where we live. We are fortunate to have her close (we have nine children, and the four ahead of her all went to schools over six hours away). One of the best things about where she attends college is that it is also a monastery. The public is invited to attend some of the monastic prayer services at the Abbey, and I recently joined them during a Vespers service. It was a beautiful, quiet, and focused twenty minutes of prayer.
Since then I've been trying to get back to the Abbey to pray with the monks. I've also been trying to get to a Holy Hour. My schedule is filled with kids, schooling, and activities, and I've been frustrated with how difficult it seems to get away to spend time with Our Lord. Yet, it is important to remember that God is not present only in those places—like churches, abbeys, and adoration chapels. He is here with me always.
I went for a run the other day, and after dismissing all of the other things vying for my brain's attention, I decided to talk to God. I started with all of the things troubling me, but as I made my way down the list I grew weary. All of my worries and frustrations began to grow large and loom over me ... so I stopped with the asking and simply tried listening. I tried to hear what God might be saying to me. This was harder than I imagined it would be.
I guess I'm not as used to listening to God as I should be. At first, I only noticed my breathing and the rhythmic sound of my feet hitting the pavement. After a while I began to focus on my breath, and decided to imagine breathing in the presence of God and breathing out the distractions that kept my mind from focusing on Him.
It was a warm day and the sky was a brilliant blue. Although it took me a while, I began to recognize Him in the beauty around me—to feel calmer and more at peace than when I had started my run. When I rounded the corner after a few miles and could see my house, I felt refreshed and my head felt clearer than it had in days.
The following day I hoped to repeat the experience, but unfortunately a run became an elusive thing. I had started the day with the readings from the Morning Office, and was able to reflect on them at times throughout the morning. I remembered to pause for a few moments at noon to pray, and to whisper evening prayers on my way to taking my kids to their sports practice. As I finished the Night Office prayers before bed, I realized that the times I paused throughout the day truly brought my thoughts to rest on God, even if just for a few moments. It dawned on me that I am the one who often isn't available, not God. However much I desire to get away and be with God, He is always near me wherever I am.
"The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth." Psalm 145:18
My desire to pray with the monks at Belmont Abbey, or to spend time with God in a Holy Hour of Adoration, or even to see Him in the beauty of a run outside, are all good desires. But I can also be with Him anytime during my busy day—I just need to make the time to spend a few moments with God. And what a difference it makes.
Attending Mass, or going to a Holy Hour is a beautiful way to spend time with Our Lord. Anytime we receive our Lord in the Eucharist, we open ourselves up to becoming more like Him. And during Eucharistic Adoration we also open ourselves to those graces which flow from spending time adoring Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. As it beautifully states on the parish website for Our Lady of Grace in Greenville, South Carolina,
"By worshiping the Eucharistic Jesus, we become what God wants us to be! Like a magnet, The Lord draws us to Himself and gently transforms us ... In its fullest essence ... Eucharistic Adoration is 'God and Man reaching out for each other, at the same time!'"
There is no doubt that spending time with Our Lord at Mass or Adoration are perfect ways to be close to God. Yet I must remember that He is with me always ... wherever I am.
Whether with the monks at Belmont Abbey during Vespers, on a run in my neighborhood, or in the early dawn hours as I pray Lauds in the Liturgy of the Hours by myself in the quiet, God is present with me. I don't need to "go somewhere" to be close to Our Lord. He is always right here.