I was working at a bar when I had my adult conversion. Late, late nights. Many times, I was on my feet for eight or ten hours. After my shifts, recovering from a life steeped in sin, I just wanted to be with someone.
There was a little all-night Blessed Sacrament chapel at our university parish. It couldn’t have been more than ten feet by ten feet; housing a couple chairs, small kneelers, and the Tabernacle. I would walk tired, smelling of beer and fried food, no doubt, into the quiet, dark chapel and take a seat in the center chair.
I sat across from Him. Not from the “Tabernacle” or the “consecrated host,” but HIM — a Presence.
My brain, “fried,” as it were, after a long day of work, could barely put a thought together. But it didn’t matter. We sat there together. The two of us. We just existed together.
Christianity is not a “religion of the book.” It is a religion of a person. In that precious little chapel — my Portziuncola, my “Little Portion” — I encountered that Person for the first time. Not a thought, or a rote prayer, or a figment of my imagination, but an encounter with a Person more real than anything I’ve ever experienced — more real than all reality I had encountered up until that point.
I remember reading an interview with Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI that struck me very deeply. He said that prayer for him was like returning to conversation with an old Friend. It was in “my Portziuncola” that I first encountered that Friend.
Now, as a mother to three very young children, my brain is “fried” for other reasons… I still can barely put a thought together when I get a moment of silence for prayer.
However, I know very well, that He and I still exist together, just like we did those late nights after the bar closed. He is always present to me, I just have to make my heart present to Him.