Living Tabernacles: on the feast of the Immaculate Conception

I've had the opportunity to visit many, many churches during my first semester serving Franciscan University in Gaming, Austria. Every time I walked in, my goal was to find the tabernacle and pay a visit to Jesus, if only for a moment. But on one visit, instead of a tabernacle, I found a stripped-down, empty room. Nothing but walls and windows, ceilings and floors. It was now just a museum for those interested in 13th-century architecture. It was one of the saddest moments of my semester.

Even when I was in magnificently-decorated Baroque cathedrals, they would have felt absolutely empty without the presence of Jesus. Today, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, it got me to thinking. Mary was the perfect tabernacle for the presence of the Lord, prepared at her conception for Jesus to come and dwell within.

Each of us, flesh and bone that we are, was also made for this purpose. And we are nothing without Him.


These walls will stretch 'till you abide
Vast, vaulted ceilings higher climb
Beams and bricks without you there
Beams and bricks without you living there


This dust was made with you in mind
These stones are but a waiting bride
Empty if not filled with you
Empty if not filled with all of you




Who am I, that my Lord should come to me?
Who am I, that my Lord should dwell inside of me?
Take my body, take my blood
Take these sticks and all this mud
And build a shelter where your heart can come to rest


Basilicas and sanctuaries
Cathedrals, shrines, are just so many
Empty shells without your presence, Lord
Marble, gold I don't possess,
But, Lord, it is my happiness
If you would make this humble heart Your home
Make me your home


So find a candle, strike a flame
And leave it here to light your name
Jesus walks along these halls
Jesus lives and loves between these walls


-Sr. Mary Gemma, T.O.R.


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