There is a popular tale in Catholic communities that have a devotion to St. Anthony of Padua. The saint once encountered a man who was obstinate in his sinful ways and did not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. St. Anthony tried to convince the sinner about the Real Presence and to get him to convert. While he was able to get the sinner to doubt, the man was not convinced about the Eucharist, and he developed a test to see if what St. Anthony was saying was actually true. He would starve his donkey for three days, and on the third day he would bring it out and place it between St. Anthony, the Eucharist, and a barrel of oats. If the donkey recognized the presence of Christ and adored it, the man would convert and leave his sinful ways.
St. Anthony agreed and, three days later, the test was set up. As the donkey was put in place, St. Anthony emerged from the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament and, before the whole town, said, “By the name and virtue of your Creator, whom I have in my hands, even though I am unworthy, I order you, wretched animal, to come without delay and humbly kneel before the King of Kings. It is necessary that those men recognize that all creatures must submit to God the Creator, whom every Catholic priest has the honor of making Him descend upon the altar!” And immediately, the donkey ignored the oats and prostrated itself before the Sacrament. The donkey’s owner repented and became a devoted son of Holy Mother Church.
This story left me thinking about a problem I have experienced during Mass: ever more constantly, people do not kneel. The question then rises in my mind: if, as the story goes, a donkey was able to recognize the Blessed Sacrament and show it its due reverence, then why are some people seemingly incapable of doing the same thing? Can they not recognize their Savior? Is there no place in their hearts for reverence and belief? Or are they subject to social pressures and new trends that consider human beings above the “unworthy” act of kneeling?
In kneeling during the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and during Consecration in Mass, we recognize the presence of Christ in our midst. We are also able to show Him the reverence He deserves and, while it may be the case that kneeling is seen as degrading and uncomfortable, it is but a small price to pay for everything Christ has done for us and for everything He continues to do for us.
There is also something beautiful about the devotional act of kneeling. It is offering yourself to God in reverence and then rising up to meet Him and to carry out His will. It is recognizing our frailties and imperfections before a perfect God and then rising up with His help and compassion to spread the Gospel and lead by example in our communities. It is something beautiful that must not be lost out of a regard for ego or comfort. If a donkey was able to recognize the Divine Presence within the Eucharist and properly revere it, will you?
After writing fantastic faith features for The Torch this past year, Gerardo Martinez Cordeiro will be graduating in a few weeks from the Morrissey College of Arts of Sciences with a Bachelors of Arts. Following graduation, he will be pursuing a graduate degree International Business at Johns Hopkins University. The Torch staff thanks him for his insights this past years and prays for the best in his future endeavours.