The Abandoned Tabernacle

Selected writings from Saint Manuel Gonzalez Garcia

By Victoria Schneider

The Bishop of the Abandoned Tabernacle

Whenever he would write on the Eucharist, the man of God would encourage a slow meditative reading of his words, so as to let their truth penetrate into the heart. He wrote:

I would like these notes to be read very slowly, so as to give time for the head to learn, for the heart to be moved, and for the grace of God to go to work. After they have been read in this way, then ponder them in prayer before the tabernacle.

In his own words, he proclaims that the experience of the abandoned tabernacle was the one which marked him most powerfully in his life:

How I thank you, Jesus, that among all my life impressions, you wanted the abandoned tabernacle to be the most dominant and almost the exclusive one for directing my life. How I thank you for having called me to experience and to preach on the abandoned tabernacle!

The saint was aware that Eucharistic faith has to be nourished by daily Adoration, which is what permits us to receive Holy Communion fruitfully. Adoration is spiritual contact with the Person of Christ in the Host, and this contact enables us to have deep personal contact with him when he comes in Holy Communion. Only if we encounter Christ as a living Person in the tabernacle will we encounter him as a living Person in Holy Communion. Without such contact, we can consume the Bread of Life but not receive any real strengthening of our spiritual health. He wrote:

Owing to our limitations and the weakness of our condition, we find living in faith difficult since it is hard to go against our human nature. In spite of our frequent Holy Communions, we have the tendency to get tired, distracted, become lukewarm, and even cut off communication with him whom we cannot know, love, nor enjoy in the present life except through a living faith and self-denial. Only those who will journey along this way of living faith and self-denial will give the Heart of Jesus the company he wishes and will receive from him all the fruits that one canhope for in receiving him (in Holy Communion) and becoming united to him. On the other hand, if none of this is present, and if instead of a living faith there is lack of faith, or ignorance of the Catechism; and if instead of self-denial there is pride, hardness of heart, or hearts focused on themselves, it will not be surprising that even though one eats the most healthy of foods one does not grow healthier or stronger.

Living faith and self-denial are expressed by making frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament. There is no greater penance than to deny ourselves the pursuit of other activities so as to make time for Eucharistic Adoration. An abandoned tabernacle is a sign that there is a lack of living faith in the parish; consequently, we can be certain that there is also a lack of fruitful Holy Communions. The degree to which a tabernacle is abandoned is a sign of the degree to which a parish is in a state of spiritual ill-health. Love for the Eucharistic Lord is the authentic gauge of a Christian community’s faith and spiritual well-being.

How is the Tabernacle Abandoned?

St. Manuel provides us with an explanation of what he means precisely when he speaks of the “abandoned tabernacle”:

The Evangelists are the ones who taught me the word “abandonment.” I decided to use this word, not to speak of the hatred, envy, or persecution of the enemies of Jesus, but rather in reference to the disloyalty, coldness, ingratitude, inconstancy, insensitivity, indelicacy, and cowardice that Jesus experiences from his friends. This leaving him at the moment when they should all have been with him, this failure to assist him with their presence and their unconditional loyalty when he needed it most is what the Evangelists call abandonment and flight. “And they all forsook him, and fled” (Mark 14:50). There are two ways in which the tabernacle is abandoned. One, exterior: the habitual and voluntary absence of Catholics who know Jesus but do not visit him. I am not speaking of unbelievers, or of the irreligious, or of uncatechized Catholics, from whom Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament will feel persecuted, hated, slandered, or unrecognized, rather than abandoned. I am speaking of Catholics who believe and know that Our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true Man is really present and alive in the Blessed Sacrament. But they do not receive him in Holy Communion, nor visit him, nor have a friendly relationship with him—even though they live close to a Church, and otherwise have time andenergy for recreational activities. The second way is by interior abandonment. It is to go to him but not to really be with him. It is to receive him with the body, but not with the heart. It is to go to him saying words, bowing our heads, kneeling down, but not performing these acts of piety with our hearts. It is when we do not meditate on what we are receiving. It is when we do not prepare ourselves to receive him with a clean heart and with great spiritual hunger. It is when we do not taste and give thanks for the Food we have received. It is when we do not talk to or listen to the Guest who is visiting us. It is when we are not open to receive and keep the graces he brings us, the warnings he gives us, the example he teaches us, the desires he reveals to us, the love he shares with us. How many times will the Master have to repeat to some communicants and visitors to the Blessed Sacrament: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mt 15:8).

How painful it is for a person to be ignored! If a person enters his home every day without acknowledging the presence of another member of the family, or if an elderly person is left alone in a nursing home without visitors, we immediately recognize the injustice of the situation. We see the extreme lack of love of the family members who do not bother to take the time to show love for the neglected person. Yet Jesus, who is personally present in the tabernacle and in Holy Communion, is very often ignored and treated with similar negligence by his own. St. Manuel describes it in this way:

Jesus, alone, abandoned in the hearts of his friends! Jesus visits souls and lives in the “homes” of his friends (through Holy Communion) without being understood or listened to or assisted or asked his opinion or even taken into account! This interior abandonment is repeated in alarmingly great proportions.

As well as visiting the Blessed Sacrament, it is of the utmost importance to be attentive to Christ when he comes in Holy Communion. The practice of spending time in silence after Mass is an essential means of expressing our gratitude for the sublime gift we receive in the Eucharist. It is also the only real means of interiorly communicating with the Divine Guest who remains really present within us in a bodily way for at least fifteen minutes after Holy Communion. During that time we are truly living tabernacles but we must be careful not to become abandoned tabernacles, with Jesus truly within us while our minds are elsewhere!

The Effects of the Abandonment

Jesus remains always with us in the Eucharist where he desires to pour out graces upon us perpetually. However, St. Manuel was aware that in order to receive those graces, we must respect and adore him in the Blessed Sacrament. Christ is always present in our churches, and there is no defect in his power, but he generally only manifests his loving power when souls draw it from him by their loving presence before him. He wrote,

If the Eucharist is the miracle of the perpetual dwelling of Jesus with us, the abandonment of the Eucharist is the practical frustration of that miracle and, along with that, of the merciful and holy purposes of his dwelling with us. The abandonment of the Eucharist hinders Jesus because of his great and bitter disappointment, and thereby deprives souls and societies of receiving rivers and seas of heavenly graces.

Many souls profess to have faith in the Real Presence of Christ, but they do not act as though Jesus were personally present in the tabernacle. They have no personal contact with him. Though professing Eucharistic faith, they treat the Lord like a dead object. Of them St. Manuel wrote,

Abandonment is the evil of those who know that Jesus has eyes yet will not allow him to look at them. They know that he has ears, yet do not talk to him. They know Jesus has hands and they do not go to him to receive his gifts. They know that he has a Heart with a burning love for them and they do not love him or try to please him! This interior abandonment wounds the Heart of Jesus, causing him great bitterness. It is the bitterness of a hope that is dashed and a plea for help that is spurned. This abandonment reveals a profound lack of love. Oh, unjust lack of love, you look more like hatred! And if this is what you are for him, what will you be for souls?

Victoria Schneider is a language translator. She and her husband Harald live in Maryland and both collaborate in and coordinate Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration for their parish. This experience has impelled her to translate and compile Saint Manuel's writings, so that we might all learn from the one who wrote: "Jesus is with us in each and every tabernacle on earth! Do not abandon Him!"

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