His Presence Among Us
By Charla Spalluto Misse
You may know this story, as it occurred in Baltimore when Pope St. John Paul II visited in October 1995.
I was surprised to learn of it 20 years later. Because I was so touched by it and have often recalled it, I was compelled to share it with you. I wonder how many of you have heard this story before?
On the pope’s last day in Baltimore, his schedule was packed tight with a Mass at Camden Yards, a downtown parade, visits to the Basilica of the Assumption, to a local soup kitchen run by Catholic Charities, a prayer service at the Cathedral of Mary, Our Queen, and finally, a short stop at St. Mary’s Seminary.
Because the day’s events were so numerous, Pope St. John Paul II was only scheduled to greet the seminarians as they stood outside St. Mary’s. Upon arriving at the seminary, however, he made his way into the building and desired to first visit the Blessed Sacrament.
Because security personnel had not planned for this, when they learned of the Pope’s intent, they quickly took action ahead of the Pope, sweeping the building and giving special attention to the chapel where he would be praying. Highly trained dogs, which detect living people under the rubble of collapsed buildings, were used for the purpose of detecting any potentially dangerous and unauthorized persons in hiding. These dogs quickly made rounds through the halls, offices and classrooms, up and down the aisles of the chapel, and, then finally, to the side chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was secured.
Upon reaching the tabernacle, the dogs refused to leave, whining, pointing and fixed to a spot, signaling to their handlers that, indeed, a living person was present within the tabernacle. They would only leave when commanded by their handlers. As Catholics, we know that the living person in the tabernacle was Jesus Christ.
Each time I consider this when I encounter the Eucharist, I am newly awed by the fact that Jesus Christ, who suffered such pain and death for us, is truly present and alive before me, quietly waiting.
While we know this is true, it is easy, in the bustle of life, to forget the magnitude of this reality. I am deeply grateful to have reminders like this so that I never miss an opportunity to recognize Him.
No, we were not aware of this story. Having studied in Baltimore for four years back in the 1980s, we know the places that were mentioned in this article. In fact, I was cantor for Vigil Masses at the Basilica of the Assumption and even “subbed” for Msgr. Love (now there’s a name for a priest) one Easter Vigil in intoning the “Exsultet.” Powerful, powerful testimony. Gives the title “Emmanuel” even more meaning — truly, God is with us.