We know that certain sensations like smells and tastes entice the memory into action, but also it seems do ceremonies and occasions.
Recently I had the great privilege of joining Br. Raj Govinth as he made his first profession into the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament at the Blessed Sacrament Shrine, Liverpool, on May 1st 2018. Both Raj and I had spent the last years apart. He was serving his novitiate within the novice community in the Philippines, whilst I was a scholastic in the USA. As Raj stepped forward to make his profession, my mind all of a sudden pictured the “Eucharistic Dove”, a thirteenth-century receptacle for the safe-keeping of the consecrated Host, which would have been suspended from the ceiling of the sanctuary. As a novice in New York, I visited the Cloisters Museum on the northern edge of the city. Inside is found one of the largest collections of medieval ecclesial art in the United States. But, I always seem to go back to the Eucharistic Dove in my imagination, as I did as Raj vocalized his profession.
The symbolism of the dove is rich within Christian consciousness. The Eucharistic Dove is both the epiclesis, and the Spirit of the Church animated to go forward from the Eucharistic celebration: Go in peace glorifying the Lord by your life. But I sense for Raj it has extra special value. Raj’s first profession was on May 1st, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. For me this was a perfect day for a person endowed with such practical wisdom as I remember Raj radiating when I first met him in Dublin; unlike me, he seemed to be able to lend his hand to anything. Religious Congregations are a rich combination of skills, dispositions, and talents, and all the better when they are used. “St. Joseph approves of this”, I remember muttering to myself as I looked at Raj, “Raj would have been a good carpenter.”
I remember my dad telling me when I was very young about the dovetail joint. My father was also gifted with practical wisdom; he made all of the bedroom furniture for his three children. The dovetail joint is any carpenters pride and joy. Done correctly, the carpenter knows exactly how to craft the wood into the shape of the dove’s tail, so that when the pieces are put together, the connection is so strong that no adhesive is necessary. There is an absolute sense of “union” to the pieces of the wood that is put together.
That is exactly how I understand what is happening in Raj’s life. The making of Raj’s first profession is also the expression of his desire to let the divine carpenter continue what has already begun. The Eucharistic Lord is shaping Raj, so that as his formation continues he will come to see the absolute value, for himself, of what was so central to God’s Eucharistic Saint: in and through the Eucharist having interior union with God, from which everything else we do is made coherent. Towards the end of his life, St. Peter Julian described this kind of dovetail with the exhortation, “Let’s be very supernatural in everything!” Fr. Eymard continued to describe the practicalities to Mme Nathalie Jordan: It is “the cooperation of our will to the grace which is given us. It is our fiat in God, it is the loving adherence of our soul to God. In a word, it’s the love of God, the law, centre and the end of our lives. May God really grant it to us!”
Praise be to God for Br. Raj, who is responding to the invitation that hung on my bedroom door as a child: “Carpenter from Nazareth seeks joiners!”
Fr. Darren Maslen, sss