In the evening of July 8, 1897, a young nun was admitted to the infirmary of her convent. It would be her final nest before flying into the heaven already present in her mighty soul, the marriage bed that she shared with her crucified Spouse.
From July 6 to August 5, she coughed up blood every day as tuberculosis ravaged her young lungs. She had offered herself to be consumed by God’s merciful love, and now she intimately shared in Christ’s suffering on the Cross, requiring a minute between each word as she agonizingly suffocated.
This period of haemoptyses was only an early stage in the gloriously pitiable death of Sr. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. Yet it is a profound stage: Therese coughed up blood over nearly the entire month of July, the month which the Church dedicates to the Precious Blood.
Shouldn’t this be one of the deepest desires of every Catholic? To be so united to the poetry of the Liturgical Year – Christ’s love song to His Bride – that even our physical sufferings align with the cadence of the Church’s memorials and devotions?
I don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly there yet. However, Christ wants to begin molding you and I into living liturgies right now, even before we have attained heroic virtue. I believe that this is one of His specific desires for the month of His Precious Blood.
I don’t want the Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours to be parts of my day or week – I want them to encompass every breath and action of my day. But to even intellectually begin this transformation of my life, I need to think about everyone’s favorite topic for contemplation: blood.
Before you stop reading, no, I am not a psychopath.1 Nor am I asking you to become one. This is literally the topic our Mother Church is asking us to muse over for the next few weeks, in whatever capacity we are able. The Church is born out of Christ’s blood. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
So grab a cup of coffee, settle in, and let’s talk about blood.2
What does blood have to do with the liturgy, other than the obvious reality that at every Mass, Christ’s blood becomes physically present? Well, blood is ubiquitous to your current phenomenal experience. If there was not blood flowing through your veins right now, you would not be reading this. You would not be breathing. You would be dead. Spilt blood is certainly associated with and the cause of death, but blood itself is a sign of life.
Blood is a sign of life partially because blood is meant to be received. You owe your existence to your mother’s blood that nourished you in the womb for nine months. Without the gift of her body, you would not be here. Similarly, an accident or (physical) trauma victim often requires a blood transfusion. In order to live, they need to receive the gift of a stranger’s blood.
Your salvation hinges on your reception of Christ’s Precious Blood in the Eucharist (John 6:53).3 It is no coincidence that Mary, the immaculate model of receptivity, alongside Mary Magdalen and John, the audacious lovers, were so near when Christ’s blood rained from His dead side and gave birth to the Church. When the Song of Songs urges, “Drink deeply, lovers,4” every member of Christ’s body is urged to drink Jesus’ blood, to receive a physical manifestation of His omnipresent life.
Not only must blood be received, but blood is meant to be shed. Once again, blood is a sign of life – aren’t happy childhoods at least somewhat associated with scratches from tree branches or scraped knees from running too quickly down a hill? I do think there is a certain beauty in blood-stained pointe shoes. To bleed means that you have given completely of yourself, and that is a precious strength of the human person that needs to be safeguarded. Not everything is worth bleeding for.
But how incredible is it that a woman’s body is literally designed to shed blood for her future children? Or that men are built to fight, even to kill, to defend that which they love? Humans are intended to shed their blood for the sake of love.5
And this is at least an inkling of the unfathomable beauty of the liturgy. When we enter the liturgy, we enter the source of life Himself. We receive, we offer, we repeat. At every moment, Christ longs to draw us into the sacrifice of the Mass and the song offered through the Liturgy of the Hours. He is present in the precious laugh of the little boy I nanny. Christ invites me to receive His own presence there in a living room and then offer that gift back for His glory. He is also present when the same little boy spills my coffee all over his parents’ nice leather chair. Once again, he invites me to receive that difficulty and offer it back to Him with joy.
To truly become a living liturgy at every moment of every mundane day won’t be easy though. Christ says that “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent bear it away.”6 By no means is Jesus speaking of physical violence in the name of religion. Nor is He encouraging abuse against our own bodies. But He is saying that to enter His kingdom, we have to be fearless in the war against Hell. With our prudence fully intact, we must battle against our selfishness, violently interrupting our personal agendas for the sake of prayer and charity. We need to fast – always in a way that reverences the human body, the temple of the Holy Spirit.7 And we must violently batter the walls we have placed around our hearts, or constantly battle against the spirits that try to re-erect those soul-crushing walls Christ has already torn down.
Why shed our blood, even if only spiritually? Because Jesus is worth EVERYTHING. You might not be called to physical martyrdom. But young Therese’s glorious passion reminds us that the way of spiritual martyrdom and total union with Christ’s passion and resurrection is attainable for every soul.
You are made to receive His blood. Are you ready for Him to make you new?
You are made to shed your blood. Are you ready to do so?
With a smile I will brave the cannonade And in your arms, O my Divine Spouse, With a song I will die on the battlefield Weapons in hand! - St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face
1 – Nor am I a high-functioning sociopath (with your number). Sorry, the Sherlockian in me couldn’t resist the reference.
2 – Pace to the Abiding Together podcast and my fellow listeners – I love you all dearly, I promise.
3 – Just your friendly reminder that Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity are present in every particle of every Host. Before Vatican II, the Priest was the only one to drink the Precious Blood. We have 99 (million) problems because of Covid, but this ain’t one of them.
4 – Song of Songs 5:1
5 – At least in this post-lapsarian (after the Fall) world. These are just ideas, not a painstakingly researched thesis, so feel free to (respectfully) argue with me all you want in the comments.
6 – Matthew 11:12
7 – This Jason Evert podcast episode is the source of my thoughts on this. Definitely worth the listen for both gentlemen and ladies.