Remorse, Prayer, and the Light in the Chalice


t Sunday Mass at the Alibrandi Catholic Center near the campus of Syracuse University, Father Gerry holds up the Eucharist and gold chalice and says, “We believe that this is the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Sunlight pours through the vertical rectangular windows in the chapel. The central air-conditioning hums in the background as I look past the priest, staring out at the maple trees standing in nearby Walnut Park and the wispy white clouds hovering in the blue sky.

When the sunlight hits the red wine in the chalice, it illuminates Father Gerry’s fingers, making them look like flames and casting an orange glow that dances in the cup. As I watch the sunlight work this magic, I wonder if this is the exact moment of transmutation—the precise point in time on this Sunday morning when the bread and wine become the body, blood, and divinity of our Lord.

And then I ask myself if I really believe in the authenticity of the Eucharist, beyond just the symbolism. Do I believe the Holy Spirit has the power to transform common food and drink into the living Redeemer, into the actual person of Jesus Christ? I answer to myself “yes,” but I also know that doubts may persist from week to week.

Today I cannot partake in the Eucharist, having missed Mass a few times recently without going to Confession. I start to say a silent Act of Contrition but then stop myself in mid-sentence. Does Christ really want me to recite a written prayer from memory, without any true expression of remorse? Do the words possess meaning? I don’t think so.

I think Christ wants my heart to be reformed instead. I think he wants to bend me toward loving others in a deeper way. And so I simply tell Jesus that I am sorry for all of my past (and future) sins, and I ask him to forgive me and to save me. This honest uncovering of my soul makes me feel much better, even as I remain seated, watching the other Mass attendees rise and line up to receive Holy Communion.

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Francis DiClemente
Francis DiClemente lives in Syracuse, New York. He is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Sidewalk Stories (Kelsay Books, 2017). His blog can be found at (photo credit: Susan Kahn)