I shared this J. R. R. Tolkien quote, taken from correspondence with his son, a while ago, but I came across it again in a book and thought: “I love that quote!”
It’s advice he gives to help his son appreciate that the efficacy of the Eucharist does not depend, in the last analysis, on human worthiness. In fact, he contends that the contexts of human untidiness and grunge are the very places toward which Jesus the seeker-of-the-sick naturally seems to gravitate.
Though it’s clearly not intended as a licence for intentional liturgical disrespect or sloppiness, it is a healthy dose of realism and a reflection of what life looks like when it’s seen from God’s vantage, hanging on the Cross. And since all of us face, or perpetrate, this experience of liturgical irritants, Tolkien’s advice is applicable to all who wish to fruitfully encounter the saving grace of Christ in all places and circumstances.
Tolkien to his son:
Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children – from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn – open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand – after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.