Parish Stories

Our Lady of Good Counsel

Plymouth, MI Archdiocese of Detroit

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“I was more patient, kind and much easier to work with”

Robert Smentowski

The Eucharist gives me daily strength to do whatever the Lord calls me to do that day. I am a very weak man without the Eucharist.

When I was in my forties, I worked directly across the street from Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church. During Lent each year, I would give up my lunch break at work to attend noon Mass and receive the Eucharist. After doing this for a few years, I began to notice the change in me after I would return to work and finish out the workday. I saw that I was more patient, kind, and much easier to work with. I did not argue with anyone but maintained a very peaceful attitude throughout the rest of my workday. After this realization, I have been doing everything that I can to attend daily Mass and receive the Lord, my strength.

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"I asked myself, ‘Who is this? Who is saying this?’"

Dr. Marlon De La Torre

It was never forethought for me that Jesus Christ was truly present in the Holy Eucharist. Even receiving Him in the Holy Eucharist for the very first time at the age of eleven for my First Holy Communion, it never dawned on me that what I was receiving was Jesus himself in the form of consecrated bread and wine. 

As my journey continued throughout my high school years, my response toward receiving Christ at Mass on Sundays was pass and not extraordinary. However, my entire perception of who Jesus Christ is changed when my theology professor/mentor in Catholic high school (who was also my basketball coach, strength coach, and basically everything to me on how a Christian man should carry himself) asked me if I would give one of the keynote presentations for the Senior Kairos retreat that all seniors at Vincent Memorial Catholic High School had to attend as part of graduation.
When the time came to present my talk, it was well received. A very important component about the Kairos retreat was the presence of a perpetual adoration chapel throughout the entire week of the conference. As I completed my hour-long presentation, I made a straight line to the adoration chapel; it felt as if I was being pulled into the chapel by someone even though there was no one physically pulling me. 
The moment I walked into the chapel, this burst of intense heat immediately hit me. There was only one other person in the chapel, the associate pastor who was part of the retreat team. He appeared to be in a trance and my first thought was, ‘What’s wrong with him?’ Then I began to gaze at the monstrance where Jesus was present and I asked, ‘What is going on?’ as if directed toward someone and I immediately heard a voice: ‘You’ve done well, now relax and just be in my presence.’  
I asked myself, ‘Who is this? Who is saying this?’ Then I began to cry uncontrollably for most likely an hour. I saw myself slowly move into a trance until I blacked out, which I attribute to being slain in the spirit. 
Then I finally woke up, still experiencing an intense heat with my arms outstretched toward Christ in the Holy Eucharist, simply praising him as I’ve never done or experienced before in my life. This entire Eucharistic presence of our Lord continued for over two hours, during which one of my classmates came to check on me. Once I became aware of my surroundings, I asked my classmate how long I had been in the chapel. He said over two hours, which to me had felt like two minutes! 
The significance of this Kairos retreat held at Big Bear Lake in Big Bear California was that it was my first true encounter of Jesus Christ and confirmation that He is real, He is present in the Holy Eucharist, He is my Lord, Savior, and King.H He opened the door for me to have a personal and intimate relationship with Him to this very day! 
This beautiful encounter with Our Lord served as the foundation of discovering my vocation to proclaim and teach well in Jesus’ name, through which He has blessed me in more ways that I can give Him praise for. 
‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.’ Jn 6:54-55

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"There is More"

Anthony Feola

'And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.’ -Jesus  

At the rocky age of sixteen, this fallen-away son of the Church encountered Jesus Christ through the radical witness of a non-Catholic ‘born again Christian’ who saw the trajectory of my life leading me to hell. In my wholehearted surrender to the Lordship of Christ, the Holy Spirit renewed in me the baptismal graces I had received as an infant and I began to follow Christ again, but no longer as part of the Catholic Church. From that moment on, I knew there was so much more! 

Desiring more of Jesus drove me to daily immersion in the Scriptures, especially the Acts of the Apostles where the early Church drew me into its dynamic narrative of the power of the Holy Spirit, mission, and miracles. There was so much more out there than what I was experiencing in my day-to-day existence! I persistently pursued the Holy Spirit in prayer to the point of holy discontent, asking him to fill me. He answered powerfully, and His rivers of living water swept me into an intense life of prayer, holiness, and the mission of proclaiming the Gospel around the world. I saw firsthand God’s power at work in the lives of those who believed the Gospel. Seeing Jesus in the eyes of someone who had just encountered him for the first time became my driving passion. Even here, the Spirit called me closer with his gentle whisper: There is more. 

As my family grew, so grew my hunger for more of Jesus. Family life melded with ministry life as we prepared to give the greatest ‘yes’ of our lives to serve as missionaries to a Muslim country together. Simultaneously, our hearts were drawn to Jesus’ priestly prayer in John 17, ‘that they may all be one…’ 

During that season, this hunger for greater union with Christ and His Church collided with my deeply buried Catholic roots. Shoots of green pushed through the soil of my heart as my missionary life stumbled into Holy Mother Church in various ways through the witness of faithful Catholics, cracking open the Catechism and not being able to put it down, and long forgotten prayers resurfacing in the secret places of my heart.  

Compelled to visit my baptismal parish for the first time in decades, I was hit with an awkward yet familiar sense of ‘home.’ Like the gravitational pull of the earth, the Mass drew me back again and again to its center: Christ himself. 

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"Stay with me"

Karen Ervin

‘Stay with me.’ These are the first words I ever heard the Lord say. 

Once aware of who was speaking to me, I was overcome by awe and wonder, captivated to the core. In looking back, this is the realest moment of my life, the moment when Jesus became truly present in the Eucharist.

His words were as startling as they were setting. I was in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel within St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, chaperoning high schoolers for an international studies course. We had precisely one hour to tour the famous church and I was making good use of my time exploring every alcove.

Although I was a cradle Catholic, I had never been to adoration. I stumbled into the Chapel as a matter of curiosity, ‘What was behind those velvet ropes and ‘silence please’ signs?’ When I entered the room, I had no idea what I was looking at, having never seen a monstrance before. The two nuns on their knees beside it signaled that this was a sacred place and a holy moment.

I immediately followed suit, likewise sinking to the ground, adhering to their proper protocol. As I looked around, my curiosity transformed into inadequacy. Seeing others in such intimate prayer with Someone I didn’t know revealed an emptiness and yearning within me. Not sure what to do with my myriad of emotions, I got up and turned around to leave.

Jesus seized the moment, making himself known with his invitation: ‘Stay with Me.’ At first, I looked around to see who dared to violate the silence. As my glance rested on the Eucharist in the perfect, white host majestically exposed before me, I knew who was speaking, and He asked me again: ‘Stay with me.’ Taking the invitation literally, I made up some excuse to my colleagues and spent the rest of the day in the Chapel, desiring to finish the conversation the Lord had started.

Even now, over 15 years later, the conversation continues and my love for the Blessed Sacrament grows. I have found no substitute for the strength and consolation I receive at Mass and in adoration. Quite simply, I need Jesus, and I believe everything the Church teaches about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist to be true. Just as Jesus longs for me to stay with him, I now long for him to stay with me. Thankfully we have a God who has made a way for this relationship to be a reality.

 

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