Sr. Cecilia Norris
I remember my mom saying that the Eucharist was the reason we went to Mass — not for the homily or our friends, but to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
I didn’t really understand that. As a kid I enjoyed singing and sometimes the homily, but the Liturgy of the Eucharist was blasé. To my eyes nothing special was happening and I didn’t get the big deal. I believed that Jesus was present in the Blessed Sacrament because I trusted my parents who told me He was, but I didn’t think too hard about it.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I went to a Steubenville Youth Conference. There in adoration and praise and worship I was caught off guard as God poured His merciful graces over me and somehow, I knew more certainly that Jesus Himself was present in the host displayed in the monstrance and His presence meant something to me. I knew more than ever that God was real, He loved me so deeply and wanted great things for me. This encounter showed me the truth that being whole heartily Catholic and striving to live in union with God’s will is what I am truly made for and the key to lasting joy.
My newfound awe from that encounter propelled me to seek God. This seeking was rooted in the instigator: the Eucharist.
I started to stop by my parish to visit the same Jesus in the tabernacle who wowed me that weekend.
My encounters there were different from the retreat.
I kept asking God to increase my faith in the true Presence, praying the ‘I believe, help my unbelief’ prayer – and He answered. While the adjustment to quiet personal visits with the Lord instead of enthusiastic, vocal crowds was sometimes disappointing and challenging, I was able to continually encounter and be shaped by my Creator, whether I felt it all the time or not. For me, the Eucharist was becoming a source of tremendous grace and intimate contact with God Himself.
When I went off to MSU for college, my opportunities to pray before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament increased dramatically with adoration and Confession offered each day before the convenient student center Mass times.
As I started to spend more time with the Blessed Sacrament in adoration and Mass, my heart was softened. I noticed I desired God more and was disposed to actually pray and act on my faith. The Eucharist gives me a tangible view of God and helps my prayer to be intimate and focused.
I know that in every moment I spend with the Eucharist, opening myself to His graces and His will, God is sanctifying me, filling in my many weaknesses, and supplying the grace necessary to live how He desires me to.
Whether or not I feel it, my soul leaves changed even after a momentary encounter with the Eucharist.
On the days I didn’t have the time to commit to adoration before Mass, I discovered a few spots in the lobby outside the sanctuary where I could do homework and still see Jesus in the Monstrance. I put myself in the presence of the Eucharist and soaked up His rays of love while I studied and trusted Him to sanctify me while I learned.
This is a gift, both because I gained more chances to sit in the joyous, perfect Eucharistic glow and because it helped me bring God into my schoolwork and remember that I study to glorify Him. Like Blessed Carlo Acutis said, ‘The Eucharist is my highway to Heaven!’ I hope to cling to the precious gift of the Eucharist for the rest of my life and am thankful the merciful Lord gifted it to us.
What difference does it make—going to Eucharistic adoration and spending time before the Blessed Sacrament? To me, it makes all the difference in the world.
A number of years ago, I went on a retreat with my parish. It was announced on the first night that the Blessed Sacrament would be exposed for adoration throughout the weekend and that we could sign up to pray at any hour, including the wee hours of the morning.
I have to be honest when I say that my first reaction was that I certainly was not going to get up in the middle of the night to pray when there were many other perfectly good hours available during the day! At that point, I did not have a clue what Eucharistic adoration was all about because it had never been emphasized in my 15 years of Catholic education or in the churches that I attended growing up. Nevertheless, a friend, who apparently had a much lesser need for sleep than I did, signed up for the 3-4 a.m. slot. I thought he was crazy and told him so. However, I also found myself telling him that if I could wake myself up, I would join him in prayer (thinking it would never happen!)
So there I was at 3 a.m. in the chapel, in my pajamas, admittedly not totally awake, yet drawn to the presence of the Lord before me. What drew me there, and what kept bringing me back to Him throughout the weekend? Perhaps I heard Christ’s invitation, ‘could you not watch with me for one hour?’ (Mt 26:40), or perhaps it was something deeper stirring inside of me, a stirring that continued to grow long after that weekend.
Why do I continue to be drawn to pray before the Blessed Sacrament? What difference does it make? I can easily fall into the pattern of making ‘my life a prayer’ because I often (incorrectly) feel I don’t have enough time to sit quietly with the Lord. But just like the example of the loaves and fishes, I have seen first-hand that if I give God my time in prayer, particularly in adoration, he will multiply that time and make it fruitful for me and those I encounter.
I have come to realize that to know and love God, and consequently to love others, I must spend time with the One who is incredibly in love with me. When I pray before the Blessed Sacrament, I’m responding to the desire God has put in my heart to be with Him. As I encounter the Lord in adoration, He strengthens me so that I can then freely share His love with others. The gift that I received in the middle of the night on that retreat years ago continues to empower me today. How blessed I am to receive such a precious gift, a gift that is accessible to all of us!
So, what difference does it make? As we spend time with the one who is Love, in time we will also become love, and I think that makes all the difference in the world!
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