I struggled with my belief in the Eucharist.
I was a nominal Catholic for a long time. In my thirties, I went through a conversion, prompted by my desire for forgiveness. This period took about four years, during which the Lord gently held up a mirror for me to really see myself. It was a time of repentance and a time of longing. I felt peace at church in front of a crucifix. Finally, I returned to confession, after years of being away, and I was so full of gratitude for God’s forgiveness that my life really changed. I remember one Christmas, lying on a couch near the Christmas tree, where I surrendered myself to God, saying, “You are the king of my heart.”
Around this same time, my son was preparing to make his first Communion, and I had to come face to face with the question of whether I believed in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. I just wasn’t sure. How could something so ordinary become something so extraordinary? Yet, I thought, “How can I possibly prepare my son if I don't even know what I think?” We had a newly ordained priest at our church, Father John Riccardo, who began to catechize me as an adult, often through a Women’s Bible Study that met weekly. Over several years, he helped form my understanding of the faith, Church teaching, and Sacred Scripture. He also introduced me to Eucharistic adoration, which was a new experience for me.
But there were years in which I still grappled. Sometimes on my way to receive Communion, these words would be running through my head: “It's just bread, it's just bread, it's just bread.” Sometimes, I felt like a hypocrite while receiving, because I just couldn’t comprehend it. I sought answers to my theological questions in books, on Catholic Radio, and in Bible Studies. Intellectually, one of the big things I realized was that the truth is not dependent on my belief in it. Just because I couldn’t comprehend something, didn’t mean it wasn’t true. This concept really helped me reason. At some point, I realized that the simplest reason to believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist was that Jesus said it was true. And Jesus is trustworthy.
Around this time, I went to a Holy Spirit seminar at our church and a few days later I was given the gift of tongues. Receiving this charismatic gift was astounding. I could not believe that, despite my sinful past, God would give me such an extraordinary gift. It felt like a private little miracle because I knew I didn't speak any other languages (I tried for years to learn Italian and was terrible), but instantly, I was praying in another language. After receiving this gift, my hunger for Mass, Scripture, and Jesus became much more intense. I was able to put all skepticism aside. If God could do this in me, then he could do anything.
So my hunger for the Eucharist grew, even if I couldn’t fully understand it. Part of growing in my faith was surrendering my intellect. The mystery was too vast to comprehend. I could not possibly understand what was being offered, but once I took the leap of faith, I began to comprehend more. It's so funny how that worked. What I struggled to grasp intellectually came more naturally after I was “all in” with the faith. Revelations began to come in my spirit and intellectual questions were answered.
Today, when I go to Eucharistic adoration, I often don't talk. I just look at him and he just looks at me. I feel his presence. I feel his love. I feel understood and his peace washes over me. There is something remarkable about being completely known and understood. Sometimes I just release a big breath and say, “Whew! I’m here.” I feel like I'm just falling into the arms of love. The king of my heart. Other times I feel like a child leaning on the chest of my daddy. Adoration is like getting a heart massage. It’s like having God’s breath on your forehead. It’s a chance to just be with the Beloved. The most sublime moments of my life have been in adoration.
I try to go to Mass every day. One may think I go because I am so holy, but the truth is, I go because I'm not. I need God. I need his help every day. Also, I'm in love with him and so I want to be with him, and receiving his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist is the most intimate way that I can be with him.
After becoming a “born again” Catholic, a spirit-filled Catholic, I began to recall and treasure my first holy Communion. Dressed in white and full of belief, it is a memory of feeling whole and pure and precious to God. It may have been the holiest time in my life. Now as a mature Catholic, I want to receive him again as that little girl with full faith and a pure heart.
Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary is what God does best. His love changes everything. It changed me.
Experience it for Yourself
Jesus is truly present. Jesus is always with you. Sit in his presence and open yourself up to his voice.