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Despite growing up in the Church, I felt disaffiliated as I entered into my middle years of high school. As I grew into my teen years I began having questions about the world around me and the meaning of life. In order to find answers to these questions, I turned to the internet and YouTube and stumbled across people like Richard Dawkins.
I always excelled in science in school and I thought the logic of science was at odds with religion. I saw religion as human mythmaking and an out of date way to make sense of a world before scientific discoveries could explain the world. What started as a doubt, quickly turned into agnosticism, then atheism, then militant atheism shortly thereafter.
This ‘spiritual’ journey resulted in me becoming deeply committed to ideas such as there being no objective truth, right or wrong, and no ultimate purpose to life in a random and meaningless universe. I would argue these talking points with friends who believed in God. I remember going to Mass with my family during this time and sitting in the pews, but feeling like an outsider. I couldn’t understand how everyone else in the church could believe in something I thought, at the time, was so clearly a fiction. Although I could go through the motions, I felt nothing and didn’t believe the words being professed. Not only had I totally cut myself off from God, but I was content with that fact.
I deeply held these beliefs as I entered college, but by the grace of God I was invited to attend a Catholic retreat by one of my best friends. While I would have never chosen to go on this retreat on my own, I wanted to spend time with my new friend. Not to mention, it was a free opportunity to get off campus. The retreat started with ice breaker games and multiple people gave talks. While I enjoyed meeting new people, I still didn’t feel any different about my beliefs. It was announced at the end of the first night of the retreat that there would be adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Up to this point in my life, I had never heard of adoration. I had no idea my life was about to change forever.
In a dark room in a retreat hall, as incense rose up in front of the one light that illuminated the monstrance, I stared at the Blessed Sacrament, and my mind was empty. This time it wasn’t empty like when I was at Mass as a nonbeliever. This time, I felt very still and calm. I sat on the hard floor of the retreat hall and looked up at the host. After some time had passed in silence, a priest broke the stillness by offering a reflection on which to meditate, that ended with him saying, ‘God is love and wherever there is love there is God.’
At this moment, my world came crashing down.
I realized I wasn’t just gazing at the host anymore, but Jesus was lovingly gazing back at me. This was the answer I was seeking for so long. This one phrase helped me realize how badly I had missed the point. My whole understanding of God was reductive and childlike. This simple phrase paired with the presence ofJesus in that room contained more reason and logic than all of the arguments made by atheists speakers on YouTube.
My eyes filled with tears as I was overwhelmed by the very real presence of Jesus. Although I had closed myself off to his reality, he hadn’t abandoned me. Being in his presence, I was unable to deny the reality I had failed to see for years. In that moment, I went from unbelief to undying belief. In this experience of adoring our Lord, I came to see clearly that God is real and although I don't always feel I deserve it, that I am loved by him, completely and unconditionally.
The Eucharist remains the central part of my faith life. I often feel overwhelmed by God's love at Mass when the priest says the words of consecration and the simple bread and wine are literally and mysteriously transformed into Jesus' Body and Blood. Even when public Masses were suspended during the beginning of the COVID pandemic, I would walk to the church and put my hands on the exterior bricks of the Church by where the tabernacle was, just to feel closer to his presence. I love the Eucharist so much and am grateful that my life was forever changed by meeting Jesus in adoration.
The Eucharist is the reason I am Catholic. The Eucharist was the beginning of my reversion to the faith and continues to sustain and drive the process of conversion that happens in my heart on a daily basis. If it wasn’t for a direct encounter with Jesus during Eucharistic adoration and the continued love that Jesus pours out for us in the Eucharist, I do not know where I would be today.
Experience it for Yourself
Jesus is truly present. Jesus is always with you. Sit in his presence and open yourself up to his voice.