In my earliest memory that I associate with the Eucharist, I probably wasn't older than five, and I hadn’t had my First Communion. I was with my older brother and my parents at Mass at St. Michael's in Pontiac. The three of them got up at Communion time to go out and receive Holy Communion and I was left in the pew. My mother came back and, as people often did back in the forties and fifties, she put her face in her hands to make her thanksgiving. And I remember tapping her on the arm and saying, “Don't worry, don't cry. It'll be okay.” I don't remember whether she laughed, but I'm sure she was surprised. She said, “I’m not crying; it’s alright.” I remember that I had tried to reassure my mom, but she ended up reassuring me. Somehow, in that moment, Jesus prepared me for the time when He would share Himself with me. That was a glimpse of how He in the Eucharist reassures us, loves us like a parent.
When I made my First Communion, I was the tallest in our class, and so I was in the last row. I remember we were taught by Sr. Marianne, a Sister of St. Joseph. I don't remember anything in particular that she said but I knew the Eucharist was Jesus. And I remember what a special day it was. My parents were there, my older brother, and my grandmother, who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, was there. She came up and planted a big kiss on my cheek and, you know, that kind of incarnated for me the love that that Jesus has for me. It kind of embodied in a very familiar way.
After becoming a priest, I served at St. Paul on the Lake. I had always wanted to be a parish priest. So at that point I was finally getting to do what I wanted to do, what I thought Jesus wanted me to do from the very beginning. One morning I had the 6:30 a.m. Mass, and I'm not at my best in the morning. I was walking down the steps and grousing to myself and I had a moment where God said, “Remember what you're about to do.” And I paused on the steps, and then went in with that reminder to celebrate Mass. It was powerful. I was grateful to the Lord for reminding me what he was calling me to do.
When I go to adoration, it's like a window to Heaven. Just to be in his presence, it quiets my heart. It’s like all my problems, difficulties, and challenges disappear. I know that I'm not responsible for carrying them by myself or even a major part of the load. Jesus does the heavy lifting.
My dad was 95 when he died. He lived a good, long life. But I still missed him. One time, I was celebrating Mass some weeks after my father died, and we had just reached the Lord's Prayer. One of those waves of grief came over me and I just started missing my dad. And then just as I was getting ready to receive Communion, I had the thought, “Wait a minute, I know my dad is a person of faith and is in communion with the Lord. I’m about to receive Christ’s Body and Blood, which means I'm also going to be in communion with the Lord — and, therefore, in communion with my father, too.”
Experience it for Yourself
Jesus is truly present. Jesus is always with you. Sit in his presence and open yourself up to his voice.