When I was five years old, my mom started working for our nearby parish. Sister Ruth took us both under her wing and taught us about this man, Jesus, and we just fell head over heels for him. I have super early memories of staying up late and saying a rosary with my mom on her bed. It was a beautiful childhood treasure given to me. On the Easter Vigil after beginning work for the parish, my mom and I got baptized together.
For the next couple years, Sister Ruth continued catechizing me in fun ways – endless Doritos, cartoons, and hugs that would almost break my back. She was very adamant that for my First Communion, the consecrated host that I would receive would be Jesus’s body and blood. It might not taste like it, but I would legitimately receive his body and blood. Man did she drill that into me. Gearing up for my First Communion, I was so stoked, and on that special day I remember receiving Jesus and really believing that I was receiving his body and blood.
I remember going back to my pew and thinking, “Wow! Jesus must have been a massive man to be able to feed everyone in this church.”
As I grew up, I never really doubted that the Eucharist was important. For a large part of middle school and high school, I would either skateboard or drive to Mass by myself because I knew that the Eucharist was vital somehow to my spiritual life. Mind you, I grew up in the Bible Belt of America. All of my friends were Protestant, and I was really attracted to their churches. A part of me really wanted to tag along with my friends on Sundays and go to their services with them. I actually did a handful of times, and I always felt like I walked away having learned something. However, as badly as I wanted to be Protestant, I knew I could never leave the Eucharist because I just knew something was there.
This desire to be Protestant only grew during my freshman year of college when I began playing college baseball at a Baptist university. By the grace of God, my assistant coach was Catholic and made sure that I went to Mass every week. He was consistent in inviting me to his Bible studies, and after practice, he constantly fed me Dr. Scott Hahn CDs about the Eucharist.
I remember listening to one in my truck one day and thinking, “Wow! The Eucharist really is super special.”
I ended up transferring schools for various reasons, and I ultimately ended up at the University of Texas at Austin where I fell into a good group of Catholic friends who really made the faith come alive. One night, as we passed around a bottle of wine, one of my friends said that the Eucharist was the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. And I was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. What do you mean, ‘soul and divinity?’” My friend simply responded, “Yeah, we believe that the Eucharist is not just Jesus’s body and blood, but that he is fully present to us in the Eucharist with his body, blood, soul, and divinity. He’s just as present to us today as he was 2,000 years ago.”
That rocked my world. I remember thinking, “Shoot! Wow! I knew the Eucharist was big. I didn't realize the Eucharist was this big. I didn’t realize the Eucharist was really a who and not a what.”
By the grace of God, my friend group went to SEEK a few months later (a really big Catholic collegiate conference that happens every year). We sat in the front row for Fr. Mike Schmitz’s hour that will change your life. Jesus then processed around the auditorium, and as I was juggling all of Father Mike’s words in my mind, boom – he landed right in front of me. There wasn’t a doubt in my body that Jesus was really there. He was not only a massive man (lol) but he was a massive lover. And he was really there in his humble Eucharistic state. And he was really pursuing me. And I really needed to give him everything.
I wanted to give him everything, but did I give him everything? Nah. Not at all. Jesus called, but I ignored it. Hollywood called, and I answered. And as I found myself in the thick of the City of Angels, I found myself continuously drawn to the fact that if Jesus was fully present in the Eucharist – if he is really here with us — then that demands my full commitment or my full rejection. There's no such thing as partial commitment when it comes to the full presence of Christ.
For years, I clawed my way through the entertainment industry, and for years I chugged away with one foot in and one foot out in the faith. I was constantly plagued with my lack of full commitment. That either wears on you eventually or it completely numbs you out. Praise God it wore on me. I knew that I ultimately had to decide once and for all whether or not the Eucharist was going to be the source and summit of my life. By the grace of God, I made that decision, and I haven’t looked back. It's been a joyful ride. It’s been a bumpy ride. It’s been a heartbreaking ride. It’s been a glorious ride. And the Eucharist has sustained me through all of it. Through all of life’s highs and lows, Jesus has slowly transformed my weak, prideful heart.
Pope Benedict XVI said that the Eucharist is the “genuine reality” — the Eucharist is more real than anyone or anything else. He called the Eucharist the “yardstick” — the reality against which we measure any other reality.
Right now, if you look at the studies, depending on which ones you subscribe to, less than a third of us Catholics really believe in the Real Presence of Christ. Only 17% of us are attending Mass once a week. We have a Eucharistic crisis on our hands.
I think that our bishops understand that a Eucharistic crisis is ultimately a crisis in reality. If we can't see Jesus there in the Eucharist, then how do we expect to see ourselves as we really are? How do we expect to see our neighbors as they really are? How do we expect to see reality as it really is? And so they’ve prophetically called for a Eucharistic Revival. This Revival is much more than just about bringing people back into church and back into our pews. It’s much more than a giant Catholic conference in July. This Revival is about making people come alive again — to see reality clearly, to see Jesus there in the Eucharist, so that we can see ourselves as we really are, and so that we can return to a fully authentic human life.
When I began to orient my life around Our Eucharistic Lord, it felt like a stream of clarity slowly started to trickle through me. I could hear my thoughts more clearly. I could sniff out the flaws in my heart more clearly. I could see. It’s an ongoing process – Lord knows it’s a process with me! But the more I receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament the more Tanner I know I’m becoming.
Experience it for Yourself
Jesus is truly present. Jesus is always with you. Sit in his presence and open yourself up to his voice.