by Desirae T.
Posted on November 25, 2017 | COMMENT
A year and a half ago, I was an unbaptized, unchurched, eighteen-year-old college freshman – and I had finally run out of excuses for not being Catholic.
To make a long story short, I had spent the past few years researching various religious and irreligious worldviews. Catholicism was the one perspective that kept drawing me back, in spite of my numerous objections. I found, to my surprise, that my initial view of Catholicism was infested to the core with misconceptions and logical fallacies. One by one, the objections fell away, and I gradually came to accept the very belief system I had sought to disprove. In the spring of my freshman year, I ended up attending a theology series for young adults at a local Catholic retreat center. I did not know at the time that the center included a small chapel, but I’ll never forget the first time I noticed it.
I was leaving one of our meetings and entered the hall, where an unfamiliar door was slightly ajar. Normally I would have paid little attention to such a trivial detail, but an inexplicable feeling had come over me; whatever room lay behind that door felt mysteriously welcoming and comforting, as if it were home, yet somehow even homier than home. As I passed the doorway, I glanced in, now curious about what was behind it. And I caught a glimpse of a tabernacle.
I drove home that night in a joyful daze, processing what had just happened. I had literally encountered Jesus! It was as if I’d accidentally made eye contact with a stranger, only to find in His eyes perfect recognition and – even more surprisingly – unconditional love.
I think that was when it began. It was when my conversion became less of an intellectual process and more like falling in love.
That summer, I started RCIA at the same parish where my late grandmother used to play the organ years before. The RCIA program was superb; we had caring and knowledgeable instructors, informative classes, great volunteer experiences, and a supportive community of fellow converts and parishioners. However, I would venture to say that the single most impactful element of my catechumenate was none of these things. It was Eucharistic adoration.
My parish is very blessed to have adoration every day. Soon after becoming a catechumen, I began doing a Holy Hour at least once a week. In the Blessed Sacrament chapel, there is a deep peacefulness that is difficult to put into words. Time seems to lose meaning there – not as if it runs faster or slower, but as if it simply exists elsewhere. It is truly an amazing gift to be allowed into the presence of the Lord, to be able to just sit near Him with no need for words. Volumes are spoken in the silence because silence is the sound of listening.
Indeed, Jesus listens. He listens gently and patiently. And so I opened up my heart to Him one Holy Hour at a time. My joys and my sorrows. My hopes for the future. My fears that I had not dared admit to anyone. Hidden recesses of pain that I had forgotten. And gratitude, deep wells of gratitude – along with keen sorrow that those wells did not run yet far deeper, infinitely deep like He deserves. For the nourishment of souls, Jesus makes himself vulnerable in the Eucharist out of love for us, so I made myself vulnerable to Him, a bare heart surrendered as an offering for my Lord. A meager offering, yes, but it was the best I could do. I suppose it’s a good start; all God wants from me is me. Nothing more, nothing less.
At adoration, I always feel profoundly safe. I know that whatever madness may wait outside the chapel walls, Christ’s presence is an unmoved pocket of peace in the middle of the chaotic world, holding it together when it should be falling apart. For years I had read about religion; I had read words about God. But now I was in the Real Presence of the living Word of God. Instead of viewing mere words on a page, I was in the midst of that strange and wonderful man who understands me perfectly and loves me completely. That is what the Eucharist is – Jesus himself.
He had waited for me there for a long time. I don’t think that fact really hit me until I noticed the stained glass windows in the chapel. Their pattern was achingly familiar; it matched the window next to the organ. Seeing that pattern again transported me back to my childhood, back to those days when my grandmother brought me to church in the afternoons to give me organ lessons or rehearse with the children’s choir. All those years, Jesus was right there, and I never even knew it. When I went there to sing and play music, He was there all along, waiting for me. And now I had finally come home.
At long last, I received the sacraments of initiation last Easter Vigil. I was baptized and confirmed, and I received First Holy Communion. My mind was reeling as I went up in the Communion line; due to my experiences in adoration, I was used to worshipping Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, but only from afar. Now I would be closer to Him than I’d ever been to anybody. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. It seemed too great a gift for me.
As I knelt in prayer after receiving, I had to stop singing the Communion hymns for a while because I was crying too much. I was overcome with joy; I was overcome with the awareness that I was loved, that I had become God’s adopted child, and that no force on earth could take from me the grace of His mysterious and unconditional love.
Today, I am a baptized, church-going, nineteen-year-old college junior – and each day I am grateful to God that I am a Catholic. This is the story of how the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has touched my life. And that story is still only beginning.
Desirae won 1st place and a $500 cash prize in our Real Presence Essay Contest.