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Transformed by the Body of Christ
By Jorge L. Camacho, Yvonne M. Flores, Mary Barbara McKay, Carol Bergener and Jeffrey Scheeler, O.F.M.
The Eucharist can soothe a wearied heart, rescue the fallen away and solidify one's love for God.

Q U I C K S C A N

My Little Son's Request
Don't Worry; All Is Well
The Bread of Life
Amen!
I Became a Pastor
How Has the Eucharist Changed You?

     Visit our Eucharist Feature

Illustration by Julie Lonneman

My Little Son's Request

By Jorge L. Camacho
Queretaro, Mexico

I was raised and educated in a Catholic family, but was not very good at practicing my faith. Despite my wife’s constant prayers, about 10 years had passed since my last confession and Communion.

It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was at church with my family. In one more week, my two boys were going to receive their First Communion. As always, I didn’t pay much attention at Mass that day.

When we reached Communion time, people began standing up to go to receive the Eucharist, and I suddenly felt something in my lap. It was my older son. He embraced me and said into my ear, “Dad, I want you to receive Communion with me on my First Communion day.” At the time, I didn’t know that my wife was praying once again that I would receive Communion with my family.

I was moved by what my son had said and told him that, yes, I would go to Communion next week. Three days later, I entered the church, looking for a priest. I could not find one, so I started to walk around the church, and went toward the office next to it. A priest appeared and said to me, “You are looking for something. Come in.”

I went inside and told him that I wanted to confess my sins. He invited me into his private office where I confessed my sins to him. When I finished, he said the words of the prodigal son, and I started to cry.

The next Sunday I received Communion with my two boys, my wife and my daughter. The moment the holy Eucharist touched my tongue, I was struck with happiness, and tears started to come out of my eyes. I could not stop crying. I was very happy! It was a very joyful experience.

Since that day, I have changed. I am always trying to increase my faith and practice my religion. I’m not where I would like to be, and know I need to strengthen my faith in God, but I believe I’m on the right track.

Don't Worry; All is Well

by Yvonne M. Flores
Tucson, Arizona

I have just finished my confession and penance. Mass will begin in about 20 minutes. A wonderful thought has just washed over me, like the sweet smell of orange blossoms in early spring. I just realized that right this minute I am as pure and clean as humanly possible. I am now prepared to receive my sweet Jesus in the Eucharist.

If I can keep my thoughts on my loving God, praising and thanking him until Mass begins, I will be ready to receive him. I will be as close to perfect as possible. I want to give him a pure heart because of my great love for him. Oh, yes, I love my God, but there was a time in my life when things were different.

It would be nice to think that being raised by a very holy Catholic mother, and having been educated in a Catholic school for all but two years before I entered the university, would have been the perfect foundation for me to lead a holy, saintly life. I had dreams of entering the convent, of serving God with my whole heart. Somehow, I lost my way.

The saddest part of my life was when I was lost from God. I was hiding in the shadows, even though I knew God would always love and forgive me. I didn’t go to Mass and forgot to pray because I was too busy. God was not the first priority in my life anymore. I was truly lost. My life was like the rosary beads lost among the socks and old jewelry.

All my struggles and hardships were left for me to solve alone, and I was not happy. I was frightened, lonely, sad and in a loveless marriage of betrayal. Many times in the middle of the night, I would cry for the comfort of my God, but was not willing to return to the practices of my faith. I felt as if I did not belong.

I made many wrong choices during those difficult times. Church had become a foreign place and I had even forgotten the prayers we said at Mass. I found myself wondering what I would say if I went to Confession. “Bless me, Father, it has been 17 years since....” Had it been that long?

It was the grace of God and the death of my saintly mother that brought me back home to begin rebuilding my relationship with God. Within one year I buried my mother, my husband of 17 years filed for divorce and I had breast cancer. I was at the bottom of a pit—frightened, alone, abandoned, rejected and feeling unloved.

Feeling unloved was the key that opened the door to my journey back to God. I had been taught that God would always love and forgive me, but would I be able to forgive myself? Wanting to feel whole again, I started to pray short prayers and listen to Christian music. Through this, God reached into my soul. I knew that I would only be able to survive in this world if I would take the hand that God extended to me.

The following Sunday, I returned to Mass but was not ready to receive Communion. I chose the evening candlelight Mass because the church would be dim and nobody would see me if I was to cry. During Mass I felt God’s presence. I poured out my heart and tears to him. It was wonderful. The music and light were soft, and the priest, in his gentle and kind manner, reminded each of us to trust God and to love and serve him in all things.

At each Mass I went to after that, I felt as if God had given the priest the exact words I needed to hear to heal my soul. For months I sat and cried at every Mass I went to. I learned many tricks on how to hide my tears and wipe my nose so I would not draw any attention to myself.

Sometimes, when I tried to sing, the words were so profound that they would get stuck in my throat. I was probably the only one who left church with a cleaner face than when they came in! I would pack a quarter of a box of tissues in my pockets and off to church I would go each Sunday evening.

Months passed, and I was still a stranger in the church. I did not speak to anyone except when I had to give the sign of peace. I made sure I got there just before Mass started and stayed until everybody was gone so I could sneak out the door and rush to my car without being seen. I was a sight! My eyes were swollen from crying and my nose would have put Rudolph to shame.

God’s grace kept me coming to Mass. Each Sunday I grew stronger and fell more in love with God. He became my resting place. I would imagine God holding me in church whispering, “Don’t worry; all is well...I am with you.” I was not able to attend Mass during the week because of my job, but I began attending Mass in the morning as well as in the evening on Sundays. Attending Mass twice a day? I couldn’t get enough to fill my soul.

I finally found the courage to go to Confession, which was not the dreaded fate I had imagined. My confession was a release of the past and a step into the light.

Good things began to happen. I was more at peace at work. I learned to laugh again. I talked to God all day long, and he became my constant companion. The spirit of God filled my soul.

I started to volunteer at church, helping with little things, and began to give words of encouragement to others. Above all, I began to love again. I have taught religious education for two years now, and God always gives me the time, lessons and insights to share our faith with others. No, I am not perfect. I am just an ordinary, single Catholic parent in love with my Lord. I am his beloved and he is mine.

Within a couple of years, my children started to go to Mass with me. I am a great cook, so I would invite them for a home-cooked breakfast if they went with me to church. I even saved my money for a pancake breakfast that the Knights of Columbus sponsored once a month. All of this led to my grandchildren enrolling in religious-education classes. During this space of time, I realized I was truly home. I was happy again!

One Sunday, as I was being dragged by my grandson Kyle to Mass, this four-year-old shouted at the top of his lungs, “Hurry up, Nana. It’s party time!” That sure changed the mood in the parking lot at 8:30 in the morning. I think his comment lightened our steps into church that day. These are precious memories, and perfect words out of the mouth of a child. Yes, Mass is a celebration that you and I have been invited to, and we should all shout, “It’s party time!”

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The Bread of Life

by Mary Barbara McKay
Pleasanton, Kansas

Every Saturday night after Mass, my husband and I take the Eucharist to the Catholic residents at Prescott Country View Nursing Home. For the last two years, we have only had one communicant, Margaret Higgins, who celebrated her 101st birthday on January 4, 2004.

Margaret is quite a remarkable lady for more reasons than her age. She bore 11 children, nine who lived. It is by her own choice that she lives in the nursing home rather than take turns living with some of her children. Nevertheless, they still take care of her. She is probably one of the most-visited nursing home residents.

One of her daughters makes sure her room is always cheerfully decorated for the current season or holiday. She is always fashionably dressed, and her hair is neatly cut and styled. She gladly tells us who brought her the new sweater or necklace she is wearing.

Though she is very hard of hearing, her mind is alert, and her memory is incredible. She makes it a point to watch Mass on television on Sunday mornings, and will tell us if she missed it the week before. She always tells us how much she appreciates us bringing her the Eucharist.

One Saturday night about six weeks before her 101st birthday, we arrived to find Margaret in bed instead of up in her wheelchair waiting for us. Three or four aides were flitting carefully and quietly in and out of her room, and one hurried in from the hallway to whisper to us that Margaret had talked of nothing but going home to God and her husband for the last two days.

She refused to eat and would not get out of bed. She appeared gaunt and pale, and her voice was raspy. She said she was tired and did not feel well. When asked if she wanted to receive the Eucharist, however, she said, “Yes.”

We prayed the Our Father with her and gave her the Body of Christ, and quickly and quietly left for home. As we left, my husband said he thought we had given her “food for the journey home.”

All week I expected a call from the nursing home, or from her son, telling me Margaret had gone home to heaven, but the call did not come. Before Mass the next Saturday, I called her son. He said that as far as he knew, his mother was all right.

We arrived after Mass to find her up and dressed, sitting in her wheelchair waiting for us. The aides told us she began to get better the following day after we had brought her the Eucharist. In my mind, I believe we gave her “the bread of life” instead of “food for the journey home.”

Amen!

By Carol Bergener
Westport, Wisconsin

On Thursday, July 8, 1976, my grown son Ray fell from the roof of the place where he worked, onto the asphalt parking lot below. “He smashed the back of his skull into a hundred or more pieces,” the neurologist told us.

I had worried about my son for years. He had attended Catholic schools in Portland, Boise and Spokane as a child, and had graduated from Gonzaga Prep in 1965. After that, he went directly into the Army. At that time, Ray rejected the Church, saying, “I can’t stand all the hypocrites.” A couple of years before his accident, he was married secretly before a justice of the peace and didn’t let us know for weeks. Then he and his wife adopted astrology as their religion.

On the third day after Ray’s accident, I stood with his wife beside his hospital bed holding a vial of Lourdes water in my hand. The chugging of the respirator was the only sound in that otherwise deathly quiet room where Ray lay in a deep coma.

With the Sign of the Cross, I marked Ray’s body, head, chest, belly and legs with the Lourdes water. His wife stood there, wide-eyed and still in shock. At the moment of Ray’s accident, her obstetrician had confirmed that she was pregnant with a child they both longed for. She had also grown up in Christ and had rejected him.

I left Ray’s bedside to make a long-distance phone call from a pay phone to the Poor Clares in Spokane, begging for their prayers. That was 28 years ago, and they are still praying for him.

Ray woke from his coma totally paralyzed except for being able to shake his head, lift his eyebrows and blink his eyes. He could neither speak nor swallow. Soon he was transferred to a Catholic hospital that had a rehabilitation program he needed.

Almost a year later, after anxious, heartrending months in which Ray nearly died several times, Ray’s wife relinquished her guardianship of him. Later she divorced him for desertion. She carried their daughter to term, in spite of persistent spotting, and was given custody. Ray saw his daughter only twice.

My husband and I brought Ray home to our small family farm in May of 1977. There he stayed in a hospital bed in our living room. Cats slept on Ray’s bed, and through the windows at his elbow, he could see the forested ridge to the east. He was paralyzed from his chin down. A surgeon had opened a hole directly into Ray’s stomach, and we fed him with a calf syringe, pushing goop through that hole. The little bit Ray could speak could not be understood.

I phoned our very large parish in town, asking for someone Ray’s age to visit and to bring him Communion. Visitors came from the church, but the pastor refused to allow them to bring Communion.

Controversy raged in our parish for five months.

“It would be blasphemy.”

“Ray’s mentally incompetent.”

“He’ll choke on the wafer.”

“He can’t be confessed.”

Everyone had an opinion on why he shouldn’t receive Communion.

The week before Halloween, one of Ray’s visitors, a Eucharistic minister who knew Ray well, brought Communion to him for the first time.

The visitor stood by Ray’s bed. He lifted the host into Ray’s view. “This is the Body of Christ,” the visitor intoned. “Happy are those who are called to his supper.”

“Amen!” Ray shouted, his voice breaking. Then he burst into deep, sobbing tears. He did not choke on the Communion wafer then or anytime after that. He always swallows it.

By Easter 1978, Ray was able to sit in a wheelchair. On his birthday, we took him to Mass at the cathedral in Portland and he wept through the entire Mass.

Ray’s healing has been slow, as it usually is with severe head injuries. Now, almost 28 years later, Ray bathes and dresses himself, fixes his own breakfast, chews and swallows his food and talks so he can be understood. He can write his name and play games with his computer.

Last Christmas at Mass, he was able to stand without help for the Gospel reading. I wish you could see his beautiful smile. There truly is healing in the Eucharist!

I Became a Pastor

By Father Jeffrey Scheeler, O.F.M.
Cincinnati, Ohio

One Sunday morning during Mass, after I had been pastor of St. Monica-St. George Parish in Cincinnati, Ohio, for about a year and a half, I found myself looking out at the congregation and something clicked within me. I felt a profound sense of connection with the people I saw.

I had been there long enough to get to know a good number of people. I knew many of their stories, their struggles and their joys. I knew that one woman I saw had just suffered a miscarriage and was grieving the loss of her child. Another woman had just told me that she was pregnant. I saw a couple that I was preparing for marriage, and I knew of their hopes and dreams.

As I looked into the congregation, I saw the family of a man whose funeral I had celebrated the past week. I saw the family of a woman who was in the hospital suffering from cancer. I saw a woman whose husband was struggling with alcoholism. There was a woman whose confession I had heard, amidst many tears.

There were many, too, whom I did not recognize or know their stories. But I knew that each of them had a unique story, too. And I knew that each one came to this celebration of the Eucharist with hopes and dreams and prayers in their hearts.

As luck (or grace) would have it, at Communion we sang David Haas’s “Song of the Body of Christ” that has the refrain, “We come to share our story; We come to break the bread; We come to know our rising from the dead.” It was perfect.

I had a profound sense of the privileged role I had as pastor of these people. I had a profound sense of connection to the people and their stories. And I knew that we had come to a wonderful place together to experience hope. Though I had the title for a year and a half, I think I became a pastor on that day.                                                                     

Excerpted from 201 Inspirational Stories of the Eucharist, edited by Sister Patricia Proctor, O.S.C., published by the Poor Clare Sisters (4419 North Hawthorne Street, Spokane, WA 99205, www.calledbyjoy.com).

As these five stories illustrate, the Eucharist, in all its mystery and splendor, is a soul-nourishing, faith-enriching encounter for those who open themselves up to it. For many, it is a way to reinforce and strengthen their bond with God, and it is essential for life’s often-painful journey.

Stories about the Eucharist are usually quite personal and intricate, yet there is a common thread within each testimony: the invigorating reward that is felt from receiving it.

Do you have a personal experience of the Eucharist that you wish to share with us? We at St. Anthony Messenger are planning an October 2005 article based on our readers’ reflections about the Eucharist. This will coincide with the end of the Year of the Eucharist that began last October.

Your reflection could focus on any experience of the Eucharist (Mass, private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, First Communion, Benediction, administering Holy Communion to the sick or receiving it under those circumstances, Corpus Christi processions, etc.). No reflection should be longer than 200 words and must be submitted by June 1, 2005.

Please send a letter describing such an experience, along with your permission for us to publish your story, to: Eucharist Experience, St. Anthony Messenger, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498. Be sure to include your name, address and telephone number. Or you could e-mail us at Eucharist@franciscanmedia.org.

Sorry, but we can neither return your stories nor promise that every personal account will be selected for publication. Rest assured, each reflection will be circulated among the staff, read thoroughly and appreciated for its honesty and conviction.


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