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What the Eucharist Means to Me: Our Readers Respond
By Christopher Heffron
As the Year of the Eucharist comes to an end, 10 of our readers reveal how their lives were changed by the Body of Christ.

Q U I C K S C A N

Nourishment for the Road Ahead
A Wounded Heart Is Healed
No Longer Afraid
'I Was With You'
The Healing Host
Christ-centered Celebration
Jailed in Body, Freed in Spirit
A Child's Homemade Faith
Finding Sanctuary
Memory of the Soul

 

Photo by Ron Rack

LAST MARCH, St. Anthony Messenger asked our readers to submit brief, personal reflections on the Eucharist. Over several weeks, we received dozens of heartfelt and moving testimonies.

For some, the Eucharist can calm a worried heart, mend a relationship, welcome new sheep to the flock and reunite those who have drifted. For others, the Eucharist simply reinforces their love for Jesus.

Each reflection was vastly different from the others, but a common theme could be found: Throughout life’s odd twists and turns, through illness and tragedy, the Eucharist provides refuge for the weary, sustenance for the hungry and warmth for those left frozen by hardship.

These stories and many others can be found at AmericanCatholic.org/Features/Sacraments/Eucharist.asp. There is an opportunity for you to submit your own story as well.

Nourishment for the Road Ahead

By Margaret Stripe
Ontonagon, Michigan

I have always believed in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. I never thought to question whether that was true or not—it just was!

Once a month I bring the Eucharist to a long-term care facility. On this particular Sunday, I went to see Ted, one of the residents, last. As I entered the room, he greeted me but there was something different.

As we began the service, Ted’s eyes never left my face. As I read the Gospel, I looked up and it was as if he could see into the depths of my being. As we held hands and said the Lord’s Prayer, his eyes still on me, I felt a warmth go through me that I am unable to describe.

A little later as I elevated the host and began the words, “This is the Lamb of God,” it was as if he could see into my very heart. As he responded with, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you...,” tears ran down my face, as I became aware of the privilege I had been granted. Beyond a doubt, I held the Body of Christ in my hands.

Ted died one week later.

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A Wounded Heart Is Healed

By Nereida Cáceres
San Juan, Puerto Rico

I couldn’t get pregnant after my second daughter so, after much deliberation with my husband, we adopted a three-year-old boy. He needed a lot of attention and therapy, which kept me occupied along with my other responsibilities.

Fifteen years after my last delivery, I got pregnant again. My husband and I were elated and thanked God for this miracle. But after four months, I had a miscarriage. I wasn’t prepared for the depression that engulfed me. I prayed and fought with God. Why? Why now?

I was 39 years old. I had a daughter in her sophomore year of high school and a seven-year-old son with Attention Deficit Disorder, and I was finishing my M.A. in religious education. I thought I felt complete. Why all of a sudden did I feel this big hole and void inside me?

Months later, during a Mass, I prayed to God: “Please, help me!” At the moment of Communion, God answered me. Emotionally and physically, I felt a heavy burden lifting from me. Faith and joy replaced it.

After 16 years, I have had great losses, my son and my father among them. Even so, that joy and faith in God and in the Eucharist is unaltered.

No Longer Afraid

By Tom Smolinski
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

My wife, Elizabeth, a eucharistic minister, had been urging me for years to become one myself. But I kept refusing, saying that I was not worthy and that I was too afraid. Week in and week out, my wife sat in the front pews with the other eucharistic ministers while I sat alone in the back pew.

On one particular Sunday the congregation was singing the words, “Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?” Then it struck me: Was God calling me to be a eucharistic minister? All the following week I considered becoming one but I kept dismissing the idea, saying that I was still too afraid.

The following Sunday, about midway through the Mass the congregation was once again singing, but this time the hymn was “Be Not Afraid.” I thought this was more than coincidence. The Lord was indeed calling me to be a eucharistic minister. That week I became one, and I have been one for the past eight years.

'I Was With You'

By Virginia King
West Roxbury, Massachusetts

Over 50 years ago, I was molested by a priest in my church school hall while a movie was playing. I sat frozen and terrified. The violation was tucked away and rarely looked at. My Catholic faith survived those years and I remained faithful to the Church.

The last three or four years have been difficult ones. I have experienced much pain, anger and sadness. Therapy, spiritual direction, prayer, a supportive family, good friends and, most importantly, the daily reception of the Holy Eucharist have helped in the healing process.

One year ago while I was on retreat, nocturnal adoration was offered and I signed up for an hour. The chapel was in darkness except for the candles and a small lamp on the altar directed on the monstrance. It was so peaceful and serene.

That night I said to Jesus, “Well, here I am, Lord. You know what is in my mind and heart. I am going to be still and listen to your message tonight.” In a matter of minutes, I heard these words softly spoken, “I was with you.” The tears flowed for the hour as I continued to hear: “I was with you.”

The Eucharist is a nourishing gift to us and spending time with Jesus in adoration is our gift of love in return.

The Healing Host

By Elinor D. Matthews
Sonoma, California

We never want to hear doctors say that our loved ones who are ill have only so much time or there is nothing more they can do. There is indeed a lot that everyone can do—pray and receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

The past two years have been times of much prayer, pain, despair and hope for our family. Our daughter, Kerry, has undergone much suffering as a result of kidney cancer surgery, with the complications of liver tumors, painful shingles and more.

As a eucharistic minister for our parish, I avail myself of the opportunity to administer the Eucharist to her— each time begging Jesus to heal her and to be with her and that she may know his saving presence each day. Words cannot express my feeling when Kerry thanks me for bringing Jesus to her.

Christ-centered Celebration

By Megan Allen
Salt Lake City, Utah

Before I became a Catholic, I went to Mass for the first time and I loved it! Christ was the center of the service. When it was time for Communion, I could sense something very important was happening.

Of course, I knew nothing about transubstantiation, but I sensed what was happening was more than just praying over bread and wine. I could feel Christ’s presence. Looking at the bread held high in the hands of the priest, I wanted it so badly. I did not know where or how, but I knew Jesus was present.

After Mass, I kept thinking, What if I die today? I have always believed that, when I die, I will open my eyes and see Jesus. Now more than ever, I wanted to take part in the Eucharist. So I became a Catholic.

Jailed in Body, Freed in Spirit

By Nick P., #1117
Comstock, New York

Jail: Not exactly a place that one would think synonymous with Eucharist, but just the opposite is true. The power of the Eucharist—especially if a prisoner can receive it at Mass—counteracts all the negativity one finds in prison.

If you do something wrong in prison, you go to “The Box” and you are deprived of your “freedoms.” (“The Box” is like being in the movie The Snake Pit.) But the one freedom you cannot be deprived of, by law, is the Eucharist.

I look forward to each Saturday night, seeing the chaplain coming to my cell and staying a few minutes. We read the Gospel and then I receive the Eucharist. As hateful as people can be in prison—some of it directed toward me—they are quiet during those five minutes.

For those five minutes each week, I experience the power of the Eucharist and its peace. It fortifies me and fills a large void left by the loss of family and friends.

A Child's Homemade Faith

By Janice Stephenson
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The first Holy Eucharist I received was in 1960 at the tender age of six. That tiny wafer—Our Lord’s body—seemed vaguely moist as I reflect back on that experience. Although too young to understand fully the preciousness of that gift, it nonetheless made an impact on me.

I remember Sunday afternoons after having been to church, taking a piece of white bread and pressing it flat with my hand. I’d then take a tiny glass and, by pressing the rim of it into the bread, I would produce a host-like circle so I could pretend to give myself Holy Communion. I’ve often wondered how many other little boys and girls acted similarly.

I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to receive Our Lord in those tender years of life, and I am happier still that, with the passing of time, comes a deeper understanding of that sacred mystery.

Finding Sanctuary

By Sara W. Manis
Jamestown, Tennessee

The Real Presence in the Eucharist brought me to my spiritual home—the Catholic Church.

My previous religion had failed to satisfy my need for a deeper faith experience. But I never considered other churches until my daughter married a devout Catholic and converted to Catholicism. I often went to Mass with them and was gradually awakened to the beauty and holiness of the Catholic faith.

One Saturday during Mass, I heard the familiar words of the consecration in a new way. When the priest said, “This is my body...” and “This is the cup of my blood...,” I felt as if lightning had struck me. For the first time, I realized that Jesus had said, “is my body” and “is the cup of my blood,” not “represents” as I had been taught.

That epiphany haunted me. I felt so deprived every time I heard a priest say, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.”

My yearning was satisfied when I was confirmed in the Catholic Church and received my first Holy Communion, our Lord’s real presence.

Memory of the Soul

Dorothy A. Fisher
Delphos, Ohio

For the past two years, my friend Ruth and I have led a weekly Communion service at the Sarah Jane Living Center, a residence for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Life for our friends there has little real meaning, but they do recall the prayers they learned so many years ago. We distribute to those who are capable of receiving. This is an experience like no other.

The activities director brings us together and we sit in a circle. As we begin, Scripture is read and familiar prayers are recited. Even though the residents are unaware of many things, they respond word for word to the prayers. The roots of their faith are deep.

“Rose, the Body of Christ,” I say. “Amen,” she says. I turn to another patient. “The Body of Christ, Nell.” She responds, “Thank you.” I move on to Ed, Loretta, Kathryn, Helen and the others. Each reverently receives the host with a grateful look and a smile.

As the service comes to an end with our final prayer, there is a peaceful hush in the room, a stillness we are reluctant to break. Truly Jesus is present among us! And we leave the Center with handshakes and farewells, knowing that, perhaps for some, we have brought Viaticum, their last Holy Communion.


Christopher Heffron is an assistant editor of this publication.


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