“Two years ago, I didn’t consider becoming Catholic even a remote possibility. Yet I slowly began my own journey exploring Catholicism. What I found in the Catholic Church is so beautiful, I will never leave.”
Eric shared this with me a few weeks ago. He is one of many college students I know who has been drawn to and joined the Catholic Church. Their journeys reconnect me with my own “why” for being Catholic: the beauty of Eucharist.
Few things in life are guaranteed. Health, job security, and income can change in an instant. I’ve experienced this in big ways, like when a member of my family was diagnosed with cancer. I’ve also experienced it in small, trivial ways, like when my commute is quadrupled by the D.C. traffic.
In these moments, I recall one guarantee. Jesus promises me that he always is and always will be present in the Eucharist. He gives himself to me in the most intimate of ways: “This is my body, given for you.”
There is no guarantee that Mass will have great music, a compelling homily, or a warm welcome. But those things are not my “why.” I am Catholic because of the guarantee that Jesus is present in the Eucharist and invites me to receive him.
Does the Eucharist make my life perfect and solve all my problems? Absolutely not.Receiving the Eucharist brings Jesus into my life, my problems, my good days and my bad days. Not only is this my experience, but also it is the experience of Eric. I watch him and others discover and experience the beauty of the Eucharist and the Church — and that is so beautiful, I’ll never leave.
By Sarah Coffey
My road to answering the question “Why are you Catholic?” began, ironically, with someone asking me, “Why are you Protestant?”
I grew up attending Sunday School, reading the Bible on my own, occasionally attending youth group events, and had a decently strong faith — or so I thought — and yet this question left me completely stumped. I’m grateful that I grew up attending church and learning about Jesus, but I had no idea why I was Presbyterian. I just was.
Up to this point I wasn’t “religious,” per se, but I always had it in the back of my mind that I desperately wanted to know who God wanted me to be. I was taught that Jesus is God incarnate, and that I was supposed to have a “personal” relationship with Him.
The question my friend posed turned everything I thought I knew on its head. I was a freshman in college and intent on learning everything about everything, and that included faith. I became obsessed with figuring out what it was I believed about God. My search for what “I” believed about God gradually became a search for the truth about God. I sought Jesus in as much depth as possible and wanted to know how exactly I was supposed to live and have a “personal” relationship with Him. The answers I’d been taught growing up were not satisfactory.
I started reading everything I could get my hands on to compare Protestant and Catholic doctrine. As a history major, I naturally dove deeply into Church history. I was drawn immediately to the Eucharist and was astounded to read that the earliest Christians — and those who walked the Earth just a few generations removed from Christ — believed that the Eucharist was so much more than the symbolic grape juice and cracker I’d received growing up.
These early Christians, and present-day Catholics, actually believed that the Eucharist was — is — the body and blood of Christ. That fact alone brought me to the stunning realization that the Christianity I’d found in the Catholic faith had so much more depth and wonder to be explored than the one I’d known before I imagined.
I focused my energies on determining the truth about the Eucharist: Was it truly the body and blood of Christ, as the early Christians believed and as the Church teaches? Or was it just a symbol?
I read John 6 dozens of times. What did He mean by saying, “This is my body” so insistently? Would His disciples have said, “This is a hard saying,” and left Him if He’d been speaking metaphorically?
I wanted depth. I needed depth. I truly found Christ, and the deep wellspring of grace, love, mercy, and sacrifice that He is, when I considered just for a moment that maybe Jesus truly meant what He said in John 6.
I began spending time before the Blessed Sacrament in a local adoration chapel. I wanted to see how a chapel like that — with the Eucharist present — differed from the little country church where I’d grown up singing worship songs.
And it was there that I truly encountered Jesus Christ for the first time. I’d read books, articles, the Catechism, and the Church Fathers, but before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration I found the answer to everything in Christ, who was truly present on the altar in His body, blood, soul, and divinity.
I never understood what it meant for Jesus to “love” me until I considered how readily and how completely He gave Himself away on the cross, and how readily and completely He gives Himself away in the Holy Eucharist at every single Mass. I encountered the reality of Jesus’ insistent words, “This is my body,” and there I began to believe that Jesus IS who He says He is — the Bread of Life — because there He was, before me on the altar.
In encountering Christ in the Eucharist, I learned what it means to truly love — to give of oneself self-sacrificially without holding anything back, just as Jesus does in the Eucharist.
I realized that, on this side of heaven, I would not find a more personal, intimate relationship between me and Jesus, creature and Creator, soul and savior, than the Eucharist.
Now, regardless of how close to God I feel when I walk through the doors of a Catholic Church — and no matter what sufferings I endure and what scandals threaten to envelop the Church — I say to Jesus Christ, present on the altar at every Mass, the words of St. Thomas: “My Lord and my God!”