Who was it that told me the story? I think it was Father Bruce Neili. Saint Juliana of Liège was gazing at the moon one night, and it gave her such an intense longing for the Eucharist. That night led her, of course, to petition for the institution of the Feast of Corpus Christi.
A longing for the Eucharist? Convert is not impressed. Convert is willing to concede that the Eucharist is the Real Presence. Sort of. Mostly. But to long for it? Why? It doesn’t taste very good. Wanting to go to Mass seemed perfectly reasonable, but to long specifically to take Communion seemed a little unbelievable.
That was 3 or 4 years ago. Since then, what’s changed?
When I’m sick, just as soon as I feel the tightness in the back of my throat and the sniffle in my nose, I want a bowl of hot soup. I long for it, because I know it will make me feel better. Lately, I’ve had that same longing every week. I want to receive Communion, and I long for it, like…like I long for hot soup when my body is sick. As the days go by, my soul starts to feel sickly until I long for nourishment. After receiving communion, I return to my pew feeling lighter, relieved, and so very grateful.
6 years ago, I was a bit put off when I was first introduced to the image of the pelican as a symbol of Communion. The thought of the bird striking its breast to feed its own blood to its young was macabre. At some point, it became a comfort. To think of Christ, nourishing us with His own Body and Blood. Giving strength to us by giving Himself to us.
There really aren’t words to describe the emotions involved in receiving communion. The act of kneeling and bringing to mind my sins, placing my trust in God to forgive me once more, asking for the strength to do what He asks of me, and finally receiving the Blessed Sacrament. It’s overwhelming, and emotional and so very fulfilling. More and more often, I find myself kneeling back at my pew after communion, just overflowing with such gratitude and appreciation for this gift.
Again, what changed? How did I go from “Totally not the Real Presence” to “I guess you might be right” to “Behold the Lamb of God! Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world!”
I suppose conversion doesn’t end at confirmation, and I don’t think it ever will end. I’ll probably continue to turn slowly toward God for the rest of my life. It was hard to become a Catholic, I mean, seriously, mind-numbingly hard. I was raised my whole life to believe that these people were horribly and unforgivably wrong; that they believed a bunch of ridiculous, ritualistic mumbo-jumbo. I heard and believed every ugly thing I ever heard about the Catholic Church. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be joining the church, I would have laughed in your face.
It all came down to a tiny seed that somehow planted itself inside me. It started as a curiosity, an appreciation for the beauty, but it turned into something else the moment I went to my first Mass. It became a pull, a tug, and a constant reassurance that if I just followed along, it would all make sense. “Seeing is believing? No! Believe and I’ll show you!” the voice in my heart whispered. I had to let go of the idea that everything had to pass my test of authenticity; I had to submit myself to the authority of the Magisterium.
Isn’t that the nature of faith? Sometimes it’s a leap into the unknown, but more often, I think it’s just following, learning to submit, and receiving graces every step of the way.