Communion with God

We went to Mass this weekend, as usual. I realized as I was getting ready to go that I’ve been to Mass every single weekend since we entered the Church at Easter — even when I was exhausted, even when I wasn’t feeling well, even five days after our third baby in three years was born. More strikingly, I realized that I almost always look forward to it. Of all the things that have changed in my life since becoming Catholic, this is one of the biggest.

As a child, I never once went to church with my parents. Occasionally I’d tag along with a friend if I’d spent the night at her house, but I can count on my hands the number of times I even did that. The concept of weekends as fun free time was firmly entrenched in my mind. So when I first started to think that Christianity might be true, the idea of regularly going to church was unappealing.

I finally took that painful first step of scheduling my weekends around attending church service. I didn’t understand why going out to a church was necessary, why getting together with some Christian friends and talking about God wouldn’t suffice, but figured that I was probably just missing something and kept going anyway. And as we started going to Sunday services more regularly, I found myself longing for something, but I didn’t know what it was. Part of it was that I hoped to find a community of likeminded people since I didn’t know many other Christians, but there was something else as well. There was something deeper I desired but couldn’t quite articulate.

Sometimes I found it, even though I didn’t even know what “it” was. When I would go to a service where the pastor gave a stirring sermon, when Bible verses were read that miraculously addressed the exact issues I was struggling with, when I met people who glowed with love and friendliness, I felt it. It was something very subtle yet very powerful. Unfortunately, however, those experiences were hit or miss.

Eventually I came to understand that going to church is not about me and what I get out of it, so I resolved to go regularly out of respect and obedience. The yearning for that mysterious “it” was still there all the while. Sometimes I experienced it, oftentimes I didn’t. To be honest, I didn’t usually look forward to Sunday mornings, joking once with my husband that I was at my least Christ-like when we were getting everyone ready to go to church. Sometimes I didn’t go at all; in most cases it was because I was legitimately not feeling well, though I’d secretly be relieved that I could stay home. But on the days that I went to church and I experienced “it”, I’d wish I could go every day.

So when I had that realization this weekend that I actually go to church every Sunday now, even when I don’t really feel up to it, and that I actually look forward to it, I realized that something big has changed. But what? What is different these days?

When I figured out the answer to that question it all came together: I now look forward to going to church every Sunday because I’ve found “it.” That mysterious something that my heart desired from the beginning of my efforts at churchgoing, is now there every time. And I finally realized what “it” is: communion with God.

I believe that those various experiences at church that were so powerful, so difficult to describe, were experiences of God himself. Something from outside of the material world was present on those occasions — I couldn’t prove it on paper, but I knew it in my heart. I’d experienced the transforming power of contact with God himself.

Thinking of this, it was immediately clear where this recent love of going to church came from: the Catholic Mass is not hit or miss. I can now experience “it”, communion with God, every Sunday. Even if the pastor’s homily is lackluster or the music is bad or the Bible readings are confusing or the people aren’t friendly, by receiving the Eucharist I still commune with God. Every time.

Honestly, I didn’t expect this to happen. The idea of God making himself truly present in what appears to be bread and wine has always been kind of overwhelming to me. Though I came to believe the claim of the real presence, it’s not something I ever understood on an intellectual level, so in the months leading up to Easter Vigil I didn’t spend much time thinking about what receiving Holy Communion would be like. And, when I first tasted the consecrated Host on my tongue, it wasn’t any sort of thunder-and-lightning moment (as I wrote about here).

But yesterday, as I thought back over the past few months, wondering why I so suddenly began to approach the doors of our church not just with a sense of duty and obedience but with feelings of joy and undeserved privilege and honor, I realized that it was because of the Eucharist. It was with great gratitude that I realized that I will now always be able to experience “it” for the rest of my life — no matter where I am in the world, no matter what the circumstances, if I can find a Catholic church I am guaranteed that amazing, mysterious experience I always so desperately wanted: communion with God.

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13 Responses to “Communion with God”
  1. Kate says:

    Hi! This post really touched me, thank you! As a “cradle Catholic” who went an all-girls Catholic convent school, we had Mass 5 days a week at school, Sundays with family; I used to joke that Saturday was my only “day off”. It took me until college, at a university with 3 Masses a day on campus and 5 more around the city, to really appreciate daily Mass and the joy it could bring. After graduation I fell back into being ‘happy’ with only going once (just for laziness, not for opportunity). Now a stay-at-home mom, I am starting to go more regularly due to exactly what you write of – “IT” is at Mass, every time, every place. Isn’t it GREAT to be Catholic! God Bless You!

  2. Roz says:

    Lovely, and right on.

    I spent 15 years in a Presbyterian church between my Catholic upbringing and my reversion in 2004. By the end of the process, after I had gone to confession and been reconciled, I could hardly wait to go to my first Mass. As I later told a friend who had helped me along the journey, I stood in the communion line having to “restrain myself from lunging at the Eucharist.”

    Amazing how different things are when they’re really real.

  3. Noel says:

    Very beautiful post. Communion, or “the Lord’s supper” as we church of Christ-ers call it, is certainly one of the times I feel closest to God every week. It’s something I’ve done in airports, across timezones, and even alone in our home when we’re snowed in without power. God blessed us all with this “remembrance”… but, as you pointed out, it’s so much more than a remembrance, it’s a representation of Jesus’ body and blood… and when the LORD GOD Represents things they are more than mere words, they are Words of Power that change reality!

    Beautiful post indeed!

  4. LSK49rs says:

    coming to the realization that going to Mass was not all about me was my first real step to maturity. It may have taken me longer than others to grow up, but I am so glad the Church never told me I had to get all of this stuff by next Tuesday or I was ‘out of luck’…having something solid and steady for 2000 years makes a big difference.

  5. Ave Maria says:

    The Eucharist brought me home to the Catholic Church even before I understood the concept of the Real Presence. My soul knew what my mind didn’t.

    Thank you Jesus.

  6. Karen E. says:

    Beautiful, Jen. I experienced *exactly* the same thing, and could have written every detail of this post in much the same way (though perhaps not as eloquently.) Perfect.

  7. Courageous Grace says:

    What a lovely story, Jen! It’s great to hear how I’ve felt put into words. Good words, too. It’s funny, I never felt like this going to my mother’s former church (Assembly of God), but not long after Sean and I started going regularly to the Episcopal church near our college campus I felt a deep need to attend mass at least once a week if not more.

    Now I can’t imagine what one does on a Sunday morning EXCEPT go to church.

    Even now that we’ve started attending a REC parish close to home (our home parish is a 45 minute drive away and we don’t want to be that far away from home and the hospital while I’m so preggers) and the service starts at 9 am. So we basically leave the house at the same time we used to (to get to Arlington in time for choir rehearsal we had to leave home just before 9), but we get home by 10:30 (the time the service starts at our home parish). So now we have an extra two hours we have no idea what to do with. :D

  8. Abigail says:

    I didn’t realize how far I’d actually come until I sat down to pray after my Aunt’s funeral in a Protestant church. It felt so empty and cold. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I’d prayed in empty churches so many times before. Then I realized, there was no tabernacle, no comforting glowing candle. The church was as empty and lifeless as an empty stage.

  9. Ouiz says:

    Thank you, thank you for the beautiful post!

  10. Denise says:

    Lovely post…I’ve felt comforted by the same thing…

    I told a friend once that the beauty of going to mass is that you know you will get to witness a miracle. No matter what else is going on that day, no matter what is bothering you, you can experience a miracle at church every.single.day.

    Love it….

  11. Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ says:

    Great post…

  12. louisa says:

    I have had similar experience having been brought up a Roman Catholic, I was almost forced to attend mass by my parents, and the only part I liked was the music, singing and benediction.
    I stopped attending mass in my early teens, became depressed. One day an aunt and uncle came to stay with my parents from Ireland. I attended mass after not being for several years my aunt persuaded me to take communion, I was reluctant but did, then suddenly on my way back to the pew I felt the presence of angels surrounding me giving me inner peace. It was an out of the world experience which I have never felt before. I have had 4 experienced since 1 was when god was preparing me to look after my father who was soon to become unwell from cancer, an angel visited me and gave me a prayer one month prior to his illness. My mother couldn’t cope and I was left to nurse him for 6 months until he died. The angels also assisted me when I become so stressed at work I couldn’t attend. The Franciscan monks prayed for me at my local church and the angels surrounded me the fear disappeared and I felt confident to attend my job for two months prior to resigning. JUST TRUST IN GOD AND HIS ANGELS WILL HELP YOU IN YOUR HOUR OF NEED.

  13. Sheryl says:

    This is precisely why I’m considering converting to Catholicism. In the protestant church, the service is mainly about worshiping God through hymns and listening to the pastor’s commentary on the word of God. Both are good things, and valid forms of worship, but they are hit and miss. They rely too much on my own frame of mind on Sundays, and so there are many Sundays when I don’t give or receive very much. But receiving The Presence of Jesus every week, you can’t miss. I would always receive a very special grace of God and I would always have a posture of worship as I do it. I hope I’m able to resolve some of the bigger issues with the Church so that I’m able to join.