My journey into Catholicism
Nothing is more difficult sometimes than taking the first step. I was a Jew and my journey into Catholicism started by meeting with a priest every week for four months. I didn’t know anything about Christianity until those meetings. I had met many Christian people, but I have to say that none of them really knew why they practised what they did or their own salvation history. The Priest and I spoke about many subjects and he told me many wonderful things about Catholicism, but he never sold me anything. He left me to make up my own mind.
I was Curious
After meeting Father in the Parish Office for two months I asked him what was going on at the church every week during our talks as I saw people going in and out. He told me that it was called Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the Catholic faithful would come to Adore and keep company with the Eucharist. Of course my next question was what is a Eucharist? He explained that it was a consecrated host that was now the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus displayed in a monstrance. He showed me pictures too, that helped a great deal since I still had no idea what those things were. What I saw was a white wafer in a glass circle in a really awesome display. He also explained that they had a Eucharistic guardian who sat with Jesus during the day so he would not be alone. I asked if I could go over to the church and see Jesus too even though I wasn’t Catholic at the time. Father said of course!
What am I doing here?
The Church was just across the street from the Parish office so I stepped out into the porch and gathered my thoughts. What had brought me here in the first place was what I thought was a prompt from God. I had felt a very strong pull towards Catholicism all of a sudden, which, quite frankly, was odd since I had never thought about Christianity before. I was thinking, “What am I doing here, actually talking to a priest and now going to their church to see a decorated wafer?” My feet felt like I had freshly dried cement shoes on them all of a sudden. I practically dragged myself across the street and up to the church door. I was a bit scared and had decided that I would just step inside and see the wafer, look around and then leave. In that way I could say I had been and thank the priest for all his time, then go away never to return.
The presence was overwhelming
But God had other plans. I stepped inside the Church and looked around, letting my eyes adjust. It was very small and ornate with beautiful stained glass windows and dimly lit. At the front, on the altar, I saw the wafer in the monstrance. What happened next was unexpected to say the least and I never would have dreamt it in a million years. Suddenly I couldn’t breathe and my knees nearly buckled. The Presence was so overwhelming and powerful and I knew immediately that it was the Presence of Jesus. My thoughts could not catch up, but my heart truly understood what this was. I could not in any way, at that moment relate to a wafer in a decorated frame, but I could not deny the Presence. This was very frightening. I put my hands over my face to hide the tears flowing down my cheeks and the instant shame I felt in his Presence.
I felt so small in this huge presence
After having such an overwhelming experience of his presence in the Church I moved to a pew that already had the kneeler down as if it expected me. When I knelt, I covered my face fully and tried to hold back the sobs desperately trying not to cry out. Without thinking I whispered to the Presence “Please don’t look at me, I’m filthy and not worthy of a glance from you.” Somehow I felt the weight of my endless sins and I wanted to collapse under it. I felt broken inside and out and my mind was reeling. I begged him “Please leave me be, I can’t bear this shame and embarrassment.” I felt so small in this huge presence, I felt vulnerable, helpless and exposed as if nothing was secret anymore. I whispered again “Please don’t look at me I am a fool and a sinner.” Suddenly I felt like something was consoling me and calming my turmoil and shame. It was peaceful and giddy as if the air crackled with it all around me. I leaned back in the pew and gathered my thoughts and looked around. I noticed there were about three other people there and I felt my face flush hot with embarrassment but they didn’t seem to have noticed me.
“How awesome is the Lord most high, the great king over all the earth!” Psalm 47:2
He Was Thrilled That I Was There
I spoke softly to the Presence and said I thought it was Jesus. I said I was very sorry for not understanding what was happening to me and to please give me time. What I felt after that should not have surprised me after what I just experienced, but it shocked me. I suddenly sensed that the Presence was as excited as a child and thrilled that I was there. It was like a child who is excited because you showed up to their birthday party. What I felt was this awesomeness because I had accepted his invitation to visit that day and he wanted me to come back regularly and often. I felt my shame well up again and I began to cry. I realised that I had never given Jesus two seconds of my time nor any thought at all until that moment. I even laughed at people who talked about him, those who were thrilled to have Jesus in their lives and tried to share him with others. Although I had never considered him before he had invited me to visit him. I had never felt lower than I did right then. What came to mind then was the words “It doesn’t matter, you came today and I want you to come back.”
The Beginning of a very Long Road
I felt the Presence recede and that was my cue to go if I chose to, which I did. I stepped outside and the sun hit my face like a reality check. I was feeling very confused, hurt, disoriented and vulnerable and I didn’t know what to make of what had just happened to me. I don’t remember walking to my car and getting in. I just sat there for a while staring into space trying to think straight, but I suddenly felt drained and very tired and I needed to go home. I looked over at the church before pulling away and I thought to myself that this was only the beginning of a very long road ahead if I chose to take it. At some point inside the church my heart had already decided the choice and I would indeed go back again to have many more visits with Jesus.
Written by Liam Stewart