To My Nephew,

Happy Feast of Corpus Christi! Our entire family is overflowing with joy and gratitude with the grace and excitement of celebrating your First Holy Communion and Confirmation. This weekend that commemorates and celebrates the Most Holy Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ begins your full journey within the sacramental life of the Catholic faith.

How do I explain the gift & truth of the Eucharist in our modern times marked by relativism and skepticism of the divine? How do I impress upon you that your First Holy Communion and each instance you receive the Eucharist you receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ (God and Man who walked the earth 2,000+ years ago) under the appearances of bread and wine? How do I express the mystery of this sacrament and the consummate relationship we enter into with God through the gift of the Eucharist? Ultimately, as you age, despite all the modeling, explanations, witnesses, and prayers of your family and loved ones, you will make a personal choice as a child of God and your relationship with the Holy Trinity.

As you learned, and by the grace of God and the gift of faith may come to know in your heart, mind, body, and soul, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith. The Eucharist & the Eucharistic relationship is why we are Catholic- why we live, breath, suffer, die, and rise in the newness of eternal life. May the Eucharist, like the Church, become the source and summit of your life. Whatever happens in your life, cling to the Eucharist. There you will find: beauty, peace, life, love, hope, passion, purpose, and truth. All things lacking in our distracted and relativistic society. People, whether they know it or not, search their whole life seeking what your just received within you- Jesus Christ.

Tragically, the world, society, peers, authority figures, relatives, or romantic interests will try to beat the truth out and distract you from the truth of childlike faith- the acceptance that this is Jesus Christ fully present within the Eucharist. Their arguments will be convincing, popular, rational, interesting, and less confrontational veiled under the threat of stigmatization, ostracizing, intolerance, rationalization, and relativism. You will learn in due course, there is an earthly price to be paid as a Christian, especially a Catholic Christian. But Be Not Afraid for Christ has already overcome the world!

As you mature and develop from a boy of God into a man of God, always remember you are a Child of God. The measure of authentic manhood and masculinity, like our Lord Jesus Christ, St. Joseph or St. Francis of Assisi your confirmation saint, is our love for God- beginning with the most tangible metaphysical intangible in our earthly lives the Eucharist. This lifelong love will permeate all other aspects of your life: how and why you make decisions, your pull towards virtue or vice, your peace or turmoil in times of uncertainty or fear, how you live out your earthly vocation, and the narrow road which leads to heaven and eternal life. Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure.

Since I know you appreciate an epic saga, I will quote a Doctor of the Church who experienced his own epic life saga. St. Augustine of Hippo wrote, ” “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.”

This weekend you were sealed with the Holy Spirit and may the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit be apart of your daily life, every moment from this day forward. Dominic, our family loves you dearly and that love will continue to grow and mature as we all mature and grow together in our wonderful earthly adventure of sainthood filled with moments of the agony and ecstasy. You are not alone in this journey. As you so eloquently explained, Christ is everywhere. He is also waiting for you in the tabernacle, monstrance, and paten. The Holy Spirit is your spiritual breath. And God the Father grants graces from above and eagerly awaits your homecoming. Our Lady will lead you closer to the Trinity as she herself entered into communion with the Holy Trinity. And all the angels and saints, including St. Francis of Assisi, will always be with you in this life & the next. As I will be, whether next to you or above.

With all my love and affection,

Aunt Hannah

A.M.D.G. JM+J

I Am the Bread of Life

stebenville youth
Photo Credit: Prince of Peace/ Steubenville

From Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II’s World Youth Day homily on Sunday, August 24, 1997 in Paris, France:

“Rabbi, where are you staying?” Each day the Church responds: Christ is present in the Eucharist, in the sacrament of His death and resurrection. In and through the Eucharist, you acknowledge the dwelling-place of the Living God in human history. For the Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Love which conquers death. It is the Sacrament of the Covenant, pure Gift of Love for the reconciliation of all humanity. It is the gift of the Real Presence of Jesus The Redeemer, in the bread which is His Body given up for us, in the wine which is His Blood poured out for all. . . Dear young friends . . . For Christ is now answering your own question and the questions of all those who seek the Living God. He answers by offering an invitation: This is My Body, take It and eat. . .

I Am the Living Bread” (Jn 6:51). The message of John’s Gospel completes the liturgical picture of this great Eucharistic mystery that we are celebrating today… The words of John’s Gospel are the great proclamation of The Eucharist, after the miraculous multiplication of bread near Capernaum. Anticipating as it were the time even before the Eucharist was instituted, Christ revealed what it was. He spoke thus: “I Am the Living Bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this Bread, he will live forever; and the Bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My Flesh” (Jn 6:51). And when these words brought protests from many who were listening Jesus added: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you; he who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My Flesh is food indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed. He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in me, and I in him.” (Jn 6:53-56).

“Asked if the Madonna had been present at Mass, he answered: “Yes, she placed herself to the side, but I could see her, what joy! What paradise…” Has she attended only once, or is she always present? “How can the mother of Jesus, present on Calvary at the foot of the cross, who offered her Son as victim for the salvation of souls, be absent at the mystical Calvary of the altar?” Is our Lady present at all of the Masses that are being celebrated in the world? “Yes.” Do the angels also attend? “The whole celestial court is present.”

— St. Padre Pio 

“Always remain close to the Catholic Church, because it alone can give you true peace, since it alone possesses Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, the true Prince of Peace.”
–St. Padre Pio
“When you approach the tabernacle remember that he has been waiting for you for twenty centuries.”
–St. Josemaria Escriva

“If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.”
–St. Maximilian Kolbe

“The culmination of the Mass is not the consecration, but Communion.”
–St. Maximilian Kolbe

“Christ held Himself in His hands when He gave His Body to His disciples saying: ‘This is My Body.’ No one partakes of this Flesh before he has adored it.”
–St. Augustine

“With all the strength of my soul I urge you young people to approach the Communion table as often as you can. Feed on this bread of angels whence you will draw all the energy you need to fight inner battles. Because true happiness, dear friends, does not consist in the pleasures of the world or in earthly things, but in peace of conscience, which we have only if we are pure in heart and mind.”
–Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
“We must understand that in order ‘to do’, we must first learn ‘to be’, that is to say, in the sweet company of Jesus in adoration.”
–Pope John Paul II
“Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day, He is there. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to that Adoration.”
— St. Theresa of Calcutta

 “Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you – for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart…don’t listen to the demon, laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love…

— St. Therese of Lisieux

Now you shall consider My love in the Blessed Sacrament. Here, I am entirely yours, soul, body and divinity, as your Bridegroom. You know what love demands: one thing only, reciprocity…(1770)
–St Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul

“When we go before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament we represent the one in the world who is in most need of God’s Mercy.” We “Stand in behalf of the one in the world who does not know Christ and who is farthest away from God and we bring down upon their soul the Precious Blood of The Lamb.”

– St. John Paul II

Abandonemnt: Steubenville NW & Charles Foucauld

Photo Credit: Prince of Peace/ Steubenville
Photo Credit: Prince of Peace/ Steubenville

Recently, I volunteered at Steubenville NW Youth Conference where I followed Jesus from the basement chapel to the opera house theater in which the Eucharistic procession took place. Darkened and filled with almost 1,300 youth, volunteers, priests, and religious, we all fell onto our knees before our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration. Though I’ve had “my first” moment with Christ, I watched in awe as many youth surrounding me experienced their “first” moment. My hope and prayer is that they continue in that spirit day-by-day.

As Jesus in the monstrance processed around the opera house, the band played “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsongs. Suddenly, I wasn’t there anymore. Like a fly on the wall, I saw myself crying before Christ in a Eucharistic adoration chapel a year before. My brother was dying in an UC Denver hospital. With my eldest brother, father, his wife, and mother-in-law by side his side, I stayed with my mother who was on chemo and too ill to travel. I practically ran from Holy Family Hospital where I was work training to the nearby adoration chapel when I received the text.

I had no intention of crying. I don’t cry, let alone in public. But the foreboding reality of a life without my dear brother, my flesh and blood, and one of the loves of my life weighed heavily on me. If there was ever an “appropriate” time to cry, today was that day. I poured my heart and soul out to God as fast as the tears poured down my face. I knew that unless the emergency blood transfusion/ resuscitation worked within 30 minutes I would never hug or talk in this earthly life with my brother again. My heart shattered. All I could do was abandon myself in Christ.

Abandonment in Christ is an imposing task because it requires practice, much practice. It’s like falling in-love, well unconditional love, slowly but deeply and then there is no turning back. You choose it day-by-day, moment-by-moment. St. Charles Foucauld’s Prayer of Abandonment reads:

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father. Amen.

A friend commented on this prayer saying she was impressed by anyone who could pray the words and actually mean what they prayed because of the grave and challenging nature of the words prayed. I didn’t learn to abandon my potentially dying loved ones in Christ overnight. I didn’t even know I would until life happened. It took practice, years of practice, and something provided beyond my own capacity- GRACE.

While my brother lay bleeding to death and I sobbing in the Eucharistic Adoration chapel, I remember explaining to God the thousands of pieces my heart would shatter into if my brother died, how much I loved him, and how much I would miss his earthly presence, BUT I prayed, “He isn’t mine God, and if you need him more than me, you can have him.” I knew praying that simple line could change the course of my life forever, but I believed I would still have relationship with my brother in heaven. A miracle happened and my brother resuscitated after 14 liters of blood. After an eighteen day hospitalization, he returned home to WY a gaunt shadow of his usual vitality but very much alive. I know one of these days one of my family members won’t resuscitate. In the meantime, I treasure the time I’ve been given.

My brother enjoyed listening to Hillsong United’s “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” during his 18 day hospitalization. A little over a year later, at Steubenville NW, I sang:

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.”

AMEN.