Several years ago I spent quite some time not practicing the faith. I felt like I was stuck in a cold and empty space, ripe with isolation and distraction. It took the birth of my first baby to slowly drag me out of it and back into the warm and familiar waters of Catholicism. First I eased into learning more about the faith I was raised in, but later it morphed into a relentless pursuit for all the knowledge I could handle.
Through my prayer and studies, I thankfully came to know (unshakably) in my heart that the Eucharist is the greatest sacrament. I began to think on a more personal level about why we need the Eucharist and that it is indeed the most amazing gift anyone in this life could receive. The more I grasped how incredible it is that Christ continues to give Himself to us, the more seriously I regarded Communion. This was one of the any fruits of my conversion.
For the most part, this quest for a deeper understanding and more sincere love for the Church was a blessing. It was great that I was becoming more spiritually accountable. What wasn’t so great was that I started second-guessing myself to the extreme. I had an unhealthy distrust of my own motives which stifled my potential to love God better.
Amidst my renewed awe for the Eucharist, I made the mistake of scrutinizing the sincerity of my own belief in the real presence. Catholicism 101 basically starts with the fact that we believe it is not a symbol but is in fact His body. So, like someone carrying a secret, I wrestled internally with my own faith in the true presence. I kept thinking, if I really do believe, wouldn’t I feel more within myself while walking down the aisle to communion? Why am I not overwhelmed by the miracle before me? What if I don’t believe enough?
These questions brought me nothing but doubt and discouragement. I finally mentioned it to one of my best friends and her brief response was perfect. She said, “the miracle itself is part of the mystery, so that’s where our faith comes in. We cannot understand it completely.” I reflected on her words for a few weeks and prayed with them until I finally felt the burden of my self-imposed guilt start to fade.
My pursuit to be an authentic believer was noble. The problem is that I placed myself at the center of my pursuit instead of Jesus. Insisting that I must fully and intellectually grasp the miracle of the Eucharist was essentially to put myself on the level of the divine. Our earthly life comes with the veil over our eyes, appropriate to our imperfect state due to sin. The more logical approach to the mysteries of our faith is indeed one that is childlike—lacking in some understanding and wisdom, but confident and trusting.
The habit of dotting the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s” of my spiritual life, searching for answers inside myself which rely solely on myself, will never bring me closer to God. The real fruits come when we make an effort to think less and love more, and only looking inward when we acknowledge that God dwells within, ever ready to love and guide us.
My worrying about motives was all pride and no humility. Only when I let it go and told God that I wish to have as much love as possible for the Eucharist, leaving the level of my understanding to Him alone, did I feel the joy in receiving the gift of His Son. A genuine and grateful smile now erupts when I hear, “The Body of Christ”.
What I have learned from this journey is that my faith in God and the mysteries of faith increase when my dependence upon myself decreases. If I am front and center, along with all my wavering human feelings and emotions, then I am only distracting and exhausting myself while drifting away from the truth of God’s love. When I quiet the storms of my own intellect and curiosity, then the peaceful waters of Catholicism can nourish me as I drift closer to God.
If you are prone to second-guessing your own motives like I am, these words from St. Francis de Sales in The Art of Loving God may be worth reflection: “The mistrust of ourselves proceeds from the knowledge of our imperfections. It is a very good thing to mistrust ourselves, but how will it help us, unless we cast our whole confidence upon God and wait for His mercy?” Each of us needs His mercy in one way or another and we can place our shortcomings or doubts of faith completely in His hands while we focus simply on loving Him. St. Francis also adds that, “Simplicity banishes from the soul that solicitous care which so needlessly urges many to seek out various exercises and means to enable them, as they say, to love God…They torment themselves about finding the art of loving God, not knowing that there is none except to love Him. They think that there is a certain art needed to acquire this love, which is really to be found only in simplicity.” May we always walk the communion line with lightness of heart, with simple love and gratitude for Christ!