Transforming My Heart

This article was posted on: May 1, 2024

Since entering seminary, my love for the Eucharist has continued to grow.

God’s presence in the ordinary

During my senior year of college, I began to feel increasingly anxious. I was grappling with the fact that the whisper from God to enter seminary that I had first heard in high school had now grown into an audible timbre. I prayed reluctantly, asking God to show me the path He had planned for my life. However, I kept getting the answer that I was not looking for. Eventually, a few months before graduation, I received the peace and strength I needed from God to commit to discerning the priesthood by entering seminary. This transformation, from being hesitant to being open to His call, did not happen overnight. It occurred through the fruits of prayer and the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist.

During that year, I spent hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament and tried to frequent daily Mass as often as possible. Throughout those moments, God was slowly chipping away at my insecurities and doubts and instilling in me His love, made present through His holy Eucharist. As Ezekiel says, “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.” (Ez 36:26) Through the Eucharist, Jesus was softening my own heart to the point where I was finally ready to accept the plan He had for me.

Since entering seminary, my love for the Eucharist has continued to grow. Every morning, starting at 5:45 a.m., the most important parts of our day occur. We begin with a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by morning prayer and Mass. We know that to become priests of Jesus Christ, we must be priests after the heart of Christ. By being in the presence of God, we are gradually growing in our love for Him. However, this process is not easy. The conversion of our hearts is not a one-time event, but rather a gradual and often arduous journey.

There are many days when I want to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep; many mornings, I venture into the chapel only to have my mind bombarded with distractions of what homework I have or what will be served for breakfast. Worshipping what appears to be a wafer of bread doesn’t exactly stimulate the external senses. But I think it is precisely why God decided to be present to us in every Catholic church throughout the world through the ordinary matter of bread and wine.

When Jesus was walking the earth in his human body, did He look like God? No! But this wasn’t because Jesus wanted to make it difficult for His followers to believe He was God, but rather, out of His love. Because if He appeared to their physical senses as God, His mere presence would be too frightening and overwhelming for the disciples to follow. So, too, in the Eucharist, He makes His presence unassuming so that we can get close to Him, and His love can physically dwell in us. The astounding reality is that through the Eucharist, we can get closer to God than when he was first made incarnate 2,000 years ago.

What a great blessing it is to have the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage traveling through the heart of our diocese. At a time when our country is filled with strife, bitterness, and brokenness among its citizens, this pilgrimage can offer a witness to the transformative love of Christ. Through the Eucharist, our hearts can become more like His as God removes our stony hearts and gives us natural hearts capable of receiving the love He has for every one of us.

Story by John Francis, Seminarian of the Diocese of La Crosse
Published in the May/June 2024 issue of Catholic Life Magazine

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