By Father Timothy Smith
The Eucharist has always been the focal point of my vocation to the priesthood. Pope St. Paul VI taught that all church ministries and works of the apostolate are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. That has been especially true in my life.
In my late 20s, I had a moral conversion that awakened me to my need for the Christian life. Prayer, attending holy Mass and receiving the sacraments became an essential part of my daily activities as I strove to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
After my conversion experience, I started to attend weekday celebrations of Mass before and after my workday. I was employed for a large corporation in a big office building in Sioux Falls. During that time, I attended Mass at every parish in Sioux Falls. The times of prayer during those weekday celebrations of Mass at Catholic parishes around the city helped me grow in my understanding of how Christ makes himself present to us in the Eucharist each day.
I desired to deepen my relationship with Jesus through regular sacramental practice and to take better care of my soul. I made a resolution to avail myself of regular sacramental confession, and I made the commitment to live the teachings of Christ in all my daily affairs. I started to pray to know my vocation each day.
Through a volunteer program, I was invited to work weekends and nights at the St. Francis House, providing assistance to the homeless. For an entire year, I cooked meals for guests of the homeless shelter, prepared food and clothing for visitors, and spent time getting to know people from all walks of life. I experienced the needs of the community in a deeper way. Bishop Paul Dudley, who began this community outreach, was a witness to me of the relationship that exists between love of the Eucharist and the works of Christian charity.
I began to see that the work of the apostolate serving the homeless must flow from the prayers of the Mass in order to provide the spiritual strength and vitality needed to serve others as Christ. Without relying upon God and keeping Christ at the center, Christian ministries and outreaches lose meaning and purpose.
That summer, I made a commitment to pray eucharistic adoration in the adoration chapel of my home parish, St. Michael in Sioux Falls, where members are asked to make a commitment to pray at specific times throughout the week. The opportunity to pray each Sunday from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. allowed me to offer this prayer as a sacrifice for the homeless people I was serving.
Prayers of intercession for so many names and faces helped occupy this important time of prayer. Even though it was late at night, I was so excited to make the drive to the parish and participate in the mission of the Church. And even though most of the city was sleeping, I would be with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament praying for the whole world.
Through study and prayer in eucharistic adoration, I realized that in order to become more like Christ, I must consume his body and blood in the holy Eucharist. It occurred to me that if so many people are homeless and starving in the world, how many more people are starving for the essential food Jesus gave us to eat in the Eucharist?
I began to see and hear that God was calling me to the holy priesthood. Jesus wanted me to perform the same works of prayer and service I had been offering the poor through the sacrament of holy orders.
The years of conversion, prayer and Christian service lead me to recognize that the invitation to serve Jesus finds its origin in the Eucharist. My path to the priesthood took longer because I made my first holy Communion when I was 28. I tried to find my vocation before that time, but I did not have the necessary grace from God.
I needed the help God gave us in the sacraments. Now in my vocation as a priest, I provide that same help to the world.