By Meghan Vogel
Around this time two years ago, I knelt on the floor in the family room of my parents’ house, gazing at the television, watching Bishop DeGrood lift up the Eucharist at Mass in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph. The cathedral was completely empty with no laity allowed to attend the Mass due to strong health concerns at that time.
My heart burned with desire to be able to attend Mass in person and receive physical Communion, but I had no idea when that opportunity might come again for me.
Everyone reading this will know that I am describing the experience of watching the Sunday TV Mass during Covid. During this time, many faithful Catholics experienced this same aching desire to return to attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist in person because we had a recognition that watching on TV or watching livestreamed Masses online was simply not the same as attending in person.
If you or anyone you know experienced this longing, did you ever stop to ponder more deeply why you were having this longing?
I remember my first holy Communion in second grade. I had been taught about who was in the Eucharist, and I believed in Jesus’ real presence in the elements of bread and wine, but I was very young.
Of course, I was excited for the day because I knew it was important, with all the family that came to help me celebrate the day, but the Eucharist did not really come to mean a lot to me until later in life when I developed a much more personal understanding of and love for Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist.
The first time I fully appreciated the reality of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist was when I was about 12 years old. I was attending Totus Tuus (a summer Vacation Bible School program for Catholic students grades 1-12 that is now called Lumen Christi), and a night of adoration was held in my home parish of St. Thomas Aquinas in Madison. In adoration, a consecrated host is placed in a beautiful golden vessel called a monstrance. A monstrance has a round glass window right in the middle of it that the consecrated host is placed behind so it is visible. The consecrated host is usually left out in the monstrance for several hours at a time on the main altar in a chapel, and anyone can come into the chapel to pray before the exposed host during that time until a priest or deacon comes to put the host back into the tabernacle.
That night was one of the first times I had experienced adoration, and as I was there, I spoke to Jesus in a personal way for one of the first times ever. Before that point, I had mostly prayed memorized prayers such as the Hail Mary and Our Father, but the moment I understood Jesus as the one true God who knew and loved me personally and spoke to him in that way, my Catholic faith took on a whole new level of meaning to me. That was when my love for Christ in the Eucharist was born.
After that night, I continued to develop greater knowledge about the Catholic doctrine of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. One resource I found to be most helpful in deepening my understanding of this was a CD recording of a talk called “Seven Secrets of the Eucharist” given by Catholic evangelist Vinny Flynn. I have listened to this talk multiple times, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants a better understanding of the Real Presence.
What is most essential to understand about the Eucharist is that once the consecration has occurred at Mass, Christ is fully present, body, blood, soul and divinity, under the appearance of bread and wine.
So, if you or someone you know ached to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist in person during Covid, you likely recognized who it was you were missing, and you longed to receive him in the sacrament that he created as a means for us to receive him.
If you haven’t encountered Christ in the Eucharist in a personal way yet, don’t be afraid to ask him for this gift. Go before a monstrance or tabernacle where he is present and ask. He will not let you down.