Welcome to this special Thanksgiving week series, "Why the Eucharist Matters [for Families]." Since Eucharist means "thanksgiving", we're going to take some time this week to look at why the Eucharist is essential for healthy family life.
The title isn't a statement of the current state of our family, but, like any family, we sometimes find ourselves in some not fun situations. We have conflict. We have health problems. We have parental concerns. We have disagreements with relatives. We're probably just like every family reading this blog.
Back when Andrew and I were dating, two lowly students at Notre Dame, we spent alot of time hanging out in chapels with Jesus. We were super committed to chastity in our relationship, and I think that that helped us relax a bit. We are both the type of people that really want to do things just right and I think that chastity in our relationship fell into that category. But when we were with Jesus? Well, we knew that our relationship would be pure and focused. And do you know what? The foundation laid for our future family was so strong. We had so many beautiful, deep conversations together while we were dating, and we had such peace knowing that Jesus was a part of us getting to know each other.
(Not that we just hung out in chapels all the time. We went on dates and hung out with friends, too. But that time in chapels was definitely what made our relationship what it is and made us fall in love with each other as quickly as we did. Give Jesus your vocation, and you won't be disappointed!)
So, when we graduated from our undergraduate years, and were newlyweds, we no longer had 24/7 access to Jesus in the Eucharist. We didn't have a chapel in our house! But we still needed Jesus. We were lucky to live not too far from the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, and we frequently visited them. We also lived a few blocks from a church run by the Congregation of Holy Cross, and that church was open from early in the morning until late at night. It played a crucial role in our first two years of marriage.
Whenever we felt in over our heads, we quickly learned the relief that came from popping in to that church down the road. And Jesus had a way of reassuring us that everything was going to be okay.
The most memorable time that this happened, was shortly after Therese was born. We were feeling so overwhelmed as new parents. We didn't know what the heck we were doing. We couldn't get Therese to go to sleep, and we were exhausted ourselves. Both of us had reached a breaking point, and our marriage felt super strained. What I later realized was the beginning of post-partum depression was starting. So, desperate, we snuck out to the church one evening, just the three of us. We sat up in the front row. I remember just crying tears of exhaustion and frustration, and Andrew comforted me, with little Therese nestled beside us in her car seat. We poured out our hearts to Jesus, begging Him for grace. We saw a priest quietly come in to the church. He was actually a priest that we knew from Notre Dame, and we proudly showed him our little Therese. I don't remember if he offered, or we asked, but he gave our family a blessing.
That blessing was a game changer for our family. Andrew and I felt such peace. Suddenly, we remembered...we weren't in this alone. Jesus would give us the grace we needed.
That night, we reaffirmed our commitment to what has become our family motto - "When it seems like you can't take any more...take it to Jesus in the Eucharist." That motto has yet to fail us.
Jesus wants to be there for us, for our marriage, for our family. He doesn't want us to go it alone. And He's always waiting for us, quietly and patiently, in the Eucharist.