Hello, everyone! My name is Julianne Stanz, and it’s great to be here with you.
At some point everyone has gone through a tough time in their life. During these times it can feel like we’re either falling apart or that our life is falling apart, but in my book, Braving the Thin Places, I explore the difference between falling apart and being broken open.
A few years ago I was going through a really difficult time with my health, and I did the thing that none of us should ever do: I googled my symptoms—definitely not a good idea. Of course, for me that set off a train of thoughts that culminated in many sleepless nights and days filled with worry. In some ways I felt like my health was falling apart, and although I was really trying to pray during this time, I couldn’t find a sense of peace. I thought that I was hiding my stress from my children, but I should have known better.
One night as I was tucking my youngest son into bed, he sat right up as if he had just connected something in his mind and was having an “Aha” moment. “Mom, Mom, is it true?” he said. “Is it true?”
“Is what true?” I asked him.
“You know how at Mass, Father says to us that if we eat this bread, we will live forever?”
And then, in a moment I’ll never forget, he held out his little, small, chubby four-year-old hands as if he were holding the Eucharist between them, just like he had seen our priest do at Mass right here in this church. “Mom, is it true?” he asked. “Because if that’s true, we will never die, right, Mom?” he said.
I felt my eyes filling with tears. Here was my four-year-old son holding up to me the most profound truth upon which our faith rests: that the Eucharist is truly the Bread of Life. From that moment I understood that I wasn’t falling apart, but that I was being broken open in new ways, and I was. I looked at life and the Eucharist very differently from that moment on.
At Mass, the Eucharist doesn’t fall apart, but it’s broken open for each one of us. What has now been broken open becomes new life for you and me. So I want to go back to that moment in the room with Sean. “Is it true, Mom?” he asked me through tears.
I answered with every fiber of my being, “Yes, son, it is true. God is true. Jesus is really present to us in the Eucharist, and we hope one day that we’ll live with him forever.”
So no matter what we go through in life, whatever storms or trials we face, what brings us to joy, or what brings us to the edge of despair, our God is a God of faithfulness, and Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist is proof of that love.
Julianne Stanz is a nationally known speaker, retreat leader, storyteller, and the Director of New Evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay and a consultant to the USCCB Committee on Catechesis and Evangelization.