A heart-to-heart with Jesus in adoration

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Franciscan friars
Members of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal pray during Mass. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

What is the importance of the Eucharist to a friar? For this friar, EVERYTHING! He who is truly present in the Eucharist, Jesus, is everything. To me, it’s as if it were yesterday when I realized that Jesus was truly present in the consecrated host and that he had a plan that was well beyond my understanding for my life. I am the first Catholic in my family in 500 years. As a 28-year-old squarely in the world and on my way to medical school, I began to ask the big questions in life: Does God really exist? Is the Bible true? If the Bible was real, why don’t we really see prophets and miracles? I thought if God exists, he must have a plan for my life. But does he?

Father John Anthony
Father John Anthony Boughton

Seeing a near-miraculous conversion of a friend through Medjugorje opened my eyes to the Catholic world of Marian apparitions and to Catholicism in general, and thus, to the ongoing miracles within Jesus’ Church. My Protestant friends and I couldn’t explain the radical transformation of this man except as an act of God. Without touching on the veracity of the apparitions of Medjugorje, I can say that we were, for the first time, faced with the possibility that heaven does speak throughout the centuries after the time of Jesus. So we decided to put our toes into Catholic waters to see what it was about. We went on a pilgrimage.

There, I met Catholics who showed me their active and vibrant relationship with Jesus, which was evident in their lives. They knew their faith and where to find answers in the Scriptures. I came to see, for the first time, John Chapter 6, where Jesus says 12 times — in 12 different ways — that his body is true food and his blood is true drink, and that without receiving it, we have no life. It was the first time I’d really seen that in Scripture.

Mary’s supposed messages and these Catholic friends kept pointing me to the Mass and to the adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. They showed me how the literal understanding of Jesus’ true presence had been the constant teaching in Christianity for 2,000 years. They knocked down every argument I had heard as a Protestant about what I thought the Church teaches. I remember thinking that if all this about the Eucharist is true, it changes everything, because he is there.

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But who had the authority to interpret the Scripture? Every denomination had its own take on Scripture. Making a quick survey of history, I realized the oldest of all the Protestant churches was no more than 500 years old, including the Episcopalian church I attended, which looked very Catholic. But who was a king like Henry VIII to start a church? He didn’t have spiritual authority. As they say, when one encounters history, one ceases to be a Protestant.

I was convinced that there was no Church that had the authority to interpret Scripture outside the Catholic Church. But intellectual knowledge of the presence of Jesus isn’t enough to make such a radical change in a man’s life to go from being a Protestant and leaving a medical career and a family life to the life of a friar and a priest. It took a heart-to-heart encounter with Jesus.

Spending time with Jesus in adoration, I threw all my questions to the Lord. I told him of all my confusion, my struggles, my desire to be a doctor and a husband. At some point, I began to really listen to him from the heart. He gently led me. I heard him say he wanted me to heal souls not bodies — meaning, to become a priest. I tried to arm wrestle him on that. I thought I could be an Episcopalian priest, have a wife and point people to the Catholic Church. He smiled and said simply and clearly, “John, you know what the truth is; now act on it.” So I joined the Catholic Church, with no regrets.

If you meet Jesus heart to heart, he will be everything to you. Let him lead you! You will not be disappointed.

Father John Anthony Boughton is a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. He writes from New York.