Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Eucharist & Pregnancy, or, Do you realize what you've received?

As my little "About me" blurb says, I'm a Catholic convert. That's a story for another time, but the cliff notes version is that I became Catholic at the Easter Vigil my sophomore year of college. I had been attending mass for about a year, having started my freshman year because I was reading such wonderful and slightly shocking things about the Church and I decided I needed to see what Catholic worship was like in action. I still remember my very first time at mass: I sat on the left side, halfway back, and I must have looked like I was doing the wave! Everyone stood up, then I stood up. Everyone kneeled, then I kneeled. I had no clue what was going on.

But I made myself stick it out just to get the hang of it, and lo and behold if I didn't fall in love with Jesus in the Eucharist! And I fell hard. I had been raised in churches with the Lord's Supper, so I was familiar with the externals of the ritual. But to read that Catholics believe that Jesus is actually present in the bread and the wine - body, blood, soul, and divinity - and to see this miracle take place right before my eyes at every mass - wowie.

I still remember vividly what it was like to attend mass after I was given the gift of faith in Jesus' real presence in the Eucharist, but before I could receive Him myself. I was so happy to be there, but my heart longed to receive Him. I would kneel during communion and as the line of people moved toward the altar, I would think: "Do they realize what they're about to receive? Do they know that they're about to receive Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, into their very bodies? Can they see that heaven is opening up before them??" and so on. Typical convert =)

And yes, Easter Vigil 2005 was unspeakably special! I've never regretted becoming Catholic, and on the contrary often find myself still struck by a profound sense of gratitude at coming into the treasure trove of the Church.

So here's the connection with pregnancy: in my current state of longing-to-be-a-mother, I have an incredible sense of awe when I see a pregnant woman. Not that it's not mixed with other less palatable emotions (jealousy, for starters...) but I have a similar train of thought that my pre-Catholic self had re: the Eucharist: "Does she realize what a miracle is taking place in her body right now? That there's an actual human person living out of sight, tucked beneath her heart? That she is supplying everything that little one needs? That no matter what she does or where she goes, her son/daughter is with her, waiting, living, squirming, growing, etc.? That she and her husband have co-created an immortal human soul? How does she go about her day-to-day life when such a momentous thing is taking place??" and so on.

Mothering really gets me too. I was telling Mr. M the other night about how much I look forward (God-willing) to experiencing all the "firsts" with our children: how amazing it must be to show your child their first snowflake, their first spring daffodil, to kiss their first skinned knee, braid their hair for the first time, watch them eat their first banana, hear the words "mom" or "dad" for the first time. To be a mother seems like a fairytale land of wonder to me!

I'm trying my hardest not to be totally naive. I do know that pregnancy is not all bliss and cute "bump" clothes, and that parenting means risk and heartache as well as love and hugs. But maybe something I've gained from this trial of infertility is the ability to see and appreciate the real jaw-dropping wonder-full semi-miraculous event that begetting a child is? I don't know. Maybe I'll look back at this post in 5 years and laugh at how unrealistic I was. But I kind of hope not. Because having been Catholic for 7 years now, I don't laugh at my pre-Catholic self who couldn't take her eyes off Jesus in the Eucharist. Actually, I think I had it more right then - now, it's harder to remember Who is present at mass and Who I'm receiving. I have to remind myself of the miracle that's taking place right before my eyes, so as not to get "sluggish," as the first reading today said.

Wrapping this up...I guess it's not like we'll ever fully grasp the miracle and beauty of transubstantiation, or of pregnancy, or of existence, or love, for that matter. I guess that's because we're finite. Anyway, this post shares something I've been thinking about for a while.


  1. I too am amazed when I see a pregnant woman. I think "wow she is growing a person inside of her body! What a miracle!" and then I try not to stare.

  2. It is amazing to know that a woman can grow a PERSON inside of her! And yes, it is not lost on me the firsts I get to experience as the mother of my child ... something I try never to take for granted. To get "used to" things is not what I hope to have happen - I always hope to be amazed at God & at my children.

  3. This is beautiful. And yes, both pregnancy and the Eucharist present us with miracles that we can't fully see or understand - even as a mother gives birth or as we receive the Eucharist, all that we feel and see and experience still do not fully reveal the miracle that is taking place.