Welcome back to the Lent retreat! My name is Ryian, and I am your host and MC. This is a retreat for those who aren’t able to get away, so throughout Lent, there will be talks, testimonies, and questions to help you reflect.
Speaking of retreat, I went on a three day silent retreat! It was such a wonderful experience and I wrote all about it here.
During our time away, we have been diving into Scripture. This is our last hurrah until Easter, so we will be hearing a few talks and testimonies about the Eucharist, Confession, and Holy Week!
If you prefer to listen instead of read, there is an audio format on the podcast, Ryian’s Coffee Shop!
Our first guest is Anna Moeller who is going to be sharing her talk about the Eucharist. Anna is a Catholic wife and mother of 3 kids in 3.5 years who enjoys drinking good bourbon and coffee (of any kind; she’s not picky).
“As Catholics, we believe the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] 1324).
We know from the Gospels that Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, and that the bread and wine used is transubstantiated in Mass to become the Body and Blood of Christ, the Real Presence. These are no longer symbols of Christ, but truly become Christ in a way that we as humans cannot perceive with our senses, even though they retain the appearance of unleavened bread and wine. Jesus himself says, “I am the Bread of Life” in John 6:35.
The Last Supper, being a Passover meal, became a fulfilment of and gave definitive meaning to the Jewish Passover (CCC 1340). It becomes a new Passover, anticipating the final Passover of the Church into the glory of the Kingdom during the Second Coming.
Let’s look at the original Passover for context. While the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God sent a series of ten plagues, each worsening in devastation, to convince the Pharaoh to release the Israelites – the tenth was the death of the firstborn and in order to protect themselves from the plague, the Israelites needed to apply the blood of a year old male lamb without blemish to the doorposts and lintel in order for the Lord to pass over that house and spare the firstborn from death. The Lord further commanded the Israelites commemorate the Passover every year with unleavened bread, which is why Catholics use unleavened bread for the consecration.
So, how does the Passover relate to us as Catholics?
Jesus became the Paschal Lamb during Passover through the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, as well as his Passion, where he was sacrificed as expiation for our sins and frees us from death. Romans 6:23 upholds this, saying “for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” When we celebrate the Eucharist, we are remembering Christ’s Passion and Passover as the Paschal Lamb just as God commanded the Israelites to remember the Passover and exodus from Egypt (CCC 1365). In the Eucharist, we follow Jesus’ commandment to eat and drink of His body and blood, and to do this in memory of Him (Luke 22:19-20).
The Eucharist becomes a sacrifice because it is a memorial of the Last Supper and Paschal mystery. It re-presents, makes present, the sacrifice of the cross, becoming one single sacrifice within the Mass (CCC 1366). The Eucharist becomes the sacrifice of the Church, the members of his body. We are able to unite our prayers, praise, sufferings, works, and our entire lives to the sacrifice on the altar, which gives all of those a new value and gives the Eucharist a deeper meaning (CCC 1368). All those physically present become united in this sacrifice, as well as the entire Communion of Saints and the faithfully departed in Purgatory (1366-71), which gives a second meaning to the word “communion” as a reference to the Eucharist.
Why are we doing all this? Why does it matter?
We do it because Christ instructs us to. He tells us at the Last Supper to “do this in memory of me”. He also tells us in John 6:51 that He is “the living bread that came down from Heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist bears fruit in our lives. Paragraph 1391 in the CCC teaches us that the principle fruit of receiving the Eucharist is growing in an intimate union with Christ. The Eucharist heightens or augments that union. The closer we grow to a person, the harder it is to pull away. The more often we go to mass, the more often we receive the Eucharist and receive Jesus Himself in this bread and wine, it brings us closer and closer to him, which makes it harder for us to pull away and separate ourselves through sin. It’s comparable to material food we use to nourish our bodies. Receiving the Eucharist preserves, increases, and renews the grace we received at baptism (CCC 1392). This spiritual food is so important for the nourishment and sustainment of our souls that it is administered to the dying as viaticum, or food for the journey, during the anointing of the sick. The idea is we take this spiritual food with us as nourishment for our souls as we meet Jesus face to face in the Church Triumphant.
Receiving also separates us from sin. Since we all unite with the sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist, we are simultaneously cleansed from past venial sins and preserves us from future sin. This living charity (CCC 1394) wipes away our venial sins and breaks our disordered attachments to this world.
It’s important to clarify this is for venial sins only, not mortal sins. The only way to be cleansed from mortal sins and reinstate the grace received at baptism is to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If you are in a state of mortal sin, you must abstain from receiving communion until you are able to make it to confession.
It unites us to the Body of the Church by deepening the grace received at baptism, thus uniting us to one another, in particular the poor (CCC 1397). The poor, you might ask? How is that related?
To be able to receive Christ in truth, to receive Him in a way we can’t perceive with our human senses, we must recognize Christ in the poor. There are several mentions of how to care for the poor, such as Matthew 25:35-40, which states what we do for the least of us, we do for Christ himself. Furthermore, the Catechism teaches in 2447 that, among all the corporeal works of mercy, giving alms to the poor is the chief witness to fraternal charity. The apostle John says in his first epistle (3:17), “if someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?”. Tobit 4:7 says, “do not turn your face away from any of the poor, so that God’s face will not be turned away from you.” How can we be united with Christ, yet turn our face from Him? The Eucharist is a reminder that we are called and compelled to care for the poor as we would care for Christ himself.
To sum up:
As Catholics, we believe that the body and blood is truly present in the form of bread and wine, and to receive Christ pulls us closer to him, making it harder for us to continually separate ourselves from Him by sinning. He desires us so intimately, that all He wants us to do, and He explicitly states this, is Eat My Flesh. Drink My Blood. You will have eternal life with Me.
The Eucharist is an anticipation of the Heavenly Glory. The Eucharist is a foretaste of what’s to come when we’re in complete communion with Jesus in Heaven one day.”
Thank you so much Anna!
Our next guest is Julia O’Donnell who will be sharing a testimony about the Eucharist. She is passionate about her faith always being a genuine and intimate relationship with God. She is never-endingly grateful for her loving husband, and her sweet double rainbow babies, who are 1 and 2 years old.
There’s so many things to say about the Eucharist but I wanted to stay with Anna’s topic of sacrifice
I wanted to talk about the moment that my relationship with God changed from one of fear anger and even despair to one of love, and his love for me.
I went to this silent retreat in college. I didn’t want to go because I love talking, I never stop talking, even when I’m not talking, I’m writing. But my friends were going, so I said I’d give it a try, but I would probably die trying.
At first it was hard and awkward, and I was regretting ever having signed up for it. Then, we had adoration. It was set up in a way that I had never seen before. We were in a makeshift gym chapel with all the lights off, some of us were sitting on the floor, everything was perfectly quiet. There was a tiny monstrance at the front with candles all around it. I had been to adoration before but it had always been so formal and impersonal, for the first time this felt different.
Then, Father Henry came out to give a meditation. He was this awesome sweet young priest who cared deeply about the students. He started to speak about the Baby Jesus, and I want to give you a little bit of the picture He gave us.
Picture the tiny little Baby Jesus laying in the manger. He has little hands, little feet, and a cute squishy face. Theres this tiny helpless baby who depends completely on us. He is completely vulnerable to us.
Think about that. He is the All Powerful God, Lord over all, King of Everything. He made the world and yet He made Himself into a tiny, little baby. Why would He do that? The world expected Him to come in an army with trumpets, but He came small and defenseless.
We as women know what it feels like to look like less than we are. Sometimes we are doing our best to keep everything clean and someone makes a comment about how we don’t even try, or someone may spread a rumor about you that you are doing something wrong, and you didn’t. In a way, that’s what Jesus did. He is the Almighty King, and He made Himself look completely helpless.
Why would He choose that?
This is where sacrifice comes in. He sacrificed looking like the All Powerful God, the Omnipotent One, so that we could see Him as a loveable little baby. Isn’t it so much easier to think of coming to a sweet little baby with whatever little you have to offer than a King? Especially when the Old Testament is full of stories of His power and might. He made Himself small so that we could come closer to Him.
So when you come to the Eucharist, and even right now. Picture an innocent round face, looking up at you in just complete adoration. His eyes light up when He sees you, and He smiles incandescently. He reaches His hand out to touch yours. He just loves you so much no matter what. You are everything to Him. He has made Himself seem helpless, so that you knew that you could come close to Him.”
Thanks so much Julia!
Our next guest is Sammy Bock who will be sharing her testimony on Confession. Sammy is a Wisconsin mom to two sweet toddlers, married to her high school sweetheart. She works full time and has a blog called Wellspring, where she writes about the hard, holy work of raising future saints.
“High school was a season of retreat-going for me. As a teen, it was energizing to connect with Christ and my peers in such an immersive way. On those weekends and the few days following each trip, I felt on fire with my faith.
But inevitably, those flames flickered out. I didn’t like that far-from-God feeling that came between retreat weekends. So in college, I vowed to focus on the everyday routine of my faith—to find my passion within my own heart, instead of relying on a scheduled weekend to stir it up for me.
Attending a Catholic university taught me so many things, but two of the most beautiful lessons have touched me more deeply than anything else.
First, I learned in a more personal way than ever that the sacraments—those “outward signs of inward grace”—provide a real encounter with the Divine. They are gifts by which the Lord touches our hearts and souls. These are the experiences that light the true flame of faith within us. Seeing our friends pray, singing a beautiful worship song, reading about the saints—all of these are important ways to develop our relationship with God and get to know His holy Church, but they are not the moments that give us life. Only the sacraments can do that. So we mustn’t simply go through the motions during these encounters with God—we must turn our eyes to Him and open our hearts to fully receive the Holy Spirit.
Second, I realized that God loves us so deeply that He made these sacraments almost constantly accessible through the loving service of our mother in faith, the Church. Of course, during every Mass, we see the face of Christ as the priest holds up the Host during the consecration. We receive the love of God when we “take and eat.” And between Masses, when we have stumbled or simply need the grace of God to give us the strength to move forward, we can seek Him in the sacrament of Confession.
I think many Catholics have a love-hate relationship with the ritual of Reconciliation. We are obligated to participate in this sacrament at least annually (preferably during Lent), and I spent so many years wondering how it snuck up so quickly and scrambling to remember everything I did wrong in the previous 12 months. Still, after it’s over and the anxiety is behind me, I am always soothed by a lovely, light feeling that sticks with me for a while—not unlike the “retreat high” I described a moment ago.
That uplifting feeling doesn’t come from anything but the sacraments. So when we go weeks, months, or even years without them, how can we not feel cold and dry? The retreats I so loved in high school didn’t fuel my passion for Christ because of their social elements or their escape from the everyday—they fueled me because they offered the sacraments in an immersive, grateful setting. No wonder I didn’t feel much when I abandoned that seeking and gratitude between weekends.
Confession isn’t meant to be a frightening obligation we begrudgingly perform to meet the minimum requirements of Catholicism. It can be intimidating, yes, but it is so fruitful if we open ourselves to being vulnerable and fully engaging in this conversation with God.
When I finally learned to swallow my pride and seek confession more often, my faith blossomed. Even in this hard, often frustrating life of mothering two toddlers, I find solace and patience in this sacrament. Once, I came to Confession particularly disappointed in myself and all the ways I’d failed that week. The priest gently but firmly instructed me to “learn to see the world as God sees it.” That means looking past our faults, gazing beyond our anxieties, and truly appreciating the beautiful daughters and sons God made us to be.
Had I sinned and fallen short in my duties and my vocation? Absolutely. But is that what God ponders when He looks at my face as I come to Him in prayer? Absolutely not.
The fruits I have harvested from the tree of Confession have improved my marriage, my mothering, my relationships, my prayer life, and my decision-making skills. They have nourished me and lifted my burdens when I felt too weak to take one step further under the weight of my mistakes, fears, and regrets. And the tree is ever-bearing, if only I visit it regularly and with sincere gratitude.
I know it’s hard to get to Confession—especially for young moms, and especially if your local parishes only offer it during specific windows of time. But I also know it’s worth it to make it happen. Ask for help, bring your children, make it the start to your monthly date night. Do whatever you have to do, even if it means swallowing your fear and pride and requesting an appointment with a nearby priest. I can’t emphasize enough the peace it can bring, especially when you seek it often.
A priest I follow on Facebook—Father Matthew Schneider—once said that “confession is primarily about the mercy of God, not condemnation.” I think that sums it up so well. We don’t go to Confession to be judged; we go to be cleansed, and God loves us so dearly that He wipes our slate clean, again and again, no matter how many times we fail Him.
If only we all would emulate such boundless love.”
Thanks so much Sammy!
Our final guest is Amber O’Hearn from Diapers and Discples will be sharing a testimony about Holy Week. Amber is a wife and mother. She podcasts about living out The Great Commission as a mom.
“Hi friends, I pray that you’ve had a blessed Lenten season.
As we enter into Holy Week, I wanted to share with you an experience I had while serving on a team of NET missionaries at a parish in Minnesota.
During that year of serving the youth of the parish, praying for them and leading small groups and bible studies, I was also blessed with the opportunity to really develop a daily personal prayer life and start visiting our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration regularly since the parish we were at had a perpetual Adoration chapel. It became such a part of my daily life, that when I entered the Adoration chapel on Good Friday I was surprised by how the Lord moved deeply in my heart. Because it was Good Friday, the monstrance that usually held our precious Lord was removed and the small tabernacle behind was open, revealing nothing.
The tabernacle was empty.
The sight of an empty chapel (usually filled with a handful of people adoring our Lord) and an empty tabernacle brought in me a sense of stillness and silence in my heart.
I think one of the beautiful things about Holy Week, in particular the Triduum, is that if we allow ourselves to really enter into the events of this week, we can experience more deeply how great Christ’s love and mercy is for us: the sorrow of his death on Good Friday and the silence and waiting of Holy Saturday, that makes Easter Sunday so great and so joyful!
Now as a wife and stay at home mom of young kiddos, I’m not often able to take extended prayer time alone in an Adoration chapel, but I can still make an effort to experience that stillness and silence to meditate on God’s great love for me, especially during this Holy Week.
I recently read that St Catherine of Siena was often unable to get a quiet time and place to pray when she was growing up, so the Lord inspired her with the thought of making an oratory (or a little prayer space) in her heart that she could retreat to mentally throughout the day to experience interior solitude even if the world around her was anything but quiet. And later, when she’d experience trials or troubles, she was able to implement this practice to seek consolation with Jesus in her heart.
So this Triduum, that’s what I’m hoping to work on: establishing a quiet place in my heart where I can find rest with Jesus and meditate on the greatest gift he’s given me, the gift of Himself. Praying for you all this Holy Week. God bless!”
Thanks so much Amber!
I want to thank all of you for doing this retreat with me on the podcast and blog. I really enjoyed the project, and hope to do more. After this, the plan is to do a rosary series! I will be recording some rosaries, then deep diving all 20 different mysteries of the rosary, and record some decades as well! Stay tuned for more on the podcast and blog!
Thank you so much to those who contributed today!
You can connect with Anna at Instagram.
Thank you again to everyone who contributed to this Lent retreat!
Gabrielle Coombs has no blogs, websites or business, but loves supporting local business and is trying to live as “green” as possible to show her children how to be good stewards of God’s creation!
Have a great rest of your Holy Week! And (almost) Happy Easter!