When I went to World Youth Day in 2016, I was expecting a life changing experience. It was my first trip out of the country, we were going to see the pope, and, as if it couldn’t get any better, it was in Poland! The land of St. John Paul the Great, Maximilian Kolbe (one of my favorites), and St. Faustina! How could it not be incredible?
We went to the village where John Paul II was born. We stood outside the building where Maximilian Kolbe died. We had Mass at the shrine where St. Faustina is now buried. We saw the Pope. And Matt Maher. All in all, lots of items off the bucket list.
In terms of a spiritual experience, however, it was rougher than I expected. I spent most of that trip craving God and yet feeling like I couldn’t reach Him.
Which was the exact opposite of how I’d expected to feel. I’d expected a “Jesus high”, that happy, lovey-dovey, joyful feeling. But by the time we hit Friday, just a few days before we were to leave, I’d come to the conclusion that that wasn’t in the cards for me. My spiritual experience was apparently to be one of desolation. That’s a depressing thought to accept, but by Friday of that trip, I mostly had.
I think God laughed at that.
It started Friday morning. I was a chaperone for the church youth group and every morning we would meet with the larger LifeTeen group that we were traveling with for a mini "Life-Night." Usually there was a small activity and a short talk. That day, they told us to close our eyes and imagine Christ on the road to Calvary.
As I closed my eyes and let my imagination take over, the scene appeared almost instantly. But something was off. Christ didn’t look like I expected Him to. For one thing, He had beautiful, luminescent blue eyes. I’d never even thought to picture Jesus with blue eyes but that’s what He had.
Even more surprising, He wasn’t bloody. I am notorious for being a stickler for things and if Christ was on His way to Calvary, He would have already been scourged and crowned with thorns and so He would be bloody. But He wasn’t. In fact, He was dressed completely in white and radiant, as if He had just been transfigured. And no matter how I tried, I couldn’t change that.
But the next thing I noticed was my favorite. He was holding my hand. My primary love language is physical touch, but I’d never imagined or even thought about Christ taking my hand. And even better, He was smiling at me. Even though I couldn’t actually hear His voice, I could understand it in His smile. “I do this for you. And I am happy to.”
Then he dropped my hand and started up the hill.
It was a beautiful imagining, but not one that I had time to dwell on until later that day at Mass. This time, I was praying in my pew after receiving Communion when I let myself go back to that scene. In the span of an instant, I saw my encounter from earlier, but now I also saw Him as He is in the image of Divine Mercy. And again, though I didn’t actually hear His voice, I knew what He was saying. “This is My Body, given for you. And I am happy to.”
This new imagining, coupled with having just received Jesus in the Eucharist, was enough to bring on the tears and I am not a crier. But there was one more thing that I hadn’t even noticed until then.
In my vision of Christ on His way to the cross, He and I were alone. And we shouldn’t have been (stickler, remember!). There should have been soldiers on the road to Calvary. They should have been the ones to drag Him away from me. But that hill, that road, was empty save the two of us. He’d needed no prodding. In the end, He’d simply dropped my hand and walked towards the cross on His own accord. He didn’t need the soldiers. The knowledge that I needed Him was enough.
“I do this for you. And I am happy to.”
It’d never hit me so hard that no matter what I do or what I have done, Christ chose His fate to change mine. Regardless of how far I would wander. Regardless of how little I can give Him. And, even more inconceivable, that He would have chosen that cross even if I’d been the only person who needed it.
“This is my Body, given for you. And I am happy to.”
Why am I writing about this? To be honest, I’m not sure. It wasn’t my plan to. It wasn’t even in my top ten ideas. And even as it became gradually clearer that this is what I was supposed to write, I was hesitant. Because most people don’t know this story. It’s something I like to lock close to my heart and it’s not something you can just drop in casual conversation anyway.
But I don’t believe in coincidences. Because, while no image came be as beautiful as the one I received of Christ on the road to Calvary, the only one that even comes close is the image of the Sacred Heart. And June is the month of the Sacred Heart.
It wasn’t until this week that I found a prayer I’d learned as a young teen. I’d memorized it without ever knowing the name. I’d been told that you couldn’t say it every day and still be lukewarm. With June 19th being the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, that prayer is the only fitting way to end this.
Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart
I give myself and consecrate to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, my person and my life, my actions, pains and sufferings, so that I may be unwilling to make use of any part of my being other than to honor, love, and glorify the Sacred Heart. This is my unchanging purpose: namely, to be all His and to do all things for love of Him, at the same time, renouncing with all my heart whatever is displeasing to Him.
I, therefore, take You, O Sacred Heart, to be the only object of my love, the guardian of my life, my assurance of salvation, the remedy of my weakness and inconstancy, the atonement for all the faults of my life, and my sure refuge at the hour of death.
Be then, O Heart of goodness, my justification before God the Father, and turn away from me strokes of His righteous anger. O Heart of love, I put all my confidence in You, for I fear everything from my own sinfulness and frailty, but I hope for all things from Your goodness and bounty.
Remove from me all that can displease or resist Your holy Will. Let Your pure Love imprint Your Image so deeply upon my heart that I may never forget You or be separated from You.
May I obtain the grace of having my name written in Your Heart, for in You I desire to place all my happiness and glory, living and dying in bondage to you.
Noelle M. is a cradle Catholic with a love for adoration and all things football (Roll Tide). She spends her days immersed in stories and air conditioning in an effort to survive the 9 month summer of the Deep South (so far, so good). A romantic at heart, she can occasionally (always) be coaxed into ballroom dancing. For more of Noelle M., visit her blog, https://beingevanescent.wordpress.com/ or email her at email@example.com.