You never know where a yes will take you.
A once Christmas-Easter Catholic, Jessica Gallegos now radiates the courage and dynamism of the Holy Spirit in her work with young people at Holy Spirit Catholic Community. After her own experience of Eucharistic conversion, she’s passionate about helping teens encounter Jesus personally in Eucharistic adoration and Mass. With transparency and warmth, she shares here her life-changing experience during Adoration and the lessons she has learned. It is a joy to welcome Jessica to the Heart of the Revival.
I dropped to my knees in a conference room at the McCormick Center that had been transformed into “heaven on earth.” For one hour that afternoon, I joined 8,000 other young adults in Eucharistic adoration. We had come together at the FOCUS Student Leadership Summit (SLS) in Chicago to learn about making disciples for Jesus, yet this afternoon each of us was alone with our God. I felt small and loved and wanted and trembling all at the same time.
A priest had gently, almost joyfully said to me in confession just moments before, “Thank you for coming back,” after I told him how long, how very long, it had been since my last confession. “Now you will go and tell Jesus about what’s happening in your life, and you will reaffirm those promises to him that you have broken.” Simple words and yet they unexpectedly opened a floodgate of tears. Gratitude, sorrow, joy, amazement and determination all washed through me as I made my way to the chapel to kneel before Jesus in the Eucharist.
Where do I begin? I had been raised in a family that went to Mass on Christmas and Easter. After a short stint of fervor when my mother had started to work for the Church, I had reverted to a minimal interest in things religious when I was in my teenage years. Honestly, I had come to this conference on the invitation of Sr. Paul Mary, FSE, from our parish, just for the opportunity to see the city of Chicago.
She had asked me again before we left, “Jessica, have you really discerned with Jesus about a religious vocation?”
“Yes, Sister,” I had replied for what seemed the six millionth time. “It’s just not in the cards for me.” (Sorry Sister, for this small-town Idaho girl, the SLS Conference is just the means for being able to get to a big city.)
But now here I was before Jesus, in a big convention center, in a small room transformed into an adoration chapel, my soul being washed with unexpected tears after a confession that had rocked my life.
It was all so amazing, so surprising. Just a half hour ago I had noticed the procession of the Eucharist down the hallway to the Adoration Chapel, but had hardly really cared. Now, I wondered what was happening to me. In a few short breaths, Jesus had become the only One who mattered. The eyes of every young adult in the room were fixed on Jesus. Every heart listening. Every heart giving. Every heart promising.
Almost without my planning it the words tumbled out. “Jesus, if you want me to be a religious sister, it will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But if that is what you want of me…” I paused and, gathering my courage, seeking words to express my love for the Lord before me, I continued, “if that is what you want of me, I will do it. I will give my life to you in this way.” In that silent and sacred moment alone with the Lord, I suddenly felt myself being hugged, arms around me in assurance and love, arms like a big brother wrapped around his little sister to keep her safe. Startled, I glanced around me. My friends were praying and were in worlds of their own. It couldn’t have been any of them. No one was near me. Returning my eyes to the monstrance, I took a deep breath and tried to focus on Jesus’ presence.
A strange warmth pervaded my heart, a feeling of peace I couldn’t put into words, and I heard two words, “wife” and “mother.”
I had given Jesus everything and he had clarified for me the way forward. In that instant, I knew Jesus was real.
Jesus cared about me.
Jesus had a plan for my future.
I was not alone in the world. I meant something to him. It was the most meaningful moment of my life, the most profound experience of Jesus while in Eucharistic adoration that I could remember.
For the last decade I’ve worked for the Diocese of Boise, most of that as the DRE (Director of Religious Education) for grades K to 12 in Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Pocatello. It’s a little daunting being a DRE in the parish in which I grew up as a not-so-faithful Catholic teenager. Everybody still remembers who I was. I know who I’ve become. This transformation is due to that most meaningful moment when I had met Jesus truly, personally. When Jesus spoke to my heart. When he showed me he cared.
“You want to hear God speaking to you in your heart? Then you have to give him your trust.”
Over that time, I’ve brought hundreds of kids and teens to Jesus in the Eucharist and in the other sacraments. I often tell kids here at the parish about that experience, especially when I’m taking them on retreat or to a youth conference. “You want to hear God speaking to you in your heart?” I ask them. “Then you have to give him your trust.”
The more I look back on that experience when the direction of my life did an about-face, the more I realize it was about giving up control and trusting God with everything. I had a genuine conversation with Jesus and gave it all to him. I told him I trusted him with my life, the thing I was holding back from him. I gave up my own determination to be in control of my life and my future and let him be in charge.
Teenagers tell me all the time that they want to hear Jesus like I did. “You want to hear his voice?” I ask them. “Then you must be okay with what he says. When you are adoring Jesus in the Eucharist, be ready for whatever he says to you.” I encourage them to go to confession regularly, especially before Eucharistic adoration. “It’s like going in with a clean slate so you can ask Jesus all the questions you want. Jesus will respond to you. Sometimes you will hear him speaking clearly, almost like words in your head. Other times it may be a warm feeling, a burning inside. At times Jesus reveals himself very gently and gradually. He can lead us through something we read or hear. Sometimes there is silence, and it could be that you aren’t ready to hear what Jesus has to say. Jesus speaks to us through other people as well. It may take weeks, months, even years to figure out what Jesus is asking of you. That is okay. Jesus is very patient. Lean into whatever Jesus is telling you.”
The struggle to reaffirm my promises to God is ongoing. There are seasons of greater fervor in my life and spaces of quiet and subtle waiting and resting and yes, even wandering. When I look back over what God has done in my life, it is nothing short of miraculous. Now, each time I receive Jesus in holy Communion, I promise to love him and to be him for others, to be Christ acting and loving and living and teaching in the world today. I carry him forth with me at the end of Mass into the world.
Wherever life has taken you, wherever you stand now, whether on the mountain top or in the valley where things are dark and Jesus seems absent, Jesus reaches out to you, drawing you gradually to himself. All you have to do is reach for Jesus’ hand and say “Yes.” Whether that is saying yes to going to Confession, Mass, hour of Adoration or helping those in need. You never know where the yes will take you.