Revival Stories

Eucharistic Encounter and Mission: The Story of Gustavo Mejia

Gustavo Mejia was twenty-five years old when he found himself one night on his knees weeping before the Lord in the Eucharist. It was 2009 at a retreat house in Miami. It was on this night that he would hear the Lord speak to his heart, and it was at this moment that he would begin his return to the Church—his journey home.

Gustavo was born in Palmira, a small town in Colombia, into a very united and Catholic family. However, when he was just seven years old, his father abandoned the family. This tragic loss profoundly affected Gustavo’s whole life. In the years immediately after his father left, while still a young boy, he began to increasingly isolate himself from others, closing himself off to the point of being almost crippled by a social anxiety that started to affect his daily activities. Once he was almost paralyzed by anxiety when he had to give a presentation in school before his class.

Gustavo’s mother decided that it was time to take action. She enrolled her son in a Catholic scouting group to support him in developing social and communication skills. This experience turned out to be transformative for him. By age fourteen, Gustavo had already become one of the leaders of the group, surprised by how much he enjoyed working closely with other young people. At seventeen, he moved to the United States, where he became involved in his parish youth group for five years.

Silhouette of a young man with dramatic lighting and shadow

Confronting an Unhealed “Father Wound”

Even as he enjoyed serving in ministry with young people, however, Gustavo had never in all these years confronted the “father wound” he still carried in his own heart. A difficult encounter brought the pain to the surface, but instead of opening his heart to the Lord’s healing power, Gustavo closed it. He walked away from the Church and his family, attempting for the next two years to fill his heart with parties and alcohol.

The Psalms express with dramatic images the way God reaches down to save those who have walked away from him. In Psalm 40 the psalmist cries out with joy:

“Surely, I wait for the LORD;

  who bends down to me and hears my cry,

Draws me up from the pit of destruction,

  out of the muddy clay,

Sets my feet upon rock,

  steadies my steps,

And puts a new song in my mouth,

  a hymn to our God” (Ps 40: 2-4).

God indeed did bend down to Gustavo and heard his cry. After an accident, this wandering young adult began to reconsider the direction of his life. Slowly, the Lord drew him up from the pit of destruction and set his feet upon rock. Providentially, he found himself at a retreat house in Miami, kneeling before Jesus in the Eucharist, begging the Lord for his help. As Jesus was working on his heart that night, Gustavo realized he was no longer alone. On the very same retreat were all of his friends who had once been close to him before he had left the Church. As he prayed, they were all there, standing behind him, praying for him, praying with him.

Young man sitting before the tabernacle in church

A Moment of Healing and the Beginning of a New Journey

This was a powerful moment of grace. When Gustavo talks about this experience he emphasizes one thing—the only thing that mattered that night. It was at this moment before the Eucharist that he encountered the Father he had longed for since he had found himself fatherless at age seven. “As I prayed,” he says, reflecting on the way God saved him that night, “I heard in my heart, in that moment, the same words in the Gospel that were addressed to Jesus after he emerged from the Jordan River after being baptized. The Father called Jesus, ‘My beloved Son.’ He said, ‘This is my beloved Son.’ And I heard in my heart the Lord say to me right there before his Eucharistic Presence, ‘You, Gustavo, are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.’ Those were the words that I had been longing to hear from my own father since I was seven years old, words I had never heard from his lips. But to hear the Heavenly Father call me his beloved son, to hear those words from the Lord himself, it was truly a moment of healing in my life. And that was the beginning of a new journey for me.”

Ultimately, the void in Gustavo’s heart could only be filled by God’s love, a love that he encountered in prayer before the Eucharist. With this deep understanding of himself as God’s son, the wound that his earthly father had caused when he had left the family so many years earlier was healed by the Heavenly Father who allowed him to understand, at that moment, the great love that he had for him. With a sincere and contrite heart, he resolved to amend his life and open his heart to receive the love that the Lord had for him. At last, Gustavo knew deeply what it was to be embraced as a son who had been lost and now was found.

With this new life in Christ, filled and surrounded by love, Gustavo’s faith once again flourished. As the Psalmist proclaims: “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn to our God!” And God truly has led Gustavo on an amazing path.

Hand outstretched in invitation with warm light

In trying to discover the truth and reestablish his faith on a firm foundation, Gustavo encountered the teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II. John Paul became for him a spiritual father who would teach him many of the things his own father had not taught him. In a particular way, through John Paul’s Theology of the Body, he discovered anew his own dignity.

Discerning a Vocation and Discovering a Mission

After this life-changing encounter with the Lord in Eucharistic adoration, Gustavo began to discern his vocation. He spent a few years in the seminary, preparing for the priesthood, but eventually realized that the Lord was calling him to serve his people as a layman, specifically in the mental health field.

He began to pursue this path and shortly after began working as a mental health counselor, specializing in working with at-risk youth at the Miami-Dade public schools system. At the same time, Gustavo began to become more involved in work with the youth, eventually helping create the One Body, Spirit, Mind Institute dedicated to teaching Theology of the Body to the Hispanic Community of Miami. Gustavo also became a speaker and teacher for the USCCB Southeastern Pastoral Institute (SEPI) for Hispanic Ministry and, later, a speaker for the Theology of the Body Institute founded by Christopher West.

Gustavo has also joined the Spiritual Family of the Pierced Hearts, an association of families and lay individuals who receive formation from Mother Adela Galindo, Foundress of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Today, almost fifteen years after his personal encounter with God’s tremendous love for him, Gustavo has extensive experience working with youth, many of whom—as he himself had once been—are desperately searching for a love that only God can give.

Young man raising hands in prayer in church

For Gustavo, the Eucharist is at the center of everything he does. He affirms over and over again that it is from the Eucharist that he receives all that he gives to others. In every retreat and conference that he plans, he makes sure that there is always time for the Holy Mass and Eucharistic adoration. Even though these conferences bring together internationally renowned speakers and experts in different fields, the young people consistently tell him: “The most powerful and fruitful time of the conference (or retreat) was my time in front of the Eucharist. It is in the Eucharist where I find what my heart is deeply yearning for.”

Two profound encounters formed Gustavo’s journey. The first encounter was with Jesus in the Eucharist, where he discovered that he was truly loved and was God’s “beloved son.” The second encounter was with St. John Paul II’s teaching on the Theology of the Body, which gave Gustavo his mission. This sense of identity and mission equipped him to be able to know, first, who God had called him to be, and secondly, why God had created him. When Gustavo looks back over his experiences through the years, he realizes that all he has lived through was not so much about his own personal conversion and transformation, but the blessed way in which he has encountered God’s perfect plan for him to share the love and mission that God has given him for others.