Sunday, October 3, 2010

The walk (Part 2)

I was happy to skip confession due to the inconvenience with my schedule. After all, a lot of what was requisite in order to get to that point was not natural to me or at least not natural to the adult I had become. Humility, self-examination and self disclosure were qualities I had disdain for. This was due to familial and cultural messages I had received. This translates to two main things I struggled with since my tweens, an inordinately hard time trusting and an inordinate amount of pride.

I had been reading a book entitled "Talking about Miracles" by Dr. Patrick Thellier in the evenings and this may last evening was no exception. It was written by a physician who was the twelfth doctor to head the Lourdes Medical Bureau.

I was poetically on the last chapter of the book. The last chapter riveted me because it had unequivocally stated that if you miss some of the things to do while in Lourdes its OK but do NOT miss confession. I put the book down and reluctantly thought well OK. I was open to where the signs lead me because this trip was proving to be magical on lots of levels despite going through all the motions of typical tourism for me.

The first difference I noticed was that it was the antithesis of my experience in Medjugorje*. Everything was free. The tours, the healing baths, the waters, the museums ,the movies at the center, the masses and the adoration of the cross. Although there were some donation boxes around , no person ever asked for a donation or even implied it and not even at mass:-) Everyone who worked there was a volunteer. The priests leading the tours and the men and women helping with the baths were all there because they wanted to be. They believed and seemed blessed in the service they were providing. The only thing I paid for while there was my room at the convent which included meals, the movies I watched at the theaters and the plastic jugs I filled with the free healing water.

At mass I met a young woman who had come to bring healing water for her nephew who had a terminal and incurable condition. This touched me as a more urgent reason to come than my own of simple curiosity. I immediately prayed for her and her nephew during the mass. After the homily the priest suggested we get to know the person next to us in the pew during the sign of peace and to pray for their needs. This coincidence was one of many.

The experience that what was most significant for me however were the unprovoked and unique thoughts that came to me during my stay. I will share the most poignant one for me. It was on suffering. More specifically, it was the suffering in relationship.

I thought of Christ on the cross and everything he endured and yet his Love for us was steadfast. The words Jesus uttered from the cross of "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do" were always one of my favorite and had led to my initial belief in Christ back in college. But this time the words spoke clearly of the magnificence of Love. Love would not be Love without suffering. In other words, if someone suffers for you their Love seems deeper and in some sense genuine. If Christ had not suffered and died for us would his Love mean as much? If he had just healed and preached and then just bid everyone adieu as he ascended into heaven would HE and God have touched us as much?

In our own lives, think of the people who have hurt you the most. Did you forgive them and still love them? If you did this from a position of freedom and strength the action would have meant all the more. For the fortunate few that have experienced this, how did this feel? What was your response?

If we are in the image of God and God dwells within us to reveal our true nature, then ultimately we are called to Love in this fashion. Suffering then tests our Love and makes it deeper and real. A beautiful yet scary realization for me.

With this in mind, I first did my confession in my room to God in private. After pouring out my heart, I did what was hardest for me to do to which was to forgive my adoptive father. Amidst tears I heard a voice say, "you have a beautiful heart." Before falling asleep I looked up the confession schedule in the morning and decided to go to the earliest confession before leaving.

The following morning I went into the room where confessions were being heard. There were a multitude of languages offered. Only two applied to me, English and Spanish. My confession to God the night before was in English and so I wanted an English speaking priest but they were all busy. I looked at a Spanish speaking priest and saw his room was empty and available. I looked inside and he seemed stern to me. Nevertheless, I went in and had a great conversation and confession.

I basically repeated what I had told God the night before and amidst my tears the priest said "tienes un corazon muy bonito"(you have a beautiful heart). He told me that "la virgen te acariciado durante tu visita" in other words that the virgin Mary had caressed my face during my visit there. He asked me a few questions about vocation and whether I wanted to marry. He then gave me some recommendations for what to seek out and do when I returned back to the bay area. I left in awe. It was the most authentic, humbling and self disclosing confession and experience I had ever had. It was not only healing and validating but led to me a very different point in my spiritual journey.

Part 3 will tie in how this experience has led to my present walk. *Also if you would like to know a little more on my Medjugorje experience, please let me know and I will include in the next part.


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