Since I was a kid, I have pursued happiness in porn, stealing, fights, booze and drugs. On that day, everything which I had built my way collapsed like a house of cards. I don’t think that I had ever felt such internal suffering before.
I felt the burden of addiction to drugs, cigarettes, porn and many other things. My best friends turned their back on me; even worse, I discovered that I had never really had a true friend, so I felt a huge void and loneliness. The worst thoughts crossed my mind: I was sure that everyone wanted to kill me and I thought of suicide. The thoughts were so obsessive as to drive me crazy. Had I found at that time a button to blow up the whole Earth, I surely would have pressed it.
I was stripped of everything; I realized that my life was nothing but a washout. Various thoughts and questions floated around in my head. Why was I suffering? I knew I was myself to blame for the many bad experiences I had had in life. There were also experiences for which I was not responsible; quite simply, misfortune had dogged me. In that period in my life, I did not believe in a God who interfered with my life, and so I put every occurrence down to “fate”.
Seek help there
On that day, I had some drugs on me, and I had an urge to smoke grass or snort some speed (take amphetamine), but I was overcome by a strange anxiety that this would get me down even worse; I was simply scared. It was the first time I had decided not to take drugs when I had them on me. Never before had I done such a thing; I always wanted to take in as much of that muck as possible. I was soon tempted to console myself with some other sensation which would not give any side effects. I turned on the Internet: I wanted to get away from this world if only for a while, the world that boggled me, and hide out in a moment of illusory pleasure. Since I was a kid I had grown addicted to the “shit” with a capital S that porn is. Every failure and difficulty that I faced in life I drowned in the ocean of pornography. This time, to my surprise, it wasn’t any better. I didn’t feel any relief, nor did I find any happiness in it; I didn’t feel any more virile either. Simply nothing. Everything failed me. None of my life “batteries” brought me any comfort on that day. I had nothing: everyone and everything were gone.
None of my life “batteries” brought me any comfort on that day. I had nothing: everyone and everything were gone
At that moment, I saw that inside me was a void, and I felt an incredible hunger. I realized that inside me there was a desire for something great and that nothing the world could offer could satisfy me or fill me … The suffering grew from my attempts to satisfy an infinite heart with finite things or substitutes…
While I was sitting like that, hopeless, an unexpected thought crossed my mind; the thought was not obsessive, it did not give rise to any anxiety or terror: it was completely different from all others I had previously had. Deep in my mind, I felt an invitation to go to church and seek help there. After a while, though, I had plenty of counter-arguments in my head. Inside, I recited something like a litany of hatred towards the Church. I argued with myself. I tried to kill the words I heard inside me, but I couldn’t drown them out. Finally, a decision had to be made: to go or not to go. Come what may, I either fight or surrender, win or lose, live or die …
I am sure I would not have made such a move if it had not been for the total collapse and the sense of helplessness and loneliness. Now I see that such moments when we lose everything and it seems to us that we are in a pit from which there is no way out are necessary to make us desire something more – something that does not go away. All my life on this Earth, I had pursued happiness which would not end. The world kept telling me that fulfilment was here or there. I was excited that I had finally laid my hands on happiness; but after trying it, I felt disappointed. I saw that yet again I was cheated or conned. The pit was getting deeper and deeper, and climbing out of it was increasingly hard. On that day, when I sensed a calling to go to church, I did not think – it did not even cross my mind – that in such a place I could find something that would be infinite happiness …
At that time, I was blacklisted by some people who were searching for me and even threatened to kill me. Yet the angst was so great and destructive that I overcame the fear, and after carefully getting ready, I ran out of my door. I used small side streets to avoid people and not be noticed by anyone. When I was passing a group of people, I lowered my head and quickened my pace. Finally I reached my destination, sweating with fear. I opened the door very timidly and went inside. It was the Holy Cross Church. I had gone to first Communion there, but only remembered the amount of money I’d been given by the guests. Later, I visited the church only rarely, occasionally attending a wedding or a funeral there, but always under compulsion.
My whole life, I had put on various masks. I knew that finally the time had come to take them off and say what I was really like
Finally, the time came
I sat timidly in the back, not wanting to attract attention, because I knew I didn’t belong there and felt very ashamed and a hypocrite. I looked around the church and watched people; they were mostly elderly women, wearing characteristic mohair berets. Finally, Mass started. When a group of priests took their positions at the altar, from the sacristy yet another priest emerged and went towards a “booth”, which is properly called a confessional. Immediately, a group of people flocked to it. They approached the priest one by one and whispered something to him through a screen. Suddenly, I felt a great urge to stand in line like these people and unburden myself.
On my way to church, I had not planned any confession – it would have been absurd to me. “Why do I need to speak about my life to a guy I don’t know? Besides, there’s no telling if he can be trusted. Who knows if right after my confession he won’t go to a police station to turn me in and then I would surely land up in jail?” Many such doubts crossed my mind. But deep in my heart I felt that simply being here would not do me any good, that I had to take the next step, that is, approach this “guy in a dress” and open my heart to him. I was put off, however, because I didn’t know how to confess. I don’t think I had been to confession since first Communion, really, and even if I had, I had confessed sloppily, just to have it checked off. I couldn’t remember what you say in the beginning; I didn’t know how to begin. Despite all that, I went closer and got into line. The moment of waiting was terrible. I was very ashamed, but despite everything I intended to be sincere during the confession; I didn’t want to hold anything back. It was very hard, because throughout my life I had covered up many thoughts and kept lying; in actual fact, nobody knew anything about me, even my family. My whole life, I had put on various masks. I knew that finally the time had come to take them off and say what I was really like. I didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary. I rather thought that this priest would help me in some way, for instance by offering me some money. I believed that he’d do something to help me, but surely I didn’t believe in the essence of confession, which is the remission of sins by Jesus Christ.
Somebody had pulled out my rotten, rusted, injured and sinful heart and put in a new heart of a baby pulsing with life
All heaven rejoices in your happiness
My turn came. I introduced myself and told the priest that I felt like rubbish and my life had no sense. Next, I outlined my story to him, I admitted to all my addictions and thefts, to all the wounds and difficulties that weighed me down. I know one thing: at that moment, I was absolutely sincere. I did not hold anything back; I opened up and showed what I really was like. I deeply regretted doing everything that I confessed to, but mainly because I saw where it left me. When I had finished, the priest froze, so to speak, in the confessional and stayed silent. I felt awkward and was surprised that he was silent like that. I waited for some words, for some help from him. I thought he would offer me short-term care or take me to a centre for addicts or offer me some money so that I could get out of town. This torrent of thoughts was interrupted by a question which the priest asked with great calm: “What is your name?” For a moment, I felt like in a police station, but I answered anyway that my name was Peter. Silence fell again, perhaps even longer than before. I thought the priest was helpless and didn’t know what to say. It looked as if he was searching his head for some thought or praying and begging for some inspiration to get some words out which would bring me relief. Finally, he uttered the following sentence: “You know what, Peter, all heaven rejoices in your happiness”, and he also told me to say a prayer for penance. I got angry. I was embarrassed by what he had told me. First of all, what kind of heaven was rejoicing? I didn’t believe in any heaven, did I? Secondly, in what kind of my happiness was that heaven rejoicing? I was unhappy, addicted, lonely, unloved and ruined; everything had collapsed on me, lost all sense, and suddenly this priest comes out with the sentence: “All heaven rejoices in your happiness.” I felt cheated. I thought that anyone who came here heard the same slogans from the priests: “God loves you” or “It’ll be all right.” I felt like getting up, calling the priest names and escaping from that strange place. Now, when I am describing this, I thank God that I didn’t do anything of the sort. I thank him that I stayed until the end and waited for the most important moment of the sacrament of reconciliation.
The miracle of mercy
Many people concentrate on how priests will comment on their sins: will they console or reprimand? For many, the attitude of the priest is the essence of this sacrament. That is not true. Even if the priest delivers the most unmoving text, even if he doesn’t say a word, even if he is a greater sinner than us, it doesn’t matter in the slightest, as that is not the essence of confession. The most important thing is the final moment, when the priest begins his formula, when we are sorry and he absolves us from sins by the power of his priestly ordination in the name of the Holy Trinity. I was not at all aware of what was about to happen. I was convinced that everything was over, that my last hope had turned out to be a fake, that the “imagined God of Catholics” had not helped me and had not miraculously healed my soul … That is what would have happened, had I not waited until the end.
After saying the sentence that “all heaven rejoices in your happiness”, the priest then asked me to be sorry for my sins. Outwardly, I was irritated by the request, but deep inside I started to regret everything I had confessed a while ago with all the willpower I had. A short prayer by the priest followed, and then something happened that I had not expected. Through the confessional screen, I could see the concentration on the priest’s face. The last sentence he said with such accuracy and sanctity as if it had not been his sentence. As if he had been only an instrument through which somebody more powerful than the entire world had pronounced it. As if he had only lent himself so that this great mystery could be accomplished through him. It seemed to me that time had stopped, that something powerful and at the same time infinitely good was concentrating all its attention on me. At a certain moment, I felt that for somebody I was the most important person in the whole world and that the sentence had been designed for me. The priest pronounced very distinctly the formula of absolution: “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Next, I heard three knocks, as a sign that the next person could approach the mysterious spring and that for me that was all – that I could go away changed, free and justified. I was all tears; I was crying, but strictly speaking I didn’t know why. I felt as if the purest water had washed away all the dirt and crap from my innards. I walked across the church feeling stripped of everything, as if I was physically naked but at the same time free from shame. My external sobbing was nothing when compared to what was going inside me. I felt absolute freedom, as if I had been pulled out of prison or as if I had left a dark basement and came to a green meadow where the sun was shining intensely. I felt as if somebody had pulled out my rotten, rusted, injured and sinful heart and put in a new heart of a baby pulsing with life; a baby who had just been born and is absolutely healthy and innocent.
I felt as if the purest water had washed away all the dirt and crap from my innards
During confession, I had given up all my sins to God, and they drowned in the ocean of his infinite mercy at the moment of absolution. This is best conveyed by the words of Jesus quoted in Sister Faustina’s Diary: “Write, speak of My mercy. Tell souls where they are to look for solace; that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy [the Sacrament of Reconciliation]. There the greatest miracles take place [and] are incessantly repeated. To avail oneself of this miracle, it is not necessary to go on a great pilgrimage or to carry out some external ceremony; it suffices to come with faith to the feet of My representative and to reveal to him one’s misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated” (Diary 1448). I experienced exactly that, and at that moment I was greatly consoled, because I had disclosed all my misery to the representative of Christ – a priest sitting in the Tribunal of Mercy. I had not gone to any famous shrine, nor had I gone on a long penitential pilgrimage or performed any ceremony, as I didn’t even know how to pray, did I? I had hit on an ordinary parish church, with the most ordinary priests, where the miracle of Divine Mercy was fully demonstrated. My experience was not brought about by any human or psychological factors. Nothing of the sort: everything changed when the priest made the sign of the Holy Cross over me and absolved me of my sins. It was then that the miracle occurred in its fullness. I realized this only much later, because at that time I didn’t know at all what was going on.
A foretaste of paradise
The Eucharist was continuing, so I sat in a pew. Initially, from the corner of my eye, I saw people glancing at me, but then I was absorbed in the holy Liturgy. I felt I was witnessing something great. I stared at the altar and carefully followed every gesture of the priest; this was so mysterious and fascinating. The watching itself nourished me spiritually and I didn’t want it to stop, I felt safe. I didn’t think that something else awaited me during that Mass. In half an hour, I had so many positive impressions that I had never had before. God exceeds our expectations and can give us so much that we cannot hold it all. He does that because he wants us to distribute and share with others all the graces we receive. My beloved Father prepared for me, his prodigal son, an unusual feast. In spite of the fact that I wasn’t worthy, because I had lived a life of dissipation, and regardless of the fact that I had reduced myself to the status of a pig and had fed on pods and bits of bread, the Father looked into my misery, which I had confessed to his representative.
“He who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35)
Silence fell. The entire congregation was kneeling. The priest raised a white Host with a chalice and said the following words: “This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.” After these words, the congregation answered something under their breath. I, of course, didn’t know what to say, so I stayed silent. The following words kept sounding in my head: “Happy are those who are called to his supper.” I had an illumination. I realized that it was about me, it was me who had been called, wasn’t it? Because that morning, when I was sitting full of drugs and sin, it had occurred to me to go to church. “It was God who called me,” I almost cried in joy and euphoria. And, if I had been called, then I was happy too – the priest did say that, didn’t he? But what does it mean to be “happy”? I was so busy figuring out all this that I almost missed the most important event: people were rising and filing towards the priest who was distributing Holy Communion. I thought that I too would stand up and receive Communion. I didn’t really know what it was all about and why people received this White Bread. At that moment, all I knew was that it was a tradition in the Church. From the age of nine, after the first Communion celebrations, people receive this host, and that was about all I knew about the Eucharist. I didn’t know that the Catholics believed that God himself was present in this White Bread. Walking towards the priest, I watched other people to know how to behave. Finally, the moment came, when the elderly priest came up to me and, having taken out a white Host from a chalice, gave me the Lord of lords and King of kings as St Thomas Aquinas said. Having received Holy Communion, I also accepted the faith that a while earlier Almighty God – Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, who suffered and was nailed to the cross for my sins, and resurrected – came to my heart and took residence in it, announcing that I was free from the power of the devil and sin. This was the most beautiful moment in my life, a foretaste of paradise. I wanted to sing and praise God, and although no sound was coming out of me, I know that my sincere silence in the depth of my heart was to Jesus the most beautiful hymn of praise.
Each time you receive Holy Communion, it is not your blood that circulates in your veins anymore, but the blood of the Saviour shed for us!
In the Eucharist, I discovered a source of living water, springing from the heart of Jesus and present in the tabernacle. The spiritual water that was present in the Holy Host quenched my deepest desires. Because Jesus says in the Gospel: “he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). On that day, I found a remedy for the ills of my life. For many years, I had been searching for something that would make me happy. I thought that the “golden pill” was drugs, alcohol, pornography, aggression and money. But it was only Jesus who made me fully happy, gave me proof of his love, love concealed in a piece of bread – in the Eucharist.
On that day, I felt very important and exceptional. For the first time in a long while, I felt that I meant something, that my presence in the world was not a mere random occurrence, that my life had sense. I rediscovered my dignity and identity of the beloved and wonderful son of Jesus Christ, heir to the Kingdom of Heaven. I decided to share this with you.
Perhaps, when you read it, you won’t be feeling a wonderful person, loved by God. If that is indeed the case, it means that you listen more to the voice of the world than to that of the Gospel. I want to tell you that although your life is hard, despite all the sins that you have committed in your life, despite the wounds that others have inflicted on you, you are incredibly important, you are loved by him who has died for you, who has assumed on the cross all the dirt of your life and all the rubbish that holds you down. He loved you very strongly indeed, for “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It is enough for you to cry from the depth of your heart like blind Bartimaeus: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” and go to confession with faith and contrition to be absolved from your sins. Next, when with a pure heart you accept Christ in the Eucharist, you will be able to say after St Paul: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Do you know that God has become the prisoner of the tabernacle and begs for our moment of time for him? He is there, he is waiting and wants to pour out his graces and blessings on us. Each time you receive Holy Communion, it is not your blood that circulates in your veins anymore, but the blood of the Saviour shed for us! You may say that you are a walking tabernacle, keeping God in your heart. Isn’t God’s love enormous?
If you haven’t discovered this yet, do your best to do so. Still today, without delay, hurry to a confessional to experience the love that is constantly poured out there. Next, spread what you have experienced among all those who live in darkness and succumb to despair. For if not you, then who?