How I Meet God

How I Meet God

A FASCINATING GOD TO LOVE AND POOR PEOPLE TO SERVE

How I Meet God

I pause on my journey of life and look back where I came from. I see spots of stumbling and rising… and am able to see how far I’ve come and what a“God-searcher” I’ve become….

My home at Halakke, Mangalore, was in the midst of hills, fields, rivers and groves of coconut and arecanut trees. I grew up in a family of eight siblings in the lap of beautiful nature. My search for God began with my mother introducing me to a God who provides all the good things that we need. She said all what I need to do is to be grateful.  I experienced God who is present everywhere in the goodness of nature. I used to walk to school every day and to church on Sundays. On the way we gathered plenty of wild fruits and had lots of fun. We enjoyed playing pranks on one another. My devout parents encouraged us to participate in the many “faith-activities” of the Church.

As I grew in faith I had to move on in my journey to a boarding school for my high school education. I disliked staying away from home. I missed being amidst my large family. In the boarding we had inmates from diverse religious back grounds. My world expanded a little; so did my God-perspective. During holidays all of us siblings would go to our grandparents’ house, which was large and full of life. I loved my holidays with my loving parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. In their hospitality my every need was met. Often secretly I used to think:  God’s house (Heaven) must be like this—secure, joyful, full of fun and laughter, with big banquets, good company of loved ones, plentiful fruits and grains from the fields.

The years flew swiftly. I was fifteen when I passed matric with good grades. It was time to decide on the future course in life. I didn’t want to study further, since that would take me away from home once again. At the same time I wasn’t sure what I wanted in life.

Amidst this uncertainty I once heard a Sister from a religious congregation based in Bihar speak to us girls after Sunday mass. Usually these talks bored me. That day too I sat on at the back, not too much interested. I was not aware that God was sowing the seeds of a missionary vocation  in my heart. I had never thought of becoming a religious except for reciting a routine prayer for vocations taught by an Ursuline nun. She was my English and catechism teacher, and I was fond of her. She visited my home often, since she was a friend of my mother.

There was something profound in what this particular nun said that day. She about the utter poverty, need for vibrant missionaries to spread the gospel… I felt a deep stirring that disturbed and challenged me enough…. I couldn’t help but respond to this call to serve the people of Bihar. I felt a deep sense of God needing me for Himself.

My road to the discovery of Bihar began with my formative years in the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. The varied experiences provided for me to live among the poor gave a sure foundation to my call. My first posting was in Gaya, a place associated with the. Buddha. I was positively influenced by his teachings. This experience opened me further to the riches of other religions.

The next six years I spent in Sophia College and St.Xavier’s College (both in Mumbai) pursuing my graduation  in Microbiology and post -graduation in Applied Medical Science with an internship at Hinduja hospital. These years were very challenging amidst conflicting situations and worldly values. I experienced more tests and temptations than affirmations. I was offered a lucrative job at Hinduja’s and a scholarship at the University of Maryland, USA. I went through the most difficult time of my life. I was even ridiculed and laughed at by my professors for wasting my good grades and a promising life and choosing the drudgery of Bihar.

My faith-love relationship with Jesus, which seemed shaky, became very strong when I re-committed myself for the God of Dalits in Bihar and returned to it, rejecting all temptations. I worked for eight years in our hospital as head of the pathology department. Lots of struggle, hard work and a deep satisfaction were part of hospital memories. Work situations around the hospital were scary—with problems of goondaism, extortion, casteism, landlordism, to name a few. Further,  I had to fight the blood-selling racket which even threatened my life when I took a stand against it. I couldn’t even freely go to the market. In all this, I encountered a God who suffered and sided with the poor. My love for the God of Dalits  took deeper roots.

At the height of my professional growth at the hospital I was asked to move to answer the need of formation. In faith I said yes to this call, not knowing that would take me away completely from the life-preserving ministry at the hospital, which I treasured the most. Formation ministry required adequate preparation, which my religious order provided by giving me chances to study theology, get Clinical Pastoral Education and experience challenging mission exposure amidst the marginalized in Surkhet in Nepal. I was humbled by the trust God and community placed in me by investing in me.

I was privileged to accompany many of our young women for fifteen years during their candidacy and novitiate. It was, above all,  a time for deepening my faith and in growing in an intimate relationship with Jesus. Living an exemplary life of faith, love and commitment was a big challenge. It was only possible through a constant emptying of self, inner silence and attempts to experience contemplation. During these years of search for a meaningful formation, our province gave us a mandate to live a simple, radical, contemplative, real life. Hence the novitiate moved from a structured setting to a simpler life-style where the novices had to do everything by themselves. Our lives were very close to the people we served and lived with.

Our house, called “Bethel,” was a home for the novices, where they really felt at home in the house of God. They learnt and experienced the realities of religious life and lives of the people in the world, especially of the poor. They had to balance prayer-study-work-play. The dynamics were tough for all. But the family atmosphere, responsible freedom, sense of belonging, silence and contemplative dialogue helped us to create a deeper meaning in formative life. It was a wholesome life growing with nature, tilling the land to grow our own vegetables and fruits and caring for the animals. People from the villages felt free to walk into our home and into our lives. We were the power-house of prayer for the Congregation. I sought my God intensely in prayer, Scripture and the Eucharist, which became central to my life here.

I had to move on from this heaven that we had created together when I was called to serve in leadership ministry as vice-provincial of our Patna province. Right now I am a month old in this new life and am responsible for the Jharkhand region. I am discovering a new face of Jesus amidst the lives of the tribals. I am happy here striving to serve in whatever capacity to meet the needs and challenges of the mission here.

What fuels my energy is that I find my God (Jesus) very real, attractive, human and wanting. He is that awesome mystery inviting me to a deeper search. I feel impelled by the love of Christ to work for the betterment of the world. I strongly believe Saint Teresa of Avila’s words: “ALL THINGS ARE PASSING AWAY. GOD NEVER CHANGES. WHOEVER HAS GOD, LACKS NOTHING. GOD ALONE SUFFICES.” I believe in daily miracles of God in my life which add beauty and fascination to this life in God. I wouldn’t want to exchange it for anything. So, my search gets better—and deeper. It never ends.


Sr Amelia Moras SCN is vice-provincial of the Patna province of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Earlier, she worked as a pathologist in a hospital and as novice mistress.

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How I Meet God

He Heals. You Can Let Go.

how-i-meet-god

I could lead with a hundred fancy introductions, but I choose to give you a sense of where I come from. I’m Ranjana Maria Konatt, a 22-year-old Journalist working enthusiastically for a well-known English newspaper in Mumbai. My parents, Satish and Crescentia Konatt, are both Word Ministers,  giving most of their time to serve the Catholic Church. As a child, Sunday mass was never a miss and, being the only daughter, I was always kept under the safety wings of my parents. Though this may all seem warm and fuzzy to the ear, my own journey of discovering Christ is not what you may expect.

Facing Reality

Like everyone else, I was a typical teenager who listened to all kinds of music. I became just a Sunday Catholic, and felt that Jesus must be after all very busy and may not be interested in me all that much.

Born on the 1st of January 1995, one reality that stared me in the face regularly was that I was an adopted child, who was taken in by my current parents at the age of four months. My birth mother was unwed. She gave me up for adoption to the Missionaries of Charity when I was just a nineteen-day old baby. The Sisters looked after me with immense love and care. One month after I was taken home, they informed my mother that Mother Theresa was visiting them. Taking me to see her, my mother recalls how instantly Mother Theresa took me in her arms and exclaimed, “You have a happy baby.” From then on I stopped crying continuously. From then on the bonding with my parents began.

 But, as I grew up, I sensed that there was a void in my heart, a feeling of being rejected and one of unforgiveness in my heart, directed towards my birth mother. I would be pre-occupied with thoughts of not knowing who she was, and would often have outbursts of frustration at home. I simply wanted to leave the house. When in school, there were many instances when I would come home complaining that I had no friends, but, after attending parent-teacher meetings, my mother understood that it was not so.  The feeling of unwantedness and rejection had taken root in my life and I would often feel hurt over remarks and actions of fellow-students.

My father and mother prayed for me every night. As a baby, my mother would sing me to sleep with hymns. She would tell me, “Jesus has carved you on the palm of his hand; even though a mother may forget her baby, He will not forget you.” Listening to this, I would drift into a peaceful sleep. Whenever I questioned her as to whether I came from her stomach, she would tell me the truth, “No. You are a gift to us from God. You have your birth mother, for whom we pray and thank God. Because of her, we are parents. We took you from an ashram, and we love you.” Even though I never really understood its literal meaning then, these statements stayed with me.

Encountering Jesus

In the twelfth grade, my ordinary life came to a standstill when I accompanied my friend to a retreat. “It’s no big deal, just another retreat,” I thought to myself. But, to my horror, it was going to be a silent weekend of prayer with Jesus, something that was alien to me. The first one and half days were harrowing, and I thought of leaving, but soon came the challenging part. They asked us to forgive. I cried my eyes out that night (God, enable me to forgive my birth mother and come to terms with the fact that she may be happy right now, with a family of her own).

God definitely had a special plan for my life. More than just surviving, he wanted me to taste his personal love for me. Along with receiving the grace to forgive, I was even blessed with the grace to resist listening to certain music artists whose lyrics and compositions were satanic, especially those who had sold their souls to the devil. I deleted all those songs from my phone.

My obedience to God paid off at this retreat. I was blessed with the gift of faith in Jesus, along with the gift of tongues, which to date has not died off.  I believed that God could speak to me when I listened to him in silence. After the retreat, a heavy load has been lifted off my chest. Post this phase I also came to realize that I had actually received physical healing. My right ear, which had given me pain every time it oozed with puss whenever I had a cold, was miraculously healed. After the retreat I never experienced pain again during a cold, something which I’d suffered for nineteen years.  I also learnt that Jesus allows certain problems and deformities in life, because he is saying something. He just wants to communicate that we depend on Him more and more.

Falling once again

As the years passed, though I never lost my gift of faith in Christ, my prayer life took a hit. I went back to my old ways and often pretended to be oblivious of what Jesus wanted from me. I completed graduation, but at the same time I received warnings that I wasn’t praying enough.

After my graduation, I did a post-graduate diploma in Journalism. I was very keen on trying Television, but was unsure of whether Print was better to start off with. You always need God’s guidance eventually.

At that time a young girl, a few years younger than me but very close to me, got pregnant as a teenager before marriage, an incident which brought me to my knees. Here again I questioned God, as I tried to find solutions. For me, abortion is not an option. My birth mother chose to give me life and did not take the option of abortion. I am grateful for that tough decision. Jesus helped me cope with that situation, as the girl later went on to have the child and got married.

Before taking up a job, I went for the World Youth Day in Poland and got the opportunity of meeting a number of young people. With some, I got the chance to share what God had done for me. Later they too went on to become close friends of mine. That pilgrimage brought me closer to God. When I returned, thoughts of “what next,” pre-occupied my mind, and once again I decided to go for a retreat on my own. This time it was a healing and deliverance retreat held in Mumbai.

I experienced the forgiving and healing love of Jesus, who also gave me another chance asking me to obey him. He reassured me with the words in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you ….plans for your welfare and for your future.” I had clarity about certain decisions I had to take. Many blessings followed thereafter.

I got a call from a very well-known TV channel and took the experience I needed. Then I got a job as a journalist in my current workplace, a newspaper. Jesus guided me towards print media, where I felt him saying, “In good time I will grant you all your heart’s desires.” I continue to look to Jesus for guidance and help.  Even at my work place my newspaper carried a full page story on my adoption. Sure enough, he continues to use me for his kingdom. I see his hand in my life.

Picking myself up and letting go

I truly appreciate the fact that my parents told me about my adoption, and were open with me right from the start. Often adoptive parents don’t like to tell their children the truth, which leaves them with an emotional turmoil when they get to know the truth from others.  Jesus works in ways you can’t understand, especially in areas where you hurt the most. He’s there and all he wants is your attention. The day I forgave my biological mother, I think I took a giant leap of faith in my life. I took one step towards him and from that day he has taken more than a hundred jumps towards me. Forgiving, though I cannot forget, is one thing that helped me pick myself up. I’d love to meet my birth mother and father and know how they are doing – if God wills, of course.  I know I am not perfect, but every time I beg for forgiveness, I receive God’s love, and He works in my life.


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How I Meet God

First the Mother, then the Trinity

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An enterprising young Catholic who has started his own consultation firm shares the unexpected ways in which God entered his life more and more deeply.

To be frank, I cannot really tell about how I meet God without first telling about how I meet the Mother of God.

So, what I am going to do is to break this up into two headings.

HOW I MEET THE MOTHER OF GOD

Our sweet Virgin Mary, Lady of Light, pray for us.

I was brought up in a Catholic family and led a normal Catholic life, like going to church and praying here and there. But I disliked saying the rosary. Neither did I pray to our Blessed Mother, just like our Protestant brothers and sisters. I would usually come home after the family rosary was over.

Years passed. Before I began my MBA. I went for a retreat at the Divine Retreat Centre—one of my first “stay in” retreats. The retreat went ok. During the counselling session nothing of the sort which people usually expect—like the counsellor telling me something about my life which no one else knew—happened to me. In fact, I found the session so boring I just wanted to get up and go. The counsellor was a very elderly priest and he was just casually asking how I am and what I am doing and the usual routine questions. He had neither visions nor prophecies. But at the end of the counselling he held out his rosary and gave it to me. I took it and left.

The retreat got over and I started my MBA. I kept the rosary the priest had given me in a corner of the room, but never used it for prayer. Then, one fine day, I took out the rosary and started saying it by myself. From that day, something unexpected happened to me.

 I started to notice that things were different on the days I prayed the rosary and the days on which I didn’t. Every time I continued to say the rosary my spiritual life used to grow; I could face troubles in a better way; I could fight temptations much more easily. But the days I didn’t pray turned out to be very different. So, I started to say the rosary every day and more frequently. I started to see with crystal clear certainty the power and influence the rosary had in my life.

From then until today I haven’t missed saying at least one mystery of the rosary every day of my life, even if it was the most tiring day or the day when my mom passed away or the busiest day of my life. I have never let go of the rosary of our Mother. I started to propagate this devotion as well.

Before I move to the next part I will share some insights I have gained about the rosary.

What makes this prayer so powerful?

The angel said, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Since Gabriel was sent by God, these were the Father’s words. Just imagine! If God so honoured Mary, how much more should we honour her! Nowhere else in the Bible do we see God honouring a creature to this extent.

“Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb,” Elizabeth, filled with the Holy spirit, spoke these words; so they were the Spirit’s words.

And, finally, the fruit of Mary’s womb, JESUS.

So the whole Trinity is involved in this prayer, where we pray along with Mary, thus making it so powerful that the devils have an overwhelming fear of the rosary. St. Bernard says that the Angelic Salutation puts them to flight and makes all hell tremble.

I personally believe that each time we honour the Blessed Mother she directs all those praises to the Lord at least tenfold, as when Elizabeth says, “Blessed are you among women.”  Mary just doesn’t hear it and fly to the seventh heaven. No! She immediately gives praise to the Lord as in the Magnificat and lowers herself. Speaking of magnifying, Archbishop Fulton J. sheen once referred to our Blessed Mother as being like “a magnifying glass that intensifies our love of her son.”

The rosary is made up of two things: mental prayer and vocal prayer. In the rosary, mental prayer is none other than meditation of the chief mysteries of the life, death and glory of Jesus Christ and of his blessed Mother. The rosary said without the meditation on the sacred mysteries of our salvation would almost be a body without a soul.

Misconceptions

A lot of people think that Catholics worship Mary. Many people have told me so. So, this point must be made clear: We do not worship Mary. We worship and adore only God. We ask Mary to pray “FOR” us, just as we ask a friend to pray for us when we face a tough situation.

Both Catholics and Non-Catholics go in pilgrimage to Jerusalem as it is considered the most holy place where Jesus walked. If the land where Jesus walked is holy, how much more is the Womb that bore Him. If we forget this, we miss out on the importance of the Mother in our lives.

My favourite quote

Saint Louis De Montfort used to say: “If you say the rosary faithfully until death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins, you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory.” Even if you are on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil as sorcerers do who practice black magic, and even if you are a heretic as obstinate as a devil, sooner or later you will be converted and will amend your life and save your soul, if – and mark well what I say – if you say the rosary devoutly every day until death for the purpose of knowing the truth and obtaining contrition and pardon for your sins.

HOW I MEET GOD

When I got the first part of this story right in my life, the second part started falling in place much quicker and with greater ease. After meeting the Mother, she introduced me to the Trinity in a much closer and more lasting manner than I had ever felt before meeting the Mother. The Trinity gets automatically attracted to a person who is closer to the Mother than a person who is not. This is what I learned from my life. Before I just used to have a superficial relation with Jesus, but now I have a much better relationship with the Triune God. I started to develop a great love for the Catholic Church. I started to get the grace to receive the Eucharist daily, go frequently for confession, read the Word of God daily, do my personal prayer in a much better manner.

I don’t say that all this happened overnight. No! This change came about slowly and steadily. The Mother started to teach me everything with great clarity that would last me a lifetime. I am not saying that I am perfect. I am totally imperfect, but, each time my imperfections pop out, I make an effort to at least try to correct it, since the Mother just can’t let go of me and I can never thank the Mother enough for all the graces she got for me through her intercession. So, if you really, truly want to fall in love with the Trinity, catch hold of the MOTHER.


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How I Meet God

From Angry Fights to Love and Healing

howimeetgod

How a tepid Catholic, far from God and the sacraments, met the Lord—and found healing, peace and a happy marriage

I was an occasional Sunday going catholic, happy to attend mass once a fortnight, receive communion once a year. Confession? I will tell you.
My marriage had started with a fight with my wife Margaret on our wedding day itself in the presence of all our guests. Our fights continued daily for fourteen years, until my wife was stricken with a backbone problem and the subsequent surgery made her a vegetable. It took her six weeks to sit, four months to stand.
I was invited by a couple from “Couples for Christ” to join the group. After joining, I went to Pota, Kerala, along with my wife and two children, for a retreat. There I discovered that I was a terrible sinner. God’s grace which made me go for confession after twenty-eight long years. In the retreat, I was told by nun who had the gift of prophecy that God has called me specifically to be an evangelist. In disbelief, I laughed at this prophecy within myself. How could a person who never opened the Bible be an evangelist at the age of forty-two? Plus: Margaret’s health did not improve at all.
On the way back to Goa by train, I was troubled by the nun’s prophecy. I told God: I do not believe this nun, but if you really want me to evangelize, then I will open my Bible just now, and what the nun is claiming has to be written on the left hand page. When I opened the Bible for the very first time in my life, there on the left hand corner I read, “In all your travels, whichever place you will go on earth, you will give the Good News of Salvation” (I was a sailor then). This same paragraph was repeated in all the columns of both the pages of the Bible which I opened! I saw it, my wife saw it, but the Lord had shown it only for that moment as proof to me. It is not there in the Bible. I was convinced and promised I will do my best to be an evangelist.

“SON, WHERE ARE YOU GOING?”

The very next moment I heard a booming voice in my ear: “Son, where are you going? You have still not confessed all your sins. Come back to Pota, confess your sins and forgive everyone in your life, and your wife will be healed.” Hearing this voice, I thought I was hallucinating. But I was so convinced that, after completing five hours of the train journey back to Goa, we returned to Pota. My wife was very unhappy with my decision, what with the tremendous pain and agony she was in. She could barely take a few steps.
I had learnt from a priest in the previous retreat that only the Holy Spirit could reveal and convict me of my sinfulness. So I begged the Holy Spirit to reveal my sins to me. I had made three confessions in the previous retreat and I thought I had confessed all my sins, but I was amazed the Holy Spirit revealed so many sins that three foolscap sheets were full with just the points. I confessed my sins fully. Then, a miracle happened.
Margaret, who had not been able to stand or move, was instantly healed! She jumped and danced for joy, climbing two steps at a time, glorifying God! At that moment I realized my God was really a living God who talks to us and walks the talk. He proved to me that I was called to be an evangelist. From that day, my life changed.

THREE DIMENSIONS

In the Couples for Christ we speak of living in Communion in three dimensions—Filial, Nuptial and Ecclesial.
Filial: Our very existence is a gift from God. We are created in His image and likeness. We are joint heirs with Christ—beholding the glory of the Lord, and being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another and one day will rule with Him. This is hard to imagine and live.
The Nuptial dimension of Communion makes us aware of the two states of life: We serve God either through our virginity, as religious or priests, or through our marriage. It is receiving the gift from God and becoming a self-gift to Him solely or to each other and Him in marriage.
Marriage gives us the unique dignity, honour and privilege to create a child in the image and likeness of God, to be Co-Creators with God by making a self-gift of ourselves free, total, faithful and fruitful. For this the couples need to work on individual holiness and seek true forgiveness, unity and mutual love.
The third dimension of Communion is Ecclesial: Marriage is a great mystery, which points to the nuptial union of Christ and His bride the Church. A communion of the love of all with God in the love that never ends.
Couples for Christ is a parish-based movement. Ours is a womb-to-tomb ministry, involving the whole family: Kids (4-11 years), Youth (12 – 21 years), Single (22 to marriageable age), Handmaids (widows or ladies whose husbands are abroad), and Servants of the Lord (widowers).
Six to seven couples are grouped together in one “Household.” We meet four times a month for two hours—twice a month as a whole unit with all the couples of the parish (around 50 couples in my parish) for a teaching night and once for witnessing what God is doing in our lives. Twice a month we meet for two hours in the house of a couple: 30 minutes for fellowship, where we talk about just about anything, and 30 minutes of Praise and Worship. Then one hour is spent in something we call the Confessing Community, where we confess how we are living out the Covenant of the Couples for Christ, which we have all taken.

COMMITMENT IN FOUR AREAS

Our Basic covenant covers four areas. During our Confessing Community, each one will give an account of their commitment, spelt out as follows:

(1) PERSONAL HOLINESS: (a) Personal Prayer; (b) Scripture Study; (c) Monthly Confession; (d) Sacraments.

(2) FAMILY:Compulsory Weekly Couple Dialogue, where we thank and praise each other for the week. If any hurts, or family issues exist, we discuss them. We may not necessarily agree on everything, but we listen to each other without arguing, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us. We also encourage a monthly dialogue with children.

Each morning the couple hugs each other for three to five minutes, thanking and blessing God for the gift of each other. There is absolutely no talk, but only thanks and praise to God.
Every night, at bed time, the couple holds each other’s hand and thank each other for the various things done during the day, thank God for each other and pray for the needs of each other and the children specifically.

(3) COMMUNITY: We serve in the community by being present for all the meetings, teachings, retreats and programs. We also serve in the Parish or neighbourhood through the Church Ministries.
Each night before going to bed we compulsorily pray for each member of the Household, including the children by name.

(4) WITNESS: We approach strangers, friends and persons of other faiths to evangelize and witness.

During the Confessing Community, each person will publicly state if they were faithful to daily prayer and Bible reading, weekly couple dialogue, monthly confession, daily hugs and prayer for each member of the Household, and prayed together for their family every day. This accountability has brought about great changes in our lives.
After the Confessing Community we share the word of God and especially reflect on the word of God made flesh in our personal lives. We discuss problems affecting us and our families, and welcome sound advice coming from the elder brothers and sisters.
A great change taking place in the “Youth of Couples for Christ” today is this: Most weddings are celebrated without alcohol–something rare and difficult in Goa. There is praise and worship in the reception hall. Needless to say, the other guests are touched by what they see.
I am what I am today because of God’s mercy and through the Couples for Christ. From a person who used to fight with his wife five or six times a day, I have learnt to honour, love and cherish her. I truly believe that, for evangelization to be effective, the relationship of unity and love is essential—whether we be married couples, religious or priests.
My humble request to you, dear families, religious and priests: Pray for each other daily, especially when you feel like criticizing or grumbling. Work for love, unity of the Spirit and communion. Without that we can never evangelize and touch hearts. We would only grieve the Holy Spirit.


-Constantino D’Sa

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How I Meet God

God Healed Me In A Dream

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Of all the retreats I have made, there is one I remember vividly, although I made it over thirty years ago. It happened during my third year of theology.
I was in no mood for a retreat. In fact, I was angry with God about a number of things, confused about my life-decisions—should I go ahead and become a priest, or leave and be a lay professional?—and upset over several things. I told all this to the retreat director. He, a counsellor by training, replied, “So, you are angry with God. Good! Tell Him that. Let’s see what happens.”
What happened that night was something I never, never expected.
My father appeared to me in a dream. That dream changed me. How?
My father was not someone I was close to. I was the youngest son, and, when I was growing up, my father was a retired and sickly person who had to be looked after. So, I did not experience him as someone who looked after me. I leaned mostly on my mother. In fact—I am ashamed to admit this—I was somewhat embarrassed about having a father who was sickly, aged and powerless. I had heard that he had been a big man—a capable lawyer, a planter (estate owner), and a public figure who dealt with the viceroy of India and the diwan of our state, and who had got thousands of acres of land released for the poor. But my memories of him were of a dependent aging man in poor health. I did not cry when he died, nor miss him afterwards. In fact, I hardly ever thought of my father.
And now, thirteen years after his death, during my third year of theology, he meets me in a dream.
He called me in English and my mother tongue, both of which we spoke at home. “My son!” That is what he said, very clearly and tenderly. I started weeping.
Now, crying is not something I ever did as a grown-up. Classmates would tell me, “You live in the head. You hardly show any feelings.”
And here I was, crying my heart out. I cried in my sleep, and woke up crying. I got up, sat up on the steps of the retreat house, and wept. I cried for hours. I had never sobbed that much in all my adult years.
There was someone who called me tenderly, “My son!”
The next day, I told the retreat director, “I feel different.” “You LOOK different,” he said. I shared my dream. “I wish I had such an experience,” he added. He had a poor relationship with his father, and wished it were different.
From that day, the Bible became REAL for me. The Word of God spoke to my heart. We had good professors of Scripture, and I had scored high marks, but the Bible had not become food for me, alive in my life. This started to happen in that retreat.
Words like the following started becoming real (the Living Bible translation):
Isaiah, chapters 43 to 55: “I love you. You are mine. You are precious to me. When you go through deep waters, you will not drown. When you go through fire, you will not be burnt. Even if your mother were to forget you, I won’t. Even if someone could push the hills around, my love will not change.” Or, from Psalm 139, “You know what I am going to say before I say it. I can never be lost to your spirit. I can’t even count how many times a day your thoughts turn towards me.”
Or David’s prayer as he is aging, “Why have you showered your blessings on such an insignificant person as I am? Such generosity is far beyond any human standard.”
The retreat was getting over on the 24th of that month, and I was concerned about how I would face things afterwards. I open the Bible, get a passage I was not at all familiar with—the book of Haggai. Strong words hit me again: “You were living with selfish attitudes. So, everything you did went wrong…From today, the 24th day of the month, I will bless you. I am giving you this promise now before you have even begun to rebuild the temple…I will take you, and honour you like a signet ring upon my finger; for I have specially chosen you.”
A close friend who knew me well told me after the retreat: “It is evident you have found something.” Yes, I had. By God’s tender mercy, I had found my earthly father again, and been shown how tenderly God loves, in spite of my indifference and foolish way of living.
I am convinced that all the answers we need are found in the Bible. God knows us better than we do, and He knows what we need, and where we need to be healed—and how. God waited for me in that retreat, and healed me where I needed to be healed. Not by my plans, but by His mercy.
I had gone into the retreat uninterested, angry, confused. The answers came, not through clever discussions, but through a healing experience of the tender love of my two fathers—a tender, upright, caring but limited earthly father, and a supremely tender, infinitely caring unseen Father.
My father has moved from being a forgotten relative I hardly thought about to the person I remember most warmly. In fact, when I die, I look forward most to meeting him again. Every night, before going to sleep, I kneel down and seek the blessing of my father and mother.
And, through this inner healing, and many other assurances of divine love after that, as well as the presence of other good people in my life, God and His tender love have become very, very real for me. At the core of reality is a heart of tenderness, where each of us is held with complete love, a love that will never, never push us out.
This is the greatest certainty of my life. It sheds a warm and gentle glow on my life. May it shed the same glow on your life, too. Isn’t it the best gift we could wish for?


– Fr Jason Martis XYZ (Writer’s name and congregation initials changed.)

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How I Meet God

We do not have to “meet “ God.

how-in-meetgod

When I was asked to put down a few lines on how I meet God, I started wondering. Meeting God? I mused. I am already existing in Him. I live, I move and have my being in God! That’s it. You heard it right. Nothing “religious” about it; just stating the reality that is.

There have been numerous occasions when I have tangibly felt God’s awesome Presence. One of them goes like this. On the day before my Post-doctoral Examinations, my other two colleagues were already put up in a five star hotel in the city of Pondicherry, with their proximate as well as their extended families. Thanks to the extreme generosity of some precious friends, I was gratefully accommodated in a guest house. However, I was quite alone. I got busy, getting ready for the following day. That night I surrendered everything to the Lord and had a restful sleep.

The next morning, we arrived at the magnificent JIPMER Hospital. Once again, as I walked through the huge corridors, I felt lost. In a little while, I spotted my colleagues accompanied by their family members. We sat around a table waiting to be called to the examination hall. My married colleagues described how all through the previous day and that morning their spouses were so caring towards them, in all their understandable tension and irritation. At first I thought: They have their spouses and family members to support them, whereas I am all alone.

But, as I sat there listening, I smiled. I was engulfed by a strange but pleasant feeling, accompanied by this thought, “Yeah, your family and spouses can only get this far,  but my Spouse Jesus can walk with me through the corridors and into the examination hall.” The examination was not easy, but confidence surged within me. I gained control of myself and walked to meet the next moment. The tough examination protocols lasted through the day, up to almost 9.30 pm. At the end of it all, I knew I had won the battle. To add to this awareness, as I was getting ready to leave, the Warden in charge of the exam hall walked towards me, and told me, “Doctor, you have made it successfully! You now have the licence to serve the poor in your chosen field.” Oh! Such moments of exhilaration come only occasionally; but, when they do, they leave an indelible mark. This particular experience left me forever grateful to the Author of my life. This moment was sacred. God made me feel his presence powerfully.

This Presence had gone with me many a time before. Here is one experience.

One day, when I was a student, a Muslim colleague, who knew my zest in pursuing the Post-doctoral course in Cardiology, asked me, “Margaret, we work this hard to earn some money, achieve fame, and  to make our families comfortable. What is it that drives you, a Religious Sister, to do this?”  Without much hesitation I told him, “I do it for a wealth more precious than money—the wealth of having found the Source of all good. I do it, not for a nuclear family, but for a larger family, that is, the people I serve; I do it, not for fame, but to accomplish the purpose of my existence.” This interpretation flowed from deep within me. That was God’s prompting, I believe.

I could go on and on, recounting how God always showed up in my encounters with patients whom I had the privilege to treat. Many a time it would happen that I would reach a patient’s bedside unexpectedly—just when that patient was most in need of me.

Some vivid examples: One of my patients, who was doing well, had developed a pneumothorax (air in the lung cavity) suddenly in the wards; another patient was asphyxiating due to aspiration; still another getting a seizure—with no one around! In each case, I reached in time, although visiting that patient was not on my schedule. I could give many such occurrences when my timely presence was life-saving. I can categorically say that at such moments I was an extension of God to those who were in need. To be at the right place at the right time! Now this is what only God can plan and execute with precision!

Friends, the same God who steps in every moment and reroutes our history carries us through everything we may face. If you are hurting in any way or finding life an endless drudgery, I want you to know that the disappointments and failures in your past cannot overcome God’s purposes for your life. We trust His promise—that God is with us and in us. Let the hand of God work in and through you, as you become a champion in your walk of faith.

No wonder there are times when a spontaneous prayer of thanks bursts forth from my heart, and I say, “O God, thank you for the joy of being yours!”

Yes, it is a joy and privilege to belong to God. We are His. Every moment.

In this deeper sense, we do not have to meet God. We may be present or absent, but not God. God is Presence—loving, tender, powerful, never-failing. I am never alone.


Sr. Margaret D’Mello belongs to the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception. Profession: Cardiologist. Practising in Chennai. Loves reading and music besides practice of Medicine.

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How I Meet God

My World Turned Upside Down

upsidedwn

LIFE IS FUNNY.  Just when you think things are going well, something happens that turns your world upside down. And just when you are in the midst of those situations others think of as tragic, you are suddenly overcome with a deep sense of peace and contentment.  How in the world does that happen?  The short answer is God. Even though God is always with us, loving us and supporting us, we are often most aware of Him when we seek Him out because we feel vulnerable.

That has certainly been true in my life. Raised by a devout mother and hard-working father, my childhood was idyllic. Our small family had more love than money, but all my early memories were of simple pleasures and security.  I was brought up to abide by all the rules of the faith, which was reinforced by the nuns at our school. However, once I left home to attend a public university, I experienced a whole new world. What freedom! Without the supervision of my parents, I started down a path that included exposure to non-believers, parties, and overindulgence in eating, drinking and smoking.  Because studying was such a low priority, during my first semester I failed a course.  I decided to try out the scriptural promise, “Ask and you shall receive.” and prayed to God to somehow change my grade. When nothing happened, I stupidly concluded that God either did not exist or that He didn’t care about my problems.

Living for Pleasure

That was the beginning of a fifteen year period of living for the pleasure of the moment, focusing all my attention on what made me happy.  Inevitably, the pleasure of the moment would turn into disappointment and loneliness. Even after I married and had children, I realized how difficult it was to maintain a level of happiness that satisfied me. That was soon to come to an end, but I had no idea how drastically my life would be turned upside down, or should I say, right side up.

Because we were experiencing dissatisfaction with our marriage, my husband and I decided to attend a Marriage Encounter retreat. On that weekend, I heard stories from the presenting couples about their relationship with God, and how He had helped them in their marriage. This made me curious. I wondered, had I been wrong about God?

God, however, outsmarted me. A friend gave me a book which I thought was fiction but turned out to be about the apparitions of our Blessed Mother in Medjugorje.  As I read the description of how the children were given messages, I grew increasingly agitated. Was this true? Why had I not heard about this from the newspaper? In the book, I read that the scientists who had conducted studies on the children while they were in ecstasy had been unable to refute the miraculous nature of the apparitions.  I started to wonder: if the children were not lying, then maybe God really did exist.

The Most Powerful Experience of My Life

Finishing the book, I walked upstairs into my bedroom and decided once again to fall back on the Scripture promise “Ask and you shall receive”, but this time for an entirely different purpose. I simply asked God to let me know if He existed, and if He did, if He loved me.

What happened next was my own personal miracle, an event that has changed my life and still gives me goose-bumps remembering it twenty-five years later. I felt as though I were standing under a waterfall, being flooded with love and peace and grace. In an instant, I KNEW that God did indeed exist, and that He loved me immensely.  It was the single most powerful experience of my life, and it could not be ignored or brushed aside as coming from my imagination. I felt the fullness of God pouring over me, and knew then that God had loved me all along, even when I had rejected Him.

From that day forward, I had all the zeal of a new convert, fasting twice a week, donating half of my clothes to a local charity, attending daily mass, signing up for Bible Study, etc, etc. Tears poured from my eyes for weeks, a phenomenon I later learned is called “the gift of tears”.  The tears were not ones of happiness or sadness; rather, I felt overwhelmed with the new reality… God was real!  I literally was seeing everything in the world in a whole new light. My family, while at first amused, began to understand that what had happened was indeed from God.

After my miraculous conversion, I asked God to let me show Him how thankful I was for the gift of faith, promising that I would do anything for love of Him. About a week later, my husband and I received a call from the Marriage Encounter presenters, asking us to join them and share our story on retreats. They explained that they should have asked us a year before. I laughingly explained to them that if we had been asked at that time, I would have had to say no because I didn’t even believe in God! God’s timing, as always, was perfect.

Over the last twenty-five years, my husband and I have been blessed to minister to engaged and married couples. As anyone who does ministry work knows, we receive more joy from our time ministering to others that we are able to give. Together we have also facilitated faith-sharing groups, catechized young adults, traveled the country in support of a lay apostolate and served our parish in various capacities. Throughout the years, we have attempted to grow in our faith through prayer and formal study. There have been times of joy and times of sorrow, and through both we have learned to praise and thank God for His presence in our lives.

Cancer, Chemo and Surgery

Many might think that the challenges we face in life make it difficult to believe in a loving God. I have found the opposite to be true.  A year ago, I was diagnosed with cancer, which, because it was aggressive, required surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  Once the news spread around the parish, a woman I barely knew came up to me, gave me a warm hug and whispered into my ear, “Prepare yourself for the blessings!”

Incredibly, from that time forward I felt an inner peace beyond anything I could have anticipated. I look back now to pictures of me sitting in a chair in the hospital, hooked up to intravenous lines, bald from the chemo, and laughing. I never asked “Why me, Lord?” Throughout every aspect of the treatment, I felt a firm confidence that this was all part of God’s plan for me.

I know that God’s ways are not my ways, and what I see as the best outcome often does not come to pass in spite of fervent prayers.  Any one of us who expects a smooth sailing through life is inevitably disappointed at one time or another.  I read somewhere that the cross is the intersection of God’s will with my will. My will is ALWAYS to avoid suffering. And yet…… my suffering, however small and short-lived compared to what others experience, has brought me even closer to God, closer to my family and friends, and so much more grateful for life’s many blessings.

I look forward to what is ahead, whether that is a long life on earth or a reunion with my loved ones in heaven. I trust that God knows what is best for me, and when He thinks I’m done learning the lessons I’ll need to enjoy eternity. Hmmm, maybe my last request should be to get put on the express elevator to heaven rather than the stairs.  I’ll have to ask!

“Prepare yourself for the blessings!”


– Crystal Sullivan, wife, mother of two and grandma of three, and her husband Kevin are active in the marriage ministry in Chicago and other parts of the US. Among her other ministries are retreats for prisoners. She has a Master’s in Pastoral Theology, and is known for her warmth, friendliness and joyful spirit—Editor.

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FamilyHow I Meet God

How I Meet God

1

Have you heard of a book called, God Exists: I Have Met Him?

It was written by André Frossard, a famous French journalist. His father was the secretary of the French Communist Party, and raised his son (André) as an atheist. At the age of twenty, totally uninterested in religion or God, Andre’ went out with a friend one day. The friend entered a building in which there was a chapel, and André waited outside. Tired of waiting, he went in to look for his friend. It was 5.10 pm. He went in an atheist. He came out at 5.15, convinced that God exists. The meeting transformed him. He would later write a book about it with the title given above.

An acquaintance who heard of his experience asked him, “But why you?” André told him there is no answer to that question, except this: “If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.”

Have you met God? How do you meet Him? When? Where?

We invite readers to share their experience of meeting God. More people than we think have had deep and transforming experiences of meeting God. People from all backgrounds, age groups, religions, educational levels.

In our first account of God-experiences, we listen to Sister Margaret (Margot) Power PBVM, an Irish missionary who has spent most of her life in India. Sr Margot is known for her deep humanity, loving attention to people, joyful presence, sense of humour and convinced life.

In Pain, in Children, in Silence
Sr Margaret Power PBVM

The event I had dreaded most in my life turned out to be different from what I had imagined it would be. It happened this way.

I was very, very attached to my father and always believed I would not be able to bear his death. I was already in India when he fell ill, but I was in my home in Ireland during my father’s last illness. He became critical. My Mom and I were outside the ICU. Then, a young doctor came out of the ICU. He was an Indian. This made me feel good, since I was just coming from India. He was at a loss what to tell us. So, we asked him, “Is Dad…?” He nodded sadly. We knew that Dad was gone.

This was the moment I had always dreaded. Yet, when it actually arrived, God filled my heart with a deep sense of peace.
I need not fear facing the situations I am scared of. He is present in my pain. He knows what I need better than I do.
* * *
One day in 2011, I had a chat with a little girl on our school campus. I asked her who she was, her name and where she was studying. I remember having some sweets in my bag. So I asked her if she would like to have anything. I thought she would ask for sweets! Her answer was a total surprise and God’s gift for me. She said, “Sister, I want to see the face of Jesus.”
I had thought of children as nice and charming and a source of joy. Now I see that they are also God’s voice for me.
* * *

The following incident may appear trivial to some. Though it happened many years ago when I was in Presentation Convent, Egmore, it has never left my mind. It was a moment of deep encounter with God.
I had received a considerable sum of money for a particular purpose. Workers were doing repair work in the house, furniture had to be shifted, and the house was in a bit of a mess. It was only after two of three days that I thought of the cash I had received! I searched everywhere, but could not find it. I had a heavy heart and was beginning to get desperate. On the second night I had a dream. In the dream I saw a brown cover at the back of the steel drawer (not inside the drawer but behind it). I remember being at peace after the dream. Early next morning I got a screw driver and managed to remove the drawer completely and there was the brown cover with the cash inside. I just folded my hands and said, “I knew you would see me through, Lord!”

***

Nature is a powerful call from God every day. My early morning walk in the campus is a beautiful experience for me as I begin my day surrounded by nature ….trees and plants that bring me in touch with God. As I walk, a song usually comes to my mind and stays with me throughout the walk. I remind myself of how privileged I am to be in a place that is so quiet and peaceful.

* * *

I sit quietly in my room at night and go through the day, relishing the moments that went well and become aware of the blessings that God gave me during the day. The Spirit often helps me to remember small details that went unnoticed. It is a time for me to ask pardon for my many failings and I ask God to give me strength to live tomorrow better. I cherish this time of the day as it is here that I meet God, with whom I can be completely transparent. He knows what’s going on beneath the surface.

* * *

Sometimes I just do nothing but sit still and become aware of my breathing. This leads me to realize that it is God who keeps me in being every moment.

* * *

Silence also teaches me something that otherwise I would forget: That God is close, that God talks to me the whole time, in so many ways, through people, events, nature, silence, music, pain and joy. I need not live in fear. I need not fill my head with worry. I can let go. I need to listen attentively, as He speaks to me through our children, workers, community sisters. He waits for me in silence and in noise, in rain and sunshine, in birds and trees and blades of grass. If only I were more open to His tender voice of love!


– Sister Margaret (Margot) Power PBVM

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