Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Sunday 04 December |
Saint of the Day: St. John Damascene
Aleteia logo
Lifestyle
separateurCreated with Sketch.

I Didn’t Want to Live Anymore, Then I Met Him…

Loneliness

Silvia Sala

Carly Andrews - published on 06/19/14

How Jesus in the Eucharist saved me.

Today is the feast of Corpus Christi: the Holy Body of Christ.

There was a time, not too long ago, when I thought all was lost in my life and I couldn’t go on living any more. It was the Body of Christ that saved me.

I was raised in a pretty normal albeit free-range family. My mum was Catholic so raised us in the faith. I was really close to my family, I had great friends and a happy and easy school life. I had a strong faith and sense of morality, which kept me firm and grounded as a young adult. In other words, life was good.

I went to Peru after high school and lived with some sisters in a shantytown on the outskirts of Lima, where I worked as a missionary in the community. It was a fantastic experience, and I went to mass daily, which took me further along in my faith, even if – although I didn’t realise at the time – something fundamental was missing.

Then I was off to university to study philosophy – very elegant but very secular philosophy. In fact, I am ashamed to say that in three whole years, the notion of ‘God’ was barely brought up once. They taught ancient Greek philosophy, then skipped the whole of the patristic and medieval periods (i.e. no Augustine and no Aquinas along with many other great Catholic thinkers who are milestones in the history of thought) and went straight into modern and contemporary philosophy.

Through studying this very secular philosophy as well as being immersed in such a secular environment (and having my fair share of wild university fun), I saw a gradual decline in my faith. I never renounced it, even to myself, but in my heart of hearts I didn’t believe.

The main problem was my arrogance. In selfish pride  I put myself with my own rational capability in God’s place, at the centre of existence, as judge and juror, and as a result I slowly became closed to His grace.

Now, while I was going through this crisis of faith, which had become to occupy the forefront of my thought, my life completely fell apart.  I lived through a terrible trauma, which actually lasted for many years. At the beginning of this difficult time I found myself living in London, with no money, no job, no friends, dire family circumstances, I felt completely alone in the world, and I found that I had no faith to turn to, no hope. I went to church and felt nothing when I received the Eucharist. I felt dead inside and entered into a state of total despair. 

I stayed inside for days at a time, didn’t dress, barely said a word and drank a lot of alcohol. I just couldn’t see a way forward in life and completely gave up.

Then after a little while of not seeing a reason for living, I thought: ‘enough of this! I want to get my faith back; I want to find some other Catholics, and I want to escape from this despair.’

So I said to myself ‘where are all the Catholics?’

‘Well, the Pope is in Rome,’ I answered. ‘So I’m bound to find some there!’

I subsequently typed in Google: “masters in philosophy and science in Rome” and one of the first links that came up took me to a Licentiate (masters) at the Gregorian Pontifical University. After looking at the syllabus, I thought to myself ‘that will do!’ So I packed my bags and immediately made for Rome.

After having got lost, fined 50 euro on the metro for not stamping my ticket properly, and getting done over by the taxi man, I finally found my way to the bed and breakfast I had booked into for the first week, while I looked for somewhere to live. It was ran by the sisters of St Joseph – the very same order who I lived with in Peru. And to my everlasting surprise, who turned out to be living there? But the mother superior I had lived with, and loved dearly, four years earlier in the shantytowns of Lima!

“OK Lord” I said once I picked myself up off the floor from shock, “I’m listening!"

Then about a week later I met a magnificent girl, Rebecca, from Chicago, who invited me along to an international youth centre that she frequented, the Centro San Lorenzo (CSL), founded by Saint John Paul II. Being completely alone, I gladly said yes.

When I first arrived into the old stone church, I was immediately taken aback that the benches had no back and these youth were kneeling on the stone ground without any cushions, not to mention the fact that they were all dressed very sensibly, and there I was, waltzing in with my super short tartan skirt and low-cut top on. And to make matters worse, these young folk prayed so openly and charismatically, with not even a little bit of shame… to be honest, I thought they were all completely crazy! 

But I was so attracted by their joy and freedom, and I felt so desperately alone, that I kept coming back. I still didn’t feel anything in mass, but through their kindness and welcome I slowly began to feel at ease simply to join in; which was a start.

Throughout the year I was up and down with my faith. At first I kept looking for signs from God, and praying for a miraculous conversion to Christ. But I was soon to realise it doesn’t always work like that; for me it was a slow uphill struggle. I still had so many philosophical doubts towards religion in general, and most of all I was still very much weighed down by the suffering I carried from everything I had lived in England.

But then after about a year I discovered something called adoration.

(Adoration is when the Blessed Sacrament, that is, the host after it has been consecrated in the mass, is put up on the altar for everyone to pray before it.)

I didn’t really understand it, but I started to attend.

After a short while the CSL held a time of 24hour adoration during advent and I decided to go to every single one.

I was there throughout the night, often completely alone in the dark and silent Church, with the Host enshrined in its golden monstrance glinting on the altar.

I dropped to my knees before the Blessed Sacrament in absolute despair and begged the Lord to hear me, to take some of the pain away, to give me some sense to my life, to listen, to speak, to let me know he’s there! To let me know I wasn’t all alone; I felt so alone that the pain gnawed at my heart…

Silence.

Then something happened.

For the first time in my life, alone in the night with Christ, I completely abandoned myself to Him. My gaze began to shift from myself as the centre of existence, to Him as the centre. My heart began to open to Him…

And as it opened, He entered into it and filled me with His healing presence. I realised that all of my pain, bitterness and despair had completely gone and that my heart was filled only with peace and joy and love. The tender presence of Christ permeated my whole being; so gently that it was almost without me realising; my heart burned with love.

I looked back over the painful events that had happened over the past couple of years, which before had given me physical pain in my stomach to think about; but now there was no pain, no hate, no anger, only love, overflowing, unbounded, unstoppable!

Christ was in me! He dwelt within me, in the flesh, bringing me into life, into true life. Christ was in the Eucharist!

I could see His body up on that altar in the consecrated host; He was before me, in the flesh. I physically met Him! My Lord, my friend, my teacher, my Saviour and my God! He was right there in front of me, I saw Him with the eyes of my heart, transforming my broken sight which before had found no meaning in a hard and cruel world…but now saw the reality before me entrenched in Divine meaning, God’s beautiful creation unfolding before my eyes, and everything pointing towards Him, the Son of God, in the flesh.  

He transformed my broken heart of stone into a beating joyous heart of flesh.

I wanted to shout it from the Rooftops: “JESUS IS ALIVE! JESUS IS REAL! He’s actually here, in the flesh, in the host! I LOVE HIM!”

I went back to England that Christmas and told anyone who would listen, and anyone who wouldn’t listen. My friends and family thought I’d lost the plot, but I just couldn’t stop myself. This encounter with his healing love: it overflowed from my heart and I couldn’t help but share it with those around me.

I wanted to tell everyone about the new friend I’d made, about the real presence of the body of Christ in the Eucharist, and how He had given me back my life, or rather to say, had brought me into new life.

I grew an insatiable appetite for the Lord. I wanted to discover more about my faith; I started attending daily mass and adoration, and began to go out into the street evangelising.

The Mass was transformed for me. It was no longer something that I merely attended, but was something that I participated in. It wasn’t just dry and abstract words, it was the Word of God, i.e. the presence of God. I was receiving Christ’s body and blood, I was participating in His saving sacrificial act: His death on the Cross, His resurrection.

It was all about thebody, the body and blood of Christ: this was what I had been missing my whole life, a communion with the flesh of Christ, mine meeting His, a real and concrete encounter between Him and me, which brought my wretched, lonely and broken little self into joyous, radiant, glorious life in Him

Amen!


photo by Silvia Sala

Support Aleteia!

Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Thanks to their partnership in our mission, we reach more than 20 million unique users per month!

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting and transformative Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Support Aleteia with a gift today!

jour1_V2.gif
Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...








Entrust your prayer intentions to our network of monasteries


Top 10
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here. It's Free!