World Youth Day participants share stories of forgiveness, conversion, mercy and challenges they live with
[At the World Youth Day Vigil, prior to his address to the pilgrims, Pope Francis and the gathering heard the witness of three participants who gave personal testimonies to the power of Christ and his mercy in their lives. We urge you to read their very moving stories — Ed]
First Testimony: Natalia (Poland)
On Sunday, 15 April 2012, I woke up in my house in Łódź, the third largest city in Poland. At the time, I was the chief editor of a fashion magazine, I had been away from the Church for 20 years. I achieved success at work, dated nice men, went from one party to the next – this was the meaning of my life. Everything was fantastic. Until this one Sunday when I woke up with anxiety. I felt that the way I was living my life was far from good. I understood that I must go to confession that very day. I did not really even know how to confess, so I googled the word “confession.”
In one of the articles I found, I read this sentence: “God died out of love for us.” I completely understood this: God died because He loves me, He wants to give me Eternal Life and I am standing in the kitchen smoking a cigarette, acting like I do not care.
That is how I saw it. I started crying. I took a piece of paper and started writing all of my sins. All of my sins were very clear, they appeared in front of my eyes on their own. I realized that I had broken all ten commandments. I felt the need to speak to a priest. I went back to the computer and found that confession would be offered at the cathedral at 3:00pm. I ran to the cathedral, but I was afraid that the priest would tell me: “Your sins are too serious, I cannot help you.” But I gathered the courage and confessed.
I said everything; I cried heavily the whole time. The priest was quiet and did not say a word. When I was done, he said: “This is a beautiful confession.” I did not know what he was talking about, there was nothing beautiful in my sins. “Do you know what day it is today?” he said: “Divine Mercy Sunday. Do you know what time it is? Past 3:00pm. This is the Hour of Mercy. Do you know where you are? In the cathedral, where Saint Faustina prayed every day when she still lived in Łódź. It was to her that God said that on this day, He will forgive all sins, no matter how serious. Your sins are forgiven. They are gone, do not go back to them, do not even think about them.”
Those words were strong. Before my confession, I was sure that I permanently lost my chance at Eternal Life, but what I heard was that God had erased everything bad that I had done from my life forever. That He had always been waiting for me and that He chose this day for our meeting. I left the church like a battlefield – extremely tired but, at the same time, overjoyed, with a feeling of victory, and belief that Jesus was returning home with me. I have been preparing WYD in Łódź for the past two years so that others may experience what I experienced. God’s mercy is alive and continues today.
I am a witness of this and I wish the same for every one of you.