Our age seems incredulous to miracles. Many people refuse to believe in them because they cannot be proven. In a world that has become increasingly darkened by sin, violence, and death, miracles still have the ability to speak to the most hardened of hearts. I have witnessed many miracles myself and I would like to recount for you the one that completely turned my life around. It was my moment on the road to Damascus, if you will.
Several years ago, I was living and studying in Los Angeles. Life there was not easy. I was depressed and homesick although I was surrounded by people that stimulated me intellectually. Since I was depressed, I started to spend money like nobody’s business. I shopped quite literally until I dropped. The thing of it was that while I lived with my grandparents and was surrounded by family, I felt completely alone.
It was not long before I suffered what some people call a psychotic break. It was a dark period in my life, but one that reached its climax in hope.
It happened one night at school. I had spent the day listlessly. I had ditched my Latin class and attended Mass. Then I knelt for four hours in front of the tabernacle in the student chapel. I was frustrated out of my mind and lonely as heck. I tearfully begged God to take this cross away from me and to get me out Los Angeles.
I distinctly remember the feeling of staring at the tabernacle and feeling that my prayers were not answered. The silence of the chapel on that afternoon made me angry. I wondered why God wasn’t listening or if he had heard anything. However, I kept praying the same thing over and over again, “Get me out of here and take me home.” After a few hours of what I felt then was fruitless prayer, I went over to the place where one of my classes was to take place.
My attendance during those last few weeks had been spotty. The professor had proposed that I be tutored since she felt that the class would be too much on my fragile nerves. However, I forced myself to go to the student lounge and pretend that nothing had happened. That particular afternoon, I sat next to a beautiful girl from Berkeley and spoke to her about Russian literature and Hermann Hesse. I felt warm all over. I felt like the clouds were lifting.
But no sooner had the clouds lifted then they were interrupted. A young woman that had been the bane of my existence arrived. She sat down and started discussing her future plans. She talked about a doctorate from Harvard or Princeton. As she spoke, though, I didn’t feel that the remarks were directed at anyone except me. Each one of the words that she spoke felt like a knife. I felt like I had been stabbed and poked through.
When the students went to class, I sat outside the classroom wondering about whether I should go home or not. I didn’t want to go and I didn’t feel that it would be appropriate. I had to stay at school, but I felt awful. I remember sitting out there for a long time. I sang songs to myself like “Old Man River” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” From the first, a verse got stuck in my head, “I’m tired of living and scared of dying.” That was how I felt exactly. I was tired of living and I wanted to die.
I remember sitting there for a long time when the thought came to me that I should end my wretched life. In the words of Shakespeare, I was in “disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes.” I wanted to leave a note or something to that effect. I decided that night that I would die by throwing myself off of the Santa Monica Pier. My life would be finished as I sank in the waves. Twenty-one years of existence would be over and finished.
Getting on the bus that would take me to Santa Monica was one of the most miserable experiences of my life. My mind was completely made up that this would be it. I stared death in the face and I wasn’t scared. I was ready to die. I didn’t care about anybody anymore except myself and my pain.
Yet as we arrived at the Promenade, the bus suddenly lurched forward and stopped. I don’t know exactly what happened, but Divine Providence had arranged that it stop in front of a bookstore. I remember walking out like someone let out of darkness into light. I wasn’t happy, but relieved. Relieved that I didn’t go through with the deed.
Over the course of the next day, I would leave my university and then I would leave Los Angeles. After a few months, I would begin my life back home as a graduate student in a different program with a different major. Yet that experience would stay with me no matter where I went and what I did. That night on that bus in Santa Monica marked a new birth for me. A glorious birth into new life.
When I look back on it now, I find myself still in awe of God’s mysterious ways. The life that I have led since my leaving Los Angeles has been wonderful and fulfilling. It has had its share of disappointments, but it has also been one of tremendous abundance. Within a year, I would convert to the Catholic Church. Within two years, I would seriously begin discerning a vocation to the religious life. In all, God has tremendously blessed me.
Some of you may wonder why God didn’t speak to me directly from the tabernacle or why He allowed me to suffer that dark night on the bus. As far as I know, God didn’t speak to me because He was biding His time. In a very real sense, He was testing my faith and belief in Him. Yet He appeared suddenly in the stopping of the bus. He appeared walking on water and came to save me from myself and from my former life. That experience marks the beginning of my new life and it is a glorious and beautiful life.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!