In each of our lives, there is a moment when we prostrate ourselves before God and acknowledge our nothingness. For some, it is not a sensible event. Rather, it is a conviction that grows with every passing day that we cannot live without Him. For others, it is an event that suddenly propels us forward to embrace the Cross and to crucify ourselves for the sake of Him.
The moment of my conversion came during the course of my stay in Los Angeles. After I had been assaulted by the devil for weeks, I went to the Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart to pray. I felt stressed and out of sorts. My classes were not going well, my professors thought I had gone crazy, and so had most of my classmates. I was completely alone and had exhausted every possibility of help. Now, there was only one source left: God.
I had gone to the chapel for Mass, but stayed afterward. I went and knelt in a prie-dieu in front of the tabernacle. I opened my heart to God and spoke to Him. I told Him about D., the problems I was having, and begged Him for a solution. For over four hours, the only prayer on my lips was, “Lord, get me out of here.”
There was no immediate answer to my prayer. In fact, I did not even feel His Presence. The only answer was stony silence. I decided that maybe He hadn’t heard me and that I was just wasting my time. After all, God had bigger things to worry about. Why should He worry about me? Who was I to importune Him and beg Him to listen? There were starving children in Africa and here I was asking for help.
I left the chapel depressed. I walked across campus hoping that I would meet someone. At University Hall, I spoke with S. as I always had before class. She told me and another friend that her future mother-in-law was coming from New Jersey. Her future mother-in-law was lactose intolerant and really religious. The dilemma was that S. didn’t have the appropriate sets of dishes for keeping kosher and neither did her fiancé.
I talked about my experiences. I probably made an idiotic joke or two to slacken the mood. I mentioned how I felt about D. and the whole issue of being persecuted. S. and my other friend were shocked. “Oh,” they told me. “She would never do such a thing to you.” Of course, she wouldn’t, I thought, I’m just being a paranoid schizophrenic.
Another friend, T., came and joined us. I had a wonderful conversation with her about Russian literature. I felt warm all over as if I were being embraced. I stared into her bright blue eyes and thought about how lucky I was to know people like this. We also discussed a novel by Hermann Hesse that both of us had read. I don’t remember what else I said, but I didn’t bring up my earlier conversation or my problems. It was probably better to let things go unsaid.
It was then, probably on cue, that D. arrived. She sat down next to S. and they discussed the future. As she talked, I could feel the negative energy in the room coming from D.’s presence. She spoke about all of the things that she would do after she finished LMU: a Ph.D. at Harvard, a nice husband, and children.
The more she talked, the more depressed I felt. Just like the apparition had stabbed me in the back, I know felt those stab wounds all over again. Knife after knife was being plunged into me and I didn’t know what to do. I just sat there and took it. Like a schoolboy being whipped by a sadistic schoolmaster, I did not give any sign of a reaction.
It was then that Dr. R. gathered together my classmates and they went over to the classroom with the round table. I was left alone in the English village. I went over to a window with a vista of the Pacific Ocean. The sky’s color was blood red. I walked through the hallways thinking about what was next for me and then I sat down outside of the classroom with my briefcase.
I sat there for what seemed like an eternity. I was exhausted and depressed. I desperately wanted to be inside that classroom with my friends. Even if D. was there, I told myself that I would be able to make it. Yet I could not bring myself to open the door and walk inside, Dr. R. had stated flatly that I was to come for tutoring every single week. I obeyed. It was pointless, anyway. I had done enough damage as it was and one false move like that would have gotten me expelled.
I went back to the hallways and walked to the Department of Theology. A set of Byzantine icons greeted me on the wall. One of them was Andrei Rublev’s Trinity. I looked at that most beautiful of Russian icons and again I uttered that prayer. “Lord, get me out of here.” Again, silence.
For a final time, I went and sat down in that plush leather chair. Scattered memories of the past returned to me. I could see my grandmother’s face, the many disappointments I had caused my parents, and the endless stream of failures. In order to comfort myself, I began singing certain spirituals like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” I sang them for an eternity and then I suddenly found a resolution to my problem: I would kill myself. I would thrown myself off the Santa Monica Pier.
Once I had made up my mind, I walked out of University Hall and waited for the next Lincoln Boulevard bus. I desperately wanted this whole story to be over with. I wanted to die because I could see no other exit. God did not care, my parents were somewhere else entirely, and I had nobody else to live for. It was over. The moment I would jump into the cold water of the Pacific, I would be free.
These thoughts ran through my head as I rode the bus. I heard no other voice trying to keep me alive. I did not feel my guardian angel pulling my hand and telling me to get off. I only saw death and it was the only thing that I desired. If I could only die…
Yet as I thought these things, a miracle happened. As the bus approached the Santa Monica Promenade, it lurched forward. The bus driver cursed under his breath and swore that he had probably run something over. I got off the bus and saw that it had stopped in front of a bookstore. I went inside and that was the end of that.
To this very day, I cannot explain what happened to me on that bus or why. Yet I know in my heart that it was my guardian angel who slammed the breaks of that bus. Indeed, I would have been a corpse on the bottom of the ocean had it not stopped. God and my guardian angel knew that my number had not yet been drawn. So they took action and that action saved my life.
In the days and years that followed, my life would change dramatically. I left Los Angeles and began pursuing a Master’s degree somewhere else; I converted to the Catholic Church and discerned a vocation. In all of these things, I began to see how God’s hand had suddenly turned me around at the moment when I would have been lost forever. In my mind and heart, I had chosen hell, but God showed me the way to heaven.
As I go about my daily life, I still feel His Presence there guiding me. I follow Him with my cross and thank Him profusely for all of the graces that He has given me. I thank Him for my family, my many friends and benefactors, the priests and nuns that sowed the good seeds, and my guardian angel. I thank Him because that is all that I can do for an act of which I am utterly undeserving.
In our own lives, there are those moments when God slams on the breaks. He does this to show us that the life we live is not our own. As St. Francis demonstrated in front of his father and the entire city of Assisi, everything that we own and are belongs to God alone. Everything is a gift and all of those sufferings that we endure are also gifts. As St. Therese once said, “Everything is grace.”
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!