Just before last year’s MPH retreat, I experienced a nervous breakdown. My sense of helplessness, my selfishness, lack of will power, and constant falling into the same sin overwhelmed me completely. For seven years I had struggled with masturbation and pornography.
It poisoned my life and I was steadily losing sensitivity in such matters. I learned to look at girls selfishly — in a sensual, unspiritual way. After scoring a few short-lived victories in this area (I always made sure that I went to confession whenever I fell into sin), I fell exceptionally low. I succumbed several times in one day. Though I went to confession and received Holy Communion, I was still so broken that I was reluctant to enter the church for fear that I should fall back into sin again. Since there was perpetual adoration at the church, I sat down before the Blessed Sacrament and, sobbing and weeping in the depths of my soul, I remained there a good while.
That week the prayer group to which I belonged presented the Liturgy of the Word. The theme of the readings was God’s plan for us. Moved by God’s love and patience, I called out to Him. I asked Him to be close to me. I wanted to enjoy an intimate relationship with Him and not treat Him in His omnipotence as someone distant and abstract. It was a cry from the heart, a strong plea to be freed from and lifted out of the mire of selfishness, impotence, and helplessness.
After returning home from the liturgy, I found a letter on my desk. I opened it and read the following: “Hello! Have you made your vacation plans yet? What does Jesus say about them? Do you know that He wants to be particularly close to you?” It was an invitation to go on a retreat. I had received a reply from God — directly upon my request! Even though I was afraid the retreat would be beyond my reach mentally, I trusted in God and went anyway — on the strength of this unusual invitation and with the full conviction that He wanted to enter into my life and realize His plan for me.
So I went to the retreat. In addition to daily Mass, the program included time for the rosary, the chaplet of divine mercy as well as nighttime adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Every evening I went for an hour along with the others. And though I went for three successive nights, it was with such a sense of weakness, frailty, exhaustion, and distraction, that it was more like marking time in the chapel than true adoration. Each time I had to force myself to come.
But on the fourth evening something peculiar happened. Suddenly, deep in my heart, I felt the desire to fix my gaze on the Host and not to lose sight of it, despite the distractions. After an hour or so, I no longer felt the pain in my knees and back. I began to experience a mysterious light. I felt its brightness tearing the film of impurity from my eyes, refreshing my gaze, washing me clean of all the filth, all the impurity that had built up in in the running wounds of my heart, and then healing them slowly — but with power. After another hour, during which I could feel God’s closeness almost palpably, I began to desire Him alone. He was all I needed.
Though I did not understand what was happening, I felt sure that it was for this very reason — for this very experience — that I had come here. Indeed, I had lived to this moment just to experience this grace. Increasingly stirred by this experience, I felt a strong desire to touch the monstrance. I asked the nun kneeling next to me if I could do this. On receiving an affirmative reply, I approached the monstrance, knelt down and, trembling and weeping with joy, asked God to heal my soul and restrain my bodily passions. Then I touched Him. Immediately I felt the power of his permeating presence flow into me. It felt as if He had emptied a whole barrel of love into my heart. I thought of that woman in the Gospels who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. Even so did the power come out of Him. I held on for a while longer and then let go of the One to Whom for a moment my soul had clung with all the strength of its being.
I know all this sounds very strange and improbable. Being a realist, I can understand that someone reading this might have reasonable doubts; however, deep down I really feel that I was healed. Glory to God, Who listened to me in my affliction:
“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the Lord; the lowly will hear me and be glad.
Glorify the Lord with me; let us together extol His name!
I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
And your faces may not blush with shame.
When the afflicted man called out, the Lord heard,
And from all his distress he saved him.
The angel of the Lord encamps
Around those who fear Him
And delivers them.
Taste and see how good the Lord is;
Happy the man who takes refuge in Him.”
(Ps 34, 1-9)
Luke, aged 18
The above article was published with permission from Miłujcie się! in November 2010