It’s not often that I recollect a real-life happening upon the great expanse of Internet. That’s the sort of thing I usually prefer to reserve for conversation. But this is a special case, for I – sinful, off-white, American, average-kid-of-little-faith and public-school graduate – experienced a miracle, and I share it with you now so that your faith might increase.
I was in Madrid, Spain, attending the awesome event known as World Youth Day, when, so caught up was I in the spirit of our rich and profound religion, Monday morning found me checking Facebook. Amidst a lack of friend requests and an excess of invitations to play poker, there was a message from my very best friend who I sometimes kiss, Elaine Golden, who draws for VirtuousPlanet.
I recall it here, using my very best literary skills:
The initial reaction to this was ‘woah’, followed by, I have to go to Salamanca. I pulled it up on Google Maps: it was two hours away. Luckily – or rather, accordingly – it was the last day my group was in possession of a rental car, and thus the freedom to up and drive to Salamanca. So I asked the leader of our group if we could go. He said yes, after some slight hesitation over whether we all should go,or just he and I. We left with him and one other.
On drive up, we prayed a rosary. As I was mumbling through ‘thy womb Jesus’, at the word ‘Jesus’ a Very Strange Thing happened. Do you know that feeling of head-heaviness unique to boring homilies? You’re sitting in the pew, looking intent and thoughtful over the priest’s comparison of Jesus to a butterfly, your neck bowed, hands folded, when suddenly your head does a little bob, you black out for a nanosecond, and then you’re back, looking around uncomfortably to see if the lady in the chapel veil to you right of you noticed. Do you know the phenomena of which I speak? Good, because it’s the closest feeling I can associate with, on the word ‘Jesus’, seeing nothing but the bloodied feet of Christ nailed to the cross, and feeling a repulsion, my voice saying “I don’t want to kiss them,” and then being back in the car in time to say ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God…”
On to Salamanca. What a beautiful place, full of peace and cool shade. We parked by the The Church of St. Steven, and walked up. The first thing we came across was an enclave into a small garden, with a door on the wall that looked to lead into some sort of housing. This was not the place. It seems necessary to describe my state of mind at this point; it was not a good one. I felt – first of all – very nervous. Walking was pushing my way through liquid, fear worked against me. But worse than that was the sense of expectation I carried, the sense that I had to find the right thing, the right person, the right room. That I was in charge. It was an enormous pressure, and I must have looked a fool, checking locked doors and walking slowly past Dominicans, making sure they weren’t saying some profound words I needed to hear. I went into the sacristy and washed my hands where countless priests have before me. It was not the place. I walked slowly through the museum. It was not the place. Almost an hour passed like this, full of stress.
Luckily – or thankfully – I became aware of my state of mind. I realized, in somewhat of an exhale, that if God had gone out of his way to give my girlfriend a vision, then his purpose and design could not – and would not – be foiled by my inability to find the right door. I was there for a purpose, and He would see that purpose carried out. So I left the church.
That sounded drastic; I walked out of the church of St. Stephen, and began to walk around it instead. I started repeating the words ‘Jesus, I trust in you’; not in any sort of display of piety, but because I knew that I didn’t trust Him, and had the idea that the vocal repetition of theory could lead to some praxis. I was saying it out loud – the mood was somewhat manic – and I scared some perfectly innocent Salamancians on my walk. But I do remember there was a moment – perhaps from nothing more than self-hypnosis or some mind-over-matter phenomenon – when I really did trust Him. I remember the moment well because I started laughing at myself. Here I was, in a panic over what would happen, when the God of the Universe had ordained my visit. He Who’s Word Is My Existence called me, and I was worried I’d screw it up. (What false power we give ourselves when we try to carry God’s responsibilities.)
It was in looking up from this moment that, having made one full lap around the church, I arrived back where I’d started. I was back at the enclave, the small garden. But now my mind-frame was completely different, and something stayed me there. I looked through the window and saw a priest; always a good sign. He was talking to a man – a boy, really – who caught my eye and opened the locked door. “What are you from?” he said.
“Long story actually…”
“No, what are you from?”
He let me in. The first thing I noticed was that someone was speaking English, which made me want to stay. The next thing I noticed was that it was a girl giving her confession to a priest, which made me want to leave. So, not knowing where I was going, but not wanting to overhear someone’s confession, I stumbled away and to the right. And there was Jesus.
Oh, my brain said.
It was adoration. There were some twenty young Americans in worship, their voices ringing in beautiful harmony in the stone chapel I had walked into. God was laughing. He was laughing because I’d been to adoration before – many times, in fact – and so He called me to Himself in the most strange and wonderful fashion, merely to open my eyes to this truth; that adoration is always strange and wonderful.
Having arrived there the way I did, I could not take the event for granted. I knelt. I had no walls built up around my heart, no inhibitions or self-deception. How could I, when the Lord had taken me by storm, when I had been ambushed by His grace? And what grace! I won’t bother you with the personal confirmations, affirmations, words and songs that were given to me. Suffice to say that I wept throughout.
Then came a series of awesome events. We prayed the rosary; it was the Feast of the Assumption.
A thought came: you know the person to your right.
No I don’t.
You do. Look.
I looked. There was Jackie Francois, a worship leader and speaker I knew, and have helped lead a Diocesan Youth Conference with. She caught my eye, and I jumped, feeling extraordinarily creepy; the look of amazement and wonder on my face must have been flattering or – much more likely – overtly awkward.
Then there was Mass. The homily was on the devotion to our Lady. The priest spoke about the Consecration to Mary by the way of Louis de Montfort. I am consecrated to Mary by that way. He said the consecration would lead its members to strange places. I nodded.
I stayed afterwards. The priest blessed me and for no reason – or rather, in accordance with The Reason – he baptized me in the Holy Spirit. My body jumped within me; there’s no real good way to describe that besides dropping a toaster in your bathtub.
God is still revealing to me the depth and breadth of that experience. But what I ask you to take away from it now is threefold. First of all, be confident that miracles do happen! Secondly, trust God above all things. It is only when we don’t care about receiving miracles that miracles happen. It is only when we resign ourselves to the will of God that we allow God to do amazing things within us. Trust, trust, trust. Even when it just means repeating words to yourself. Even when it comes down to ritual. Always trust. And thirdly, consecrate yourself to Our Lady. She is lovely.