Sunday, December 17, 2006

Who am I? (August '86)

In August '86 I was continuing with my routine of work and giving classes. Every day that passed my desire to know God grew stronger but inside I was still divided: I wanted to know the truth... and yet I didn't want. The sins of my previous lifestyle weighed heavily upon me, because to encounter the truth would mean giving up certain habits. And, as things stood at present, I wasn't willing to.
When I dithered in deciding to serve God, which already for some time I wanted to do, I found that only I was the cause of the delay. I didn't fully want to but I wasn't able to give up the desire to serve God - I was fighting with myself, and destroying myself. Inside I would say, 'Come on, now! Now!', but when I was at the point of making a commitment I held back. It was as if the old pleasures were drawing me towards them, whispering in my ear: "What? You're leaving us? We won't ever be with you again... never? ... never? You won't be able to do this any more, nor that..." They would say, "What? You think you can live without us? You?!"
When I looked around I saw that many of my friends had changed their way of life. Why shouldn't I be able to do the same?

I began to understand that they had been able to change their lives thanks to the power of God, and that by ourselves we couldn't even stay standing upright. I had to rely on God. Only then would I be able to change... But even so I kept hearing within me the insinuating voices of base pleasures: "Are you going to be able to live without us...? You?!"

One day I was chatting with a friend in a garden. Like me he was in the process of converting. I couldn't contain myself and erupted: "Can't you see what sort of life we're living and how different it is from the Christians? And here we are just stuck in the mire, wallowing in the flesh and in every sort of spectacle. Are we never going to be like them just because we're too ashamed to say we've been wrong?"

My friend was shocked, but I was decided to resolve my situation once and for all. We left the garden, still talking about what had become of my life. I had a copy of the New Testament. I put it down and suddenly I began to cry. For the first time in my life I started to pray: "When will I come to a decision Lord? Don't hold my sins against me. Tell me, Lord, how long will I continue like this? How long will I put things off until tomorrow? Why not today? Why not right now, let me put all my miseries behind me!".

As I was praying these words I heard the voice of a little boy calling out from a nearby house: "Take it. Read it! Take it. Read it!". Take and read. God was making use of this little boy to tell me something. I picked up the book and opened it at random. In silence I read the following words:
"Don't continue with those who feast and get drunk; give up impurity; leave behind your fights and arguments. Vest yourself in our Lord Jesus Christ and no longer be consumed by the flesh and its desires".

I closed the book. This was my response. I didn't want to read any further. It wasn't necessary because it was as if my heart had been filled with an overwhelming light that overcame all the shadows of my doubts. When I came back down to earth a bit I told my friend who wanted to see what I had read. I showed him, but he fixed on the next sentence of the passage: Welcome the man whose faith is weak.

After that we went in to see my mother. We told her everything and she was filled with joy. We told her how it had all taken place and she danced for joy, singing and praising God. She said that God had granted her what she had constantly asked for over many years in her prayers and with her tears: my conversion. A few months later, at the Easter Vigil, I was baptised along with my friend and my son.

Years later, reflecting on the beauty of Truth and in love with Jesus Christ, I wrote:
"Late have I loved Thee, Beauty so ancient and yet so new.
Late have I loved Thee!
Thou wast within me but I searched for Thee without...
I threw myself like a wild beast at the beautiful things thou hast made.
Thou wert at my side, but I was far from Thee.
These things had me a slave.
Thou disdst call to me. Thou didst shout out to me.
And in the end Thou didst overcome my deafness.
Thou didst shine before me and so freed me from my blindness.
I smelt your sweet perfume and I did desire Thee.
I savouredThy presence, I consumed and drank of Thee.
Thou didst touch me and enfolded me in Thy peace".

Thanks to God my prayer and that of my mother had been heard. Seeking the truth without fear and reading the Gospels I found the great key to meaning in my life: I found Christ and, with him, peace. I was able to say to God my Father, on meeting him again, with the joy of a son who comes home having been away for many years, and from the depths of my soul, some words that you will probably recognise:

"Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee".


Augustinus said...

It's my namesake, St Augustine of Hippo, as I suggested in my response to 'Who am I (7)' and as someone else has also suggested. No doubt about it.

Anonymous said...

I'm still out here - the same old anonymous who said it's St A of H all the way along.........I am a great fan of his. Are you prolonging this Father just so I have to say extra prayers each time to St A for his intercession on the success of your work? As I say a prayer each time you post on this....below a favourite from The City of God Book 10 Chapter 6.

"Thus a true sacrifice is every work which is done that we may be united to God in holy fellowship, and which has a reference to that supreme good and end in which alone we can be truly blessed. And therefore even the mercy we show to men, if it is not shown for God's sake, is not a sacrifice. For, though made or offered by man, sacrifice is a divine thing, as those who called it sacrifice meant to indicate. Thus man himself, consecrated in the name of God, and vowed to God, is a sacrifice in so far as he dies to the world that he may live to God.".....a nice quote for these last penitential days of Advent but also for those considering vocation.

Fr Stephen said...

Hi Anonymous,
Sorry to keep you hanging on...
I'll do a post on who our mystery person is. :o)