Maybe it is only in the moments of being driven into a corner, trapped, with no one to help you, when you realize that, in the end, you only have God.
Original Post from Humans of Santa Clara University
Thao ‘16, School of Engineering
“After witnessing two incidents of corruption, one from leadership at my local parish and another from a teacher in high school, I entered Santa Clara University hoping to re-establish my faith. My first professor here, Sam Conedera, was kind, patient, caring, approachable, and supportive. With each conversation we had, my faith slowly renewed. On these stairs two years ago, I asked him to pray for me. He gently smiled and said, ‘Yes, I will pray for you.’ A week later during office hours, I asked if he had prayed for me. He answered, ‘Yes, I did and I will continue to do so.’ Sam was a huge part of my faith journey. I hope to be a guide like him to others on their faith journey, especially to the kids at my Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Group.”
Apr 16, 2015
I tried to pray for someone who has betrayed and deeply hurt me. Someone who constantly lied to me despite the many times I gave my trust over and over again. Someone who bad-mouthed me behind my back and right in front of my face.
With great pain and sadness, I asked, “Why?”
And then I heard:
[…] “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
He asked, “Who are you, Lord?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. […]”
-Acts 9: 4-5 (NRSVCE), The Conversion of Saul
I felt a sense of peace as I came back and recognized the Eucharist in front of me.
I was urged to have confession and so I did. It was the first time I was having confession at this church. The line was so long. When it was finally my turn, I said everything that I was advised to confess. The priest in the confessional questioned my sins and basically roasted me for my sins. Confused and filled with rage, I cried. I did not understand why the priest was making me feel worse about my sins when I had already felt terrible about them. I cried for a long time in the confessional and continued having tears in my eyes and tears rolling down my cheeks as I walked out. I finally understood why some people only have confession with a specific priest.
I don’t know if I ever want to have confession ever again.
A couple of weeks later, I had confession with my spiritual director during the 4-day Ignatian Silent Retreat. I specifically chose him to have confession with because, by now, he knew me and I figured he probably would not roast me (or at least not as badly) as the previous priest.
This confession was vastly different from my previous confession.
He did not roast me at all.
Instead, he showed me God’s love and mercy. As he spoke, I felt God comforting me. My spiritual director treated me with kindness and compassion. I cried not because of shame or anger this time, but because my heart was touched by God’s loving embrace. My spiritual director gave me a penance that no other priest had given me before and the penance was one that revealed God’s love.
I think I only want to have confession with this priest from now on.
But I know that’s not possible.
I realized that I was not alone in my suffering.
Song of the Cross · Susan HooKong-Taylor · Ana Da Costa
“Love lifted on the cross for me:
my Lord, my God, my salvation.
Love lifted high to set me free:
my Lord, my God, my salvation.
When I first heard this song, my heart ached. I was not sure why.
I saw myself kneeling below the cross at Golgotha. Was it because I was finally bringing the burdens of my heart to Jesus?
Involuntarily, tears began to fall. There were no words to describe my feelings.
A long time ago, my uncle once told me that the rosary is your “weapon.”
At first, I thought it was meant to be a “weapon” against external evils. Now, I know that it could also be a “weapon” against the voice that tells me that I’m not enough.
Any kind of personal growth is very difficult to measure yourself. Thus, it was very helpful when my spiritual director told me that he sees the changes in me. The growth from the day he first met me, the first spiritual direction meeting outside retreat, to the meeting on my birthday. Each time he has seen me, I have healed a bit more.
I trust my spiritual director. There are times when I get so impatient with myself, but he reminds me that I am still healing, especially because of the traumatic events that have happened not too long ago. He pulls me back onto the boat so that my faith can grow stronger before I go walking on the water.
But for now, I am more than enough.
“When you pray the rosary, what do you pray for?”
“… I always pray for Fr. XXX and-”
“Fr. XXX XXXXXXXX?” he asked, almost surprised, leaning in to be sure if he heard correctly.
He withdrew, put his head down, held his hands together, and said with a very gentle smile, “Us priest really appreciate prayers.”
It’s moments like these that I am reminded of how important prayer really is.
After a long day, I sat down where we sat before inside Our Lady of Peace Church. Everything I was holding inside my heart spilled into tears I did not know I was holding. I kneeled and clung onto the rosary necklace and prayed, hoping that praying the rosary will calm me. However, the tears kept coming and I did not know what to do to make them stop. I texted a friend with no expectation he would respond any time soon, but he did. I felt as if I was frantically running through a rainstorm and finally able to find a tree for shelter and to rest under.
We talked on the phone while the rain beat down on my car. Towards the end of the conversation, I was laughing. Now, I feel free. Thank you.
Looking back at this incident, I think maybe God answered my prayer.