|06/07/2009 Faith journeys discover new destinations|
Christian tourists in the land of Islam
by Chiara Zappa
In 1977 I was 31 years old, a priest for five years and spiritual director at Maryglade College PIME seminary in Detroit, Michigan, USA.
The PIME Superiors asked me to guide the seminarians who completed their college studies into the year of spirituality as a preparation to take the initial promise into the PIME Institute.
In order to prepare myself to such a task I asked the U.S PIME regional superior permission to take a thirty day Ignatian retreat at La Colombiere Jesuit retreat house.
After the first 10 days of retreat the director told me:"Adrian, you haven't started your retreat yet. You are writing papers and instructions for the seminarians you are going to lead in the year of spirituality; you are not looking into your relationship with Jesus. As you meditate on the scripture passage try to be present to all the people and feel what they feel.
The following days I made an effort to see what relationship I had with Jesus, but I felt that I and Jesus had no relationship. I was as if in a glass room. I could see Jesus healing, forgiving, welcoming, teaching people, feeling love and compassion for the prostitute, for Zaccheus for Peter, for the good thief, but I did not feel any contact with Jesus. This went on for many days to the point that I was terribly upset about my lack of any feeling for Jesus and the inability to feel anything from Jesus. I concluded that I never had any knowledge of Jesus. I was going crazy... shouting in the woods surrounding the retreat house: "Ahh!...Ahhh!... I don't know Jesus... I have never known Jesus... I don't believe in Jesus. How is this possible? I was born in a catholic family...I entered the seminary when I was 11... I have always behaved well......I was loved by the superiors and by many people.... I preached about Jesus... I thought about Jesus .... I said mass every day... Then I prayed:"The Lord Is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want....",but in my heart I realized that I did not believe what my lips were saying. I told my director about all these feelings... He replied:"Even Saint Paul did not believe in Jesus, but then he believed". This even brought more despair to me... "Am I a Pharisee?.. I am a reformer of the church... I belong to the movement of the 1968 students' revolution ..."Ahhh... Ahhh..."
At the same time all the sins of my past life were coming back to my mind and bothering me a lot...it was as if I never confessed those sins... as if I was never forgiven even thought I went to confession.... "Ahhh... Ahhh..."
It was the 22nd day of the retreat when I was pondering all these distressing thoughts. I was in the woods when suddenly the sky became dark with clouds, there were loud thunders and striking lightening with a strong wind. Drops of rain began to fall. I ran back to the house, I entered the small chapel and I sat on the floor and fell asleep.
I was awaken by a bright light and a loud voice saying:" I LOVE YOU"
I woke up and, confused, as I was, I said:" And what about my sins?" A loud voice came immediately :" I LOVE YOU WITH YOUR SINS"
I was confused, surprised and happy at the same time but did not understand the meaning of the event. That same night I had a dream. I was in an old abandoned house. This house was filled with old useless junk. I began to clean up the place by throwing all those useless things through a window into a big river.