Walk in His ways
Today's two scripture verses have helped me to reflect on my conversion, and so, I wish to share something very spiritually intimate with you... a moment I realised I had found my faith: The Hour I first Believed. The purpose of me sharing this with you is not to give you a literal explanation of my overwhelming experience, but instead share with you what I thought and felt when I realised I truly believed; thus acknowledging God's gift of faith, which links very much to today's reflections. For me, the overwhelming experience (what Brother John Bosco CFR described to me as a Baptism of the Holy Spirit), and my conversion (the hour I first believed), happened on different occasions, and I pray that sharing my recollection on my blog might in some way help others to open their hearts to the possibility that they too will discover, accept and believe the Truth that is through Christ Jesus.
Firstly, I would not wish to go on before you have read today's Bible reflections - the Word of God is quintessentially above any word of mine, and is what gives me the strength to share with you.
Ezekiel 36:26-27: A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.
Acts 1:8: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Lord, be with me as I share this intimate moment. I wish always to proclaim your Truth and Glory.
I was lost in wonder and joy at the awesomeness that had filled me about 3 days before it really hit me that I truly believed. I could not tell you that I placed the word 'conversion' as one to describe this beautiful experience - for I did not recognise until months later that my life had been made new, and that I had experienced a conversion. All I could say to describe the realisation, was that I truly believed.
On Tuesday 13th July, which was the 22nd day of my way on El Camino according to my diary, I had already begun to recognise that there are forces at work which could not be explained as anything other than holy. My healing, for example. By the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I received a grace in which I registered some presence urging me to continue and to persevere through the pain, because something is going to happen to me. Something is waiting for me. Something big. From the time of my physical healing (which was temporary - but not without purpose), my deeper senses were awakened, and I began to register a great presence - an ethereal and powerful presence all around me, before me, behind me, inside me. It was everywhere, and it was radiating an energy that cannot be considered kinetic.
In the morning, I had set off from Astorga at my normal time... dawn. It did not feel like any special day in particular, and I had already prayed one rosary, which I dedicated to Pope Benedict XVI and to Roselyn & Forgiveness. In my diary entry for the day, I wrote:
"Today was a true revelation! Jesus said: 'I am the Way, the Truth and the Life - no-one can come to the Father except through me.' This way - this Camino - is the way to God - through Jesus. I was revealed this when [after] I popped into this little Church at about 7:30am. It was opened, called Ecce Homo, and there was this highly unusual stations thing they had. Rather than stations of the cross, it was stations of a pilgrimage to Santiago. The stations are a way. Today's focus was mostly on our Saviour Lord Jesus Christ, how I need to live and behave more like him."
As you can see, my diary is quite factual, and somewhat cold, but I wrote with the need to document my journey in haste, as sometimes, there is no time to write much before the sun goes down that day. I will paint a fuller picture now.
The sun was in the later stages of rising, and as with every day of El Camino, it didn't rain (except for about 5 minutes). Before approaching Ecce Homo, my mind was pre-occupied with trying to keep a good pace of walk, as I wanted to reach my destination, 20km away, in good time. But something great was calling me to visit the chapel Ecce Homo. It wasn't necessarily an attractive building on the outside, and I could have quite easily have missed it if I hadn't been drawn to the Chapel by something very powerful. I entered the chapel, two pilgrims were leaving then there was only myself and the person who keeps watch there. The chapel owners obviously cared for the pilgrim very much, because they made a true and honest effort to bring pilgrims closer to God in a way that didn't exist anywhere else on El Camino. The guardian of the chapel urging me to take something into my hands. It was a small folded leaflet titled 'The Way of Santiago, real symbol of the Way of Life. Five stations of the Way of Life.' Before unfolding it, I sat down to pray, giving my Love to God in thanksgiving that I was still walking the Way of St. James. After some time, I opened the leaflet up to some description, images, scripture and prayer on 5 stations, which I didn't quite understand as I'd never seen anything like it before, but understood as soon as I spotted the first station in physical form before the Sanctuary. The first station was a candle, the name given to the station being 'You receive the Holy Spirit'. The candle was not a beeswax candle, but a glass candle consisting of a base, a top, and 7 different colour blocks. The description was as follows: 'The candle reminds you that the Holy Spirit, who, flowing from Christ, surrounds all your person. He, who is Love, arrives to the heart of the believer, especially in the seven sacraments'. In a box on the leaflet was, in red writing, 'The Holy Spirit, the Love, the Light of Christ, may lead your steps'. The scripture said, "All were filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4). And the prayer was:
'Blessed be the Holy Spirit, who, in the Catholic Church informs and prepares the believer to achieve the Resurrection of the Body, the fullness of the person, the fraternal communion and communion with the Holy Trinity. The forgiveness of sins and everlasting life... Blessed be for ever Lord. I walk... this is my faith. We proclaim our faith, in the way of blessing to give evidence of the ineffable happiness of being a believer. We begin praising the Hoy Spirit, because He enables us to discover the risen Jesus, and, in this way, we are transformed by Him. We walk toward the communion with the Father. In God who is One and Trinity, it happens... the fullness of freedom and communion.'
I prayed and pondered at every station.
Second station: You meet Mary.
Third station: You talk to Jesus.
Fourth sation: You contemplate and live the Resurrection of Jesus.
Fifth station: You walk toward the full Communion with the Holy Trinity.
After I had made all my stations, I knelt (kneeling was still difficult for me at this stage as my knees were still only healing, still very sore) and prayed, offering all the graces I received on El Camino to the Lord, and thanking Him for the love and care that I knew had gone to this Chapel to help every pilgrim on their journey to God. I exited the Chapel after putting about 3 Euros into the pot, and I had also put the little folded leaflet away into my pouch, walking onward without feeling any particular change than when I entered into the Ecce Homo chapel. I believe I remember there being a diversion on the marked way of El Camino though, so I think, for the first time, I was taken out of the path that was intended for us pilgrims - this made me feel a little uncomfortable. So then perhaps about 45 minutes after I had left the Chapel, I stopped in my tracks, and my heart skipped a beat, because my soul was filled with the great words from John 14:6. The Light and Truth of this revelation dwelt and settled in the very depths of my soul. In that moment, El Camino was no longer just 'The Way of Saint James', or a pilgrimage. It was so much more than that to me. It was God's gift to me - a path that would begin my spiritual Way to God the Father in Christ His Son, through the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit. To this day, the words of this passage are like a re-ignition of the flame in my heart for the Holy Trinity - and I rejoice everytime I think about them, hear or read them. It was that moment I became His witness, and was no longer lost.
Little did I know that the verse following John 14: 6 says "If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him". I did not see Jesus with my own eyes at that point, but I knew that I had seen him in my heart, and from that moment on, I knew what it was to believe.
I share this, so that you may believe - for you are also blessed. "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" [John 20:29]