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"What they know that I don't" by Monica Portogallo (CatholicMom.com) Image credit: Pixabay.com (2016), CC0/PD[/caption] Several years ago, I helped lead a confirmation retreat. I was in charge of facilitating small group discussions with a group of teenage girls, and giving a witness talk in the evening before Adoration. I had a bit of a block when it came to preparing my witness talk, so as we drove up to the retreat house, I prayed for God to show me what I needed to talk about. Soon after we got there, I overheard a sophomore named Raul say to his friend next to him, “I really don’t believe in all this. I am just getting confirmed because my parents want me to.” Suddenly, I knew what I needed to say. That night, I got up and said, “I know some of you are here because your parents are making you, and you don’t really believe yourself.” I went on to tell the story of why I believe. 

My conversion of heart

When I was in seventh grade, we studied Judaism in history class. There was a line in my textbook that said something like, “Judaism was created in 3000 BC.” The word “created” jumped out at me. It made it sound like Judaism was made up. And if Judaism was an invention, then wasn’t Christianity, which arose from it, also made up? For the first time in my life, I had real doubts about my faith. Yet, I saw the priests and nuns at my school who had devoted their whole lives to God, and I wondered what they knew that I didn’t know. So I started praying daily, asking God to show Himself to me, if He did indeed exist. This went on for a few months. I still went to church and went on as normal, but inside I was confused. That summer after seventh grade, my grandma died. I was one of the altar servers at her funeral. During the Eucharistic prayer, I got what I had asked for. I had a supernatural experience of God. I felt God’s presence in such a real way that I knew without a doubt He is as real as the clothes that I am wearing right now. My life has never been the same since then. I went on to share about the struggles I had with anxiety and depression, but because I knew God’s love, I never gave in to the temptation to despair and turned to God for support. I encouraged them to invite God to reveal Himself to them if they are struggling with doubts. I learned years after my experience as a 12-year-old that God does not refuse such requests from those who seek Him with a sincere and open heart. 

The Lesson for Me

Later that night during Adoration, I heard Raul whisper, “Monica!” and saw him waving to me. I came over to pray with him, but he said, “I have a question.” I told him to go ahead, and he asked, “What does God think of sinners?” I was caught off guard, and said the first honest thing I could think of: “He loves them.” He then went on to whisper to me about how he was struggling with a particular sin, and was scared to believe because he thought God hated him. I talked about how God hates sin but loves sinners. I told him there is a difference between temptation and sin, and talked about how God could give him strength. I offered him prayers and hugs, and he gladly accepted both. Then, for the rest of Adoration, I pondered this interaction. I still think of it often years later. When people are hostile or close-minded toward God, they often have a fear or a hurt that is the main obstacle. One of the best things we can do is show people the peace and healing that God wants to give us if we let Him. It may be the most effective evangelization tool we have.
Copyright 2020 Monica Portogallo