I was born in Chile, however I grew up in Miami, Florida. Like most Hispanics, our home was a Catholic home, mostly in a cultural sense rather than in practice. We attended Mass every Sunday with my father. At around the age of sixteen I began to drift away from my Catholic faith. I saw no point to my faith. It was an obligation empty of any meaning. I soon left the Church and declared myself an atheist.
At eighteen years of age, Hurricane Andrew devastated my hometown. Just a few months later on October 20, 1992, I had a near fatal car accident. I went back to Church briefly but the seeds of faith fell on rocky soil. For the next nine years I went back and forth, attending Mass mostly when I “needed” God.
At the age of about twenty-six, with little to no faith, my life began to feel empty and pointless. I went to work, paid my bills, had fun on the weekends, and then did it all over again on Monday. I felt alone and a void in my heart began to grow. I tried filling it with experiences and pleasures but the emptiness just festered. I found myself with nowhere to turn.
One night, in 2001, while living with a friend of mine, I found myself alone. The emptiness was so poignant that I just broke down sobbing. I longed for something, however I did not know what it was. The desolation was all encompassing.
I fell to my knees in anguish and cried out to God, ‘Lord, this is not me! Please help me!’ It was on that day, after many years of turning away from God, that I began to pray. It was probably my first earnest prayer to God in my life.
Something changed in me that evening. The darkness that had been closing in on me began to dissipate quickly. I started to sever toxic friendships. I visited any Catholic Church I could find. I was drawn to the Church and did not really understand why. However, I did know that it was the only place in which I could pray deeply and find peace.
About six months later, on Saturday afternoon on October 20, 2001, I was shopping. As I was perusing the aisles I slowly felt a sense of urgency growing in my heart. I didn’t understand it. All of a sudden, I put everything down, I briskly walked to my car and drove to my old parish. I walked into the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and began to pray.
I arrived at 3:45 p.m. Unbeknownst to me, it was the scheduled time for weekly confessions. I was sitting in the chapel trying to pray when I began to hear a voice inside of my heart saying, “Go to confession!” I hesitated and was paralyzed with fear. I didn’t even remember how to go to confession! The priest would laugh at me. I hadn’t gone to confession since my First Holy Communion, nearly twenty years earlier.
I was the only one left in the chapel and I had to make a decision. Like a child I walked towards the confessional, cringing in fear. I sat in the empty chair and did not dare make eye contact with the priest. The immensity of shame from offending God all those years suddenly became acute and too heavy to bear. I blurted out ‘I haven't done this in a long time. I need your help!’ I felt awkward and uncomfortable.
Fr. Albert said in a gentle voice, ‘Just tell the Lord your sins. How have you offended God?’ And on that day I unloaded the great weight I had been carrying for so long. One by one, I named my sins! I cried cleansing tears that soon turned into healing sobs.
I then felt another prompting, ‘Look at him! Look at him!’ However, I could not stand to look at the priest. I was still so ashamed. What would he think? I was pitiful! Yet, I finally looked up and saw that Fr. Albert was weeping! He wept for my sins. When I glanced up once more, I no longer saw Fr. Albert but now saw the face of Jesus! On that very day, in that dreaded confessional, I met Jesus Christ, who forgave my sins!
Father then encouraged me to go to a Eucharistic adoration Chapel. I had no idea what it was, but I went anyway. I visited the chapel and realized that it was on the same campus of a parish-school I had worked for briefly, years prior. When I walked in, like St. Paul, the scales fell from my eyes! I saw Jesus! So many years before, in that same same chapel, I had been blind. Now I could see Jesus!
This began a journey of love and deep friendship with Jesus. I would spend many hours in that very chapel. I was drawn to Him like a magnet to a pole. Whatever was happening in my life, good or bad, I would come to Him and talk to him, heart to heart.
The sacraments became a part of my daily life and still are today. I wanted to stay close to His Heart. My love of the Church grew deeper. In 2004, I moved to Rome, Italy to study Theology. I received a scholarship to study at the Pontifical Lateran University. There, I more deeply discovered the beauty of the Church. I was blessed to live there at the end of the great Saint John Paul II’s papacy.
Almost a year after I moved to Rome, our beloved St. Pope John Paul II died. A few days later, I received a phone call that would mark my life forever. I was asked to be a Spanish lector at his funeral Mass. It was St. Pope John Paul II at his last World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada who confirmed my love for the Church and my desire for holiness. He had made the goal of holiness seem attainable and exciting.
On April 8, 2005, St. Peter’s Square was filled with pilgrims from all over the world. Looking out onto the square, I could not help but think of how just four short years earlier I was living in such hopelessness. Jesus had looked past my sins and instead looked at me with love and called me to greater things. That longing of my heart for something more had been Jesus Himself!
In the years to come I taught theology, married my now-husband of almost eleven years, and came to live in Rochester, MI along with our three young children. Together, we share the adventure of living a life rooted in Christ. We also co-founded a classical high school in the Catholic intellectual tradition right here in Metro Detroit, called Chesterton Academy of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
I still go to adoration whenever I can. It is still in His Presence that I feel most free. I sit there, gazing upon Jesus in the Eucharist as He, in turn, gazes upon me. I do not have to do anything in adoration. I am able to just sit and be. I feel free to just ‘be’ and not have to ‘do’. I know that God loves me for who I am and in that I find peace.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and always!
Experience it for Yourself
Jesus is truly present. Jesus is always with you. Sit in his presence and open yourself up to his voice.