A miracle brought me back to the Catholic Church in March 2017. It happened in a split second. I was sitting on my meditation cushion, legs crossed, eyes closed, breathing in, breathing out. I was in despair about how I was to attain enlightenment. I had been reading the sutras (and commentaries by Buddhist scholars), but to my disappointment, there were many parts of the sutras which the scholars could not understand, or of which they were unsure. I asked myself: if they don’t understand it, how am I supposed to figure it out? And if I don’t attain Nirvana, which is the whole point of Buddhist practice, what then? What happens to me when I die? If I can’t understand the sutras, which are the foundation of Buddhism, and especially the Lankavatara Sutra, which points the direct way to Nirvana, what’s my life about? What do I do now?
I had been tormented by thoughts like these for more than a year since I started reading the Lankavatara sutra with commentary by the late D.T. Suzuki, a highly esteemed Buddhist scholar. The text itself is very difficult to understand, hence the need for lengthy commentaries. But Professor Suzuki admits, in many parts of the sutra, that he is unsure about the meaning of the text. If the great Professor Suzuki doesn’t know, what chance do I have? Maybe I am exceptionally stupid. Maybe I need to sit longer on my cushion with an empty headspace.
Background: I was baptised in the Catholic Church and went to a private girls’ Catholic school from 4th grade until the end of high school. The nuns at my school were strict and I got a fine Catholic education. Later I went into science, then the law. From the end of my high school years until 2000, I led a life of extreme selfishness and material ambition. In 2000, I got into Buddhism because I was very unhappy. I had reached the pinnacle of my profession and I was totally miserable. So I joined a Buddhist sangha, started meditating, and went to retreats. I read a lot of Buddhist teachings, especially the sutras. This is where I found myself on that day in March 2017.
The moment I felt the presence of Our Lord
I will never forget that day in March 2017. There I was, sitting on my cushion, my soul in deep torment, because I had been going round and round in circles for such a long time, for many years actually, and I was so exhausted and out of hope.
Suddenly, I sensed a person enter my room and sit down next to me. My eyes were closed, but I could really feel someone was there. It was Christ. He said: “Rest.”
How did I know it was Our Lord? I just knew.
I felt enveloped by a peace I had never had in my life. After wandering around and searching for so long, I could finally rest my tired soul in the arms of God.
What else happened in that split second? I understood, intellectually and spiritually (deep in my bones), that what the Catholic Church has taught through the ages, is TRUE.
Why is this a miracle?
Because it is so improbable and it happened in a split second. If you had told me, a second before that moment, that I would believe, really believe, in the teachings of the Catholic Church and come back after 40 years away, I would have told you that you were crazy, that it was an impossibility. I had not given the Church a single thought for decades, except to ridicule it. By it, I mean its teachings, Our Lady, the saints, its leaders through the ages, and faithful Catholics themselves. Yes, dear reader, I find myself astounded that I am now one of those people whom I used to ridicule.
Nothing like this has ever happened to me. What makes it remarkable is that I can still see and feel that moment as if it had occurred just a minute ago. It remains vivid: the real person of Christ, a physical presence, coming noiselessly into my room, and sitting down next to me delivering a message: “Stop your useless wandering around and rest in me. I am here to bring you peace.”
I am one of the sheep brought back to the fold by the Good Shepherd.
Why me? I had the life of a typical ambitious person in the West, focused solely on the things of this world: money, physical pleasures, honours. I had led such a terrible sinful life, ignoring my duties to my parents, using people for my own selfish ends, uttering all kinds of blasphemies, even telling my friends that I did not believe in God. I was the last person on earth to whom I would even consider such a thing to happen.
But it did happen. One cannot fathom the mercy of Our Lord because we ourselves have such trouble forgiving others. We keep grudges. Yet, Our Lord himself comes to rescue me, a terrible sinner, who thought herself beyond redemption. Why me? I don’t deserve it. There are many other people who deserve Our Lord’s intervention, people who have sacrificed themselves for their families and communities, people who lived up to their duties, who didn’t complain even though they had difficult lives. It remains a mystery to me.
When I rose from my meditation cushion on that morning, I plunged myself into prayer (the Rosary) and reading – catching up with my Catholic faith – which I abandoned so long ago (the first thing I read to refresh my memory is the Catechism of Saint Pius X). I thought that I would lose steam and go back to my old ways over time, but that has not happened. More than a year after the miracle on my cushion, I pray much more (one or two of the Divine Office everyday). I have been praying the Rosary every day. That’s another remarkable thing. As soon as I decided to come back to the Church, a message flashed in my mind: pray the Rosary. I haven’t missed a day.
In the next few posts, I will describe the long process of getting re-acquainted with the Church’s teachings, going to Confession and Communion, and deepening my faith (praying in Latin, attending the Latin Mass, reading a lot of books including Confessions by St. Augustine).
It has taken me a long time to bring myself to write about my experience. It is difficult to explain this to anyone who has never felt the actual physical presence of Christ. I have told my story only to one person.
I have never been the same since that day and I am filled with such revulsion for my previous sinful life.
My life is divided into two epochs: the time before Our Lord brought me back to the fold and the time after.