CONTRIBUTED BY LOUELLA D’SOUZA
The journey of faith has been a long one for me; it is a continuing one that evolves, as do I with it.
Growing up, I had known God to be angry and punitive. He had to be feared. Nothing escaped him and every indiscretion and sin would be accounted for. Looking back, I realized that my devotion was based on fear and my actions were carried out only to ensure that I would bypass the gates of Hell. My prayer was also negotiated. I promised devotion in exchange for passing exams, for the cure of illnesses or the like.
Therefore, some years ago, when my father was taken unexpectedly, I was angered that God had chosen not to ‘save’ him and keep him alive. Growing anger diminished my relationship with God. In the following years, I showed up at Mass as was required, but though I was physically present, I had ‘checked out’ spiritually. As time passed by, restlessness took residence within my heart and grew with each passing week.
Seeds sown in the past, depending on the seeds themselves, can have the capacity to serve as a compass in the realm of free will. Time and again, I would feel called to reunite with God. Years later, upon reflection, I realized the call had occurred because historical consultations with my spiritual compass had always resulted in favorable circumstances. At this time, St. Basils was the parish I was frequenting as it was close to my place of residence – close to home. I found it a very placid place to be in.
Shortly after, I moved and subsequently changed parishes. The restlessness had now grown by leaps and bounds. Then one day, I came across the St. Philip Neri chapel and started volunteering there. That was the start of my journey on answering the call to reunite with God. Since then, my journey has included reflective retreats, changing parishes to find the ‘best fit’, relinquishing baseless rules, being pushed out of my comfort zones, journeying to the Holy Land, teaching kids, spiritual dance and movement with the handicapped, a pilgrimage to Oberammergau and improving my understanding of theology. In general, I was peeling back the layers and discovering the person beneath. This not only led me to determine who I am and want to be; they also cast God in a new light, as a kind and gentle God.
On a side note, I feel called to point out that recently I came across a painting of the Road to Emmaus, which resonated greatly with me. I felt a similar resonance at Emmaus during my trip to the Holy Land.
My faith and spirituality today are my own and not imposed on me. I no longer fear God, but have come to regard him as a friend. I communicate and deal with him as I would with any dear friend. My relationship with him is completely childlike, unsophisticated and simple. In trusting him, I have started to rediscover the lost child in me. The restlessness has abated and oddly, once again I find myself ‘home’ at St. Basils.