Be warned, gentle reader, the following is an experience I had when I demanded God prove His existence, to me. Yes there will be a combination of rational arguments and metaphysical inquiry.
I must give a brief background of my life. I was raised Irish Catholic and our faith defined who and what we were. My story starts at a very early age, I believe I was just 6 yrs old, maybe a little more, it was just before I took my 1st Communion. I recall having conversations with God, I never saw Him, but felt His presence and love. The conversations were always one-sided, I did all the talking. My days of innocence were numbered. I was informed by our Clergy that I was not one with God until I “received Jesus” through the sacrament of communion. My understanding of my relationship with Him was put to the test. First I had to “confess” my sins. What sins, I thought to myself? Teasing my siblings? Not doing what my parents commanded, immediately? What was I to do? I'd surely fail, I couldn't think of any sins I committed. Needless to say, I stood before the confessional door, opened it and walked through, knelt down and so the story began.
Through the years of my Catholic and then public education, I still had those conversations with God. Some days I'd feel His presence and love, other days, nothing. I tried to do what I was told was “right”. I went to church once a week, during Lent I went every day. I made a place for God in my life, everyday. Everything I did I thought through, a thousand different ways. I must make “the right choice”, always. Many times I did nothing because I was afraid God wouldn't approve. When I did chose, many times I failed and failed miserably.
The turning point was College. I went to a private Jesuit College here in Buffalo, NY. My freshman adviser was Father Courneen. He was a gentle and kind man. He was a realist, he knew how the world worked and told you the pitfalls. He told me all the things I needed to do to get my degree and over the next couple of years he became my spiritual adviser. I'd ask him question after question. I followed his instructions for quite a while. When he told me he was giving a class, “Introduction to the Old Testament”, I couldn't wait to learn more. He said many of my questions we could discuss in class.
During that class he made us read the entire Bible. The one that my Catholic faith was based on? The one “written by God”. The one that was read to us at Mass. It was during this class my faith was shattered. YES shattered. I came to understand that “book” as the teachings of man. Man and his “community” decided what was “gospel” and what wasn't. I recall he said there were 5 criteria that made something “the word of God”. I was lost. My conclusion: “The bible was written by man, for man to control and enslave him.” Nothing more or less. I recall asking Father Courneen, “How can you have faith knowing these things?
His reply, “We have a reasoned faith.”
My personal faith was based on the writings AND opinions of man, not God. Things I never dare question. Therefore God was an illusion. A creation man came up with to appease his absolute loneliness in this vast empty universe. Thank You, Father Courneen, the bastard!
What was I to do? Life was meaningless. So I partied like it was 1999 and I did so for over 5 yrs. During that time I did so many things. It didn't matter what I did, God didn't exist, He was an illusion and there was nothing more than this pitiful existence I came to despise. I broke every vow I had made, the body wasn't the temple of God, it was just this thing that brought me pain and misery.
The solution, end it. What's the point if we are all to become a worm feast anyways!? “From dust you came, so dust you shall return.” In some twisted way, I was fulfilling my duty, to die.
So, on that fateful day, March 22nd, 1989, I decided I would die, at my own hands...
I had become that which I had renounced, for so very long, evil. I decided that my suicide had to look like an accident, my friends & family must never know the truth! The shame it would bring upon them I could not bear.
I thought about it and decided that I'd give God one more chance to prove Himself to me. This was it, do or die. All my questions, all my anger, all my pain would finally end. “What a relief”, I thought.
So, I went through the phone book, I wasn't native to Buffalo, NY and I didn't know where the Catholic Churches were save, Christ the King Chapel, at college. I looked it up and called the rectory, no mass until Sunday. For whatever reason, I believed I must take the sacrament one last time before I died. I was on a quest. I called church after church, no mass, no mass then I called St. Michael's Church, on Washington Street, in downtown Buffalo. They were giving a “farmer's mass” at 5:15 pm, that afternoon, perfect! I asked them how to get there and where exactly were they located and the lady on the phone told me. I knew where to go now!
My plan was coming together! Now I had to think about “my accident”. What was I to do to ensure no one knew? I waited the hour or so and made my way downtown to St. Michael's, pondering that question. I was just in time, the mass had just began. I quietly walked in, blessed myself, thinking, “This will be the last time for these shenanigans!”
I sat in almost the last pew and just sat there. “Okay GOD, if you exist, you have this last opportunity to prove it!”
Nothing happened and my thoughts went back to “my accident”. I was reviewing the Stations of the Cross and then I heard this whisper from behind me, “Gerri look at the alter.” I quickly turned around and there was no one there. “How odd”, I thought. I continued working out the details of my death. I knew of this “Y” on the 198 West where a couple people had died because they were going too fast and couldn't control their car, PERFECT, I thought. Then that voice behind me said very loudly, “GERRI, LOOK AT THE ALTER!” I was startled and turned around again, surely everyone in the place heard this, yet there was no one there.
I turned back around, begrudgingly looking at the alter and thought, “Okay, now what?” Nothing. I listened to the homily, the priest was talking about the black sheep returning to the fold. I laughed, looked up at the ceiling and said, “GOD, if that's your proof, you've got nothing!”
And as I was bringing my head down, I heard this: “LISTEN TO THE VOICE!” “What? The voice?”, I questioned. It was at that moment I knew that voice giving mass BUT IT COULDN'T be... No, it just couldn't be......it was Father Courneen. That disembodied voice said one final thing, “Gerri, you're back where you started!”
I began to cry. No one knew what I held in my heart! “IF I only hadn't taken that damn class!” The man I blamed for so long, for so many things! He was now the one giving Mass, in a Church I'd never been to on the day I demanded God prove his existence and he spoke of the black sheep returning to the fold.
It was, a miracle. No one could have done this except God. I went to the deacon after mass and asked to speak to Father Courneen and he said he had to run out, it was his last day of his two week Sabbatical and he was going to get a plane to Chicago, he was transferred there.
To this day, I'm still trying to figure out the part of, “you're back where you started” and what it means. When I read of the corruption, lies and denial my Church has engaged in for decades and centuries past. What was I being told? What was I being shown?
Maybe that God exists within all of us, from the start. And despite the sins we commit, God's proverbial door, is always open. The Church doesn't represent God but we do, he built our temple, after all.
It's our choice how we're gonna use it.