A few years ago, I was at a wedding when I was struck by the particular charism of the priest offering the ceremony. He was warm, relaxed, and extremely welcoming. He also could read a room, which was reflected in the way he presented his homily to a largely irreligious crowd. He even told us to call him “Brother” instead of “Father.” I was both inspired and impressed because, quite frankly, this is what I had waited for most of my life from a priest. After mass, I immediately went up and introduced myself and started asking him questions about the priesthood.
This priest later heard my confession. I asked forgiveness for my use of pornography and masturbation. Like most priests, I expected him to dig into me a bit about my use of pornography. Instead, he revealed something to me that has been life changing. Immediately, after I had rehearsed my litany of sins, he asked this simple question: “What is your relationship like with your father?” I responded, “I don’t want to admit it Father, but I sort of hate my dad. He’s never been there for me when I really needed him.” He then responded, “And that is the source of your sins. You are trying to cope with your pain.”
The priest then told me about how he had a similar relationship with his dad and that his dad eventually admitted to him that he hadn’t been the father he should have been. This led to a reconciliation of sorts for them. I remember feeling a sense of peace through this revelation, but a major transformation didn’t happen right away. I still couldn’t get along with my dad after this.
However, it was like a new horizon opened up in my life. I had never reconciled the impact that my dismal relationship with my father had had on my life. Sometimes, maybe even most times, transformation starts like this—with an enlightening moment that shifts our perspective before our behaviors change.
From Awareness to Healing
About a year and a half later, I was on a retreat and we were about to head into an hour of eucharistic adoration. Throughout the day I gave acute attention to the priests. It’s almost as if I needed something from them. We started adoring the Eucharist, when all of a sudden, I was overwhelmed with tears.
The Holy Spirit had enlightened me—I realized that I was subconsciously seeking the affection and approval of priests as a pseudo-spiritual remedy for my own damaged relationship with my dad. I collapsed over the pew and sobbed for the whole hour of adoration—I couldn’t stop. In that hour, I experienced deep healing. For most of my life I had hated my dad. Or at least, I thought I did. Years of my unrecognized rage drained from my body through my tears.
Jesus revealed to me that I really wanted a relationship with my dad, but I had been hurt so many times by him that my desire for this had turned into rage. But the rage really wasn’t rage—it was sadness. It’s like I could see my whole life playing out before me, and all of the times I had sought out my father’s approval but was either left empty handed or worse, deeply rejected.
In this healing experience, I not only realized my need for my dad, but I envisioned myself having a relationship with him. Truly, this was something so strange that I could not have created it on my own! Even though I was crying hysterically, it was the deepest peace that I have ever experienced in my life. However, it didn’t last. This hyper-spiritual state ended and, while I felt much better than I did before I came to pray, I didn’t feel as peaceful as I did during those most intense moments. But I was okay with that. It felt as if I had experienced the peace of Heaven but that I needed to come back down to earth and continue building the Kingdom.
Seeking Reconciliation and Moving Forward
Following adoration, I sought out a priest and asked if he would hear my confession. Still crying, I told him that I was sorry I had so much hatred for my dad. It was one of the simplest, but most authentic experiences of the Sacrament of Reconciliation I had in my life. It was certainly the first time that I had come into the confessional absolutely sorrowful for my sins.
But I had a deeper sense of why I was sinning—it wasn’t because I was bad. More or less, it was because I was deeply wounded and I didn’t even know it. The overwhelming abundance of God’s love had healed my heart and I came to the sacrament not so much to be forgiven but to complete the act of mercy that Jesus had already initiated. I felt no shame naming my hatred because I received no shame from Jesus—only tenderness and a deep sense of the reality of my heart.
Immediately after receiving absolution, I called my dad and apologized for not being the best son that I could be. I don’t think that my dad knew what to say because we have never really apologized to each other before but he did accept my apology. This moment has been the lynch pin for the transformation of our relationship, which has now spanned the course of four years (and counting).
There is a lot in this story that I could pull out and talk about further. However, I want to emphasize this: all that I did was put myself in the right place. Jesus literally did all of the work. I discovered eucharistic adoration during high school and it quickly developed into a regular spiritual practice. And as the years have gone by, I have spent more and more time in eucharistic adoration.
While the story above was my most dramatic healing experience, I have had many other healing experiences over the years. It’s such a shame that more Catholics don’t consistently spend time with Jesus in adoration because literally all you have to do is show up.
Does your parish or a parish nearby have regular hours of eucharistic adoration that you can attend? Who are the people in your life who have hurt you that you need help forgiving? Whom do you need to ask forgiveness from?
Quarter Joe is a lifelong Catholic and has been in recovery for pornography addiction for nearly three years. He is passionate about the spiritual path of the 12-step model and the power of Jesus in the Eucharist in bringing healing and transformation.