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Addiction to porn led him to hate sexuality and God, but one night everything changed. Discover the salvific journey of Simon Carrington on breaking out of pornography
I was very blessed to be raised in a Catholic home as the third born among six children. My Dad was a great spiritual leader. He led evening prayer at home and recited the Rosary every night before we went to bed. We went to St Margaret Mary’s parish, Merrylands on Sundays, serving on the altar and in the choir. So overall, God was central to my life.
Craving for More
When I was 15 years old, my grandmother passed away. I really missed her and would cry every night for months afterwards. The deep loneliness and pain that set in, led me to seek something that was going to make me feel loved.
That’s when I began to seek out pornography. The more I watched, the more I craved. Slowly, my faith began to weaken. In School, I was still having fun, playing sports, and going to Church. Outwardly I was doing everything right as just part of the routine—going to Mass, praying the Rosary etcetera, but inside my faith was dying. My heart was elsewhere because I was living in sin. Although I was going to Confession, it was more out of fear of Hell than love of God.
On a visit to a family friend, I discovered a stash of porn magazines right next to the toilet. I will never forget picking up the first one and flipping through the whole magazine. It was the first real, physical and tangible porn I had ever seen. I felt so many emotions rushing through—excitement that this was the answer to the emptiness I felt, but also deep shame. This seemed to be the “food” that would satisfy the ache in my heart for love. I walked out of that bathroom a different person from that day. It was then that I subconsciously turned my back on God. I chose pornography and a life of impurity over Him.
After that experience, I began buying porn magazines. Since I went to the gym every day, I found a crack in the wall there to store all these porn magazines. Every time I went to the gym, I would begin and end the session by going to the stash of magazines and flipping through for 20 or 30 minutes. That became my life for years. I became so obsessed by pornography that I almost lost my job taking toilet breaks every hour to look at porn. It took up every spare moment I had.
I tried listening to different Catholic speakers and reading books on chastity and sexuality. I realized that all of them stated that sexuality was a gift from God, but I couldn’t understand this. The only thing sexuality brought me was pain and emptiness. To me, my sexuality was the furthest thing from a gift from God. It was a beast that was dragging me into Hell!
I began to hate my sexuality and hate God. It became a poison in my heart. When my family prayed the Rosary, I could not say a Holy Mary. I was almost never in a state of grace. I went to Mass for months at a time without receiving the Eucharist. Even if I went to Confession after Mass, I could never seem to last until the next day. There was no love in my heart. When my mum would hug me I would tense up like a rock. I didn’t know how to receive love and affection. On the outside, I was always friendly and happy, but on the inside I was empty and dead.
I remember coming into my room one day after just viewing pornography and I saw the crucifix on my wall. In a moment of anger I said to Jesus on the Cross, “How do you expect me to believe that sexuality is a gift from you? It is causing me so much pain and emptiness. You are a liar!” I leapt up onto my bunk bed and snatched the crucifix off the wall and smashed it over my knee. Looking at the smashed crucifix I blurted out in rage, “I hate you! You are a liar.” I then threw the crucifix in my bin.
When My Jaw Hit the Floor
Then one day, Mum told me to go to a chastity talk by Jason Evert with my older brother. I told her politely that I didn’t want to go, but thanks anyway. When she asked me again, I blurted out, “Mum, love isn’t real. I don’t believe in love!” Mum simply said, “You’re going!” That night I went reluctantly.
I remember being amazed at how Jason spoke that night. One line changed my life. He said, “Porn is the surest way to shoot your future marriage in the head.”
As soon as he said this, I realized that if I didn’t change my ways, I would be harming the woman I married because I didn’t know how to treat her properly. All the desires I once had for marriage resurfaced in me. I really did want love and marriage more than anything, but I had buried that desire with sexual sin.
I got a chance that night to speak to Jason personally and the advice he gave changed my life. He said, “Look, there’s love in your heart and there’s all these temptations to lust. Whichever you choose to feed more will grow stronger and eventually overpower the other. Until now you have been feeding lust more than love, it’s time to start feeding love.”
I knew God had touched me that night, and I decided I need a clean-start Confession. I booked a priest in for Confession and warned him it would be a long one! I made a general Confession that took about an hour and a half. I confessed every sexual sin I could possibly remember, the names of the porn stars I had watched, the number of times, the amount of hours and for how many years. I felt like a new man walking out of Confession that night.
A Beautiful Discovery
There began the third stage of change in my life. Though I still struggled with those sins of sexual impurity, I was in a constant fight. Little by little, I was able to experience greater freedom from sexual sin, and felt God calling me to begin really learning what His plan for human sexuality was, and start sharing it with others.
I encountered speakers who unpacked Saint John Paul’s “Theology of the Body” and in the course of reading I was struck by this powerful thought: My body and every other body is a sacrament of God. I realized that I was the image of God and so was every woman. When I began to see every single person through this lens as a living sacrament of God, it became so much harder for me to use them sexually. If ever I were to lust after someone especially through masturbation and pornography, I would have to dehumanize them in my mind and in my heart. Armed with this new way of viewing myself and other women, I was empowered by the graces received from daily Mass and regular Confession to make a huge transformation.
I began to look at every woman not for sexual pleasure but truly as a beautiful sacrament of God. I was so on fire with this new message that I wanted to share it with everyone I possibly could. At that time I was working as a fitness trainer at a gym, but I felt that God was calling me to leave that environment and serve Him more directly. I wasn’t sure where I was heading, but doors began to open. I got plugged into youth ministry and started working for Parousia Media, packing and posting faith resources. While I was working, I would listen to faith talks all day, learning my faith in a powerful way. I started speaking as a youth minister to high school students almost every weekend, and I fell in love with evangelizing.
Love Like Never Before
One day, a lady reached out to my office, looking for somebody who could speak to some young adults about chastity, and especially pornography. Out of nowhere, I told her that I would do it. I shared my testimony that night, and the response was very encouraging. By word of mouth, more and more people came to know me and my story and invitations to speak began rolling in.
In the past 10 years I have given over 600 talks to over 30,000 people on the virtue of chastity, pure dating and the Theology of the Body. Through this ministry, I met my wife, Madeleine and we have been blessed with three children. God led us on a journey together to launch Fire Up Ministries, with a mission to invite every person to experience the love they always dreamed of!
At this point in my life, I am blessed to experience a level of sexual freedom that I never had before. Whenever I thank God for where I am now, I recall the days when I was really struggling in this area. There were times when I felt there was no light at the end of the tunnel and cried out to God, “Is purity possible?” It seemed hopeless, and I thought I was doomed to live like this forever. But although there were dark patches in my life which I thought would never pass, God never stopped loving me. He worked with me patiently and gently. I am still on that journey, and God is still healing me every day.
“He had some really dark moments carrying the Cross of sexual sin, but when he took it to Christ and surrendered it to Him—Christ was able to free him. Simon had a real encounter with mercy and experienced deep healing in Christ. It was from that place of mercy and healing that he has been able to bring the joy, love and above all that hope to others who are going though similar struggles with sexuality. As I would watch Simon minister to so many people, I am constantly in awe of how he radiates the love of Christ to all of them.”
—Madeleine Carrington (Simon’s Wife)'
Before you fly away from your humdrum life into another romantic vampire story, consider this…
As such, you can imagine that I am very fond of romance. A lot of us are. I am also single. Not being a hideous goblin (no girl is), I could get a boyfriend easily enough. The question is: what are my standards?
I am a soldier of Christ and willing to fight to defend the truth. An important part of this truth is Christian marriage and sexuality. This topic is scorned by society at large, hence my lack of male companionship. If I am going to date, my minimum requirement is respect for my faith and boundaries. This is hard to find, but I’m not lowering my standards. I’ll tell you why.
Forgive my bluntness. Girls my age are turned into easily- accessible entertainment for any male with eyes. In the name of empowerment, women are told to “dress how they want”. Translation: dress in the way those creepy guys on the street like. Virginity is a shameful secret. Any who dare suggest a sense of the sacred around women, marriage, or sex are evil misogynists. Poor female minors, enslaved by self-respect and safety.
One useful tool for turning women into commodities, products, or slaves is young adult fiction. Every time I open a YA book, I see this:
“McKayla is just an ordinary, plain girl with flawless skin and hair. Except she has a dark, mysterious past. ~insert stereotype. Evil or negligent parents are preferable.~ Then she meets… Brad. He’s dark, brooding, and impossibly hot (of course). What will happen, and will their mysterious connection win out against all odds?!”
Next, you get to watch McKayla describe Brad in agonizing detail every three pages. She inevitably gets mixed up with him. He’s an assassin, a vampire, or preferably both. McKayla gets sucked into a dangerous relationship. Vampire cults are encouraged. Brad will attack her, pressure her, and attempt a seduction. He will go through periods of cruelty, the silent treatment, and possessiveness, interspersed with passionate statements about his love for her. Because of this passion, our heroine will gladly cut out every healthy influence in her life, following her “true love” like a lamb to the slaughter.
Something about this feels just the tiniest bit off, doesn’t it? No? Is it only me who thinks it’s a romanticization of abuse?
Alas, I am not exaggerating or joking. Here’s a paraphrase of a random page from a teen novel I picked up: “I couldn’t quite forget that he had tried to stab me with a knife ten minutes ago, but I couldn’t take my eyes off how hot Jason looked in those white jeans. His hair was… his muscles were…” Etc., etc., etc., another uncomfortably detailed ogling of our darling attempted murderer.
I started the next book at the beginning. Page one was from the perspective of a male vampire prostitute. A girl comes and gives him money. She bares her throat for him to bite. He begins rubbing her thighs and pretending to groan in excitement. I close the book.
Finally, in a very popular YA novel, the male lead breaks into the girl’s house and watches her sleep. Oh, how romantic!
Books like this groom young women to be the slaves and tools of evil men. Nothing is sadder than a young girl staying with a man who abuses her because he “loves” her. She thinks she can change him, or worse, sees nothing wrong at all. In a way, these men really are vampires. They will drain a girl of her self-respect, her virginity, and anything else they convince her to fork over. They leave their victims sucked dry in the dust.
Where does this start? What makes women believe the lies? The shameless and evil romanticism attached to abuse, seen in the media, in movies, in the teen section of the most innocent public library. There isn’t even any bad logic in it, just malice.
Marriage and sexuality are created by God and built on love. Love is built on respect, self-sacrifice, and honesty. Marriage is a union of equals, not a predator-prey relationship. Here’s a hint: this should be obvious.
Still not convinced of the damage this attitude causes? Well, no hard feelings. I mean, I’m just a teenager watching this happen. Who can we ask about this? Hey, what about Mom and Grandma? They’re pretty experienced… oh wait. Everyone knows that no one born before the 2000’s can have anything useful to say on this (or any) topic. Of course today’s youth know better than to honour their father and mother. My bad.
Alright, No more complaining. This shouldn’t be all problems and no solutions. We can still make progress in the right direction. The world might be dark, but luckily for us, the light of Christ is easier to see in the dark anyway. We, as Christians, need to fight for the concept of true love. It still exists. My parents show it. When you see an eighty-year-old couple still holding hands, remember. When you go to a wedding, remember. When you see a couple choosing children over wealth, remember. And hey, girls like me—Christian teenagers who just can’t seem to find a partner who will respect you! Don’t give up. Don’t settle for a dark, brooding guy who’ll suck you dry. Look for true love, cheesy as it might seem. It’s real. We have it every Sunday in the Eucharist. We deserve this self-respect. We deserve a partner willing to honor Christ and see Christ in us. It will be worth it.
And quit reading those vampire novels.'
Struggling to break that cycle of sin in your life? Gabriel Castillo was into all things the world said were good — sex, drugs, rock and roll–until he decided to give up sin and confront the biggest battle of his life.
I was raised in a single parent household with practically no religious education. My mother is an amazing woman and she did the best she could to provide for me, but it wasn’t enough. While she was out working, I was home alone in front of cable television. I was raised by television networks such as MTV. I valued what MTV told me to value: popularity, pleasure, music, and all things ungodly. My mother did the best she could to steer me in the right direction, but without God I just went from sin to sin. From bad to worse. This is the story of more than half the people in this Country. Children are being raised by the media and the media is leading people to misery in this life and in the next.
Our Lady Steps In
My life began to dramatically change when I went to the University of Saint Thomas in Houston, Texas. At UST I took theology and philosophy courses that opened my mind to objective truth. I saw that the Catholic faith made sense. In my mind I came to believe that Catholicism was objectively true, but there was just one problem… I was a slave to the world, the flesh, and the devil.
I was becoming known as one of the best of the bad kids and one of the worst of the good kids. Amongst my bad friends, a lot of them were going through the RCIA program to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and I thought “Hey I’m a bad Catholic…I should be able to get confirmed too”. On the required Confirmation Retreat we made a holy hour, I had no idea what a holy hour was, so I asked a professor who advised me to simply look at the Eucharist and repeat the Holy Name of Jesus. After about 10 minutes of this practice God stuck His finger into my soul and overwhelmed me with His love, and my heart of stone melted. For the rest of the hour, I cried. I knew Catholicism was true not just in my head, but also in my heart. I had to change.
One Lent, I resolved to go all in and give up mortal sin. Just 2 hours after my resolution, I realized how messed up I was when I had already committed a mortal sin. I realized I was a slave. That night God gave me true contrition for my sins and I cried to Him for mercy. That is when a demon spoke up. His voice was audible and scary. In a high pitched growl, he repeated my words mockingly, “God forgive me. I am so sorry!” Immediately I called upon Saint John Vianney. The second I made that invocation, the voice went away. The next night I was too terrified to sleep in my room because I feared hearing that voice again.
So I pulled out a Rosary, which had been blessed by John Paul II. I opened a Rosary pamphlet, because I didn’t know how to pray the Rosary. When I said the word, “I believe…” a force grabbed me by the throat, pinned me down and began choking me. I tried calling my mother, but I couldn’t speak. Then a little voice in my head said, “Pray…Hail Mary.” I tried, but couldn’t. The voice in my head said “Say them in your mind.” So in my mind I said “Hail Mary”. Then I gasped the words aloud, “Hail Mary!” Immediately everything went back to normal. I was totally freaked out and realized that this demon had been with me throughout my entire life. At the same time I realized that Mary was the answer. Even just calling upon her name liberated me from the literal grips of a demon. After a little research, I identified several reasons why I was infested with demons. My mother had New Age books, I had sinful music, I had rated R movies, I had been living in mortal sin my entire life. I had belonged to the devil, but Our Lady crushes his head. I now belong to her.
Failing to Convert Sinners
I started to pray the Rosary every single day. I found a good priest and began going to Confession frequently, almost daily. I couldn’t keep that up, so I had to start taking little steps with Mary to break all of my addictions. Mary helped free me from slavery and inspired the desire to be an apostle. When I prayed the Rosary, she helped me break my addictions and purified my mind. I ended up getting a degree in theology and a minor in philosophy because of my radical change and hunger for righteousness. I recited many Rosaries a day and saw Mary everywhere and the devil nowhere. After college, I entered the Catholic school system as a Religion teacher; I began to teach the young people everything I knew. Although they were in a Catholic school they had even greater struggles than I did. With the advent of smartphones they had new opportunities to have hidden habits and hidden lives. I was a great teacher and trying my best to win their hearts for God, but failing.
Two years in, I went on a retreat by a VERY holy priest known for having spiritual gifts of discernment of spirits and reading souls. We were encouraged to make a general confession. Looking back on the sins of a lifetime, I wept when I saw how horrible I had been in spite of God’s goodness and mercy. The priest asked, “Why are you crying?” and I sobbed, “because I’ve hurt so many people and led so many astray by my bad example.” He replied, “Do you want to make effective reparation for the damage you have done? Resolve to pray all the mysteries of the Rosary every day for an entire year, asking Our Lady to bring good out of every one of your bad actions and for every person you hurt. After that, never look back. Consider your debt paid and move on.”
Winning with Mary
I had prayed many daily Rosaries before, but never as a rule of life. When I made the entire Rosary part of my daily routine, everything changed. God’s power was with me all the time. Mary was winning through me. I was reaching souls, and my students were changing dramatically. They were begging me to put videos on YouTube. Those were early days and I lacked confidence, so I uploaded other people’s talks with pictures.
Mary led me to work at a neighboring parish that better aligned with my zeal for souls. The pastor really encouraged me to stir the pot, so with his support, I did. I began making videos on touchy topics. I entered a film contest and won a free trip to World Youth Day and $4,000 worth of video equipment. I am telling you, Our Lady is a winner. At World Youth Day in Spain, I went to Holy Mass at Saint Dominic’s Church. I was praying before a statue of Our Lady of the Rosary when I felt an overwhelming sense of Saint Dominic’s presence. It was so strong that I almost felt that I was standing before a statue of Dominic and not Our Lady. I can’t describe the exact words, it was more of a deep interior understanding that I had a mission to promote the Rosary because that has answers to the world’s problems.
I resolved to do that with the help of tools he didn’t have. I began to research everything about the Rosary—its history, its composition, its elements, the saints who prayed it. The more I studied it, the more I realized how much it provided answers. Conversions and victory in the spiritual life were fruits of the Rosary. The more I promoted it, the more I succeeded.
As part of this mission, I developed a YouTube channel, Gabi After Hours, which also has content on raising children in the faith, fasting and deliverance. The Rosary is the fuel for my apostolic work. When we pray The Rosary, we can clearly hear Our Lady. The Rosary is like a sword that severs the shackles with which the devil has bound us. It is a perfect prayer.
I currently work full-time in youth ministry with kids just like myself. The majority of them come from underprivileged families, many with only a single parent in the household. Since most of these children are fatherless, with mothers working two jobs, some fall into bad habits behind their parents’ backs, like smoking marijuana or drinking. However, when they are introduced to the Virgin Mary, the scapular, the miraculous medal and the Rosary, in particular, their lives radically change. They go from sinners to saints. From slaves of the devil to servants of Mary. They don’t just become followers of Jesus, they become apostles.
Go all in with Mary. Go all in with the Rosary. All of the great Saints agree that following Mary leads you on the fastest, most secure, and efficacious path to the heart of Jesus Christ. According to Saint Maximilian Kolbe, it is the goal and the role of the Holy Spirit to form Christ in the womb of Mary perpetually. If you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you must become like Mary. The Holy Spirit flies to Marian souls. This is the model for victory that Our Lord desires. We give ourselves to Mary, just like Jesus did. We cling to her, like baby Jesus did. We remain small so that she can live in us and bring Christ to others. If you want to win the battle go with Our Lady. She brings us to Christ and helps us to become like Christ.'
Make a choice to take a chance and your life will never be the same
As family prayer concluded, we took up the Bible to read from the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 3. As I was reading, my thoughts flew back to the dark days when I fell into depression. Those were the days when the voice of the evil one echoed crystal clear in my head, insinuating that I was so unworthy of love, that even God would reject me. Sadly, I thought it was true. In the midst of my sorrows and tears I would go to church, not because I thought I was loved but because my parents wouldn’t let me stay home. Half-heartedly going through the motions as I reluctantly loitered in the church, I didn’t realize that Someone was constantly beckoning me to return with a whole heart. God persistently called me to repentance.
It’s so true that God gives us a multitude of chances to make the right choices. He spoke to me through priests, laity, dreams and quotes. Over and over again, I received the same message—God truly loved me. He didn’t want me to fall prey to Satan’s lies. He wanted me to know that I am His daughter, no matter what and He relentlessly called me back to Him. During one of those difficult days, I picked up my Bible and it fell open at Jeremiah, chapter 3. Tears glistened in my eyes as they alighted on these words:
I thought how I would set you among my children, and give you a pleasant land, the most beautiful heritage of all the nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn away from following me.
I read it over and over again. Tears rolled down my cheeks and fell unchecked in fat drops onto the open pages of my Bible.
Realm of Truth
“What’s wrong with me?” I wondered to myself. “Why did these words touch me so deeply?” It was as if my heart was being pierced with the burning dart of God’s love, breaking through the hard shell that had formed around me, awaking me from my cold indifference.
God had given me so much, but what had I given back?
“And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn away from following me.”
The sorrow in those words is palpable. “I thought you would call me, My Father.”
A loving Father, bewildered that His daughter has turned away and refuses to call on Him, yearns to hear her say, ‘My Father’.
My God, my God, why did I abandon You? He is my Father. He has always been my Father and He never stopped loving me and cherishing me, even when I refused to call Him ‘My Father’.
“And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn away from following me.”
I had turned away. I had taken my eyes off Him and stopped following Him. I had let go of my Father’s hand, strayed from the path on which He could lead me safely through my troubles. He trusted me, but I let Him down. My loving Father in Heaven was heartbroken that I, His beloved daughter had abandoned Him.
Loved Beyond Measure
I sobbed uncontrollably, overwhelmed at the realization that my Father had been there for me all along, patiently waiting for me to call Him. I had been so blind, obstinately closing my eyes to ignore His presence. Now, I finally opened them to find Him right there, waiting to meet me with open arms. I felt enfolded within His embrace at last and I felt a great weight lift from my shoulders.
We are so familiar with Jesus, that we don’t often reflect on God, the Father. Close your eyes and picture Him, not as an old man with a beard, or a distant monarch, but as the loving Father waiting for all His prodigal children to come home.
This is the Father who loves His adopted children so dearly that He sent His only Son to redeem us from our sins. He is One with His Son. Every hammer blow, every stroke of the whip, every rasping breath that Jesus suffered on the Cross was shared with His Father. Through all eternity, He knew what suffering Jesus would willingly bear for our sake.
In the movie The Passion of the Christ, right after Jesus death, a single drop falls from the sky with a mighty splash. To my heart, it portrayed the silent tears of my Father in Heaven, who suffered silently with His Son through the whole ordeal. Why? For me. For you. For every last sinner. The Father is waiting for every last one of us to turn back to Him so that He can accept us back into His warm embrace where we will always be welcome. He stands waiting to wipe every tear from our faces, to wash us clean from the mire of sin and to wrap us in the cloak of His Divine Love.
Dear Father, thank you for helping me to finally realize that You love me unconditionally. For all the moments of doubt and disbelief, I beg Your pardon. Open the eyes of every single one of us, that we may come to know Your love for us. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your most beloved Son. Amen.'
Do Angels really exist? Here’s a story that’s going to enthrall you
When I was in high school, I was fascinated by tales of encounters with angels. I even dared to share the stories I read with friends and fellow students, who couldn’t help but be amused and intrigued. One unlikely boy showed special interest. When the bus we rode together was full of school kids he would be tough, with unfiltered behaviors and cussing. But as soon as the other students were gone and it was just the two of us, he’d turn to me and say, “Can you tell me an angel story?” I saw it as my gentle way of giving him some hope and a little push toward heaven, perhaps right when he needed it.
Around this time, I had a wonderful teacher who shared an unforgettable story with me. A friend of his was nervously walking down a dark alley praying for God’s protection. She suddenly noticed a man staring intently at her from the shadows. As she prayed more fervently, he stepped toward her, but then stopped short and suddenly backed away, turning his face to the wall.
She later heard that a young woman was attacked in that same alley only an hour after she had been there. She went to the police and told them she had seen someone in the alley a short while before the attack on the other woman. The police informed her they had someone in custody and wondered if she would view a line-up of suspects. She readily consented and sure enough among the suspects was the man she’d seen in the alley.
She asked to speak to him and was escorted to the room where he was being held. As she entered, the man stood and gazed at her with a look of recognition.
“Do you remember me?” she asked. He nodded. “Yes. I saw you there, in the alley.”
She pressed on. “Why didn’t you attack me instead of the other woman?” He looked at her in confusion. “Are you kidding me?” he said, “with those two big guys walking on either side of you?!”
Perhaps that story is apocryphal, but I loved it. It reminded me that guardian angels are not just a comforting thought or pleasant imaginings from our childhood. They are real. They are powerful and faithful. And they have been appointed to watch over us and protect us with God’s presence. But do we take our hidden friends for granted? And do we trust them to come to our need when we truly need them?
From one of my favorite saints, St. Padre Pio, I learned to think more often of my guardian angel and to speak to him openly. I had no doubt that my angel was already working hard and fighting spiritual battles on my behalf, but one day I experienced his presence powerfully.
I was seventeen, had missed my bus, and despite frigid weather, I decided to drive my big, cold-sensitive car to school. While driving up a steep, country hill, the car began to slow. I pushed the gas pedal to the floor but only crept along. There were no houses close by and I didn’t have a cell phone. If the car died, it would be a long walk in freezing weather before I could get help. I remembered there was a mom-and-pop restaurant a mile or so down the road and held onto the hope that, if I made it up the hill, I might have enough down-hill momentum to reach the restaurant.
But the car slowed and I knew it was unlikely I would make it up the hill. “Okay, angel!” I said out loud. “I need you to push this car. Please, push me up the hill.” The car sped up. I felt a difference in its movement, so I encouraged my angel, “Almost there! Come on! Please keep pushing.” The car crept to the top and somehow lurched over the peak. I began the descent down the other side moving fast at first but soon lost momentum. I saw the restaurant in the distance and begged my angel to keep pushing the car, though I didn’t think I’d make it.
But the car found new momentum, just enough to make it into the restaurant parking lot and into a spot facing a plate-glass window. Then, as if on cue, the car died. “Was that a fluke,” I wondered. “I’m grateful that this worked out perfectly,” I thought, “but was it actually my angel’s intervention?” Then I looked up and through the restaurant window I saw a huge painting of a guardian angel on the back wall. It was the painting I had loved since childhood that depicts two children crossing a dangerous bridge under the watchful protection of their guardian angel. I was overwhelmed. I learned later that my fuel line had completely frozen, and it was a wonder that I reached a safe place.
My story may not have been as dramatic as my teacher’s incredible tale, but it confirmed my belief that our guardian angels watch over us and that we should never hesitate to ask for help—even if it’s just a little push when we need it.
I believe sharing stories like these, like sharing stories of saints, is a powerful way to evangelize. They provide assurance that we are not alone, that we have a Father who loves us enough to assign dear allies to care for us in our times of need.'
As the weeks rolled by with my husband working from home, putting us together 24 hours a day, I found myself once again feeling like a volcano about to erupt…Little did I know then how quarantine would change my life…
It was the spring of 2020 and Covid-19 had spread throughout the country and much of the world. It was a time when quarantine changed my life. We were adapting to new phrases like “social distancing,” and “sheltering in place.” And connecting to others was limited to the use of technology. Thus, a friend of mine encouraged me and some other friends to join her for an online Bible study, pandemic-style. After watching sections of a video and reading portions of the book that accompanied it, we’d text our thoughts and comments to one another.
In the first chapter of the study I came across the word “forbearance.” Despite having been a student of Scripture for years, I realized this term was not a part of my lexicon! It was not unfamiliar to me, as I’d come across it throughout the Bible, but the word forbearance seemed better suited to another time in history. The author described this virtue as the ability to hold back one’s power, even if one has the authority to use it, for the greater good that may not be evident to the one seeking relief. She offered a metaphor to explain: imagine God having two arms, both powerful. While stretching out His right arm to exert power, He at times uses his left arm to pull the other hand back, so as to prevent its strength being wielded.
I shared this insight on the group text. One participant responded that “He cares enough to allow me to struggle and find deeper understanding and connection to His heart.” I’d seen this very thing in my life over and over through the years. The 40 years I’d worked in healthcare seemed to parallel the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the desert. Grumbling and complaining marked each of our respective journeys yet the Lord continued to provide for my needs and those of the Israelites and taught us obedience which resulted in patience, one of the “fruits of the Spirit.”
Over time, patience has become a habit and I rarely express irritation or anger verbally anymore—at least outside the doors of my home! While I had made progress even within my home, I still found it to be the place that triggered my darker angels. Although I was blessed with a good and loving husband, his switch to working from home due to quarantine required an unexpected adjustment to being together 24 hours a day.
As the weeks together wore on, I found myself once again feeling like a volcano about to erupt. I tried to suppress it, but when for what seemed like the hundredth time Dan knocked a full glass of tea, ice cubes and all, onto the end table, I exploded and ran to grab towel. When I later apologized, I remembered what my husband told a representative from the Big Sisters organization who had called for a spousal referral to determine my suitability as a volunteer. In response to my curiosity about the content of their lengthy conversation he replied, “I said lots of nice things about you. They did ask me if I thought you were a patient person. I told them you are very patient…with everyone but me!” As we chuckled together, both recognizing the truth in his statement, I realized that in the area of patience, God isn’t finished with me yet.
Since retiring, I had adopted a routine of walking in the neighborhood each morning. The exercise kept my thoughts focused as I poured out my heart to the Lord each day. I confessed my impatience, asked forgiveness, listed my husband’s good qualities, and thanked God for him. What I couldn’t seem to do was exercise forbearance! I obviously wasn’t exhibiting the dictionary’s definition of “patient self-control, restraint and tolerance!” One morning, after another frustrating day of my husband working from home, I laid it all out as I prayed. “Lord, I have tried every way I know how to pray about this. I surrender to Your work in my life; make me a truly patient person with everyone, even my husband. I’ve done what I can; now I ask You to do in me what I cannot do in myself.”
As the day ended, I happened to glance at the stack of devotionals on the end table. One of the books maybe sixth or seventh from the top caught my eye. I hadn’t opened it in some time, and didn’t even remember what it was titled. Still, I was drawn to it. It was called, “Biblical Homilies,” by Karl Rahner, a noted German theologian. I opened the volume to where a bookmark lay and laughed at the title on the page: “If You Can Put Up With Him, So Can I.”
Fr. Rahner cited 1 Peter 3: 8-9: “Finally, all of you be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing.” I read the sermon that followed:
“This harmony and concord, then, is interpreted to mean that we must be united in prayer. No doubt the letter of St. Peter refers to a general disposition to get on with people.” This idea is obvious enough. We know only too well what a trial we are to each other.” (I paused…how did Fr. Rahner know what was going on in my house?!) “We are so different from one another: we have had different experiences, we are of different temperaments, of different origins, we come from different families, we have different talents and different jobs to do—small wonder if it is difficult for us all to be of one mind. We have different views and we understand each other imperfectly. And being so very different from other people we well may grate on them, unconsciously weary them with what we are, what we think, what we do, what we feel. Mutual harmony and comprehension, being of one mind, is difficult for us. Now we can only live together and bear with each other, bear one another’s burdens, if we do our best to be of one mind, if we are self-effacing and self-possessed, if we can hold our tongue even when we are right,” (now I was sure this priest had been peering at me through the window these last weeks!) “if we can let the other man be himself and give him his due, if we refrain from rash judgment and are patient.” (There was that word again!) “Then it becomes possible, at least in a rough and ready way, to be of one mind. We may not achieve empathy together, but we can be of one mind in Christian forbearance,” (FORBEARANCE!!! The word I never examined or considered until a week or so ago!) “each bearing the other’s burden. This means that I bear the burden the other man is to me simply by being himself, because I know I am a burden to him simply by being myself.”
I already knew I couldn’t change anyone but myself, and that didn’t seem to be going so well either! Seeing it spelled out so clearly, as given, brought the pieces together. Dan always worked hard to show me he loved me, despite my frailty. He lived the law of love for me. I looked online to find references to “forbearance” in scripture. Turns out, there were different translations of the word, based on the culture and time when each was compiled—Long-suffering, patience that endures, great-heartedness, even “developing a willingness to stick with things”. My response toward Dan felt like “long-suffering,” while his toward me looked much more like “great-heartedness.” We had found very different ways to incarnate the same virtue.
I remembered the definition of forbearance I’d heard in the bible-study video: the ability to hold back one’s power, even if one has the authority to use it, for the greater good that may not be evident to the one seeking relief. It was the same lesson I’d learned through years of practicing physical therapy—calm responses made greater difference over time. Without taking time to comprehend what was driving a patient’s resistance to treatment, there would be no progress. Once they knew I understood them, my patients’ transformation would begin. Their progress was well worth my extra effort.
I saw now that God was asking me to hold back my power–whether my tongue or my thoughts–for the greater good of our marriage. I had been “seeking relief;” but couldn’t see how it would come. With this realization, quarantine changed my life—by bearing the burden of the one to whom I had promised to be true, in good times and in bad, to love and honor all the days of my life, just as he did for me. How would I practice forbearance? Glancing at a picture of my husband, I knew: the example was right before my eyes.'
During the 14th century Siena’s magistrates had sentenced two hardened criminals to a brutal public death. They were driven about town in a cart while executioners tore at their bodies with red-hot pincers. The condemned men showed no trace of remorse for their crimes and spat curses and blasphemies at the people who lined the streets. They had refused to speak with the priests who had offered to prepare them for death.
Catherine of Siena happened to be visiting a friend who lived on one of the roads the cart had to travel. While she stood at the window observing the terrible scene, Catherine was moved by compassion. In her mind’s eye, she saw a mob of demons waiting to punish the condemned men even more sadistically in hell.
Immediately, she began to pray for the two unfortunates. “My most merciful Lord,” she said with her characteristic frankness, “why do you show such contempt for your own creatures? Why are you letting them suffer such torture now? And even more vicious torture by these hellish spirits?”
Catherine never beat around the bush, even in conversations with God.
To the amazement of all, both criminals suddenly stopped shouting curses and cried out for a priest. They wept and confessed their sins to him. The crucified Christ, they claimed, had appeared to them urging repentance and offering forgiveness. They told the crowd that they expected to be with Christ in Heaven, and then they submitted peacefully to their execution. This miraculous turn of events mystified the whole town, but Catherine’s close friends knew that she had intervened in some way. For many days after the dramatic conversions, Saint Catherine of Siena was heard to say, “Thank you, Lord, for saving them from a second prison.”
God’s merciful loves waits for us to turn back to Him. No matter how grave our sins, He longs to embrace us and draw us into His everlasting peace. Would you say ‘yes’ to His call today by making a good confession with a truly repentant heart? Surely, the Kingdom of God belongs to you!'
Fear can paralyze us. Fear about family matters. Fear about health. Fear about career. Fear about the future. Many of us carry around such fears. One day I felt so full of fears that I could feel them weighing me down. My jaws felt tight, my throat felt dry, and I could feel my entire body tense up. I felt helpless, as if the challenges that lay ahead of me were an enormous mountain blocking my way forward.
“LORD, HELP ME!” I shouted from the depths of my heart. In my distress, I sobbed out all my fears to the Lord. In answer the word, “Remember” resonated through me. I hunted around for a pen and paper to write down the words pouring out of me, one after another: Remember the miraculous way the Lord God Almighty granted you your first job.
Remember the time you called out to the Lord for help, and He responded immediately.
Remember the beauty of His creation that surrounds you everywhere. The floodgates opened up. Every memory etched gratitude to the Lord deeper into my heart for His never-ending faithfulness and goodness. And I continued to write. Remember how the Lord answered your prayers and granted you virtuous friendships.
Remember how He brought the right people into your life when you needed them most.
Remember. Remember. Remember the faithfulness of the Lord, Sherin! The more I wrote, the more I recalled His faithfulness and presence in my life. After writing three pages worth of these memories, I paused and reread all that I had written. I realized how quickly I had forgotten His steadfast love for me when I was faced with new challenges.
Filled with deep gratitude, I wanted to hold onto these memories of His faithfulness. So, I grabbed my cell phone and took photos of the pages I had filled and I set it as the home screen on my phone. Every time I picked up my phone throughout the day, I was reminded yet again of His faithfulness. Doing so brought a sense of peace and reassurance that no problem is too big for my Lord and my God. This greater trust in the Lord induced a state of calmness and stillness as I went about my daily tasks.
The Voice Message
Two or three days later, I unexpectedly received a voice message from a good friend who had no idea of my recent prayer experience. He mentioned an old Christmas card that I had written to him six years ago and pointed out a single line I had written in that card. “The Lord Remembers. Daniel 14: 38”. The Lord remembers? What is my friend talking about? I was clueless. I went straight to the source—my Bible, quickly flipping through the pages to Daniel 14:38. “And Daniel said, ‘You have remembered me, O God; and have not forsaken those who love you.” Daniel 14:38
The timing and content of my friend’s message left me speechless. In the depths of my heart, I felt as if the Lord had responded to me through my friend’s voice message. The message was clear. My Lord remembers me too, just as I try my best to remember Him and His faithfulness.'
The pain was excruciating but I still held on to this anchor of hope and I did experience a miracle!
I was 40 years old when I was diagnosed with Charcot- Marie-Tooth Disease (CMT), an inherited progressive peripheral neuropathy (damage to the peripheral nervous system). I finally knew why I always dreaded going to my PE class at school, why I fell so often, why I was so slow. I always had CMT; I just didn’t know it. By the time I was referred to a neurologist, the muscles in my legs had begun to atrophy, and I couldn’t climb steps without pulling myself up.
The relief of having an answer was clouded by concern about what the future would hold. Would I end up in a wheelchair? Would I lose the use of my hands? Would I be able to care for myself? With the diagnosis, darkness came over me. I learned there is no treatment, no cure. What I heard between the lines was, ‘there is no hope’. But little by little, like the morning sun peeking through the blinds, the light of hope gently woke me from the stupor of grief, like a miracle of hope. I realized nothing had changed; I was still the same. I grabbed on to the hope that the progression would continue to be slow, giving me time to adjust. And it did…until it did not.
I experienced a slow, gradual progression of the disease for four years, but then, one summer, it suddenly got worse. Tests confirmed that my condition had inexplicably progressed. When we went out, I had to be in a wheelchair. Even at home, there was little I could do. I couldn’t stand up for more than a couple of minutes at a time. I couldn’t use my hands to open jars or to cut or chop. Even sitting up for more than a few minutes was difficult. The level of pain and weakness forced me to spend most of my time in bed. I was filled with enormous grief as I dealt with the reality of losing the ability to care for myself and for my family. Yet, I had an extraordinary grace during that time.
I was able to attend Daily Mass. And, during those drives, I began a new habit…I prayed the Rosary in the car. For some time, I had wanted to pray the Rosary daily, but I could not get into a routine and make it last. These daily drives fixed that. It was a time of great struggle and pain but also a time of great grace. I found myself devouring Catholic books and stories of the lives of the Saints.
One day, doing research for a talk on the Rosary, I came upon the story of Venerable Fr. Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., who was healed from tuberculosis after asking Mary for her intercession. He spent the rest of his life promoting family prayer and the Rosary. I watched clips on YouTube about these massive rosary rallies he would hold…sometimes, over one million people would show up to pray. I was deeply moved by what I saw, and in a moment of zeal, I asked Mary to heal me too. I promised her that I would promote the Rosary and do rallies and marathons, like Fr. Peyton did. I forgot about this conversation until a few days after I had given my talk.
It was a Monday morning, and I went to Mass as usual, but something was different when I returned home. Rather than going back to bed, I went to the living room and began cleaning up. It was not until my perplexed husband asked me what I was doing that I realized all my pain was gone. I immediately recalled a dream I had the night before: A priest robed in light came to me and administered the Anointing of the Sick. As he traced the Sign of the Cross in my hands with oil, warmth and a deep sense of peace enveloped my whole being. And then I remembered…I had asked Mary to heal me. The miracle of hope did happen and after five months in bed, all my pain was gone. I still have CMT, but I was restored to where I had been five months before.
Since then, I have spent my time in thanksgiving, promoting the Rosary and telling everyone about God’s love. I believe Mary sent this priest to anoint and heal me, though in a different way than what I thought. I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I grabbed on to hope, I was really grabbing on to God. He healed my body, but He also healed my soul. I know He hears me; I know He sees me. I know He loves me, and I am not alone. Ask Him for what you need. He loves you; He sees you…You are not alone.'
The very thing that turned me away from the Church brought me back wholeheartedly! This is my side of the story…
Born and raised in Philadelphia, I attended a Catholic school like most of my friends. Our family attended Mass only on Christmas and Easter. I learned about the sacraments in school, but mostly I memorized the correct answers to get them right on a test. I was a good kid. I didn’t struggle with any major sins. My friends teased that I’d probably become a nun because I was such a goodie two-shoes. But I wasn’t connecting well with my faith. And after a bad confession experience in fourth grade, I decided never to return. I turned away from the Church.
After high school I worked as a server at the Olive Garden. One of my coworkers was an incredibly handsome guy named Keith. A talented musician and a strong Christian, Keith invited me to his non-denominational church, and I loved it. We attended together often, but soon Keith accepted a position as a youth pastor in his home state of Iowa. We missed each other terribly, so I followed him. We married in 1996, and everything was perfect: Keith loved his job at the church: the congregation took wonderful care of us, we had three beautiful children, and I loved us being a pastor’s family. We served there and at a handful of other churches for two decades. Ministry had its ups and downs, but we loved it.
The Tipping Point
Then, after 22 years as a pastor, Keith announced one day, “I think God is calling me to quit my job and convert to Catholicism.” I was shocked, even as I learned that he had been privately considering Catholicism for a long time. He had read books about Catholicism and discussed the faith with priests and catholic friends. What he discovered about the Church Fathers, the sacraments, and the papacy had shaken him to his core, but he had kept going. I loved his new excitement, but I wasn’t interested and didn’t think he’d go through with it. There was no way the Keith I knew would convert to the dull and lifeless religion of my upbringing. But the more I noticed Keith light up when he spoke about converting, the more I panicked. The kids were getting older and had grown up in churches they loved; even if we wanted to, we couldn’t make them convert. “God can’t want to divide our home,” I thought…
How could I go back to what meant so little to me as a child, especially since my new Protestant faith kept me fulfilled. I’d need to work through things like Confession—something I never wanted to do again. I secretly hoped this was just a phase Keith would soon get over. The tipping point for Keith came after a Catholic apologetics talk where he felt God speaking directly to him. He came home and said, “That’s it, I’m doing this. I’m converting. I don’t know what we will do for money, but I know that God is calling me to this; we will figure it out.” The next day, he told his church he was resigning. Now I had to decide what to do.
After months of prayer, I ultimately followed Keith to the Catholic Church. I felt it was best for our kids to see their mom follow their dad’s lead in faith, but they decided to stay at their Protestant churches. It was exciting to see Keith so passionate about his conversion, but I had a more challenging time than I thought I would. I cried at every Mass for about three months. Our family had worshipped together for the past 22 years. Now, we were painfully scattered. In addition, I was upset that Keith wasn’t using his gifts for ministry in the Catholic Church. Since God called him to quit his job, I expected there’d be an incredible ministry waiting for him. I believed God had a plan for Keith, but what was it? Keith was content attending Mass and soaking it all in, but I wanted to see God use him in some new way.
A Wonderful Trip
After a few months of attending Mass, I became more open to the faith. I started asking questions and learning why we do what we do. I began opening my heart to the Mass and started loving it. The people in our parish were beautiful examples of what being Catholic is all about. I loved the scripture-filled Mass, the incense, holy water, and sacraments. I loved the devotions, and of course, the Eucharist. Had I learned more about the Eucharist as a child, I couldn’t have walked away so easily.
During the summer after our conversion, a friend invited us to go to Medjugorje. Keith had gone years before and had a wonderful experience. We were both excited to go, especially when we realized we’d be there on the first anniversary of Keith entering the Catholic Church. What a great way to celebrate. I realized that we had become so busy with life, work, and family that perhaps we hadn’t heard from God about the future because we hadn’t taken the time to stop and listen. “Maybe in Medjugorje God will talk to us about his plan for our life,” I thought. The trip was a powerful experience, but I wasn’t hearing God speaking to me about our future. I started getting impatient and frustrated.
Before It’s Too Late
On the last day, we went to Mass, Rosary services, Adoration, and everything else they offered. We didn’t want to miss anything. During Adoration, I prayed, “God, please talk to me. I felt God say, “Go to Confession.” “No God, please speak to me directly. It’s our last night. Please tell me what to do.” He said, “Go to Confession.” I argued with God, “Do you know how many people are in line for confession? I’ll never get in!”
In Medjugorje, Confession is a big deal. Even with dozens of priests hearing Confessions in many languages, the lines can be long. The outdoor Confessions area was swarming with people every time we walked by. “Sorry God, if you had told me this earlier in the week, I would have gone, but I don’t want to miss out on anything during our last night here,” I prayed. Looking back, I am sure God was rolling His eyes.
After Adoration, while waiting for our friends, I looked at the Confession line trying to decide what to do. A friend from our group came over, looked at me, and said one word, “Pizza.” I jumped up and said, “Yes, let’s go.” We had a delightful time, and after I had stuffed myself, it occurred to me that I might have made a big mistake. “Maybe I should have tried to go to Confession,” I thought. “I think God was talking to me, and I disobeyed. Now, what am I going to do? It might be too late.” I was starting to feel guilty.
I asked Greg about my chances to get into Confession. “It’s after 9:00,” he said, “finding a priest still there (especially an English-speaking priest) won’t be easy”. I decided to try. We walked a block to the outdoor Confessions area and found it empty and dark. As we turned the corner, we spotted a priest in the distance sitting beside a sign that said “English.” I couldn’t believe it. As I approached, he said, “I’ve been waiting for you.”
A Message from God
I sat down and started my Confession. “I should tell you,” I said, “I’ve had issues with Confession. All my other Confessions were half-hearted and done out of obligation. I feel like God told me to come here tonight, so I’m going to consider this my first Confession.” Then I spilled my guts. It took a long time. I was crying, and even though I felt that I had confessed my sins to Jesus throughout the years, there was something special about speaking them out loud to a priest. I struggled to get out some of my words, but I did the best I could.
When I finished, he said, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then he said, “I can tell you are genuinely sorry for your sins, but that’s not the only reason you are here. You are here because it is your last night in Medjugorje (I didn’t tell him that!), and you have been frustrated with God for a long time. You have wanted Him to speak to you on this trip, and you feel He hasn’t. (I didn’t tell him that either!)
“Here is God’s message to you,” said the priest. “Be patient, keep doing what you’re doing and trust in Me.’’ I started crying and then laughing because I was so filled with joy. I hugged him and thanked him for waiting for me. I couldn’t wait to tell Keith what the priest told me. We realized there was a reason we were in Medjugorje on Keith’s anniversary of becoming a Catholic. There was a reason God didn’t have Keith do too much during that first year. We needed to be patient and faithful. And shortly after returning, doors began opening for Keith to share his journey into the Catholic faith.
For example, since the Pandemic began, Keith has been live streaming a Rosary every afternoon on YouTube. He’s done it every day for almost two years now, with over 70 countries represented. It’s now referred to as the Rosary Crew. People from all over the world tell Keith that his ministry has helped them. We are extremely grateful. I’ve learned that while we often ask God to speak to us, too often we’ve already decided what we want Him to say. But God loves to surprise us. Isn’t it crazy that Confession, the very thing that turned me away from The Church, is the thing that Jesus used to bring me back wholeheartedly?
Are you asking God for advice but unwilling to hear what He says? Do you have issues with the Church which you need to resolve? Do you need to ask someone for forgiveness? Do you need to surrender to Jesus and start living differently? Whatever your issue, try to let go of your expectations and just listen? Don’t wait any longer. God is speaking to you. Listen.'
It was a cold and snowy afternoon several years ago, when I felt like going to Adoration. My own parish didn’t have Perpetual Adoration yet, so I drove to a parish that did. It has a small, very intimate chapel where I loved spending time with Jesus, pouring my heart out to Him.
My hour was almost over when I heard two people talking in the back of the chapel. I was disconcerted and distracted by their insensitivity regarding a homeless man in the narthex, so I decided to leave. My hour was almost over anyway.
As I left, I passed through the narthex where the man was sleeping so soundly that he didn’t even stir when I paused to say a prayer over him. I felt relieved that the doors were unlocked for Adoration so he could find shelter. He appeared to be homeless, but I didn’t know for sure.
What I do know is that I was moved to tears by my concern for this man. I could hardly contain myself as I wandered outside where a statue of the Sacred Heart reminded me of Christ’s loving concern for every person and His abundant mercy. I begged the Lord to tell me what to do. In my heart, I felt the Lord telling me to go to the nearby store and pick up a few necessities for this man. I thanked Him and immediately bought a few things that I thought the man might be able to use.
All the way back to the chapel, I hoped the man would still be there. I really wanted to give him what I had purchased. When I arrived, he was still sleeping. I quietly set the bags down near him, said a prayer, and began walking away. I had almost reached the exit when I heard someone call, “Lady, lady”. I turned around and replied, “Yes”. The man was now awake and approached me, asking if I had left the bags for him. I replied, “Yes, I did.” He thanked me saying how thoughtful that was. No one had ever done that before. I smiled and said, “You’re welcome”. The man was coming closer and I felt as if I was in the presence of Jesus. I felt so much love in my heart. Then he said, “Lady, I will see you in Heaven.” I thought I would burst out crying. His voice was so kind and loving. I was compelled to give him a kiss on the cheek. We said goodbye to each other and went our separate ways.
Outside, I couldn’t stop crying. I cried all the way home. Even now, I am moved to tears when I remember that afternoon. That cold, snowy afternoon, I realized that I had indeed met Jesus in that beautiful man. Now, when I look back, I imagine Jesus saying to me, “It’s Me, Jesus!” with a big smile on His face.
Thank you, Jesus, for reminding me that I can meet you in each person I encounter.'