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Dear Father Angelo,
Since I was a child my heart has always been far from God. I blasphemed Our Lady from the age of 8. I have never heard anything: neither for my first Confession, nor for my First Communion, nor for Confirmation. I went to Mass, but only out of habit, I laughed inside myself and ridiculed it. I was only interested in going to eat at the restaurant after those events that I did not consider them sacraments, but simple formalities. I am amazed how at a very young age there could already be all this coldness. We are only in childhood, let alone adolescence. It is not true that children have only venial sins. I considered myself a Catholic by going to Mass, a Sunday on, and a Sunday off. Why go there in the summer, then? Why honor Our Lady of the Assumption, given that her feast happens in the middle of the summer holidays? Here, these were my arguments. And if two feasts of obligation were adjacent (eg Sunday 5th January and Epiphany), oh, woe! –  to go to Mass twice in a row. But when I reached adolescence, I reached the point of no return. Seeing no future in front of me, I lost two school years (the first two of high school), even if by changing school I went on much better, but always without any future prospects, so much so that in this new place I did very well during the first years, but then there was a slow and gradual decline (even if never as disastrous as the two lost years), so much so that I left the Maturity exam with a rather low grade. With the change of address, I was teased by my classmates and, above all, classmates for my too-high grades and for my shyness (I don’t think it’s just shyness, since I’m full of manias), so much so that, in tests, I made mistakes on purpose (cheating in reverse) to get a slightly lower grade and not be too “nerdy”. How much weakness of character and spirit! Also in this first year of the new address (age 16), I committed the two most serious sins, perhaps, of my life: to make myself seen popular with my bullying companions, I told a false story in which I would have committed of sexual acts with a classmate of mine (not part of the group of bullies). The worst thing about having told such shameful (totally false) details about my classmate’s body is that, even if she hates me to death, she will never do that as much as I deserve. Now I turn to the gravest sin of my life committed in that same school year: one Sunday, after going to Mass and communion, I had a quarrel with my mother and, in addition to insulting her with terrible words, I took the booklet of the Rosary and I threw it to the ground, with the misgiving that inside the box attached to the booklet there was a consecrated Host, since I threw that to the ground too. Since then, I have already reached Hell on earth. Another serious sin, committed the following school year, in which, being fed up with the constant teasing of my classmates, I then thought of throwing a friend’s new cell phone to the ground and heavily insulting one of my classmates. Since then, the teasing has greatly decreased, but the end does not justify the means. Also in that school year (age 17), I made my last Confession (sacrilegious) in which I hid the most serious sins (including the one I have told here) with subsequent sacrilegious Communion. From here on I saw Hell without the need for a mystical vision (at 18). I abandoned the Mass, I became an atheist. From here began the suicidal wishes and I blasphemed the Holy Spirit for the prohibition to commit suicide (at 19 years). To quench my thirst, I became interested in Buddhist practices and sometimes did some sort of meditation. I believed in everything (including reincarnation), except in the One True God. I arrived at the last year of high school: since, every now and then, some of my classmates still laughed at me, in my heart I wished them to die and I’m afraid that it is a real curse given that one of them fell ill with leukemia. During that same period I started psychological therapy, which was not successful and I had to stop. Meanwhile, there was this thirst that did not calm down (no philosophy and no religion satisfied it). My whole life seemed meaningless to me, I felt it was a useless burden, I absolutely did not consider it a gift. I was so desperate that I no longer cared about myself, nor about others, nor about creation. Suicide now seemed to me the only wise solution. On the other hand, if God does not exist and after death there is nothing, what is the point of continuing to live? It all seemed a waste to me. Above all, why suffer if suffering makes no sense at all? Who are you to give me moral rules and judgments if there is no path to follow and no otherworldly and eternal goal to achieve? There are atheists, good people, I understand, but isn’t man’s first duty to transcend his own nature and look for someone greater than him? If not, what distinguishes us from other animals? And then whoever is an atheist is not really an atheist, he has only chosen created things and creatures as his gods, he is an idolater. All this despair until a voice moved something in me, made me feel that after death everything does not end, indeed the goal of this life is not this life itself, but it goes beyond this life and is called God.Plus, I felt invited to follow the only path that can lead you to this goal: Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church. Although this voice is persistent day and night, I continue to be very hard of heart. I resumed going to Mass, trying hard not to skip even one, at least on Sundays and public holidays, but Confession and Communion remain light years away for me. In addition, I still have a lot of coldness towards everything and everyone, I see no future in front of me and I just want to die, every now and then I still get angry with God to the point of blaspheming him (complete with mistreatment of sacred images and throwing the Gospel as if a possessed person), I can’t stop masturbating and I only see the girls in their corporeality. So I’m still far from God. I’ve never had a friend in my life, I don’t know what friendship is. If someone attacks me aggressively or even just with the right severity, I become a beast with words and, sooner or later, I’m afraid of becoming abusive. I can’t tell the difference between severity and unfair aggression, so much so that I once threatened my parents with death just because they made some remarks. People don’t know how to behave with me and I don’t know how to behave with others. I think fools are much wiser than I am: what worse madness can there be than not believing in your Creator or, if you do, keep offending him with your sins (including blasphemy), knowing that he is the One who desires my true and eternal happiness and that of all men? You pray for me and, perhaps, I need a powerful blessing that melts the ice from my heart and rekindles in me the goodwill at least to access the Sacraments again in a worthy way, not sacrilegiously as I have always done.
If only I could feel at least an ounce of pain for my sins, even if it would serve me to feel the fire of Purgatory inside my soul here on earth in order to atone for all these very serious sins.
I’m 23 now. Good day.

Response from the priest

1. I was struck by your email, so strange for what you told me and at the same time so lucid and at times even penetrating.
I was reminded of a person whom I used to know at first hand,  at the time. This person was brilliant, with many uncommon skills, but perhaps too naive.
Those who knew her well said: She undoubtedly has many numbers, but she doesn’t know how to line them up!
That person, however, had already passed that period that Dante described with the following words: “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita” – “In the middle of the journey of our life”.
But you are young and I hope that soon the many gifts that the Lord has given you can be put to the benefit not only of your life, but of many.

2. You write to me that at a certain moment after only an external religious practice you became an atheist.
But with this the questions have continued to haunt you.
For example, if God does not exist and life is meaningless and is inevitably accompanied by suffering, why continue living?
Isn’t it time wasted?
You logically thought about suicide.
Jacques Maritain and his wife Raissa also came to this same conclusion.
But both of them after reading an intelligent novel, entitled La femme pauvre (The poor woman), were struck by grace, received Baptism, and spiritually enriched many by bringing them to faith.
Raissa, in her Journal , at a certain moment noted the surprise of the many conversions and baptisms of intellectuals, which took place after their conversion.
I hope that this happens also for you and that you can say together with Saint Paul that where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more (Rom 5:20).
It would be the best success of your life.
Perhaps it would also be the realization of the supreme reason why God has been patient with you as in His time He had been patient with Paul who previously had been a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent one (1 Tim 1:13).

3. I’m not going back to the various arguments you described in your email, because I would never finish.
I’m just saying that the clarity of your mind has brought you back to God.
But there are still some things that prevent the fullness of the Christian life.
Among these, the now prolonged absence of Holy Communion which, thanks be to God, you begin to feel the need.
There is also the absence of confession.
And sins still persist in your life that are incompatible with the life of grace.

4. There is between you and God, despite the newly found faith, something similar to what Abraham pointed out to the rich man who was in hell and who asked to send him Lazarus to cool his tongue: “between us and you a great abyss has been fixed”(Lk 16:26).
As long as one is deprived of the grace of God, there is an abyss that prevents communion from heart to heart, from feeling one with God, like the sea and the fish.
When one is deprived of grace, one can think of God and believe in him. Very often this happens. But communion is still missing.
Just like in the case of the rich man who, despite being in hell, saw Abraham from afar and talked to him. But he could not enjoy communion because of the great abyss.

5. Well, I tell you this: as soon as you find grace with repentance and Confession, you will immediately feel that sense of interior fullness for which St. Thomas said that only God satisfies.
And you will understand how much Saint Augustine felt when he was suddenly freed from the violent and itchy scabies of sensuality for which he wrote: “How sweet did it suddenly become to me to be without the delights of trifles! And what at one time I feared to lose, it was now a joy to me to put away. For Thou cast them away from me, Thou true and highest sweetness. Thou cast them away, and instead of them entered in Yourself, — sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood; brighter than all light, but more veiled than all mysteries; more exalted than all honour, but not to the exalted in their own conceits.”(Confessions, IX, 1).

6. Until you take this step, you will continue to deny yourself the highest experience of the Christian life.
Attendance at Mass, however attentive, will always be accompanied by a certain dryness because the absence of grace prevents one from “tasting how good the Lord is” (34.9)
Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk in vogue in the 50s and 60s of the last century, said that in those twenty or thirty minutes he lived after Communion and was in conversation with the Lord it seemed to him that the whole meaning of his life was contained.

7. Therefore, fill the great abyss that separates you from God through sacramental Confession.
Resolve to receive the embrace of God who has been waiting for you for a long time.
And, after you confess, be determined to have regular and frequent confession. Do not wait more than 15 days.
Your confession will be short (except the first, obviously) and always made with the same priest who will gladly welcome you because he will see that you are serious and solicitous in the condemnation of sins.

8. For some time now you too have needed to experience the “very lively consolation of the spirit”, “the peace and serenity of conscience” of which the Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks.
These sentiments are infused by God into the soul with the sacrament of Penance or Confession (CCC 1468).

9. You tell me you want contrition for your sins.
This is one of the most beautiful graces.
You can dispose of this grace both by examining the reasons why the Lord has provided you with so many gifts of all kinds and by regretting that you have not used them according to God.
However, since it is a supernatural pain, you cannot cause it alone.
You can and must ask God as a singular grace.
Ask for it through the intercession of She whom the Lord has given you as a Mother.
In this regard, why not recite a Rosary precisely to ask for this grace together with Mary?
Even later on the day you have established for confession remember to always ask for this grace and, if you can, to pray the Rosary specifically for this reason.
You will see how the fire will light up!10. How nice it would be if you started right away.
In this way you will be able to “line up” the numerous gifts that the Lord has given you.
And, in addition to receiving a great advantage for yourself, you will bear much fruit in the vineyard of the Church in which the Lord has called you to work because your life is certainly precious to many.
I gladly accompany you with my prayer, I wish you well and I bless you.
Father Angelo

Translated by Germana Casaccia
Reviewed by Tom Dore