Today is July 4th and it is Independence Day for those of us in America. The theme of this post is Freedom and is inspired by the testimony of today’s featured guest, Santonio. Santonio is a FOCUS missionary and former Seminarian who shares his story of how he found freedom in the virtue of Chastity.
As you read his story, know that the Lord desires you to be free. He desires you to participate in A Sacramental Life in Christ and to accept His Covenant of love and protection. Know that He, the Holy Spirit, is constantly at work to save you from yourself. Why do I say “save you from yourself”? Because nothing can come between us (Romans 8:39) and the work of the Holy Spirit….only we can say “Yes.” to Him and “No.” to the continued bondage of sin.
At the same time, Santonio’s testimony reveals that each of us have a ‘thing’ that we must overcome. Not one creature is exempt from a ‘thing’. The ‘thing’ is almost always a wound from our past, often from someone in our past. The Sacraments are designed to heal those wounds and reveal the loving Covenant that awaits us from our Lord.
Here is Santonio’s story. May you continually accept True Freedom in Christ as we celebrate this Independence Day.
God Love you and Bless you, Cindy
The journey that I’ve had in my life with Chastity has been quite the struggle. I had been introduced to pornography at the age of 13 from my father and he told me that it’s an instructional video that shows men how to treat woman properly. He also handed me a box of condoms to use up by the end of the month. I thought that by partaking in these things I would obtain happiness because it’s what my father showed me. In addition to that messy situation; my father was hardly around the family he help to create and I thought that by indulging in these then he would want to stick around more. My thought process was that he didn’t love me and the family because he wasn’t around and I was trying to earn his love and earn his stay by doing what he said.
Several years later I entered the seminary. I struggled with Chastity an awful lot and it was due to 5 years of looking at porn as well as the hook up culture I was engulfed in. I would find myself getting better as I received formation from the priest in the seminary, but every time I was growing in Chasity I would fall again. I would fall because of either the memories randomly in my head or because I would listen to rap music or a random video on YouTube and it would trigger me. When I cut out rap music from my life my struggle with Chasity became non-existent and I began thriving.
While still in the seminary, my friends and family back home brought up rap songs for me to listen to whenever I came back home. They would want my opinion on the song because I use to rap in high school. I would continue to listen to rap when I got back to the seminary and when that happened my fall with Chastity creeped back in my life. For me, rap music is lethal to my soul. It encourages me to be edgy in my way of life and encourages drugs (which I did in high school) and encourages an unchaste lifestyle.
I haven’t stopped listening to rap music to this present day and the reason I keep telling myself is because I need it to relate to people. I am a missionary on a college campus and I use it as a tool to make connections with the students just to spark up conversation. Also, when at a party trying to win over a student, knowing the lyrics to a song gives me credentials with them. These days my struggle with Chastity has been less than that, even though I am still engaged in rap. Once I am no longer a missionary my spiritual director has told me to ditch that music for the rest of my life. I will no longer need to use it as a tool to connect with the students.
Porn has had long-lasting effects on my thoughts and the way I view woman. It makes me see the woman first as just an object and “what can I get out of her”, then I see her has a child of God and I see her soul. Lately, in prayer I have been asking God to allow me to see His daughters as children of God first and asking God to banish the evil thoughts from my mind.
My first year as a missionary, I was extremely convicted of the Eucharist and how it truly is the presence of God that we receive in our bodies at mass. One day, I was in prayer and asked God to make me more relatable for the students that I was preparing to encounter on campus. That same day I went to mass and during the Eucharistic prayers/ consecration I began to smell blood. This occurred for 3 consecutive weeks; daily mass and Sunday, but at the moment when I first smelled blood I became depressed and that lasted for 6 weeks. I would’ve never expected for to allow me to become depressed, but that is something I had never experienced before and it definitely made me more relatable.
At the end of week 6 of being depressed I went to mass and during the consecration I began to smell bacon. “I know I’m not crazy” I say to myself. But it was really happening. It made me think of a covenant, the way Scott Hahn spoke of it. He explains a covenant as a boy from a village wanting to marry outside of his village. He approaches his chief and asks for permission to do so. His chief grants that permission and now the boy has to ask the chief from the girl’s village for permission. The chief grants permission so the marriage is on, but before that takes place the two villages enter into a covenant together. They dig a ditch, take a pig, slaughter it in the ditch, and allow the ditch to fill up with blood of the pig. They then step over it and that signifies the covenant being complete and the unification of the two villages into one. If the covenant was somehow broken between the villages then it results in death for someone.
As I go up to receive the Blessed Sacrament and the precious Blood I began to smell sweet bread. I think God was telling me to enter into the covenant with Him and have a piece of heaven which is what the sweet bread resembled. I tell you this because if the Catholic Church has it right when it comes to the Eucharist, then most likely they have all ethical issues correct and most importantly the soul when it encounters sin. This allowed me to definitely fear the Lord in a proper way but also allowed me to draw closer to God and respond with love. And with the love I encountered with God I was running to Him and not being fooled by the evil one with temptations of being unchaste.
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