Re: Drug Rehab Cult Comunita Cenacolo
Date: February 08, 2013 02:55PM
I will soon be going into the postulancy phase of the religious order I am in, and that will require me to be off the Internet for a while. It is because of this that I decided to post the "prequel" story to my time in Cenacolo. Nobody else posting here has ever heard it, and while it certainly isn't more important in any way than anyone else's story--God goes through many different means to get people on the track of healing--it may work well enough to show some parents that Cenacolo is a place blessed by God. It's an incredibly long story that took 18 months before I did my experience, but I will try to shorten it as much as possible.
I was coming off the heels of a divorce (from a civil marriage) in 2005. That had put a lot of strain on my family, and I think helped fuel my brother's cocaine addiction because he was a private investigator helping me but it was so personal to all of us that we were strained to the limit. Still, after it was over I thought things were on the right track. My mother said over the summer that she thought there was something wrong with him, but I thought she was being paranoid.
One day in front of the Blessed Sacrament I felt God tell me to tell him that God loved him. I did this, but I didn't understand why because I thought he was OK. Three weeks later I learned he had a cocaine addiction.
A few months later Ivan Dragicevich from Medjugorje was coming to L.A. for another round of his talks at local churches. He'd done this many times before, but this was the first time he was doing it at my home church. It just so happened that his trip coincided with my brother's coming into town from North Carolina. I invited him to go because I thought it would do him good. In 1989 and 1990 I had been to Medjugorje to seek forgiveness for my own addictions, and I had an experience in nearby Tijhalina where Mary let me know everything was going to be OK.
So my brother went but days later was caught smoking pot. A big argument ensued, but we made up before he went back to NC. Then a friend of mine and I caught another of Ivan's talks, and at this church the pastor spoke about a community in Medjugorje called Campo della Vita, or "Field of Life". It was a community of recovering drug addicts. I began to believe God was connecting Medjugorje to my brother's drug problem, that maybe he was being called to go there.
I asked the priest after for more information but we didn't have a paper or pen to write anything down on. I needed to know the name again of the place. I told him I would call and ask for it later, but a month passed and I hadn't.
This was in early 2006. I need to set the clock back again to December 2005, to when I was invited to a Catholic talk on St. Don Bosco at a house near San Juan Capistrano. I saw in town a tremendous antique shop. As a history teacher I was always looking for new stuff for the classroom, so I vowed to return to buy some things in the future. So stepping forward in time again a few months, I went a few hours early to try to go to the shop before I attended the meeting. But I ended up arriving only when they were closing. I took a walk around Capistrano instead. I wound up at the modern basilica, where I prayed for my family for a few minutes. Upon leaving I saw a brochure for a Medjugorje trip that had some interesting quotes on it. It was only three weeks away--too late for my brother to go--but I wanted to keep it. I put it in my car, went to a coffee shop to kill some time, then went to the meeting.
A couple hours later I returned home and took another look at the flyer while still in my car in our garage. I noticed there was an itinerary list on the back, the last part of which stated "We will visit the drug rehab center Campo della Vita".
I must have looked white as a ghost. I had just driven 120 miles round trip, been to a church I'd never been in before, picked up a flyer I'd never seen before that was put there by someone I didn't know, all to find again the name of a place I desperately needed that was on the other side of the world and advertised nowhere in southern California, and on a trip down south which had nothing to do with it. I actually looked in my rear view mirror to see if the face of an angel might be staring at me, as this was typical of how God would answer my prayers--with complete surprise.
I staggered into the house and fired up the computer. I found a website for the location with an English page, but was left only with more questions. The people at this place were half my brother's age. It talked about parents sending their kids there. He was a parent himself. How could they help him?
After this I opened up with my family about it. But of course it was rejected.
Over the next several months, through another "coincidence" that bore a similarity to this one, I found out that Campo della Vita was not a single location, but a part of the worldwide Comunita Cenacolo, and that they had two houses in Florida. The very location was phenomenal. My sister-in-law's family were scattered throughout the region from South Carolina to Miami. She even had a distant relative in St. Augustine itself. God was not calling my brother to Medjugorje. He was calling him to a place that was in his wife's family's geographic backyard! He was opening up to him a place where he could go that, once he had been in it long enough, could be visited by short plane trips in all directions.
I opened up about this to my family. Still it was rejected. And the fighting got worse and worse.
Finally one day I went to a local church and poured out my emotions, saying that if God would allow it, I would take on my brother's suffering. I asked for a suffering that he might be relieved of his. My only requests were that it would be physical (from my own addictions and other problems I had had enough of emotional difficulties), and that it would be something new so that when it came I would know it was from God.
Less than two weeks later I came down with conjunctivitis (pink eye). Along with the physical illness, which lasted a few weeks, it nearly destroyed my new job working as a teacher at Edison Middle School. Since it was the beginning of the school year and I was new, I was especially susceptible to problems caused by a long-term absence. I found out that none of the sub teachers had followed my lesson plans, so any plans for spending time on discipline in the first few days I was back went up in smoke. I suffered from out of control classrooms for the entire year as I feared for my job because a nuclear bomb went off over my discipline plan. In other words, I experienced the perfect level of physical suffering that I had asked for, strong enough to be felt yet not strong enough to destroy us. And of course it was completely new, just like I'd asked. I told the Lord when I prayed for the suffering that if He granted it I would return to the church and give thanks. I returned while still sick, completely freaked out, bowing with head to the floor and wondering what the heck was going on. I'd only read about stuff like this happening to people, not actually experienced it.
I went to my brother and told him about this. He completely misunderstood. He didn't understand that if this was from God then why was he still suffering. I told him this was to show him that what was being brought to us--Cenacolo--wasn't a figment of my imagination but something actually from God. My prayer for suffering being answered was proof of that. If he went into Cenacolo he would receive healing, and that would be how my suffering would alleviate his.
But still, deaf ears. In the meantime I contacted Cenacolo myself. I hadn't before because I wanted my brother to do it, but it became clear that would never happen. I was invited then to the Festival of Life.
So this is the latter half of 2006. Sometime around then I had prayed for God to show me in a dream whether or not this was truly an answer to our problem. That night I had a dream I was in a small town in the Arctic. The people were Christians, but not of the Catholic Church. They depended entirely on a train arriving every day to give them all their goods. This is going to sound funny, but I stood inside one of their houses hiding behind some drapes because I had no clothes. Yet it didn’t matter to them. Everyone from the town was coming in with the goods and smiling, talking, and laughing.
The symbolism was clearly evident. The people were the people of Cenacolo, who were of a different "branch" of the Catholic faith, focusing on a different issue than the pro-life one I have been involved with for half my life. The Arctic represented the radical departure from living in Los Angeles that Florida would bring. My nakedness stood for my sins, and the train and goods were the providence Community receives.
So in late 2006 I went to my first Festival of Life. It was so surreal. This was my "Arctic" community come to life. What would this place I had a vision of in my dreams be like? Why had God been leading me there for a year? Who were these people?
Before the event I went to Mass across the street at Our Lady of Good Counsel. At one point in the Mass I felt a tremendous presence from the Holy Spirit fall upon me, telling me that if my family were to join Cenacolo, everything with us would be healed and there would be tremendous peace. But little would I know still more miracles were coming.
My contact introduced me to a priest to whom I told my story. I told him this must be from God. He suddenly sat up and bluntly said, "Of course it is!" This priest was the former pastor of the Basilica of San Juan Capistrano. You got that right. I ended up flying thousands of miles across a continent to tell a story of what happened to me at that church, and the person hearing it and confirming it was from God was that same church's former pastor. That's well over 2000 miles and tens of thousands of parishes in the country we are talking about here.
I met Bishop Baker. Later that December I emailed him the story and asking if he could say a Mass for my brother. A month later on January 26th he responded. He said he would say the Mass the next day. He didn't know how that day was special. It happened to be my brother's birthday. The bishop of the entire Catholic Church in South Carolina, some 110 parishes in all, was going to say a Mass for my brother and it happened to fall on his birthday. God, of course, knew that. He timed it well.
Soon I was to get the idea that there might be something for me in this Cenacolo thing as well. Since my civil divorce I had been entertaining the idea of going back to my original childhood dream--the priesthood. I felt that God had for well over a year been playing me like a rag doll with Cenacolo, but maybe there was a reason for it. So I returned in April and met leaders like Albino for the first time. Later in September I began my experience.
I also had the reason of wanting to see if my brother would follow. He is strong in a lot of things but for something like this he needed someone to show it could be done. I gave it my best effort, but I faced some things I wasn't prepared for. People think that guys playing jokes on me and treating me badly was the worst of it for me, but while that was difficult it wasn't the worst pain that occupied my mind daily. The worst was that I couldn't tell what I was, someone who had come from a broken life just like everyone else. I wanted to but there were risks because my addictions weren't drugs and in Cenacolo that is the common background of most of the guys. The ones that I had would have been the subject of jokes, and for that reason I was told by the Cenacolo leadership not to reveal them. I could say that I had been to Medjugorje, but I couldn't say why. I couldn't say it was for the reasons these guys go, that I'd visited Medjugorje for the same reasons when I was their age. As a result I was often nervous, feeling lost in an environment that, on top of things, was completely alien to the urban sprawl I am used to in L.A. But looking back I realize that for whatever reasons that's probably how most guys in Cenacolo feel, lost and misunderstood. The need to feel understood is very powerful. What guys in Cenacolo learn more is how to understand.
Then came the explosive ending at Lourdes which changed everything. Imagine if God were to take your whole life as you knew it away from you for a year, only to end the experience by fulfilling your greatest desires to a degree you could never imagine. Fusing my loves of history and religion was the most incredible experience of my life. July 16th, 2008--the 150th anniversary of the last apparition at Lourdes--a spiritual birthday I now celebrate every year as well as my physical one. It was the greatest night of my life, like the finale of a July 4th fireworks festival. It was the Resurrection brought in a way I had never seen or experienced before.
I no longer worry about my family. God gave me assurance while I was in Cenacolo that they would be OK in the end, even if my brother didn't enter. Now I am here at a novitiate of a different order, and plans are to move into the postulancy phase in about two months, where I will no longer be able to be on the Internet.
Being someone who strongly believes in logic and facts, I once did my best to calculate the variables of the story I experienced happening by chance. I found I could figure the variables for only half of all the events, but when combined they made for a chance of 1 in 70 million x all the known stars in the Universe. Some people, those who didn't live it, might say that this is all "nonsense", that there was nothing "mystical" about it. With figures like the above I beg to differ.
When all this ended I asked the Lord to again appear to me in a dream and tell me where to go from there. I used to do this as a kid, when I had a much stronger faith than I do today, and He would usually use the home church as the setting to tell me whatever He wanted. True to form this happened again. I was in the robes as a postulant of an unidentified order and a special celebration was going on. My friends from Cenacolo had flown all the way from Florida to participate in it. They jumped out of a car and we all marched into the church together, singing "Ama tuo il Signor, con tutto cuore, con tutto l'anima de la mente, e la forza tue" (forgive if my Italian is incorrect!). "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength". Entering the church with my Cenacolo brothers symbolized the passing from one stage of God's plan for me to another, from one Catholic institution to the next.
I thank God for the benefit of having had such a powerful experience with such wonderful people. I thank Him for the bad times that made me strong, and for the good times that gave me consolation. I thank Him for the strong persecutions which prepared me for lesser persecutions I have felt in my current order. I thank Him for my Cenacolo friends who have supported me during my time with this order. I thank Him for the many times that I have been able to be back and visit, as well as in advance for the times I hope to return in the future. I know I fall far short of being worthy of any of these gifts, but He showers His love anyways.
I thank Him for my entire life.