After she began converting to Catholicism in 2010, Leticia Ochoa Adams engaged in a lot of hard work and therapy to deal with the aftereffects of being sexually abused as a child. At the time, she developed a rosy, victorious outlook on her suffering, believing, “Those were just the things I had to go through in order to be this awesome Catholic.” Leticia realizes now how prideful she was back then because when her son Anthony committed suicide in 2017, none of those beliefs made any sense.
During a “Christopher Closeup” interview about her memoir “Our Lady of Hot Messes: Getting Real with God in Dive Bars and Confessionals,” Leticia told me about this difficult period of her life and how she eventually moved toward healing.
Filled with anger at God for months after Anthony’s suicide, she went to Confession to Father Jonathan, the parish priest who had been a supportive friend to her family throughout their ordeal. Aware that the priest in that moment is standing “in persona Christi” (in the person of Christ), she unloaded her fury and pain and “let him have it.” At the end, Father Jonathan simply responded, “It broke my heart, too.”
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Leticia observed, “I already knew Father Jonathan’s heart was broken, losing Anthony. So, the only reason he would say those words to me is because it was Christ talking to me, and it broke His heart, too…. Of all the heartbreak I have, I don’t love my son the way God loves him because God made him. And I don’t grieve my son the way God grieves him because God was there and witnessed it from beginning to end and couldn’t stop it. That changed everything for me…. I went on a mission to grow my relationship with [God], and not with this idea of Him that has to do with politics or this lifestyle or that lifestyle or this Mass or that Mass. It had everything to do with the God who made the heavens and earth.”
Leticia’s walk through suffering has changed her. She admits the mistakes she made raising her children, accepts responsibility for the harm some of her choices caused them, and is working toward repairing those things. She also realizes that just because you have faith in God doesn’t mean your heart will never be broken. Noting that Jesus Himself experienced grief and wept, she said, “We don’t have to mask these hard feelings by spiritually bypassing the suffering.”
As readers of “Our Lady of Hot Messes” will discover, Leticia’s view of God has also been changed by selling the house she and her husband used to live in and moving to the great outdoors. She said, “We moved to raw land about 17 months ago, which means there’s no electricity, no water. We’ve had to build from scratch, and my current understanding of God is so much bigger than a fairy in the sky who just makes your wishes come true. There’s no lights on our street, there’s no light pollution out here. So, when I look up at the sky and see the stars, I’m in awe. The sunset, the sunrise, the weather patterns. It’s so much different than living in a city…I can see the allness of God, and how much everything He creates is beautiful, and how much He delights in that beauty. And that includes us. So, the person I can’t stand, God finds delightful and gorgeous and beautiful. That’s really changed how I see Him now.”
For free copies of the Christopher News Note The Gift of Reconciliation, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: email@example.com.