Faith Story

My Faith Story: Sr Hyacinthe Defos du Rau, OP

sister H. Defos du rau

I was 16 years old when I understood for the first time that it may be possible that God, the all-powerful creator of everything that is, may be willing to speak to me and reveal Himself to me personally. My mother had sent me on a Catholic camp in England (I am French), in order to improve my English in a Christian environment. One night during that camp, which took place on a farm, an ex-drug dealer gave his testimony of how God touched his life and transformed it completely through the revelation of His love. This was not the first testimony I had heard, but it was the last I attended with any patience left. These testimonies tended to leave me extremely frustrated, as they made me feel like something was missing in my otherwise good and Catholic life. I had no idea what that missing element was, but I knew I wanted it desperately, vaguely suspecting that if I could ever take hold of whatever it was these people had received, my life would be radically transformed from the inside. I also knew that this was not just a matter of improvement, but a life-and-death condition to living to the full. As the testimony went on, I was barely listening, lost in frustration and anguish, as I realised more and more that:


  • I missed something fundamental in my life;
  • I had no power of obtaining what was missing by myself, it had to come from outside as a gift;
  • If I did not obtain this, I suspected my life, no matter what I did with it, would lack meaning and purpose, since everything passes and we die just as we are born: naked.


I now can put into words the anguish of the moment, but this anguish then came out most dramatically: I went out in the night, and walking in the field by myself, I started crying and shouting in distress. The words I yelled again and again then summarised the whole of my distress (but also my arrogance):


“God, if you do love me that much, as I am told, why don’t you tell it to me yourself?!?” And I added a prideful ultimatum to my maker: “If you do not say it yourself to me, I won’t believe in you anymore!”


I also knew that, should God not reveal Himself personally to me at that time, life itself would lose any taste or lasting relevance. This may also have been the first genuine prayer I ever uttered, entering into adult life. I knew that I was sick of hearing others speak to me about God. I now desperately wanted God Himself to speak to my heart, to talk to me, showing me this incredible, life-transforming love I had heard about but never experienced so far.


I heard nothing that night. I was ready to hear a physical sound in my ear, or witness something extraordinary. I knew God had the power to do anything He wished, that He supposedly loved me, and yet nothing happened. At some point, one of the camps’ leader’s, a wonderful lady, came out to see what was going on and saw me in tears and completely incoherent. She quietly prayed with me, invoking the Holy Spirit into my heart, as I was resolving not to believe any more, or at any rate not to pay God any kind of attention from that day forward, since He hadn’t answered my prayer immediately. This resolution was the most bitter of my life: consciously and willingly turning away from God at that moment was the cause of a sadness greater than I have ever experienced. We are made for Him and our happiness is in Him. I went to bed with a heavy heart that night, and my future was one of darkness.


The next day I awoke to a new world. The darkness was replaced by light. As I opened my eyes, I knew the love of God for me. That knowledge of faith, which was inexistent a few hours before, was mysteriously present in the depth of my heart, a transforming certitude, which had been planted mysteriously in me as a gift. I was loved. I am loved, by God. Unconditionally, eternally willed and loved by the One who made me and wants me for Himself. God had spoken to my heart, in words that could not be heard, but in the mysterious language which had awakened faith where there was none. This faith has since grown and deepened, and it keeps growing through grace, received in the Sacraments of the Church and in prayer, the silent heart-to-heart with the One who has made our hearts, for whom our hearts are made, and who in Christ has pledged us his own Sacred Heart.