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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Zen Buddhism Meets Catholicism
U. S. A. | NEWS | NEWS
How the sign of the cross set a life on a new course.

sophia foley
Sophia Foley with one of her sons.

October 12, 2010. Hinsdale, IL. “I was going through a difficult period in my life,” says Sophia Foley, a relatively new Regnum Christi member. Looking back on the five years before her reversion to the Catholic faith, perhaps the word “difficult” is an understatement.
First, there were the family tragedies. After her father-in-law’s slow decline and death from esophageal cancer, her own father suffered three heart attacks. Since he lived in upstate New York and Sophia lived outside of Chicago, her worry was compounded with a sense of helplessness.
Then she was diagnosed with her own cancer, which meant surgery and daily chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
At the same time, her husband was being relocated again in his job. For the eighth time in seventeen years, they had to pack up the family and get settled into a new town, find new schools, meet new friends, make arrangements with new doctors…
Selling a home in a housing recession while also dealing with cancer is not what one would call a recipe for peace and joy.
Once they settled in their new town in Illinois, she began taking piano lessons to fill up her day. She wasn’t really “with it,” and her piano teacher could tell.
One day, her teacher stopped the lesson, pressed a book on Zen Buddhism into her distracted student’s hands, and told her, “Sophia, you need a change. Just get on a plane and go away for a while.”
So she did. At the last minute, she bought plane tickets for herself and her son. Where to? New Mexico! She brought the book with her, hoping to read it on the plane and find some measure of peace and clarity. After all, the Zen book was all about living in the present moment, not anxiously anticipating the future or uselessly rehashing the past. She was definitely searching for something…
But when they got to the airport and she saw a Catholic priest sitting at their gate, she was absolutely sure she was not searching for the Catholic Church.  They hadn’t practiced their Catholic faith for the past five years, and there was nothing attracting her back. Quite the opposite. She felt repelled.
 “Let’s sit far away from that priest,” she told her son. At a safe distance from the ominous Roman collar, she relaxed a little and started looking forward to the trip.
When it was time to board the plane, she and her son couldn’t sit together, since the tickets had been purchased at the last minute. So she ended up way at the back of the plane. When she checked her seat number and scanned the row, her heart sank.
There he was. Right next to her assigned seat. The priest.
Determined to avoid contact, she opened her Zen book and read the whole time. The young priest was likewise immersed in his Bible or breviary. For the next several hours, the Asian woman and the Catholic priest exchanged not a word.
But just before the plane landed, the force of habit caught her by surprise. Without thinking, she made the sign of the cross for a safe landing, just as she always did.
The priest looked up, his interest piqued, as if to say, “What is this Asian woman reading Zen Buddhism doing making the sign of the cross?”
So he struck up a conversation, introducing himself as Brother Zach. He was a Legionary of Christ and worked in youth ministry in Louisiana. When he asked Sophia about her religious background, she shared that she had been a Catholic but was no longer practicing.
When he found out that she was from Illinois, he suggested that she go to a reflection on Divine Mercy that Fr Jason Brooks was holding at someone’s home in the town of Hinsdale.
It just so happened that Sophia and her family had recently moved to that very town.
For some reason, she went. It was there that she met Fr André LaSana, LC. Over the next few months, he became her new spiritual director, gently coaching her back into the Catholic Church and to the sacraments.
Looking back, she is grateful to Fr André for bringing her face to face with Christ as a person, and for walking with her at her pace.
“Fr André has been the driving force behind my commitment to Christ,” she said. “He was so patient with me at a time when I was ready to throw in the towel.”
Attending Mass again for the first time gave her a taste of the peace she had been searching for.
“I was a little nervous going into it, but once I was there, it was like coming home. All of a sudden, for the rest of the day I was just happy as a lark. Everything just seemed right, whereas before, I felt so empty,” she said.
One thing led to another. She met Regnum Christi women, started attending weekly Encounters with Christ, attended the formators’ convention in Rhode Island, and decided to join Regnum Christi this past year.
She also got involved in her parish, where she now goes to adoration twice a week and serves as an RCIA sponsor.
Looking back, Sophia sees the hand of God acting at a time when she needed him most. It took a trip to New Mexico to bring her home, and the sign of the cross—made over a book of Zen Buddhism— to spark a life-changing conversation.
For her, the succession of events crosses the line from coincidence to providence. Sitting at the right hand of the “father” had been a blessing indeed.
“That one trip to New Mexico was taken by chance… but it’s almost like it was meant to happen. For me, it was a form of divine providence, active divine providence.”

This article is part of a series about God’s action in the lives of Regnum Christi members. If you have a story to share, please contact us at this link.



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Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.

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