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From Sneezing to Faith – A True Story

October 26, AD2013


Reading John Darrouzet\’s recent  article \”Do You See Miracles? Our Ruby Story\” inspired this post as it motivated me to share one of my miraculous experiences. It happened in the Spring of 2012, and I think of this particular event as a major turning point in my faith life.

I suffered from nasal allergies ever since I could remember. In those days, I woke up every morning with itchy eyes and runny nose. There were days when uncontrollable sneezing would wake me up. The sneezing could go on for several hours, and in some cases, whole days. Then, there were the sinus infections which would appear once every two or three weeks and last at least a week. I tried everything to get relief from those allergies over the years – over-the-counter decongestants, antihistamines, saline sprays, prescription medication, Homeopathy, Ayurveda, and the list goes on. It seemed like every person I met then were allergy specialists as they all suggested some kind of remedy for my unfortunate situation. I would get relief for a few months with every new treatment, then things would go right back to the way they were.

Upon returning to Catholic faith, one of the things I began doing was to attend daily Mass. There was a 6:30AM Mass at a nearby church which fit perfectly into my situation at the time. It was a rather big church, one that could accommodate several hundred people, so the church felt empty even with nearly a hundred people attending the Mass everyday. On Sundays, when the church was full, I could easily get away with my sneezing, itching and all the other routines associated with my allergies, but it was hard to hide among the crowds on weekdays. My sneezing and blowing reverberated the almost empty church and (I assume) caused plenty of distraction to the faithful. It was humiliating, but I was helpless. So I decided to go through with it as long as I could.

On one particular morning, I began having one of those sneezing episodes soon after the Mass began. I tried everything from my bag of tricks to control it; instead it got worse. I stepped out of the church several times and went back in soon as the sneezing stopped, but as soon as I walk back into the church, the sneezing would start again. Tired, frustrated and embarrassed, I was angry when I walked out of the church that morning after the Mass. I knew what I had to do. Standing outside the church, I turned around toward the altar and said in my mind something like this: \”Lord, I don\’t think I can do it any longer. I tried, and as always, I have failed. I am distracting all those people who take great personal sacrifices to be here every morning with you. So I will just revert back to my old ways and show up on Sundays with the bigger crowd.\” Then I left.

The next morning, I felt sorry for my behavior from the day before. So I dragged myself back to the church. I kept telling myself that I felt embarrassed because of my pride. After all, none of the people attending the Mass said anything about me being a distraction. I tried hard to make myself believe that I was being too hard on myself. I just needed let go off all my presuppositions about myself and accept who I really was. That morning I was at total peace during the Mass and I felt different as I was leaving the church. For some reason, I never bothered to take a moment to determine why I was feeling different. But as soon as I walked out, it hit me. The smell. There were plenty of shrubbery, plants and trees around the church and everything was in full bloom. As I stood outside the church, the exact spot I was standing the day before, I experienced the fragrance of  Spring air for the first time in a long time. I suddenly realized that I wasn\’t sneezing that morning – no runny nose, no sinus pressure, no itchy eyes. What I confirmed over the next several days was that I was completely cured from my infirmity that was making my life and the life of those around me miserable for so many years.

I call it a miracle not just because of the physical aspect of it, but because of the psychological aspect as well. Looking back at it now, I realize that rationality was still at the center of my faith at that point. In fact, I didn\’t voluntarily leave my life as an agnostic to return to God; much of that decision was the result of some unusual circumstances of my life at that time. There were times when I regretted my decision to turn to God. At times, I even missed the (false) sense of happiness and satisfaction I experienced while being away from God. It wasn\’t easy to accept the truth that my life of the past twenty plus years was a pile of false ideas and expectations. In searching for God, I was actually fighting God; I wanted to prove myself and others that my past life wasn\’t a mistake. I wanted to go back. Not only did I wanted to go back, I wanted to go back fully convinced that I was on the right path all those years while leading the life as a skeptic. But as I drove out of the church parking lot that morning, I realized that I would never be able to explain what caused my allergies to disappear overnight. I also knew that nothing from my past would never be able to explain it either. The answer lies somewhere in font of me on the road I was currently traveling. So I must go forward, I am convinced, seeking the Kingdom and the Righteousness every step of the way.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Born in India, Emmanuel is a cradle Catholic who spent most of his adolescent and adult life as an agnostic. After dedicating much of his life to make, lose, and waste money, he felt the love of Christ embracing him and picking him up from a bottomless pit during a low point in his life. He now spends his days spreading the love of Christ through the word of God. He is a proud father to Vismaya Ross, Vivek Joseph and Varsha Regina, and a loving husband to Sheena. Emmanuel writes about the mercy and love of God with the heart of a believer and the brains of a former agnostic in his blog "A Walk with Mother Mary" (

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  • John Darrouzet

    What a wonderful story!

    You have presented all of the stages of a hero’s journey, only with a much more realistic appraisal. It was and is a miracle!

    As I’m sure you have considered, THAT this change came over you had to surprise you like beauty always does. WHAT changed was obvious too, especially on the physical and psychological levels. WHEN and WHERE it happened are tell-tale, I’m sure we all agree.

    Then there is HOW it happened and HOW OFTEN it happened that brings us closer to apprehending this as a miracle.

    Coming from an ordinary world which has great sources of allergies of all kinds, somehow you arrived at the issue in your life that you wanted to take a course of action that would provide you with a better way of living and loving.

    Your reluctance at going about this was shown in your encounters with agnosticism.

    To make progress, you sought our the wise advisers in all quarters, only to be sent out of their general directions into the specific direction of your own personal and existential path.

    The repeated setbacks you suffered must have felt like you were riding a wheel of fortune until you could not take it anymore.

    That led you into your inner sanctum and you began praying, as opposed to other less hopeful approaches. But notice, your ordeal was not over yet.

    Even in the Church, your torment continued. Surely you must have received a “Bless you!” from those near by, if not a litany of them. What strikes me at this point is your courage and persistence. The injustice of it propelled you to keep going. You must have been seeking the relief that only mercy can provide. Thus you became fully engaged in the struggle. And it was no longer simply a physical one.

    One of the reasons people used to say “God bless you” when someone sneezed was a view that in sneezing a little bit of our souls was being expelled each time. A dreadful thought on its own, but surely worse for someone with allergic sneezing.

    So in a sense, your struggle could be seen on not just a physical and psychological level, but also on an analogical or spiritual level. You were struggling to get rid of a part of your soul that the rest of your soul was allergic to. The agnostic/gnostic part was up against your deeper but less articulated faith surfacing under the auspices of your want of the help God could offer you. Thus through your suffering, you found a path that your intellect had not recognized before.

    That struggle, in the midst of repeated prayer, brought you to the point where you seized the sword of your suffering and went back in one more,seemingly last, time to do battle. That was an insight into your previous oversight when you thought it was time to revert to your old ways.

    WOW! You got it! And in return for your communication to him, God sent you a miraculous recovery! You are not just blessed on a physical level, nor just on a psychological level, nor on just a philosophical level, You have been and are blessed altogether!

    Now you are telling your story for others, like I did, and not to boast, but to show others the way to live a life of faith.

    The air you now breathe in is the Holy Spirit’s, it is no longer killing you with pain. When you express it like you have here, followers of Jesus and followers of others are touched in new ways by the power that constitutes us all.

    Thank you for sharing your story, as we thank God for being there for us all.

    Please remember me and my loved ones in your prayers, as I will you and yours in mine.

    John Darrouzet
    In Christ