The Catholic Thing
My Dreams of Jesus Print E-mail
By Emina Melonic   
Thursday, 05 August 2010

I was fifteen years old when I had my first dream of Jesus. I was stunned, but I remember the dream vividly. It’s not the sort of thing anyone forgets – easily or ever. 

I was in the desert alone, lost. As far as the horizon, there was nothing in sight but sand. I felt the sand on my bare feet.

And then . . . something extraordinary. . . . In the midst of that barrenness, an immense wooden cross emerged from the earth, rising up with sand spilling from it back to earth. I felt then a spectator in my own dream, and the sight of the cross gave me neither fear nor joy. But I was a curious and began moving, almost floating, towards it, the most magnificently . . . concrete thing I’d ever seen or imagined, and as I came closer to the cross, I suddenly saw a man walking towards me: a broad-shouldered, long-striding man, with a dark complexion, long hair, and wearing a white robe. And just as suddenly I ceased to be a witness to my dream. I was in it, walking towards the man walking towards me. I knew him immediately. He was Jesus. Without knowing why I fell to my knees. He stood over me and touched my face with his right hand.

I awoke. But I dreamed the dream again and again for several days. These were very strange dreams for a young Bosnian, a Muslim girl.

I had survived the first nine months of war in my country, living in a refugee camp in the Czech Republic, away from my father, away from my family, and away from friends. I spoke to no one about my dreams. As the years went by, more dreams of Jesus came. Some were violent and grotesque, of the day Christians strangely call Good Friday, but some were peaceful, heavenly, and in a few Mary was also present. The nineteenth sura of the Koran is titled “Mary.”

All my dreams of Jesus led to the same question: What is God telling me? 

Surely, I thought, God is not speaking to me through dreams about conversion. And yet, I found myself being strangely, passionately, and increasingly attracted to Christ. During my studies at the University of Chicago, where deviant scholarship reigned in most classrooms, I defended Christ on more than one occasion. I tried to present proofs that God does exist. To me, the fact that I had never lost my faith in God in the midst of the incredible suffering of my childhood was proof enough, but I struggled to convince others too. 

And I have always felt at ease with Catholicism. I began attending Mass and was welcomed no matter what church I visited. I felt peace during Mass and at home in the Church, but I also realized I can’t keep doing this indefinitely: attending as an observer; as a spectator, just as in the beginning of my dreams. I participated in RCIA classes but I bolted before the final step was to take place. And now I’m in the process of finally completing an M.A. in Theology . . . at the Christ the King Seminary in upstate New York.

I have knowledge of faith. But that is different from having the gift of faith.

At some point, I began doubting everything, including the meaning of my dreams. One starts to wonder where the line is between dreams and reality. And doubt is a very strong force – almost Satanic in the way it wants to devour faith, hope, and love. Allow doubt to penetrate your heart and mind, and it leads to restlessness, perhaps even to despair!

And yet, I am pleased to say that I do not despair. But I am restless.

For me, the question of conversion is inextricably linked to the question of identity and belonging. Who am I and who will I be? What does it mean to be a Bosnian-American and a Muslim, yet someone whose spiritual journey seems always to involve Jesus Christ? Ultimately, the biggest question in a way has nothing to do with me explicitly but rather with the meaning of suffering. In light of everything I have seen and experienced during the war, in light of absolute chaos that was attempting to attach itself to me during my years as a refugee and a new immigrant in America, in light of all the emotional loss and lives perished – I wonder what will make me (or any of us who have suffered and endured such pain) whole? What will take these fragmented pieces of my existence and put them together?  

Most things in life – and faith is one of them – cannot be forced, nor should they be. Each day is a mystery to me, and I don’t know what the present moment will bring, let alone what the future has in store; whether I will come into the Catholic Church, or whether I will remain a Muslim. I am reminded of Francis Thompson’s famous poem, “The Hound of Heaven,” which begins: “I fled him, down the nights and down the days/I fled him down the arches of the years/I fled him, down the labyrinthine ways/Of my own mind . . .”

It would appear I am still fleeing. 

Emina Melonic immigrated to the U.S. in 1996 and became an American citizen in 2003. She received an MA in Humanities from the University of Chicago, an MA in Theology from Christ the King Seminary, and is currently completing a thesis on Bernard Lonergan and the Trinity. This fall she will begin pursuing PhD in medieval philosophy at SUNY  Buffalo.
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Comments (25)Add Comment
written by Jack T., August 06, 2010
Ms. Melonic: Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. You are very brave to be so open about your personal struggles with faith and the direction God wants to bring you in.

I must say I am surprised that your story is appearing on the TCT - a website that has called Islam "not a religion" but a "political ideology," argued against allowing Muslims to serve in the US military, chronicles "Muslims on attack," called Muslim pro-marriage efforts at the UN "bad news," and claimed to be nostalgic for the Crusades. Given that, I admire your bravery in writing for this website and hope that this indicates a change in tone of the TCT editors.
written by Ars Artium, August 06, 2010
"To whom shall we go, Lord? You have the words of everlasting life." The ongoing presence of Jesus in the sacrament of the altar - having everything to do with the action of the Holy Spirit, with the priest as His sacramentally clothed instrument - is the one perfect thing on earth. May you find Him in the breaking of the bread.
written by Giuseppe, August 06, 2010
The ultimate question is not "Who I am and what will I be?" but rather how do we answer the question that Christ posed to Peter: "Whom do you say I am?" Peter answered, "Thou art, the Christ, Son of the Living God."

The question must be answered by all of us.
written by mrt, August 06, 2010
Thank you for your beautiful story. I will pray for you. And do not be afraid. Though He is persistent, He is a gentle pursuer.
written by Jorge Romero-Chacon, August 06, 2010
Dear Ms. Melonic,

As a born Catholic, throughout the years my faith has taken me and sustained me in the hardest moments of my life. I feel my faith will remain with me until my death.

You are right when you say that faith is a gift. I will pray for you every day from now on until somehow I realize that you have received it. Your search should be rewarded. In the Gospels is recorded that Jesus said that whoever searches, will find what is looking for. I pray that sooner than later you will accompany us in our journey to Heaven.


written by Howard Kainz, August 06, 2010
Ms. Melonic, your post reminds me of dreams I had when I was younger, and still haven't been able to decipher! Be careful of comments here taken out of context. "Jack T." alleges that this blog states that "Islam is not a religion but a political ideology." This is apparently a reference to my column here on July 14, in which I consider ex-Muslim Nonie Darwish's conclusion that Islam is not a religion, and then I discuss what the essence of a religion is for Islam or any other religion.
written by Jack, August 06, 2010
Mr. Kainz: You suggest that I took a quote from your column out of context. If that is the case, my apologies, although it seems to me that you were in general agreement with Ms. Darwish's thesis. If you did not agree with Ms. Darwish, your disagreement was rather inconspicuous and should perhaps be more sharply made.
written by A Catholic Christian Mom, August 06, 2010
Dear Emma- I can share with you that I have had several wonderful dreams involving Christ and his followers. I choose to claim these as experiences with certain messages. I am a Catholic Christian and therefore biased in my interpretation. Not all of my dreams with Christ are completely loving in nature. Some are indeed fully painful.
I will share with you that my dream last night involved Christ being disappointed in me and my arrogance. I was seeking him in my dream and at first he came and stood behind me. I could feel his glowing effervescent presence. I did not turn around...I waited for him to give me a sign. The presence left. I continued my search for him in my dream asking many of his followers along the way where he was. Finally he appeared directly before me...his eyes and gaze were both beautiful and mighty. I felt unworthy to be in his presence and could sense my own spiritual decay. He indicated that he was disappointed in me because I have turned to other things/ways to cope in my life and have not been seeking him through prayer. He told me to let go of these other ways and I will heal. He told me to come back to him through prayer. The message was clear to me that I have personally strayed and felt such arrogance that I don’t need Christ and I can “go it alone.” His strong disappointment humbled me and I woke up crying and remorseful. This was a lesson I needed. As a good parent he set limits with me. I experienced such despair in this dream by my own distancing from Christ. Perhaps this sharing further establishes that we always have the free will to move toward him or away from him.
-Thanks for allowing me to share and I’ll pray for your spiritual journey as well as mine!

God Bless,

written by Achilles, August 06, 2010
Jack T. your comments and ad homonym conclusions appear to be either intellectually dishonest or blunt. Ms. Melonic (beautiful article by the way) herself responded very appropriately to Mr. Kainz's article. You may want to re-read it with an attempt at objectivity. The tone and character of your generalizions diminish possibilites for true dialogue.
written by Emina Melonic, August 06, 2010
Thank you all for such wonderful responses. I must say that I am touched by your beautiful words, thoughts on the article, and especially prayers. In this case, all I can offer is my deepest gratitude.

A brief response in regards to Mr. Kainz's comment and his earlier article. As Achilles writes, I made a comment with regard to his essay on Islam, in which I disagreed with the writers who left Islam and are calling it a political ideology rather than a religion. I do not think that Mr. Kainz is agreeing with ex-Muslims. Rather, I understood the essay to express a slight confusion or lack of illumination on the essence of Islam. As a result, it would seem to me that Mr. Kainz was unable to say one thing or another concretely. Or perhaps I am wrong on this, Mr. Kainz? Have I understood your article?

This is why it is so important to me for dialogue to begin and for a dialogue to be maintained. Politics and religion are deeply personal and we take disagreement to heart. This is perfectly fine. However, we cannot lose sight of reality and truth. There are a lot of unanswered questions about Islam, as Mr. Kainz writes in his article, and this is a perfectly valid statement. Dialogue, whether on political, philosophical or theological level can manifest itself most beautifully when we are free to ask all these questions, when intellectual thought is not under a tyrannical rule. And most importantly (and perhaps I am repeating myself from previous posts?), dialogue begins with listening.
written by debby, August 06, 2010
dear sister emina,
thank you for your beautiful life-so-far witness. you are indeed correct: faith is a gift, knowledge is not the same thing. please know that Jesus said, "ask and it shall be given, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened." in another passage He said that He is the door. i am sure you have asked before for God to bestow the gift of faith in your soul. it would seem to me that maybe the seed is already there, hidden? or germinating. i will ask our Lady to intercede for you as well, telling Jesus that you "have no wine" - He will make all things new, He will change the water of knowledge into the wine of true faith.
may all the blessings of Heaven from God Who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit descend upon you and remain in you.
with love and grateful to "get to know you a little,"
your catholic sister, debby
written by Graham Combs, August 06, 2010
I have been reading The Catholic Thing for some time now. Ms. Melonic's essay could not be more at home given the thoughtful and courageous environment here. Her RCIA experience is familiar to this convert. During Holy Week 2009 I also had what St. Augustine called the "agony of hesitation." The reasons for me were complex, but they did include the despair that she writes about. I still do not feel entirely comfortable within the Church -- again, the reasons are many and varied -- but it was made clear to me at mass on Holy Thursday 2009 that I should become a Catholic at Easter Vigil. At my first confession, Father assured me that this experience on Holy Thursday was an intervention by the Holy Spirit. I believe this to be true. I hope and pray that Ms. Melonic will in time take the final step. I know what it means to give up an identity forged in struggle and suffering. Mine, of course, do not compare to hers. There is a kind of perverse pride at work, but also something more and something legitimate. From my embattled classroom experiences in law school, I appreciate and am thankful for her courage. It can be lonely in the understanding and the doubt. And my Catholic faith should not make me feel superior. Beneath the ecclesiastical grandeur is humility. I find this in the Holy Father. I pray she will too.
written by Howard, August 06, 2010
Your story, the aura you create is compelling, Ms. Melonic. You will be in my prayers. My impression of your trajectory, at this point, based on this TCT essay plus your response to Mr. Kainz's earlier TCT essay, coupled with your affinity for *dialogue* (emphasized in your *Thank you* comment appended to this essay) is that you are not so much *fleeing* as you are teeter-tottering, see-sawing, reciprocating, sine waving or warp and woofing between two of the worlds three great monotheistic religions. Let's see what tomorrow brings. Peace to you!
written by Lee , August 07, 2010
Dear Emina Melonic,

Who could not sympathize with you in all that you have been through, and all that you face? Still, not to decide is to decide. It is true that faith is a gift, a gift than can be accepted or rejected. Not accepting is rejecting, for it will not be proffered forever. "If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart!"

Remember Emina, O Lord, and all her anxious care...

written by Austin Ruse, August 07, 2010
As a regular columnist here at TCT, I am eager to see Jack T's citations for the following:

1. a website that has called Islam "not a religion" but a "political ideology,"
2. argued against allowing Muslims to serve in the US military,
3. chronicles "Muslims on attack,"
4. called Muslim pro-marriage efforts at the UN "bad news," and claimed to be nostalgic for the Crusades.

If Mr. T cannot cite these charges in actual columns here, I would ask the moderator to take down his comments and not allow him to post again.
written by sweet briar rose, August 07, 2010
As Giuseppe said, way back at the beginning, the question is, "Who do YOU say that I am?" Every Sunday, we answer that question when we say, "We believe . . ."
The Catholic Faith is not a faith of dreams, feelings, suppositions, best guesses, wishes. It is a creedal faith. It says "This is true. And, because this is true, that is not true." We believe it because we believe Him who said it, because "He can neither deceive nor be deceived." Because belief is an act of the will and, sometimes, our wills are weak, we pray, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief."
Is Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, or is he not? He can't be both. Did prophecy cease with the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, or did it not? Was Jesus the "one who is to come?" or were they to wait for another--a few centuries hence? Is the Church the continuation of Jesus' earthly life or not?
These are "yes" or "no" questions. When we answer "yes", we are affirming the Truth that is divinely revealed in the Catholic Faith. If we answer "no", we had better run as fast as we can because Jesus is a liar and we don't want anything to do with him. "Who do you say that I am?
written by Howard Kainz, August 07, 2010
I might add a few words regarding the comments of Ms. Melonic and others about my July 14 column. I am a professor and author, and in an earlier book, Ethics in Context, I had a chapter on the difference between ethics and religion. So I was interested in Nonie Darwish's contention that Islam is not a religion. The essential characteristics I came up with in that earlier book were the pursuit of personal perfection and the dedication to building social harmonies. As I mentioned in my column,I find this in Sufism and the Bahai movement, as offsprings of Islam. But these are largely considered apostate or heretical by mainstream Muslims. The latter (Medinan) portions of the Koran are particularly jarring for someone emphasizing the voluntariness of faith and the concept of universal human rights.
written by Jack T., August 07, 2010
To all readers: I apologize if my comments have detracted from what really is a fine article by Ms. Melonic. She deserves the warm welcome that the many commentators have given her.

That being said, Mr. Ruse has raised some questions of clarification that I must address to avoid being banned from TCT. The citations are as follows:

1. "Islam and the Definition of Religion," Howard Kainz (July 14, 2010). Mr. Kainz has obviously followed up on this column in this string of blog posts. The charges that Nonie Darwish brings against Islam are quite strong and it is still unclear to me Mr. Kainz's perspective on the argument. A great deal hinges on the definition of religion and further explanation is perhaps needed.

2. "I Sing of Arms and Woman," Brad Miner (June 6, 2010). Mr. Miner posted this argument in the comments section of the website, though it seems all comments from that day have been deleted.

3. "Islam and Us," Brad Miner (January 19, 2010). Mr. Miner wrote: "And lately the news shows Muslims on the attack in various places around the world" and then followed it up with a number of examples of Muslim acts of violence.

4a. "A Rare U.N. Victory," Austin Ruse (January 7, 2010). You wrote: "The bad news is that the effort to stop this nonsense is being led almost exclusively by Arab and Muslim states, while largely Catholic countries are voting on the other side."

4b. "Stark Truths," Brad Miner (December 13, 2009). "Pray for me, folks, because I’m nostalgic for the Crusades."

You can, of course, claim that I am taking these statements out of context, but I would suggest that if one searches "Muslim" or "Islam" on TCT the references are, to put it mildly, not positive. The irony is that my initial comment was meant to support Ms. Melonic and articles that did not cast Islam in such a negative light.
written by Emina Melonic, August 07, 2010
In response to professor Kainz's last post: there are, it would seem, a few questions that are coming up here. One being what is the essence of religion? I do not consider myself an expert here; I only have experience of Islam as a Muslim in Bosnia and I have studied theology. For example, Sufi orders always existed in Sarajevo and other cities in Bosnia, along side the Islamic hierarchy (they were supressed during Communism but so was Christianity and Judaism). As a child, I was taught that I ought to be a God-fearing person; that God is a higher reality, that God punishes and rewards, and that we are not just dealing with a code of behavior. So, another question here is who are "mainstream Muslims?" And does culture dictates what kind of religion will we face? But if culture is a priori, then we are facing an even bigger problem: relativism. In any case, I hope my thoughts make somet I am struggling with these questions as well. And I will definitely take a look at your book "Ethics in Context."
written by Dan Biezad, August 07, 2010
Prayer—spiritual paradox:
We know of those who, from some deep internal physical or psychological need, pray (or dream) in some fashion for help when at the edge of their personal abyss. Some of these find that their lives are turned around, despite the emptiness of heart from which they started. This is called Grace. Many others, however, who start prayerfully enough, have lives that become empty despite a full spiritual life. This is called the dark night of the soul, but perhaps it is God’s way of showing that there can sometimes be too much dependence on the spiritual connection, and not enough from the depths of one’s own heart; in other words, not enough inner personal virtue. And so prayerful petition may work, even for those lost in despair, who have relied solely on their own virtue in the past (those, specifically, with no previous spiritual life); on the other hand, prayers may fail, even for deeply spiritual individuals (those, specifically, who previously have only relied on God). And so perhaps those who have never faced the inherent anxieties of freedom may need to develop a "personal"-- as opposed to a "cultural"-- nobility of heart (often mistaken for pride). It is a spiritual paradox.
To Jack T.
written by Brad Miner, August 07, 2010
Jack: I can assure you of two things: 1) I will now and again make quips, such as about nostalgia for the Crusades; and 2) the other comments by me that you reference concern militant Islam, Islamism, or Islamofascism - however we wish to distinguish the killers such as bin Laden et al. and our true brothers and sisters in faith such as Emina Melonic. Which is why I asked her to contribute to The Catholic Thing. -Brad
written by Jake, August 07, 2010
Jack T. you have a problem of context.

Mr. Miner perhaps is nostalgic for a time when Christians were thoroughly and unashamedly Christian and willing to lay down their lives to defend their faith, during the Crusades for example. The Crusaders' response to the Ottoman Empire was infinitely more noble than ours has been to a much lesser enemy.

Also you must remember that even though they seem like it when they write the TCT writers aren't perfect and, believe it or not, may give in to the occasional sinful thought.

You need to learn to judge the sum total of the value of a particular thing. Your argument is as ridiculous as those who want to shut down the Catholic Church over priestly pedophilia but are strangely silent when you agree with them but ask when we're going after the U.S. public educational system, the boy scouts, Alcoholics Anonymous and the other 12 step programs, and basically every human endeavor because they haven't been perfectly virtuous 100% of the time, or even unimaginably horrible as some of their members' actions may be.

AS for this wonderful article, it sounds to me like Our Lord has another fish on the line! Thankfully for the TCT writers and especially myself, Christ won't throw us back for the occasional outburst or ignorant opinion.
By this I mean that, like TCT, we still all have immense value, despite our imperfections.
written by Robert Royal, August 08, 2010
I usually think it's best to let what appears in TCT speak for itself, but as editor-in-chief, let me clear up one point. "The editors" at TCT do not take any positions on anything, except individually. Of course, we also make sure that what appears here is faithfully Catholic or friendly to Catholicism (witness the present column). As just about all the regular writers can attest, at some point or other I've said to them, "It's not my view, but it's your column." Catholicism has both a wide embrace and some sharp edges. It should come as no surprise that on a subject as controversial in our time as militant Islam, both have been present on this page.
written by Howard, August 08, 2010
Ms. Melonic, as an academic you surely are accustomed to argumentation, but something's amiss here. You go public on TCT, baring the burden your soul's indecisiveness. Readers respond, all sincerely trying help. But, oddly, many of the respondents become edgy and contentious with one another. The tenor of the whole commentary quickly generates (degenerates into?) a series of gentlemanly but passionate exchanges about the nature of Islam, demands for proof of assertions, the editorial policies of TCT etc., etc.

Well, these things do need to be talked about, but now? In the wake your dilemma? You even get drawn into the ring with your 'response to professor Kainz's last post.'.

Seems to me the Son of Man and his Way, Truth and Life (which is what we Catholics are supposed to be about) got lost in this heady process.

Ms. Melonic, today at Mass I did pray deeply for you. I prayed that you read more your heart, less your mind.

And, If you find Him there (He is! Hounding all of us!), surrender, commit yourself to following Him. Come to the center of the see-saw and find there the fulcrum, the beam, the Cross, and then walk away carrying it joyfully.
written by sweet briar rose, August 08, 2010
"I prayed that you read more your heart, less your mind. "

Dear Ms. Melonic,

Howard's advice is excellent. I apologize for having been drawn away from your dilemma as Howard has said. (Sadly, it demonstrates, I think, how raw nerves still are nine years after 9/11.) My intent, after you remarked to him, "I will definitely take a look at your book," was to say to you, "Ms. Melonic, Look into your heart, not into a book." If you are seeking Jesus, that is where you will find him. God bless you.

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