Yes, my God!
Yes, my Jesus!
I declare it: this life was mine, before I knew you; before I loved You. Yes, my brethren, I have experienced it; and may my bitter experience serve as a warning to you.
Yes; I was born and lived in this state of original sin, unransomed by holy baptism; my life was nothing but temptation and struggle, fighting and falling. Scarcely were my eyes opened to reason, when my reason, insufficient to recognize the only true good, and my will too weak to resist the inclination to evil, too unstable to follow the secret whispers of a still upright conscience, passionately attached themselves to corruptible things.
Pride already breathed into my heart its evil counsels; I wished to be preferred before my brothers, the companions of my childhood; my inclinations tended to forbidden pleasures, I desired to possess that which did not belong to me, to enjoy that which was not fit for me, to reap praises which I had not deserved; and all these passions, developing with age, devastated my soul, ravaged my heart, and filled with disorder my whole moral being.
Yes, I chose to acquire learning without the aid of the true light, and did but heap error upon error, ignorance upon ignorance, chimera upon chimera! I wanted to gain glory, when I only merited contempt, and I did but accumulate disappointment upon disappointment, vexation on vexation, bitterness on bitterness. I, who deserved only to be hated, wanted to be loved; and I heaped up vanity upon vanity, mask upon mask, seduction upon seduction.
Lastly, I wanted to enrich myself with deceitful riches; and did but amass flattery upon flattery, breach upon breach, loss upon loss. And in attempting to satisfy my boundless desires, I did but add fuel to a devouring fire. Each of my actions was followed by remorse; every pleasure, by a bitter recollection and a poignant pain; every success, by disappointment; every gain, by a still heavier loss; every satisfaction, by misfortune.
My memory served as my executioner; my anticipations, as my torture; my imagination only threw, here and there, a few rags of gold and purple on my misery and nakedness. Enamored of the good to which I was born, I nevertheless made rapid advances in the way of evil upon which I had entered.
Feeling the need of a divinity, I forged for myself idols, now of metal, now of smoke, now of mud; and plunged into an unfathomable abyss of every kind of superstition. At last, never finding the happiness I sought, I was ever fleeing from that which pursued me, until, one day… I enter a church…
The priest at the altar raises in his hands a small white disc…
I gaze upon the Sacred Host, and I hear these words: Ego sum Via, Veritas et Vita—I am the Way, the Truth, the Life!
Great God, but can it be?…
Yes, Saul, on his way to Damascus, whither he was hastening as a rapacious wolf to ravage the Christian flock, fell to the ground on hearing this same voice: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting!” [Acts 9:4]…
“Lord, what am I to do?”
Do you not see, my brethren? Order is restored. He stretches out his hands, his arms, his heart, his soul, his will, his whole being, towards this true and only end, the will of God. See how he’s converted! May we do likewise.
Servant of God Hermann Cohen
Father Augustine Mary of the Blessed Sacrament
Homily on Repentance
The Owlcation website offers a marvelous biographical sketch of the Servant of God, which is beautifully illustrated with photos. Father Cohen was born in a wealthy Jewish family in Hamburg on 10 November 1820; Owlcation outlines his journey from Hamburg to Paris as a student of Franz Liszt and his career as a successful, internationally-recognized concert pianist, until his dramatic conversion in May 1847 when he substituted for a musician friend as music director for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Two years later, Cohen entered the Discalced Carmelite friars in Le Broussey, France, took the name Augustine-Mary of the Blessed Sacrament, and went on to exercise a rich and fruitful priestly ministry.
The Association of Hebrew Catholics offers a brief biographical article written by another Jewish convert and Discalced Carmelite, Father Elias Friedman.
We also recommend the official Discalced Carmelite biography of the Servant of God that is published in Italian by the Postulator General.
Finally, we provide the official Prayer for the Beatification of the Servant of God Father Augustine-Mary of the Blessed Sacrament, Hermann Cohen.
Tierney, T 2017, A Life of Hermann Cohen: From Franz Liszt to John of the Cross, Balboa Press, Bloomington, IN