Sunil Benedict was the eldest son of his Parents when they migrated back to India after having spent approx 10 years in the Middle east. He was born a Roman Catholic in the Mid-1970's, and and faith for him consisted in saying a few prayers and going to church regularly. He joined a high school in Bangalore, India in 1988 and studies were never something that was easy for him. He found it very hard. During this time, he also fell into a lot of bad habits and became a very hurtful person. He had a tough childhood since he had lost a sister and a brother when he was very young and this hurt remained a part of him right through his teenage life.
He had a fried called Raveen Rajavarma who used to regularly help him in his studies. Life progressed this way and in the later part of his 10 th Std, he discovered that 3 days before his final examinations, he just couldn’t understand any of his subjects. It appeared very hard. He rushed to this friend of his called Raveen and asked him for help. Raveen gave Sunil a verse from the Bible which is Romans 10:11 – and when Sunil read it, it was as though he was reading this for the first time. It said that If I trust in Jesus, I will not be disappointed. Sunil knelt in prayer before God and asked Jesus – Lord, just give me 300 marks and take it for granted that my life is yours. He studied as hard as he could, he wrote the exams and when my results came, he got exactly 300/600.
For the first time in his life, Sunil came to know that God answers prayers. But he still did not know God. Then, he was invited to a retreat by the same friend in which there was a preacher preaching – and he was talking about God loving me so much that he gave his Son for me (John 3:16). This touched him immensely and Sunil experienced the Love of Jesus so deeply that his life changed. The date of his God experience was 11-June-1992, i.e., the date on which Sunil came know Jesus as his Lord. It was a very simple experience of the Love of Jesus. From that day onwards, he has made an effort to live every part of his life with Jesus everyday. In his 12th Std, he lost another brother of his called Neil Christopher, but Jesus was very close to his and when he was crying a lot one day, he sensed Jesus saying to him – ‘if your Brother is with me, why are you crying’ ? This is when he understood that our loved ones are not separated from us when they die. They just move to another spiritual state.
He went on to do my college education, and completed his Bachelors in Economics, Political Science and Sociology with an Honours in Sociology. After this, he completed his Masters in Business Administration in Finance and Marketing and consistently pursued other degrees and certifications that helped him to climb up the corporate ladder. He also got married in November 2003 to Jennifer Nisha. God has also blessed him with a beautiful girl child who is known as Sarah Irene. She was born to us in May 2005.
Since the last 20 years from his God experience in June 1992, from the day he commenced my walk with God, he has been involved in building the lives of young people. God had used him in his kingdom to bring meaning and purpose to young people. These formation programs and retreats that he conducted made him go through a lot of content on faith formation and drove him to read the lives of the saints who lived exemplary lives. The lives of several saints inspired him especially St. Seraphim, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, St. Padre Pio. What he longed for was a close union with Jesus and he practiced praying regularly. The Rosary was a simple devotion that he practiced but he wanted to grow more in prayer. And this thirst for Prayer was simply unquenchable. Despite trying hard to pray during the day, he somehow was still thirsting for more prayer. His heart was dry and wanted more and more of Jesus.
Sunil thanks God for an old friend of his who In Jan 2012, introduced him to the writings of the Philokalia. The Philokalia presented to him writings of early Christian monks and how they prayed. It was called as the ‘The Jesus Prayer’, which was nothing else but – "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner". This prayer brought about an inexpressible intimacy with Jesus. He had longed for it so much all these years and only now found it. Today, the same prayer has become a very close part of his life and he finds it hard to live without saying it.
The Jesus Prayer not only immersed him in God, but revealed the Holy Scriptures to him as well. The Word of God was becoming a revolution in him. He longed to hug and kiss the bible. The words of the Lord remained in him for several hours in the day. During this period, he also started reading and understanding early Christian history and wanted to know – how come…if the early church fathers prayed so much, how come we don’t know about it?. He came to realize that this Jesus prayer was close to the Oldest, Ancient church of Christianity known as the Orthodox Church.
He invested time in knowing what exactly happened in early church history. Why was it that the Church he knew – i.e., the Roman Catholic, was so different from that of the early Church in tradition, in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, etc. He came to understand from historical documents that what the Blessed Lord formed was one church and this tradition of the early Apostles stands till date only in the Ancient Orthodox Church in the world. The Roman Church or Roman Catholic Church moved away/broke away from the Original Body that it was supposed to belong to. Historically this happened in 1054 AD. He realized that if he has to know Christ better, he needs to change and become a part of the Orthodox Church. He was not able to commune with the Roman Church anymore, because they believe in Progressive faith just like the protestants and Pentecostal churches believe in.
What the Blessed Lord Jesus Christ revealed to the Apostles and they in turn handed over is supposed to be our faith, which is the TRUTH. It is not something that keeps changing according to whims and fancies and Christian faith is certainly not expected to integrate pagan practices with itself. He and his family were Chrismated in the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand on 21-Aug-2012. He was given the name – Silouan after St. Silouan of Mount Athos.
Sunil is not here to judge anyone, and still thanks his friends, who introduced me to Jesus and the Philokalia. He understands that his Life as an Orthodox Christian will make him single minded in his relationship with Christ., being totally focused on his Kingdom.
Sunil believes that he is immersed in Jesus and he seeks to derive every breath of his life from Jesus. This ‘Jesus prayer’ is calls Sunil to put his nets into the deep (Luke 5:1-11). He desires to live a life of being available to other people, and being a blessing for others.
He understands and know that he can continue to live the way he is living right now, but given that we all have just one life to live, he seeks to give himself to God wholeheartedly, completely and allow God to use Sunil to touch the lives of many others. Sunil desires his life to be like a Candle, which when burning has the ability to shine and send forth its light to others and lead them to Christ – the light of the World. He desires to become a Lay Orthodox Priest and serve God with his whole life and is praying about it.