Saturday, January 5, 2019

Lord, You Are My Portion and Cup


+JMJ+




Today's Communion Antiphon:
     Everyone who has given up home, brothers, or sisters, father or mother, wife or children or property for My sake will receive many times as much and inherit everlasting life.

It is so obvious to me now, that I spent my entire life dominated by my mother.  She controlled me and everyone else through emotional manipulation, through a charming performance that convinced all except those who lived in close contact with her--that is, we who experienced her anger and cruelty and know what she is really like.

I was afraid of her, and constantly tried to please her, but she never appreciated anything I did.  She routinely insulted and hurt me, openly displayed her complete contempt for me--and yet I stupidly kept trying.  She never opened up to me or anyone else as a real person, apparently because she has to be in control of everything, all the time, and can never risk displaying the slightest amount of vulnerability.  I think she never really trusts anyone.

I would still be in bondage to her, were it not for the wonderful gift God sent, my therapist--and now spiritual friend--Joe.  Somehow--and I don't really understand how--he enabled me to see her as she is and to break free--and in so doing, release me from the grip of unbearable rage: I was in torment and in a horrible state of sin, but Confession wasn't helping and I did not know how to escape.  God saw this, and He sent me a person with a pure heart and beautiful soul, through whom He could save me.  

And so now, here I am, living in a convent in Kansas, finally fulfilling the plan I am so convinced He had for me from the beginning.  It feels like a miracle, because it is a miracle. 

My life is peaceful and beautiful... I am unbelievably happy, but I have a sense that He is preparing me for something, that He is going to ask me for something.  I have no idea what that will be, but I am praying that I will recognize it when it comes, and that I will be open to His Holy Will, totally surrendered to Him.  I am so completely His now, that I have lost the "edges:"  I can no longer perceive where He begins and ends, because He is everything to me, my All in All--it is impossible to express this in words, but I am in and of Him, in every possible way, and I exist in the unutterable bliss of that awareness. +


Friday, December 28, 2018

Unwelcome



+JMJ+


Luke 7:36-50


I think I know how Jesus felt when He came to Simon's home for dinner, and was not made to feel welcome.  I have that experience almost every day here:  some of those with whom I live make it clear that I am not loved and not respected, merely tolerated--I don't think they realize that they are being so unkind: it's just their normal way of acting.  


But despite the fact that Simon didn't welcome You, You did not leave, You did not walk out on the banquet.  With the greatest humility, You endured it silently.  So I will endure it, and continue to love them, and pray that they will be showered with Your graces and Your love.  Was I chosen to bring Your Light and Love to them? 


I am like the sinful woman who wept tears of gratitude, anointed Your feet with my tears and precious oil, and dried them with my hair.  My life was nothing--I had nothing--until You plucked me out of the world and saved me.  You gave me Faith, You loved me, and You allowed me to love You.  My gratitude is inexpressible, and I long to see Your Face and embrace You forever!


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

An In-Breaking of Grace


+JMJ+

I received an indescribable experience of grace this morning while sitting before the Blessed Sacrament, after reading a prayer by Teilhard de Chardin:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

I am at a loss for words to adequately express what I saw, but I began to cry, as I suddenly realized how terribly limited I am, how much I still have to learn about God, how weak my faith is, how I am really only at the beginning of my spiritual journey.  And how much I need to be healed--yet I am mute, lacking the voice or the courage or the humility to even cry out to Him as He goes by, "Lord Jesus Christ, heal me!" I see now that I am absolutely desperate to be loved, and that one of the reasons I am here in Concordia is because I am seeking a family, hoping to find the family I need, but do not have.  
 
There were so many tears in my eyes, I realized I couldn't even see the Host in the Monstrance, which seemed somehow poetic and appropriate to the moment--and then, for some reason, I suddenly thought of the picture of the Sacred Heart in my room, which I always believed was a representation of Jesus offering His Heart to us (which it is)--but I understand now that there is another hidden meaning behind those Sacred Heart pictures--what He is also doing is offering our hearts back to us: our hearts after they have been transformed and healed by His Love--which we are welcome to accept or reject as we choose.  A heart fully open and clear of expectations and preconceptions, completely free to love as He loves, if we only have the courage to accept it.




Friday, December 14, 2018

The Abyss


+JMJ+




Sr. Joann, my Spiritual Director, gave me the image of Jesus walking through the wheat field with His disciples, but a few steps in front of them, leading them--and she encouraged me to think of this every morning when I get up, so I have been. 

Today, in prayer, I realized something: there is an abyss of blackness in between me and Him, and the abyss is depression.  I have suffered all my life from depression, but I didn't realize that until a couple of years ago, when I started therapy.  I didn't go into therapy for that reason, but I became aware that I have that problem during my conversations with my therapist. 

I also learned that the only thing that has ever really helped my depression is my faith, and that I absolutely need to have a life focused on God in order to be happy.  My conclusion was that at least one of the the reasons God gave me a vocation, was because of this deep need. 

What I know, though, is that as long as I keep my eyes on Jesus, He will keep me from falling into the abyss, that if I just reach out to Him, He will take my hand and keep me from sinking down into the blackness of despair.  

I believe this was a special grace God gave me today, an important insight, something I need to remember every day--and I am very grateful for it!  It seems especially significant to me, because it came on the Feast of St. John of the Cross, one of the Carmelite saints I love.

I was actually reading a book about St. John of the Cross the day that God came to me on the bus, and transformed me from an atheist into a believer in one instant!  He wrote a lot about the Dark Night of the Soul, and I have a feeling there is a connection between that and my abyss, a connection I have yet to discover, but need to explore.  


Saturday, December 1, 2018

Settling In


+JMJ+

So, so happy here!  Every day, I feel myself getting closer to God and more obedient and devoted to Him.  Most of the Sisters in this house are not very warm people, but even when they are cold or curt, it seems to have no effect on me at all!  In the past, I would have been unable to avoid reacting and getting my feelings hurt, but now, my gaze is fixed on Jesus, and the little hurts inflicted by those around me just roll off my back--it seems almost unbelievable!  I have never been like this before, and I just love it.  Small sufferings... that I love to offer to Him, in gratitude for allowing me to live here. 

I am completely contented at last.  If I once in a while experience a second of two of regretting the loss of my beautiful house and my freedom to do as I please, all I have to do is remember how depressed I was living in Georgia, how empty my life seemed--and how full and happy it feels here--and I snap right out of it.  It is so obvious that this is the place and the life God intended for me, and I am so very grateful!

Earlier this week, I went to Confession to Fr. David, the pastor of the church next door to the convent, and he happened to mention that the woman who had been unlocking the church early in the morning for him had recently gone into assisted living, so I spontaneously offered to take that on.  I met with him the next day, and I now have a key to the church, and the responsibility of opening it and turning on the lights each morning around 6:15am.  It means getting up at 5:00am instead 5:30--but, a small sacrifice that I am very happy to make.  I love being able to help him out in this way.

And, the other great thing about this, is that I have about a half hour alone before the Blessed Sacrament before people start coming in.  My days in the convent are so full, I sometimes would procrastinate, and neglect to get my daily prayer time in before the day ended--but no more, because I can have it in the church each morning, which is perfect!  


Thursday, November 22, 2018

St. Cecilia Day


+JMJ+

I have to say, it seems somewhat ironic that on St. Cecilia Day--which is a huge celebration for the St. Cecilia Dominicans, of which I was once a member--is the day on which I realized that I am having the happiest Thanksgiving of my entire life. 


I can't believe I had to be 71 years old, before I am actually completely happy!  But, blessed be God!  --because many people go through their entire lives, never getting to this point--and I am so, so very grateful!


How can God have done this for me?  How can He possibly have given me such an incredible gift?  How can I repay the Lord for His goodness to me?  +


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Remembering a Special Day: November 18, 2015


+JMJ+

As of tonight, it will be exactly three years since I returned to the Church, after an absence of more than 20 years.

If you have read much of this blog, you already know that after I left the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in 1990, I gradually stopped practicing my Faith, because I blamed God for my mistake in joining an Order that was not a good fit for me. 

Once I retired in September 2015, free from the stress of my career, I had time to think--and I realized that I had finally recovered from that trauma, and was ready to go back.

And, once I started praying again, I quickly learned that it was actually my fault that I chose so badly--not God's--because I had failed to spend sufficient time in discernment (long story there).

If you are Catholic, you know that the route to returning to the practice of Faith involves going to Confession, and so I did that on a stormy night in November.  Hoping to be the only one there because of the bad weather, I was rewarded: the darkened church was empty except for me, the priest, and the sacristan.

I am usually not a very good listener, but that night, the Holy Spirit spoke through the words of Fr. Rafael, as he casually commented while listening to my story, that he believed I had made a mistake in not trying religious life again after leaving the Dominicans.  It was a remark that was to come back to haunt me during the months that followed.

For those first few days, however, I walked around in a kind of ecstasy, because God was flooding me with joy as I experienced the incredible relief accompanying the realization that I was back, and no longer tormented with guilt. 

I felt compelled to do something to try to express my gratitude for being received back into the fold, and so I decided to consecrate my life to God, and try to live according to the Evangelical Counsels for the rest of my life--the same promises I had made when I took my Vows as a Dominican.  

I found a formula for a private Consecration on the internet, and customized it --then went before The Blessed Sacrament to offer myself to God for the rest of my life.  To commemorate this, I bought a little silver ring and got Fr. Rafael to bless it, so I would constantly be reminded of my promise.  I have never taken that ring off, except for a few hours during surgery last month. 

It is almost impossible to believe how much my life has changed in only three years.  During 2016, I became active in my parish, and rapidly acquired a host of new friends--after years of being a person who didn't have any friends and didn't want any, I metamorphosed into a person who loved having friends and knew I needed them!

However, by March 2016, I had become consumed with grief, as I gradually recognized that Fr. Rafael was right: that I really had been called to religious life, but that I had "blown it," and that there was no way to rectify the tragic error I had made.  

Then, the miracle occurred, the miracle that had been "in process" ever since that night in the Confessional.  In my despair, God answered me, and in an almost unbelievable way, connected me with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas--and I became a Candidate preparing to join their Community!

In December of 2016, in another fit of desperation, I signed up for an online therapy service called TalkSpace, and met a person who would change my life, Joe Paglia.  Over the course of the next 2 years as he worked with me, I was able to overcome the consuming and debilitating rage I had towards my mother, and--because he is such a beautiful soul--Joe gradually took on the role of spiritual director for me, giving me the courage to work toward rearranging my life to make it possible for me to move to Kansas to be with the Sisters.

I am there now!  Living at Manna House of Prayer as a Novice, preparing to make Canonical Vows in October 2019.  If anyone had told me in 2015 that this would happen, I would have told them they were crazy, because it's impossible... and yet, here I am! 

I began this blog because I hoped that people who do not believe that God really exists... that He loves us... that miracles really do happen... and that He will answer prayers--would somehow discover and read my story--and that is still my hope.  May God grant that if you are reading this, you too will come to accept His Love and give your heart to Him.  Believe me when I tell you that true joy will be yours, if you do.  God bless you!