Friday, August 24, 2018

Scandal in the Church


I guess maybe I am hoping that if I write something about this, it will be a bit therapeutic--because right now, I am still reeling from all the horrible news that has come out recently about sexual abuse of minors and even seminarians in the Catholic Church.

Although of course the abuse of children is the worst, on some level, the abuse of seminarians by a Prince of the Church shocks me even more.  Everyone I have spoken to about this, even priests, are as horrified as I am, that someone who many people knew was engaging in ongoing sexual sin, could possibly have made it to the top of the hierarchy: an Archbishop, and then a Cardinal!

Has he no fear of God?  Does he even believe in God?  And what about those who knew, and did nothing to stop him?  I certainly understand falling into sin, because I was a very egregious sinner myself before I became Catholic--and of course I still sin every day, although not on the level I once did (mortal sin).  But when one falls hard, as McCarrick apparently did, what you do, if you care about having a holy life, is you go to Confession and you try with all your strength to stop doing whatever evil thing you were doing.  Did he even go to Confession?  I can't imagine that he did, to be honest. 

Despite all this horror, while I was talking to God about this the other night, I had this strong, clear sense, that somehow, this is going to bring about a "new Spring" in the Church--that people who are disgusted and horrified will want to become witnesses to the power of Christ in their lives, and many will flock to the priesthood and religious Orders in numbers we have not seen for decades.  Those of us who love Jesus and are free to do so will, I believe, be moved to offer our lives to make the Church more holy by our own holiness of life, lived within the structure of the Catholic Church.

Years ago, when I was working in the Library at the University of West Georgia, we had a lot of nasty, toxic people working there. One year, I had the idea of making a list of the entire staff, putting them into categories of Good, Mediocre and Bad.  The first time I did this, there was a preponderance of names in the Mediocre and Bad categories, but I often had some input into hiring, and I tried as hard as I could to find people to work for us who were Good--hard-working and competent, to be sure, but mainly kind and compassionate people.

Each Fall as the academic year began, I made my list over again, and the numbers gradually began to shift as some of the Bad and Mediocre people left, and were replaced with Good people--until finally, after several years, the number of Good and Mediocre employees outnumbered the Bad.  And, the morale and general atmosphere of the Library had definitely become better in a subtle way that I could not quantify, but which I could feel.

I believe this same thing can happen in the Catholic Church, as Bad and Mediocre leaders die off or are removed from the clerical state, and are replaced with Good ones.  It will take decades, but I truly believe it can happen, and that it will happen.  I even have the temerity to believe that the fact that I am being allowed by God to re-enter religious life now, at my advanced age, is because of this: with God's help, I am determined to lead a life of great holiness! 

I am praying for that: that I will receive the grace to be a good witness to Christ and spread His Love, and that all those who are not too discouraged, and who love the Church too much to leave, are praying for the renewal of the Church also. A lot of bad things have been done in the name of the Catholic Church, but many more good things have been done and are being done every day--but we mostly hear about the bad, because that is what the media thrive on. May God grant our prayers!  +

Sunday, August 12, 2018



Yesterday, when I arrived very early at St. Theresa's for Confession, there was some kind of charismatic Mass and healing service going on in the Sanctuary.  I have never seen anything like that before, but after reading something a priest wrote about being Baptized in the Holy Spirit, I had always wished that I could be--so I quietly took a seat in the very back of the church near the Reconciliation Room to wait and see what would happen.  I believe that God places people in certain situations deliberately, so I was trying to be open to this experience, to get from it whatever He intended--and I wanted to try to participate spiritually in what was happening there. 

Tried... but could not. At the end of the Mass, the priest and Deacon called people up to the altar to receive Christ, to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit;  both of them were apparently speaking in tongues, because they were making verbal sounds in some language that was definitely not English.  

I hate to say this, but it felt very forced... contrived.... artificial to me, and honestly, it made me uncomfortable. Perhaps it is just a function of my past experience in the Church, plus my personality, but I prefer a much more "interior" and austere participation in worship: still very passionate, but happening within not without--if that makes any sense.  Maybe I am just too self-conscious, I don't know.

But what occurred to me while sitting there, was that the experience I did have so long ago--when God came to me on a MARTA bus taking me home from work on September 11, 1981--may have actually been my Baptism in the Holy Spirit!  I had never thought about that before, but on that day, when I was enveloped with an incredible warmth from head to toe, and knew positively that I was in the Presence of God--I changed from an atheist into a believer in one instant, and was never the same since.  Jesus said it Himself, as reported in the Gospel of John: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them.."--and that is what happened. 

From that day forward, I have been consumed with a passionate love for God, burning like an unquenchable fire in my heart that just won't go away. Even during those horrible years after I left the convent, when I turned away from God because I blamed Him for the failure of my religious vocation (many years later He revealed to me that it was actually my fault, not His!)--I still was aware of His Presence in and around me, and I kept talking to Him, although in a very disrespectful, angry way.

About a year or so ago, by chance I came across and listened to a Catholic podcast on the web, in which the panel of priests and seminarians discussed the concept of particularity which, as they explained it, means that God works in each one of us individually, not as a group.  He does what He wills, what He wants to do, with each person separately, and thus He has different plans for each one of us.

This seems very mysterious to me, and hard to accept, because it implies that we are not all equal in His Divine Plan, which is an idea which Americans instinctively reject.  In our imaginations at least, we espouse the ideal of democracy and equality in everything--and yet, some people are clearly called to be Saints, evangelists, spouses, martyrs, parents, religious Sisters active in ministry, priests, vowed religious in monasteries, single in the world, consecrated virgins, etc., etc.--an incredible array of different forms of life.

Although I am uncomfortable talking about or even thinking this, if I am completely honest, I can see from examining my past life, that He clearly chose me--first to be Catholic, and then to have a religious vocation.  Read my story of how I got to the Catholic Church, and I think you will see that God actually pursued me until He finally got me into His Church!

I am different from other people, and I always have been.  I am not interested in the things that most people are interested in and never have been.  I always had a sense of "not fitting in," until I discovered religious life, which was the only state in which I was ever happy.  If I choose, I can remain in an almost constant state of prayer, which is God's Gift--people can't "make that happen," He has to give it to you. When I am driving to Mass, I have a sense of excitement, because I am on my way to meet my Lover. When I come into the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament, I experience an incredible sense of comfort, like coming home, and I never want to leave.

I was miserable for more than 25 years after I left religious life in 1990 at the age of 43--and when, in a seemingly "chance" encounter, a priest suggested to me that I had been wrong not to try again--and against all odds, I begged God to allow me to have a consecrated life again--He provided the way for this to happen within a matter of days. 

So yes, I am going to say it: He chose me.  I don't know why.  I am incredibly grateful.  And I pray only that I can become so immersed in Him, so surrendered to Him, so completely faithful to Him and His Will, that "I" disappear, and become one with God right here on earth. +

Thursday, August 9, 2018

How Fast Things Are Changing!


Wow: I haven't written anything in a while, but so much is happening!  

I returned slightly early from my visit to Concordia, because of my father's unexpected death on July 15th.  Even though he had not been in good health for many years, it still came as a shock.  I hate that I was not here, but I am grateful that I had been sending him frequent postcards with little notes, so he knew I was thinking about him... and so glad that he died at home in his own bed, and that he never had to go to a nursing home, which would have been devastating.  Although he was an avowed atheist, he was a very good man, upright and moral in every way--and he loved me so much!  Fr. Flaherty told me once that he believes there is room in Heaven for everyone, even atheists--so I am taking comfort in the thought that although he seemed to disavow Jesus, Jesus never disavowed him.  He is in this picture at a time when he was in his prime, the day I made my First Profession in the Dominicans in August 1987--so handsome, I always thought he looked like the actor, James Garner:

After I arrived home, I finally got my "official"letter from Sr. Jean Rosemarynoski, the President of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, inviting me to enter the Canonical Novitiate on October 15, 2018.  This is absolutely huge! While I was there, they gave me every indication that I was welcome and expected to return:  they showed me my room and invited me to rearrange the furniture--and gave me a mailbox in the office downstairs... but I knew that I still had to have my entrance voted on by the Leadership Council, and I was very nervous about that--especially since I had managed to alienate one of the LC members during the Lace Retreat.  Long story, but she was trying to teach me how to make bobbin lace, a CSJ tradition--but I was not a quick learner, and as I perceived that she was getting irritated with my slowness, I froze up (as I wrote in my previous post), and got even worse!  I hope I will find an opportunity to get to know her better--and she me--so she can find out that I'm really a very nice person after all!

Here are some pictures of my room-to-be, prior to my rearranging it.  I will post some updated pictures when I get there, and have everything unpacked!  This is from the hallway outside, looking into the room

Then, some pictures inside the room--again, before I moved all the furniture around:

And last, two pictures showing what I see outside my two windows. My room is in the back of the house, right by the fire escape.  In the 2nd picture, right beyond that red shed, is the train track! It is astonishingly close to the convent, and very loud, too!  But I love trains, and so I am sure it won't bother me one bit.

Currently, my plan is to leave Carrollton no later than October 13th, so I can be there by October 15th.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

What Lifelong Bullying Can Do


I had a very unpleasant experience during the Lace Retreat I attended a few weeks ago, which has led me to a great deal of reflection--and insight!

A lifelong problem for me, is that whenever I perceive that someone is angry with me, I become absolutely paralyzedwith fear--completely non-functional, unable to think or act rationally. Unfortunately, I was not a "natural" when it came to making bobbin lace, and the Sister who was trying to teach me to do it, became understandably exasperated with my
slowness and seeming incapacity to learn the stitches as quickly as others.

I became so terrified when this happened, I could not control my emotional reaction.  I was unable to tell her what was wrong, and unable to follow her directions, because I was too frightened to hear and act on what she was trying to tell me.

What I came to realize however, is that this is the direct result of how my mother controlled me for my entire life!  She is a cold, unloving person, extremely domineering, who required total, unquestioning obedience in all things; if I ever dared not to comply in the smallest way, her anger was so awful, that I learned to “go limp” mentally and emotionally, as a way to cope and keep her from getting even more angry.  She is a classic bully: she has no respect for anyone, especially me and my father--we are very much alike, both very gentle people--because we cannot stand up to her, which leads her to feel nothing but contempt for us. She truly believes that everyone else is stupid, and she is the only smart one.

Until now, I had never been able to see or understand this, until I thought deeply about what happened between myself and the Sister who was trying to teach me, as I tried to figure out why I was so completely helpless under those circumstances. My perception that she was angry, caused in me the same reaction that my mother knows so well how to create--and so instead of being able to listen to what she was telling me and do it, instead I just froze, and actually got worse instead of better.

As unpleasant as this experience was, God brought some good out of it, by giving me this new insight into the root cause of my problem. In this suffering which has dominated my life, I have come to cling to these words:

“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”

I really never understood until now, how deeply my mother damaged me. I blossom when treated with kindness and love, and shrivel up without it. All my life, I constantly looked for love, but never found the kind I needed until I found God.

This morning, as I was preparing to go up for Communion, it occurred to me for the first time (I am so slow!) that the Body and Blood of Christ could heal me! So I went up, thinking about the woman in the Bible who touched His cloak in order to be healed, begging to be healed by His touch. I am going to keep asking this every day, and perhaps He will choose to do it, I don’t know. It could be that this is just something I was destined to endure, because of what it has taught me about how to treat others.

This prayer by Cardinal Newman, is one I have made my own, because this is how I want to be…

Radiating Christ

Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly,
That my life may only be a radiance of Yours.

Shine through me, and be so in me
That every soul I come in contact with
May feel Your presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!

Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine,
So to shine as to be a light to others;
The light, O Jesus will be all from You; none of it will be mine;
It will be you, shining on others through me.

Let me thus praise You the way You love best, 

by shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching, not by words but by my example,
By the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do,
The evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You.


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

2018 Retreat Notes

I am in a Lace Retreat at Manna House in Concordia this week, and in addition to learning to make bobbin lace--which is a long-standing tradition in the Sisters of St. Joseph--the retreat theme is "Contemplating Our Stories."

Each day, we have been provided with a set of questions on which to reflect and write, if we choose to do so, and at the end, we will share some of our reflections with the group (again, if we wish to.)

Monday, June 25:  Stories around your birth, naming, Baptism, personal characteristics, uniqueness, God's imprint on you. 

I know that I was conceived shortly after my parents married (May 10, 1946), while they were both still in the Navy.  Mom told me that she tried to get out on a medical discharge, because Dad was due to be discharged before she was, and she knew she was pregnant so she wanted to leave with him.  However, in those days, pregnancy tests were not very accurate, and they kept coming back negative, so she had to stay!  I was born in Mom's home town of Detroit, Michigan, at Harper Hospital, which no longer exists.  I was not baptized, however, until I was about 7, because my parents were not practicing any religion. I remember my mother telling me that my father really wanted a girl, and how happy he was when I was born, and that as soon as he got home from work, he always wanted to see me right away and pick me up--waking me--which aggravated my mother.

Tuesday, June 26: Stories around the kind of family you grew up in, what were the rules/expectations and how did they shape you? Birth order, are you like either of your parents?  What did you like to do as a child, and has this affected your life?  How did you know you belonged (or did not), and where is God in all of this?

There were just the 4 of us, and we were always very close, and had a lot of fun together. My parents were very strict, however, especially my mother, and we got spanked regularly when we got out of line... my mother had quite a bad temper, but we were never allowed to display any anger whatsoever.  My mother was also very controlling and manipulative, and I was not given any freedom--but it was not until I sought therapy very late in life, that I recognized this and saw it as the problem it was... I always hated being so completely dominated by my mother, but it never occurred to me (until therapy) that I was actually free to resist her--until then, I really thought that I was not strong enough to ever say NO to her!  --so I spend nearly my entire life under her emotional control.  Although she seems very sweet to people who don't know her, she is actually capable of great cruelty and emotional abuse. I personally believe she is mentally ill, although she has never been diagnosed, because she knows how to act around strangers.

The way in which I believe God was in all of this, was that I can look back and see that from my earliest childhood, God pursued me... He wanted me for some reason I cannot understand.  And it was not until September 11, 1981, when I became a believer, that I experienced unconditional love.

This is my first bobbin lace project, a snake... lot of mistakes, but not horrible for a first attempt!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Living the Life


I just realized that I have not written anything here in quite a while, but I have a lot to tell!

A few months ago, Sr. Jean Rose, the President of the CSJ Community,
Sr. Jean Rosemarynoski, CSJ and Sr. Betty Suther, CSJ

conveyed to me through Sr. Betty Suther--who is my mentor and also the Novice Mistress--that it would be prudent for me to come and stay with the Sisters for an extended period, longer than the usual week during Assembly, so that I could be sure I knew "what I was signing up for."  So, although it took quite a bit of planning, I said I would come for the entire month of June.

When I told Sr. Dian, my friend in Cartersville, about this, she suggested that I stay even longer, so that I could attend the annual Theological Institute, and so I am here until the middle of July.

When I first arrived, all the Candidates were here, 1st and 2nd year, for 2 days of classes before the Annual Assembly started, and then once it began (evening of June 6th), there was the usual whirlwind of activities and meetings until the final event, which was the celebration of our 9 Jubilarians on Sunday, June 10th.  Very soon after that, however, all the Sisters who had come home for the Assembly left, and life settled down to what is normal for the Community.

I am staying at the Manna Retreat House (which was the original Motherhouse when the Sisters first arrived here from Rochester NY in 1884), which is just a few blocks from the current Motherhouse.  This is what my typical day is like, so far:  I get up at 6:00am (although the Sisters are free to get up whenever they want/need to), and if there is Daily Mass at 7:00am in the church right next door (Our Lady of Perpetual Help!), I like to go.  After Mass, I come back for a simple breakfast here, although I could go up to the Motherhouse if I want to for the huge breakfasts they serve there... but I like quiet in the morning, so I just stay here.

After breakfast, the house is quiet until about 9:00am, because, unless they have to go out, that's personal private prayer time for the Sisters.  At 9:00am, I currently have the responsibility of going downstairs and putting away all the breakfast stuff, and then checking in with our cook, Jackie, to see if any help is needed.  Usually I stay in the Kitchen for an hour or so, doing whatever she wants, and then I am free to do other things.  When there is a retreat in progress, however, and we have guests in the house, there is much more kitchen work to be done because we are feeding a lot more people than usual.  

Sr. Marcia asked me to help her with her project, compiling for future publication, the papers of Sr. Bette Moslander, who was President of the Congregation from 1975 to 1983, during a time of great change for the Congregation as they continued to evolve as as result of the changes in religious life called for by Vatican II.  She was an amazing visionary, and had a tremendous positive influence on what the Congregation has become, as they have positioned themselves to respond to today's needs in the Church and the world.  

So, I have been working on that, and in addition, I spent some time at the Motherhouse helping at the Reception Desk, I served juice and coffee during the Jubilee Brunch, I was sent to help with the Food Bank at the Cloud County Resource Center, to play Bingo with the middle school girls attending our Discover Camp, and I helped transport people to the airport--all kinds of odd jobs!  Besides that, of course I have to continue my studies in the Formation Program (we have classes once a month).

Lunch is around noon, and then we wash the dishes and resume our work, and many Sisters like to take a nap after lunch if they are free--and I enjoy naps too!  Supper is usually 5:30, and again, we wash the dishes and close the Kitchen for the night, and Community Prayer in the Sisters' Chapel is held at 6:15 every evening (except on Sunday nights, I have heard they usually watch 60 Minutes, haha!)

After that, everyone pretty much retires to their rooms to do whatever they want, and go to sleep whenever they want.  In general, the convent is pretty quiet most of the time, but there are no rules about that (like the Grand Silence we had in the Domincans after Night Prayer)--other than being considerate when you are in areas where people's bedrooms are.    

Even though I have not received a letter formally accepting me into the Novitiate, it's apparent that they are assuming that I am coming, which amazed me:  I was told where my room will be in the "cloister" area of the building--although they don't call it that--and I was encouraged to go back and look at it, measure it, and decide how I want to arrange the furniture and/or fit in anything I intend to bring with me when I finally move here from Georgia.  Today, I was given a mailbox in the office, too.  I had only been back to look at my room once, but this morning, Sr. Marcia asked me what I might want to get rid of, or need from storage, and when I told her that I was waiting until I got a letter from Sr. Jean Rose, she said she would speak to her about me today--and this afternoon I got a very sweet letter from Sr. Jean Rose, a "don't worry" letter, so--hard as it is for me to believe--I think this is REALLY HAPPENING!  

I am still pretty much in shock, frankly.  A little over 2 years ago, on the evening of March 10, 2016, I begged God to give me a second chance at religious life--and as you probably know, He sent me here specifically... and to my amazement, here I am.  An unbelievable miracle, that I keep thanking Him for every day. 

On the evening of June 24th, I will begin my annual retreat; I registered for the Lace Retreat, during which I will be taught to make the traditional bobbin lace, which the Sisters used to teach to women back in the 1600s, so that they could sell it and earn money to help support their families.  I am really looking forward to learning this ancient craft, and of course also deepening my relationship with God during this special week of prayer and reflection.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Applying to Enter the Novitiate


I absolutely can't believe that I have reached the point where it is appropriate for me to ask the President of the Sisters of St. Joseph if I may enter their Novitiate.  What am I saying?  I can't believe it's even possible that I could be considered to become a Canonical Sister!!!!

+ Lord, you have led me on such an amazing journey: I bless You, I thank You, I adore You!

I was awake for quite a while last night, and--as is my habit--I was praying during much of that time.  The result is that I reformulated my letter this morning (4th revision!), to make it much shorter, more direct, more succinct.  I sent the text to Sr. Betty, the Novice Mistress, and she told me to print it, sign it, and bring it!

So, here it is:  

June 2018

Dear Sr. Jean Rose:

I am writing to ask permission to enter the Novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia KS.  

In the course of my studies with the Sisters, I have learned that I already possess the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Without recognizing it as such, my entire professional life was characterized by striving to live the Ignatian ministry of presence.  As I review my life, I notice how important it was for me--in every encounter with my staff and especially the students with whom I worked--to embody love for them. I believe that this was God’s gift to me, to have such a strong desire to be the incarnation of love for those I served, even before I knew Him. Nothing was more important to me, and it was what I stressed continually to my staff: “Yes, I expect you to be competent and efficient--but more than anything, to love them--each and every person who comes into the Library to seek your assistance.”

You already know the incredible story of how God led me directly to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, when I begged Him to give me another chance to have a consecrated life. I promised that night, that if He would give me what I considered to be  impossible, that I would do whatever He wanted--and ever since then, I have been working toward honoring that commitment.

To put it plainly, I do not want to face Him at the end of my life, and have to admit, “Yes, Lord: I mostly did try to do Your work in the world, but I know that I could have done more--I could have given you everything, my entire life devoted to Your service!  But instead, I chose to keep the beautiful house You gave me, keep the privileges, the comfort and the complete freedom to do exactly as I pleased, because it was easier and more pleasant to do what I wanted.”  I would not be surprised to hear Him say something like, “Then you already know what the consequences are: you chose not to be totally one with Me, and thus it will be, through all Eternity.” And I will have nothing to say in reply, because I know He is just.

Please allow me to do what my heart tells me I want to do, and must do.

Yours in Christ’s love,

Carol Goodson