Sunday, June 26, 2016

Jesus said, "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God."

Today's Gospel was like a sword through the heart for me. 

I am about to begin a two-year formation program to prepare to take vows as a Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia.  At the end of the two years, if I am allowed to continue, I will be given the choice of moving to Kansas for a year and beginning a canonical novitiate--at the end of which I could take the traditional three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience (which is what I would like to do), OR, I can take a simple, non-canonical vow of fidelity to the Congregation, and become what is called an “agrégée” Sister: one who is a member of the Congregation, recognized as a Sister, but without the privilege of voting on Congregational matters, and not obligated to turn over their financial assets to the Order and receive lifetime care.

I don't care about the "lifetime care" part, because I have sufficient retirement income and expected inheritance to take care of myself: but I would very much like to be canonical and take the three traditional vows.  However, if my parents are still alive when the two years are up, is Jesus really telling me in today's Gospel that I should leave my parents and move to Kansas to become a Novice, if I am sincere about following Him?  Because if that is what He is asking, I already promised to do whatever He wants, if He would give me what I asked for in prayer--and He did: an opportunity to once again have a consecrated life.

This is what the Gospel says:

"And to another he said, "Follow me."
But he replied, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father."
But he answered him, "Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
And another said, "I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home."
To him Jesus said, "No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God."

It doesn't seem to me as though there is much wiggle-room in that. 

I asked Father Rafael about it, and he actually said that Jesus is wrong--that caring for parents is a sacred duty also, and that he is going to bury his father no matter what (those are not his exact words, but an approximation).  Of course he can't say that Jesus is wrong: Jesus is God, so He can't be wrong... and I don't think Father Rafael really meant that, either: he was just expressing his Latin emotion regarding his love for family.  I get that.  But if Jesus really is asking that of me--of all of us, if it applies--then I have to do it.  I am too far gone on this road of love and devotion to God, not to.

This is going to take a lot of prayer.  Fortunately, the end of two years is quite a ways off, and anything could happen. But this is going to be a big topic between me and Jesus for quite a long time to come, I have a feeling. +

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Why is God So Good?


I have been showered with blessings in my life:  it seems to me that I have received so much special attention from God, it makes me feel guilty, because I know I don't deserve it.  I have never been able to understand why He is so good to me--when I have led such a terribly sinful life in the past.

I am overflowing with love and gratitude, and I have asked Him all the time, "Why me?"  --but never got an answer.

Jesus said that whatever we ask the Father in His Name, we will receive... but for some inexplicable reason, I have tended to be reluctant to ask for anything for myself.  However, as I wrote recently, I received another amazing gift when He quickly answered my desperate prayer for a chance to return to religious life--and so today, I decided to ask the Father for something I lack:  a pure heart, a loving heart, to be able to love as Jesus loves.

And then it came to me... or I guess it was the Holy Spirit that told me... the reason why He has been so good to me is because He wants me to have that deep desire--that compulsion--to love as Jesus loves.

Simply to love as Jesus loves, because that is what He wants, and it is the only thing I can do to give something back to Him in return for all that He has given me.  He wants each one of us, me included, to be so overwhelmingly grateful for what He has given, that the only way we can think of responding--and we can't help but feel the need to respond--is to give Him what He wants:  our unconditional love of others, to love as He loves. 

Love is all we have to give, and love is all He wants.  And now I can finally stop asking, "Why?" +

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Recovery of a Vocation


I just recently realized to whom (besides God Himself) I owe the miracle of being able to once again have a consecrated life.  His two instruments were Fr. Rafael Carballo, my pastor, and Sister Crystal Payment, who is a Sister of St. Joseph in my parish.

That wild night last November, when I "flung" myself into Fr. Rafael's Confessional, one of the things he said to me while I was trying to explain where I had been for the last 25 years, was that he thought I was wrong in thinking that I could/should not try again after I left the Dominicans at the age of 43.  I believed I was too old, plus I thought that the fact I had already left two other Communities would count against me.  

I have a lot of self-confidence, and I am not a person who often doubts myself.  But I could not get his remark out of my mind.  I kept thinking about it for months, wondering if he could possibly be right... and eventually, when I decided that he was, I began to suffer terribly, realizing that I made the worst mistake of my life, and that it could not be corrected!

As I wrote in my posts in March, the pain became so great, I finally begged God to give me another chance, knowing in my heart that what I was asking could not possibly be granted.  But it was. 

God's other instrument in this beautiful story of mercy is Sister Crystal, who chose years ago to be a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, even though she lives within the boundaries of St. Theresa's in Douglasville.  Sister Crystal, who decided to do something for National Catholic Sisters Week this year.  Sister Crystal, who agreed to give speeches at all five Masses the weekend of March 12-13, even though she hates giving speeches. If it had not been for all of that falling into place, I would never have heard of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

Lord, how can I repay Your goodness to me?

The Rest of the Story...


I haven't written anything in awhile because it feels as though life has been going so fast lately!  I went to Concordia, Kansas June 9-12th to stay with the Sisters of St. Joseph.  It was an amazing visit.  To be absolutely truthful, I was afraid I would not like them:  my attitudes toward religious orders had always been so conservative, and I knew they were not:  how could I possibly fit in with them?

Well, guess what?  God doesn't make mistakes.  When He sent me there, He knew exactly what He was doing.  I loved them.  They loved me.  I want to say, "Why didn't I find them 25 years ago," but sadly, I know the answer to that, and it does not reflect well on me.  Twenty-five years ago, I would never have considered them, because they do not wear habits, and I was totally hung up on that back then. 

When you learn a little bit about the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph, the fact that they do not wear habits makes perfect sense.  They were founded to be a community of women who worked out among their local communities, dressed just like other people.  And, as I reflect on their charism, it seems to me that what they are essentially doing, is following Jesus' command to all Christians in its very essence--stripped of everything that is not necessary--so that they have no barriers or distractions from a life completely devoted to service of Jesus, by service to others.  It's so simple.  Simple, not complicated.  But, of course, very hard.  And it's exactly what I want, what I feel I was born to do. 

Because the leaders of the Congregation are very open, they allowed us aspirants to sit in on all the Community meetings, so--rather than just merely social encounters with them--we had a chance to hear them speaking from their hearts about their own missions, and talking about what they had observed about the work of other Sisters.  It was very beautiful to see how completely devoted to God they are, and I could not help but think, "I want to be with people like this!"  Yes:  I feel like I have found "my" people at last. 

Since I had to leave before any of the other "Come and See" participants, I was interviewed by the President of the Congregation, Marcia Allen, and the incoming President, Jean Rosemarynoski the first day I was there. They were so kind to me, and verbally told me that if I wanted to come, that I should waste no time in starting the formation program--which made me extremely happy!

Sister Dian, one of the Vocation Directors--and the first Sister I met--is bringing home some of the materials I will be studying during the two-year formation program.  I can hardly wait to get started!

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Power of Confession


Until this past week, I had never directly experienced the immediate reception of grace from the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and I am still recovering from my amazement.  I should not be amazed: I know by my Faith that the Sacraments are effective--and yet, I suppose God gives us these experiences from time to time, to help strengthen our faith--like the way Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead to convince us, yet again, that He really does have control over life and death.  Some of us (me!) are so weak, we need these assurances occasionally.

I had been desperate to get to Confession, but could not go as soon as I knew I needed to, because my mother has been in the hospital and it was impossible to get away long enough:  my poor father was so upset and helpless, it would have been cruel to say, "Bye!  I'm off to church now!" --so I suffered with my sense of pain and guilt until I was finally free to go. 

My opportunity came this past Saturday night, before Mass.  I had a few minor sins to report, but mainly, I had to tell Father that lately, my interior disposition with regard to my parents had been absolutely horrible.  I was appalled and ashamed, but I could not seem to rid myself of my anger and frustration with them.  Although I kept on doing for them all the things I could and should be doing as a good daughter, I was doing them with no love whatsoever--in fact, with barely suppressed rage most of the time.  I had to retreat to my room often to try to calm down so that I would not start yelling at them.

I have been saying the Rosary a lot lately (I am not normally a "Rosary person," but I promised to recite it for a Dominican priest I know who has terminal cancer.)  I did discover that the Rosary is a pretty good antidote for anger: it is very calming, I suppose because it is so repetitive and soothing.

In any event, I began my Confession by telling Father that I probably should have been coming every day!  I think I may have shocked him a little when I articulated the extent and depth of my anger toward my parents, and I told him that I had been asking Jesus constantly for the grace to see them as His beloved children, just as I am His beloved child--but it wasn't working.  After receiving Absolution, I went to my pew to wait for Mass to start, and while waiting, asked again for the grace to overcome all this rage.

When I got home, into the house, and saw them, I suddenly realized it was all gone!  Just like that, gone!  Although this is not a popular idea in the modern world, I do believe in Satan, and also that he particularly loves to attack people who want to live holy lives, and are trying to grow in virtue, because such people offend him the most. And, I believe that the grace I received from the Sacrament of Reconciliation is what pushed him right out of my life. I marvel at how wonderful it is for us, as Catholics, to be able to receive such a gift through our priests. +

By the way, this is a very good article about the subject of devils and demons, by a theologian I admire, Peter Kreeft: