O Felix Culpa

I’ve been avoiding this post like the plague ever since the Holy Spirit put it on my heart.  I’ve come up with all sorts of other neat ideas for posts and God still nudged me towards this.  No, this is not my last post (although that will be coming soon enough).

Writers are made completely vulnerable through their writing.  We put our entire selves into everything we write – wear our hearts on our sleeves so to speak.  One thing I have always been aware of is the power of stories.  While fictional stories can be chock full of Truth, it is of imperative importance that we as Christians tell our stories.  Even more specific than this, we need to tell our love stories.  Everyone is touched by a good love story.  So Christ has been telling me over and over, tell our story; it is the greatest love story ever told – my personal love story with Christ is wrapped up in the story of His mystical bride, the Church.  It is unfortunately similar to the love story of Israel – who was continuously unfaithful and often strayed far from God.

God wants to convey a very important message through my story: his call is a gift, not based upon our own merits.  No matter how unfaithful we are, how sinful, how broken, we each have a specific and unique vocation.  His call is always there no matter what incredibly stupid things we do.  It is a gift – I cannot even begin to stress the importance of this.

God gave me this precious gift of my calling in high school.  Did I treasure this gift, cultivate it and learn how to use it in the manner it was intended?  Honestly, not really.  Mostly I peeked at it a couple of times and then ignored it until about two years ago.  On the outside, I said I was discerning religious life, that I was excited about it, but deep down, I wasn’t convinced.  I wanted to feel loved, wanted to know what being in love felt like.  I didn’t believe the Truth that God could fulfill me completely.  I was lonely.  Like many young women, I looked to boys to fulfill me emotionally, and eventually physically.

After Months of feeling like this, a slow downward spiral culminated in one summer of hitting rock bottom.  A boy (disguised as a man) suddenly gave me the attention I so craved.  I am now ashamed to admit how quickly I attached myself to his arm and like having an out of body experience(probably induced by alcohol), I watched myself become a different person.  When this relationship (I use that term very loosely) ended I was left broken, dazed, and not knowing who I was.

Yet, through confession, good friends, and prayer, God healed me.  I was able to go before God, my pride completely gone and admit I knew nothing.  My illusions about myself, faith and love gone, he was able to teach me His Reality.  Looking back, being totally empty allowed healing to happen relatively quickly and prepared me for what God had in store.  A mere two months after that summer, I was invited to visit the Capuchin Sisters of Nazareth.  I was surprised by the joy that overwhelmed me.  It hit me: God is still calling me.  It’s as if he was saying: like Israel, I will always take you back.  I still want you for my bride.  My vocation did not lie with that community, but I was surprisingly ready! God wasted no time and shortly after led me to the TOR Sisters.

Anyone looking at this timeline and seeing the radical switch from the lifestyle I had been living might think I am running away.  The Truth is that God converted my heart, captured it, and now I can truly say I am in love with Him!  Once I opened my heart, he rushed in and didn’t waste any time! Plus, God is outside of time!  There was no room for wallowing in guilt and self-pity – ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!

Before my sinful relationship that summer, I had this vague idea of my identity as a beloved daughter of God but it wasn’t a Truth planted in my heart.  The same goes for chastity and the calling to religious life.  I really thought my faith was built on rock, but it turned out to be a house with a foundation of sand.  Distracted from God so easily, my house crumbled in no time.

While contemplating this recently, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what had changed after that summer, until I read Lumen Fidei – Pope Francis’s encyclical.

“we need knowledge, we need truth, because without these we cannot stand firm, we cannot move forward.  Faith without truth does not save, it does not provide a sure footing.  It remains a beautiful story, the projection of our deep yearning for happiness, something capable of satisfying us to the extent that we are willing to deceive ourselves.  Either that, or it is reduced to a lofty sentiment which brings consolation and cheer, yet remains prey to the vagaries of our spirit and the changing seasons, incapable of sustaining a steady journey through life.”

This is the key to the change that occurred – God granted me a renewed Faith based on knowledge and Truth.  I had nothing left, stopped “trying” so hard and God granted me a deeper gift of Faith.  Being a perpetual student, God gave me this knowledge in a literal way.  I really delved into Theology of the Body and read books like Discovering the Feminine Genius by Katrina Zeno.  This has continued through the past year and my Faith is continually expanding as I learn more.  However, in the end it is a gift – I cannot stress this enough.  I did nothing to earn this Faith.

The most recent book which has been leaving my brain on the floor is The Foundations of Religious Life: Revisiting the Vision.  It dives into some complicated details of the theology of Religious Life.  One element discussed is the importance of personal conversion, which is somehow tied up in the conversion of the whole world.  This part hit me particularly hard:

“The Religious is called to recognize sinful personal choices as the “o happy fault” and become a dispenser of good through one’s own human condition – to allow Christ to use hummannes as it is, as his own instrument in the redemption of others.  The very process of being personally released from sin while learning obedience to the Father triggers the means of redemption within others.”

I read this and knew that this post had to come eventually.  Not just this post, but telling the story God is writing through me, for the rest of my life.  God has brought so much good out of my mistakes – even the redemption of others (I have no idea how this works!)

Your calling is a gift.  Faith is a gift.  All you have to do is say, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word.”

Accepting the Gift

My dad keeps bugging me about how long it’s been since I last posted, so before he hacks into my account and writes himself, I should probably update you on the past week.

Instead of writing a long post I can summarize in two pictures:

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Let me explain.  I’ve been spending wonderful amounts of time in Mass and Adoration.  However, since I am about to embark on a life altering journey, aka responding to God’s call (and heaven knows where that can lead), I am going through a roller coaster of emotions.  I’d imagine someone getting married in three weeks would experience similar feelings.

For example, here is a peek at what was going through my head at Mass today:

Fear threatens to choke me for a moment.  Am I doing the right thing? Wisps of old dreams drift in the back of my head – living in the slums like MoT…Then the Father sweeps me up in a moment of consolation. “Accept my gift,” he whispers.  I am grasping.

And then their faces appear without warning in my mind – these women who are destined to be my Sisters.  At the thought, fear turns into joy.  I long to begin now.

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Oh, You Too?

God has allowed me to enter into a month of peaceful preparation and I’m loving it! Yesterday I went to Mass, hung out with the old ladies at Church, visited the Blessed Sacrament, and made dinner for my family.  This is the life.

I’m also taking advantage of all this time to read many books.  One of these is The Foundations of Religious Life: Revisiting the Vision, which is a collection of essays put forth by the CMSWR.  It is an important reminder of the purpose and mission of religious life, at a time when so many orders have lost sight of the vision.

In this book, Sr. Paula Jean Miller, F.S.E. writes that our salvation always comes about through other people.  For married couples it is through one another and their families.  For those in religious life, their salvation is worked out through a particular and specific community.  They do not take vague vows to be lived out in a general way.  They promise God to live chastely, obediently, and in poverty, with other people, for other people, and through a particular community, especially the superiors.

God always works through other people.  This is why He sent Jesus, as a man, to redeem us. Even then, Jesus came through Mary (this is why we have consecration through Mary to Jesus).

Unless you are called to be a hermit, you need community to grow in virtue.  It is an unavoidable fact of life: we are made for community.  And community does not consist of going to bible study at your parish once a week and making small talk with the old ladies at daily Mass.  We need to be forming true Friendships centered on Christ.  God puts specific people in our lives for a reason and invites us to enter into relationship with them.  Through these relationships, we should be helping one another get to heaven.

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers…But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”  C.S. ~ The Four Loves

And what is True Friendship you might ask? Oh, you want to open that can of worms? You asked for it!

In the words of my semi-friend (from personal experience, never call someone that to her face), C.S. Lewis:

“… It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision – it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.”

Emerson said that when we ask “Do you love me?,” what we are really asking is “Do you see the same truth?”

Lewis speaks of the importance of sharing a common vision.  He also says that if we do see the same truth all the other details of our lives don’t really matter.  A shared vision should automatically create an even playing field when it comes to Friendship.  Where we come from, our past mistakes, who our family is, should melt away.

Ideally we should be Friends with all Christians.  Immediately upon meeting another Christian, there should be that moment of “Oh, you too?”  Simply by virtue of being brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all Friends.  This, of course, does not mean that you will have a deep and intimate relationship with every Christian you meet, but even a moment of connection can help us remember that we’re not alone and are in constant communion with the body of Christ.

Who are the people and particular community that God wants to work through in your life? Be open to the call to community in whatever surprising ways God wishes to initiate it.

P.S. I know I talk about her a lot, but I can’t write a post about friendship without mentioning my best Friend.  Our “oh you too?” moment came when we shared our intentions of doing Montfort’s Consecration to Jesus through Mary.  Mary has been protecting our Friendship ever since!