Find Your Humanity! (Beauty and the Beast Style)

TOBI’m sure someone has written about this already, but my cursory internet search came up with nothing, so here’s my two cents: Beauty and the Beast screams Theology of the Body.  I had this revelation while watching the new live action version.

What specifically came to my mind is the fact that St. John Paul II says women teach men how to be human.  This is literally happening in Beauty and the Beast!  Due to the fall, men tend towards beastliness (ok honestly we all do), at least figuratively.  In this classic movie, Prince Charming is literally turned into a beast, so his outer form matches his cold, selfish heart.  Remember, he was never really charming to begin with, so he couldn’t use turning into a beast as an excuse.  However, he became more bitter and resentful.

Enter a beautiful, selfless, young woman.  Here is a person whom the beast can love, can live for.  With her he can, “discover himself through a sincere gift of self”.  And she must let herself be loved as she is, just as she receives him as he is.  She, through her love, helps to redeem and transform him into a man, more of a man than he ever was.

Incidentally, this is all reminding me of the ideas of a newly ordained priest, Fr. Patrick Shultz, of the Cleveland Diocese.  In his Master’s Thesis on the genius of men (it’s about time!), he described the man’s heart as a castle.  A man is pierced, wounded by a woman’s beauty and he let’s her into his heart, to be protected.  The man’s instinct is to live with an outward focus, but when he lets a woman inside she draws him in as well, into the home she creates.

Do you see what I see?? This is also happening in Beauty and the Beast!  The beast is trapped inside this castle, through his own fault.  It became a prison, something to escape from.  But then he lets Belle, aka Beauty, into his castle and eventually into his heart.  His rough exterior is pierced and he is freed to love.  At first he tries to possess Belle, to keep her as a prisoner in his castle, but it is only when he sees her as a gift and lets her go that she can truly be his.

Why do women have this unique role?  The more human we become, the more God-like we become.  Jesus became man so we could see what we’re supposed to look like, for we were made in his image.  Furthermore, God chose to redeem the world through a woman – and continues to do so.  It is women who are the preservers of culture, who embody compassion, kindness and mercy.  It is women who make humanity more human.  Every time a woman gives birth to an immortal soul, it is a redemptive act, and as she tries to bring that child up in a Godly way, then she is bringing that child closer to its destiny of becoming God-like.  She is repairing the image and likeness of God in humanity.

d0d46bfcb240034fa06feb78a245f036

The Well is Deep

Jesus the Bridegroom.  The very words send a thrill through my heart.  The sisters heard me go on and on about the topic, but you, my lucky readers, are a whole new audience!

62183094

Thanks to my time in the convent, I’ve been given a love for scripture and new eyes to see its depth.  The top two things that have opened up scripture for me are:

  1. Reading scripture with Jewish eyes.
  2. Seeing that Jesus is always the Bridegroom.

Today’s Gospel is the perfect example of this.  In the Old Testament, whenever a man and woman met at a well, they ended up getting married.  Another key piece of information is that the Jews and Samaritans were “divorced” from one another.  The Israelites had split into the Northern and Southern kingdoms, with Samaria in the North and Jerusalem in the South.  So when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well and asks her, “give me a drink”, what He’s really saying is, “give me your hand.”

What really turned me on to all this is Dr. Brant Pitre and his book Jesus the Bridegroom.  I strongly recommend it to all.  The most important thing I want to convey is that Jesus is a personal bridegroom to each one of us, not just of the Church in general, and we experience this best through prayer.  When I learned how to pray according to the Ignatian method of prayer I felt like I had never prayed before.  This involves imagining the scene with all your senses and placing yourself in it.  Imagine yourself as the Samaritan woman.  Jesus asks you for a drink, you ask him for living water.  What are your “husbands”, those things that you are ashamed of, that you think make you unworthy? He already knows and He is “the one”, the Christ, the Bridegroom.

 

Waiting on the World…at the DMV

Dear Sir, what’s your story?

I left the golden island for streets of gold.  I left the warm beach for cold concrete.  I left hopelessness for a chance at happiness.  I left empty pockets and took a chance with these empty hands.  Family?  I left a daughter and a little one on the way.  I came to make it.  I came to the land of dreams.  I came again and again just like you.  Your eye?  I didn’t want to ask.  Vision’s perfect – 20/20 times two.

And now it begins……

(Posted by Victoria’s family)

On this past Sunday we took Victoria out to the TOR Sister’s Mother house in Toronto Ohio.  We will post updates when possible.  During her formation Victoria will not have access to email and limited contact with her family.  So the best way to communicate with her is to drop her a note addressed as shown on the right.

If you have mass intentions you can actually enter them here: http://www.franciscansisterstor.org/chapel/prayer-requests-2/ 

And if you want to know more about the sisters you can go to their main website at http://www.torsisters.org.

The sisters also have a facebook presence where they have posted some pictures from Sunday.  https://www.facebook.com/FranciscanSistersTOR

Please let us know if you have any questions.

 

 

Praying with Merton

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.

Yet, my heart is joyous. ie possessing the qualities of, full of – joy

 
I do not see the road ahead of me.  
I cannot know for certain where it will end.

But that it will pass by the place of the skull.Though it may require fasting, it will end in feasting.

Nor do I really know myself,

Is that not what this road is really about?  You, Lord, knew me in the womb.

and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

Well, that’s terrifying.  Jesus help me want what you want.

 
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

Like children, we bring seemingly meaningless trinkets to lay at your feet.

Our earnest desire inflames your heart with love.

 
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

My Hope is in you alone. Hope – expectant desire.  This road of fasting will end with feasting.

Be Not Afraid

“You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion.

~ The Silver Chair

I could blame it on Nemo, I could blame it on my lack of free time, but in truth I have not written in almost 3 weeks because I have been mulling over some big decisions and couldn’t quite put into words all that God has been asking of me.

In the past few weeks, I have been astounded by the mysterious, yet wonderful ways in which God opens doors.  I have learned that when God swings open a door and asks you to run through it, you make like the apostles and follow him immediately.

I have  been begging God to provide a way for my loans to be taken care of.  After being accepted, that begging became more persistent and demanding(we’re supposed to be like children, right?)  I really need to start being careful what I wish for…

God answered my prayer, but, true to form, not how I was expecting.  The same week I was invited to join the Sisters, I was also offered a nannying job which would allow me to pay off a significant chunk of my debt(but I still need your help!)  As you may remember, I’ve been part of Chi Rho Catholic Service Corps since September and had committed to do that until June.  And yet when this opportunity presented itself, there was a definite sense that it was time to move on and that  God was calling me to take a real and active step towards my Vocation. He has given me another chance to respond with an emphatic “yes!” to his call.

So, at the risk of seeming irresponsible and being rejected by those who do not understand my decision, but with the blessing of the TOR Sisters, I have left Chi Rho.  It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, but I am at peace with it.  I will miss my students and coworkers dearly but they will continually be in my prayers.

Stay tuned for updates as I embark on the next step of my journey!

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,  “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

 “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

~ Isaiah 6:8

Is This Real Life? It’s Eternal Life!

I need to do more of this.

There seems to be an ongoing pattern in my life:  I freak out about not being in control of a situation and then a day or two later, everything falls into place in God’s perfect time.   Well the last time this happened was about a month and a half ago.  I was quickly approaching college graduation and I still had no idea what I was going to do with the next year.  One day this uncertainty got to me and I had a mini meltdown.  True to form, the next day I had to call Sister about something and she reminded me of God’s infinite care.  She told me that she had been brainstorming and asking around about opportunities for me.  One idea she had would be to set up an “affiliate” program, which would be like a year of service.  She was looking into getting Americorps funding through the Catholic Volunteer Network, which would go towards paying off my loans.

Since talking to her that day I hadn’t heard any updates(until Monday) and of course, don’t like being in the dark where I can’t control a situation.  I was about to break down and call her, but she got to me first.  It turns out that she can’t get the program set up in time, so I’m back to square one.  Because God knows I hate making decisions, he’s presented me with a few options.  Through a lot of prayer and weighing practicality, I’ve made the tough decision to stay at home.

Her bad news was dwarfed by what she told me next…I have the go ahead to finish the application process!  The Sisters had asked me to wait and I wasn’t sure when they were going to approve me to move on.  This means that I could potentially be accepted by October.  Which is great, because then I can apply for a grant from the Fund for Vocations.

Dear readers, do you know what this means?  It’s time to break out the big fundraising guns, to pull out all the stops, and man your rosaries.  I’m still planning on doing the marathon, so I’ll let you know how sponsorship is going to work.

Right after I talked to Sister and it sunk that I might actually be entering the convent in little over a year, the cheesy phrase, is this real life? seemed like the most appropriate reaction.  And of course what better place to put my thoughts than a facebook status?  Someone commented on it with simply: John 17:3.  I thought this was a curious reply and looked it up.  My friend is very wise and actually the entire chapter is pertinent to my situation.  It is the prayer of Jesus before he begins the long walk to Calvary.  He expresses a deep and intimate love for us, which leads to the ultimate sacrifice.

John 17:3 says: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”  So not only is this real life, it’s eternal life!  And this the whole point of being a nun – to point towards heaven and live a life so others know God and Jesus.  The other part that particularly stuck out to me was: “Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”

Can’t Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?

Tonight I was talking to my friends about my future plans of nunhood.  I’m growing to love these conversations because they make me really examine my calling and sometimes even help me see it from a new perspective.  Besides the usual questions, one of my friends expressed genuine surprise at my life choice.  She pointed out that I’ve always been a “hopeless romantic,” and she’s right.  During high school I hopelessly pined for my best friend, then in college had a different crush every week.  A Walk to Remember gets me every time.  I’m the kind of girl who squeals over every adorable baby that comes within a 100 feet of my baby-radar.  I used to pour over those cheesy quotes about unrequited love such as:

What I want to do all the time.

So you can see how my friend would be confused.  I thought for a second about how to explain this radical choice I’m making and then decided to be boldly honest: in a way I’m doing this because I am in love.  I am hopelessly, desperately in love with Jesus.  So much so that I am willing to give up my life so others will know how incredibly much He loves them and so that they can learn to love Him in return.  It’s hard to explain this to someone who doesn’t share a religious vocation, and even harder to explain to someone who has no faith.  How do I explain that sometimes I miss Jesus so much that it physically hurts and that sometimes all I want is to feel His arms around me?

Being a nun is not against my hopeless romantic nature, in fact it perfectly fulfills my desire to be part of a dramatic love story.  Jesus died for me!  He gave up His life for love of me! How much more romantic can you get than that?  I am taking part in the greatest love story of all time.  Now I am giving Him my life in return, so I can be united to my lover.

The bride awaits her lover.

For anyone who is feeling uncomfortable right about now: go read Song of Songs.  It is raunchy and surprisingly erotic. It is about two lovers searching for each other and is meant to symbolize the relationship between God and His Church.  This book describes in a powerful way the intimate love that God has for each one of us and how desperately he wants to pursue us.  One of my favorite passages in Song of Songs says: “Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm; For stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion; its flames are a blazing fire.  Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away.  Were one to offer all he owns to purchase love, he would be roundly mocked.”  The bible is filled with romantic poetry such as this that God wrote directly to our hearts.

Ultimately, all longing for love and intimacy is secretly a longing for God.  He is the only one that can truly satisfy us.  We will only be complete when we are united with Him.  If the analogy of marriage seems weird to you, think about what marriage really is.  It is complete union with another person – the two become one flesh.  It involves dying to yourself and being concerned with the good of your beloved.  That’s exactly what God wants our relationship with Him to look like!

That being said, we all have a natural desire to be united with our fellow human beings, especially in marriage.  There seems to be a misconception that because I’m going to be a nun, I don’t want to get married.  I would love to get married – to fall in love and have a lifelong companion, all the intimacy and romance that comes with that.  But God is calling me to give up this good and natural path which human kind in general was made for.  He’s calling me to a supernatural life, so I can remind people that all their longings cannot be fulfilled in this life.  When I am lonely and crave intimacy, it will remind me of the one who can fulfill those longings.

I’ve faithfully kept a journal for a few years now and it’s amazing to see how my focus has changed.  In high school a typical entry would have consisted of me talking about the boy that I happened to like that week, or who was going out with who, or about the drama happening between my friends.  These days, I’d like to think that I’ve matured.  These days my journal chronicles a different kind of love story.  Somewhere along the way, I stopped writing about boys and began writing about my struggles to submit to God’s will, about the joys and pain of falling deeper in love with Him.

So, yes I am a hopeless romantic and that is why I need to be a nun.

There are plenty of songs that describe the love of God, but I am particular to this one:

Oh wait, and this one:

The Risk of Surrender

Right before I visited the TOR Sisters for the first time I decided to take a huge leap of trust and not make any after graduation plans.  The tug towards sisterhood was too strong to ignore and I really felt like God might be calling me to enter right after graduation.  As a sign of surrender I decided not to apply for graduate school or a volunteer program (which I was originally planning on doing).  I trusted that God would show me the right order and that he has a plan.  Then I found the TOR Sisters, fell in love and was put on the fast track towards acceptance.

Well I recently received the psychologist’s evaluation a few days ago.  There wasn’t anything too concerning in the report, but there are some areas of self-improvement and self-discovery that he wants me to explore.  Then yesterday the vocation director called me and revealed the decision of the formation board: they want me to wait a year before entering.  I’m still accepted and everything, my application process is just being extended.  Still, my heart sank at her words.  I had gotten so caught up in the possibility of entering in August, that I had ignored the reality.  The reality is that I have a lot of growing to do, I’m still very young and I haven’t done any living in the larger world outside of college and school.

This is my first concrete experience of obedience with a religious community but it was surprisingly easy to accept their decision.  I think it’s because deep down I know this year is what I need. It’s almost a relief to have this decision made for me.

Up until now I’ve been reveling in the fact that I don’t really need to figure out what I’m doing after graduation.  Now I have to get a job and move back home.  I also need to be very attentive to how God wants me to spend this year.  It’s important the I engage in activities that will help me grow spiritually, as a person and in my relationships with others.  I need to sit down and think hard about what I want to get out of this year.

One thing God has definitely been placing on my heart lately is a passion for the pro-life movement.  I think he is asking me to get more involved with actively fighting the horror of abortion and widespread use of contraception.  If anyone knows of any opportunities involving this movement, let me know!

What About Africa?

For all of my readers asking this question, you should know that I am too.  For the longest time I was so sure that God was calling me to foreign missions, particularly in Africa.  But as I continue to surrender my dreams to His will, something strange is happening: he is calling me in completely unexpected ways.  When I went on the discernment retreat with the TOR Sisters in Ohio, the vocation director said that it is important to discover the deepest desires of our heart.  There are many things we want in life, but some of these are superficial and not really what God needs us to focus on.  It reminds me of this quote:  “There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart…pursue those.”

This definitely applies to me because I have many random passions and get easily distracted by good things.  So as I walk down this path of discernment, I’ve been asking myself what the deepest desires of my heart are.  What I came up with is: serve the poor – both spiritually and materially, reveal the truth of God’s love, make the redeeming love of Christ known and build up the Church.

At the same time God has been revealing to me the desperate need of the American people.  More than anything, we are spiritually poor and the spiritual state of our youth especially is disheartening.  I believe that he has important work for me to do here.

When I went to Tanzania, that is absolutely where I needed to be.  I learned many important things during my time there and it was huge leap of faith which helped solidify my relationship with God.  God took me to the other side of the world to confirm my vocation as a Sister, teach me the power of prayer and teach me to trust him in everything I do.

In the end, complete obedience is the only way to true freedom.  By completely abandoning myself to God’s will, I will allow him to fulfill all of my desires and beyond.  I may still end up in Africa one day, but the only way to find out is to be obedient and go to Ohio…