This is the last time I shall write. My discernment is far from over, but my ability to share it online has been constrained by obedience. This is one of my first acts of obedience—to relinquish not just many of my possessions, but also all of my digital communications. I am closing down my twitter, my facebook, my blog, my email. All future messages must come via that personal form—that handwritten card or letter. Therefore, as an encouragement to you to write to me, I give you my address:
Holy Trinity Convent
515 North State Street
New Ulm, MN 56073
God has richly blessed me in these last few weeks before entrance. I have visited many friends, I have kicked off a few things from my bucket list, and I have remained close to my Beloved in daily Mass and adoration. He has blessed me with so much peace and joy in the expectation of drawing nearer to Him. He has sustained me through the waiting, and has silenced any fears or doubts I thought I would experience.
I had the opportunity of going down to see the Handmaids at Sr. Agnes Pia's first profession of vows. My mother went with me, and it was (just like Mother Mary Clare's Perpetual Profession in June) one of the most exquisite and holy liturgies I have ever been to. I wept a little at her profession, partly from joy on her behalf, and partly from a sudden longing to make vows of my own. I had instantly felt a desire to kneel there myself and pledge vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to my divine Spouse and to the community of the Handmaids. After the vows, as I greeted the handmaids individually, each one expressed her joy and excitement at my near entrance. I felt so at home in their convent, such a part of their family already, that although I was excited to enter before I visited, my last visit only increased that excitement and joy and longing—again reconfirming how much I am called to live among them, and call them my sisters.
It is with great joy that I announce that I won't be going alone. My future course sister, Brittany, will be entering with me in two days' time, on the feast of St. Monica. I am so grateful to the Lord for giving me a sister to share all my progressions in the religious life with. It will be such a source of strength and consolation to have another sister in the order with whom I will share every stage of the journey simultaneously.
May the Lord bless you all abundantly—in even greater abundance that He has blessed me! I carry you in my heart every day, I offer you in the cup of blessing at every Eucharist, I lay you at the feet of my Lord and my Beloved in every Holy Hour. God is our good and gracious Father and He will never forsake you. The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and He will guide you in all your ways.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.
"Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word."
All the Savior's Blessings,
the Devoted One
Image of the Holy Spirit, St. Peter's Basilica, Rome. Courtesy of Elizabeth Felshiem
A most beautiful word: acceptance. Connotes belonging, kinship, communion, wholeness. It is the oyster shell of that pearl which is the never-ending act of loving and being loved.
But I have news to share, not poetry. The Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus have accepted me! I am preparing to enter at the end of August, on the feast of St. Monica. There are many things of a practical nature to tend to, and still in the midst of all this business, I desire to plumb the depths of my soul and attend to what My Lord is doing there. This is the first time I have been able to explore those realms in writing.
This season is so much more than my experience of how I feel about joining the convent. I am, of course, thrilled, but feelings are fleeting. What is the enduring something that is stirring within me these days, in the wake of such prospects?
Acceptance to the convent means so much more than a feeling of elation, of joy, of acceptance, of the confidence inspired by the discovery of a definite vocation. It’s a perspective shift, a path that suddenly curves around a bend, a dazzling array of thoughts, emotions, actions, dreams—all colored in new, fascinating hues that project love and trust, ever deeper, ever growing.
I am filled with joy at the idea of joining. People have been congratulating me…even coworkers who aren’t Catholic, or perhaps not even Christian. And I am experiencing true freedom—that freedom which comes from “selling all I have to obtain the pearl of great price.” That has been the gospel reading at some point (or maybe multiple points) this week. I am receiving so much joy from giving away my “stuff”—my clothes, my coffee mugs, my books—to people that I know will enjoy them. It gives me greater joy to give these things away than I ever experienced in simply owning them for myself. And this is the anecdote of just one consequence of my acceptance, just one recurring experience of God’s love. He is anointing me in many other ways too, only a fraction of which I can understand or express in words.
I truthfully have no idea what it is like to live as a bride of Christ. But I am looking forward to it. And I am praying especially for faithfulness. That I may be faithful to Him. That I may be unwavering in hope. That I can discover my earthly home among the Handmaids and remain there, as if in a tent on Mount Tabor, and sing for the rest of my life, “It is good for me to be here.”
I should be much more afraid of being mistaken and then finding out that Christianity is true than of being mistaken in believing it to be true. –Blaise Pascal, Pensées
I must be honest, and a little bit more, in this post. By "a little bit more" I do not mean that honesty is insufficient, only that I will be relating more than just "facts" or "reality as I perceive it"—no, I will be honest with perhaps a bit of exuberance or a dash of exasperation.
We'll start with the negative emotion. I get a bit exasperated when people talk about a "life well-lived" or she "lived life well". Or even, he "lived life to the full". Mostly because it looks, it reads as far too redundant a phrase. Can we use a synonym in one part, at least? But then, perhaps it loses its catchiness, its charm, even its connotation that is clearly meant to make its audience heave a sigh of contentment and happiness for the other on achieving such a status. Should not we all want someone to say of us "That soul lived life to the full."? I should not, though I want the same sentiment. In which case, I will be obliged to throw out my Editor's snobbery and settle for such an eulogy, instead of "She lived her existence to the full" or "She spent her life well" or "She lived her earthly journey to every width, breadth, and height that it could assume and she did it all only on a supernatural gift of God". Well, maybe that last one is actually better than the cliché one.
Ok, still, I want my soul to experience this world, this existence, this life—as a well-lived one. Once I asked a friend, in a moment of doubt, "How do we know this kind of life is actually worth it? How do we know our efforts at holiness are going to be rewarded with the sight of our unseen God—and that sight will be the one thing we are truly longing for even now? Why do I feel (in this moment) that the ways of the "wicked" seem more enjoyable than the ways I pursue?"
And at the time, she gave me the encouragement that we will never know, but that even the good of living this way on earth is enough to strengthen us to persevere, regardless of whether we can know with certainty that it will be worth it after death.
I was just recalling this conversation, in light of my own vocation. So far I have been blessed—a thousand times blessed—to receive only goodness, joy, encouragement from those I share my vocation with. But there are those who would not understand it, and I know that. They see it as a waste of a life, or why would I spend my whole life serving others and praying? I got a college degree for goodness sake!
But then there's Blaise Pascal, that brilliant French philosopher, who reminds me that I too, would rather risk being wrong about my faith having believed it to be true, than risk being wrong and walking away from it.
Ok, on to the exuberant things. I hope, perhaps, to write my next post a bit more directly about Pope Francis, but in the meantime, I am writing here to say I am following his advice. Pope Francis (Happy One-Year Anniversary to his beginning in the papacy!) has encouraged us Christians to find out our baptism day, and celebrate it as whole-heartedly (if not more) as our birthday…for it was then that our souls were born to eternal life, the gates of Heaven were opened, the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for "the many" included us! O Happy Fault, O Necessary Sin of Adam, that won for us so great a Redeemer!
So I went through my parents' filing cabinets and found my baptism certificate. I discovered two beautiful things: 1) that the Franciscan priest my grandma has praying for my vocation signed the certificate, as our former pastor, and 2) that I was baptized 52 days after birth, on the feast of St. Mary Magdalene! Imagine my surprise and delight all you die-hard Catholics! Me! A new soul gaining admittance into the Church, as pure white as Christ at the Resurrection! And a newborn Christian on the feast of the Apostle to the Apostles, the Woman at the foot of the Cross, the Adulteress who repented because of Christ's Mercy! Oh wonderful merciful Divine Providence! I have a Baptism Saint as well as a Confirmation Saint and a Birthday Patron Saint. Wow, I love the Communion of Saints. So someday when I enter the Church Triumphant (God's Will be done), I hope St. Peter jokes, "What do St. Lucy, St. Mary Magdalene, and St. Justin the Martyr all have in common? They interceded for St. whatever-my-religious-sister-name-will-be." :D
Just listen to this song while you read my musing for today. It made me weep yesterday, as I contemplated the worship of those Wise Man seeing the beautiful infant eyes of their Creator. Here's the Latin/English translation:
O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
Dominum Christum. Alleluia!
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord. Alleluia!
What a wonderful Creator we have! What a splendid, humble Savior we claim as our own! What a miracle is this! That a Savior should be born to us, given to us, as an infant dependent on His mother. That thousands of years later, I receive Him as my Lord and King, my own Savior, my own Beloved. That His eyes are still looking upon me. That He is still really present. That He has still revealed Himself to His people, that His heart is still longing to draw all our hearts to itself. That we are made for one thing alone: to adore Him as these wise and powerful men once did. That we believe it a ridiculous thing, a self-conscious thing, to throw ourselves at the feet of a baby in adoration—the world calls it a folly and laughs at it and squelches its power over their hearts. Yet their souls—our souls—gasp in recognition of this ridiculous sight. For it is the least foolish thing we could do, it is the one thing we were meant to do. We are made for adoration, both of body and of soul, and we do nothing more fitting for our humanity than to prostrate ourselves before the Savior Who loves us more than we can even fathom.
Though there may be questions in my heart, though I may grow weary, or restless, or doubtful, this is a time of consolation. I know that. Why? How? Because God is present…I can see his presence. I acknowledge with total faith that He is working in my life. Were I desolate right now, I could not so quickly or easily recognize His love marking every day out for me. He is tracing the minutes of my day in His loving blessings, as He traces the shape of my face in His gaze. I know I am loved. And such knowledge gives me a blessing and a power I did not own. It is the blessing and the power of the adorer. We fall down and lay these crowns of blessing and power, the crowns our King of Love has fashioned for us, we lay them at His own two feet. And He will pick them up and crown us again, for we cannot give ourselves any glory. The glory must be a grace, not a privilege earned or a prize held as our own by right. O great mystery, that our poverty only draws us closer to His loving arms.
I have been struck, recently and most powerfully, by how much my vocation is also a marital vocation. In a very real, albeit spiritual sense, I take Christ's family as my own Mother, my own Father, even my own foster father. St. Joseph, protector of virgins, pray for us!
On Sunday, the last sunday of Advent, I began to weep after receiving my Lord in the Eucharist. I cannot tell why, for it is a stirring of my heart without words, but I believe it stems from a sense of overwhelming loved-ness. I feel so loved in that moment. And on Sunday the choir sang the above song, Of the Father's Love Begotten, during the Communion reflection, so that only inspired a deeper love for my Lord as my Father. This version of the song
gives you a clearer understanding of the song's lyrics.
Then I had my first less-than-positive-and-nowhere-near-delighted reaction to my announcement to join the convent. An old friend of my grandmother's (product of the early post-Vatican II generation) warned me that her sister "tried that out" but was asked to leave because she was questioning a lot of rules, there are a lot of rules, and she was causing division in the community, etc. I just smiled and let it pass. But before I left the event, my dad, who had heard the conversation, took me aside and told me (with a choked up, earnest tone) that he did not like her warning, that he did not agree with her saying a consecrated person just has to "follow a lot of rules", and that he is delighted with my decision, and he couldn't be happier for me. I just received it with a smile and a "thank you", but as I was driving from the occasion, I was crying for the second time that day, just from gratitude for my Heavenly Father, who has given me His Son and my own vocation as a virgin bride, but Who has also blessed me with such a loving and wonderful earthly father. I know my father will be sacrificing much in "giving me" to the convent—little things like the daddy-daughter dance, the walk down the aisle, the father's toast; and big things like grandchildren—but he has supported and rejoiced in my vocation and for that I am ever grateful. Even my prayer meditation this morning included this (paraphrased) word from my Father: "Every father delights in receiving that simple tenderness which his little girl gives him."
I also rejoice at receiving Christ's mother as my "mother-in-law" but really, as a deeper union of mother and daughter than I have received from her before. My parish just put in a life-size statue of Mary in which she is depicted as very pregnant with Our Lord, her hand protectively resting on her belly, her other hand extended to receive all her other children. And I love that statue, first because it is the only time I have seen such a pregnant statue of our Virgin Mother, but also because it is such an incredible witness of Mary's role not as queen, not as virgin, but as mother
. She is protective, she is responsive, she is tender, and real to her children. She is preeminently present
in her children's lives, if they seek her out.
And as much as my mother has supported me—even joking about having Jesus as a son-in-law or throwing an engagement party for me—I receive so much intimacy and tenderness in my discernment from our Blessed Mother. She is a mother pondering the depths of my heart alongside me, showing me the path to live spiritual motherhood as well as joyful virginity.
And in his silence, in his immediate action
for what the Lord asks of him, St. Joseph is my model of the contemplative-active lifestyle I seek.
Thus is my vocation a family affair. I am bound up in all the glory and virtue of my Holy Family, and ever grateful for the imitations of this Family I see in my own parents.
Every day lived for God is a rare adventure. –Mother Mary Francis, PCC
Mother's quote above is from a passage in her book, A Right to Be Merry, in which she explains what the Poor Clares do throughout their day. But it spoke into my heart, too, because any life in the Christian faith could be called "a rare adventure". All it takes is a soul living wholly for the Lord.
This is, to me, a great consolation, a great gift, as I wait. I am waiting upon the Lord, I am waiting to receive the next "call" to a particular charism. And yet, my love does not wait. My joy is overflowing and I will not pent it up for days ahead. I must live it and share it now. In the present moment. I am nowhere near "the final countdown". And so I must learn patience. The grand adventure of patience in this season. It is a rare adventure to be experiencing this "engagement" joy, to experience it during Advent, to see the coming Christmas through eyes that recognize it may be the last time I share it with my family as "a single woman". And I must live that adventure fully, drink deeply from the gift of life God gives me today.
What part of this rare adventure are you living? What do you receive from the Lord that causes you joy, or hope, or the quietness of gratitude in this present moment?
And just because I love typography, I'm giving you another picture with the quote from my post title. :)
This is the season for expressing gratitude. Or rather, though we ought to be grateful at every moment for all our blessings, this is the season it is easiest to remember. It is easy to be grateful for a new book to read, delightful food, loyal friends, and that cozy satisfaction of burrowing under blankets with a mug of something warm and delicious and the companionship of silence. Even solitude is something to be grateful for.
I am brimming with gratitude this morning. I thank the Lord for His love for me…that He first wanted me, so very long before I ever wanted Him, ever wanted to belong to Him. I love celebrating Advent. I love praying the Liturgy of the Hours with its special Advent readings and antiphons. I love preparing our house with pretty decorations and sweet food (read cookies) to bring more expressions of joy and welcome into our home.
I'm so grateful to have a job, to have really amazing friends, and a lovely flatmate. I thank Him that I even have a vocation to look forward to, a life that will be beautiful because it is meaningful, and that finally, after these twenty-three short years, finally He revealed it to me. Praise Him still.
Well, I could go on, but I think that's a good list to publish. Gratitude has led to praise, and praise has led to hope, and hope is a thing with wings.