Finding Strength in the Lord

By Christina M. Sorrentino (re-printed with permission from her blog https://calledtoloveosb.blogspot.com.au)

During challenging times and hitting roadblocks on our journey towards a closer intimacy with the Lord it is important that we never lose hope or sight of God’s overall plan for us. We do not always know what the plan is that God has for us, but in trusting God we can find strength to help us through the difficult times in our lives. We all have our own vocation given to us as a gift from our Father, and sometimes it takes time for us to receive that gift. I am blessed that God has given me the gift of being called to religious life, and because of perseverance and love I know that one day I will be able to open that gift when I am able to say “Yes”, to Him as a beloved bride of Christ.

Divine Romance

A solemn shadow stirs the soul

as the flute whistles a tone of midday dreary.

The crimson core weeps deeply,

around the shore of silence

with raindrops gliding down her cheeks

she sees the footprints in the sand.

 

The wind steadily howls

and dances across the dune

as the heart thunders loudly

with a flash of lightning

and a torrent deep and wide.

The seductive serpent crawls upon the ground

with an evil hiss and

 

a fiery, sharpened tongue.

He takes his refuge beneath the elder tree

lurking in the bushes

as the young lioness roars

underneath the warm rays of the sun

and a blue velvet sky.

 

The music of the ten-stringed lyre

and the soft melody of the harp

with a gentle voice calling out to her

grace sweeps her off her feet

and ignites a burning fire in her heart.

 

The fluttering of the quiet flame

and whispering truth

the swishing sword shatters the dark

as the stream of the Divine

with rushing water flows through.

 

A gaze in the mirror;

face unveiled

eyes upon the tainted glass,

the love of Christ revealed.

 

The Beloved beckons to her

as he heals the open wound,

he embraces the small, shepherd girl

with a holy kiss,

she knows this divine romance is true.

Jesus, I Trust in You

By Anna Lucia.

The clock approaches four o’clock and I walk into the chapel, happy to have a few minutes for prayer before I am off to my late afternoon class.  I settle into the pew, look up at the crucifix, and I draw a blank.  I am at a loss for words and decide to simply relax in the Lord’s presence.  As I sit before the tabernacle, I feel restless and agitated.  After what feels like an eternity, I look at my watch; only two minutes have passed.

Since returning to the world, prayer has proven difficult; very difficult.  Have I forgotten how to pray?  This seems to be a ridiculous notion, as I spent hours a day praying in the convent.  I still remember the various prayers that comprise the rosary and the Divine Office.  I manage to say a morning offering before my feet hit the floor at the beginning of the day and sing the Salve to our Lady before I close my eyes at night.  The more I ponder this question, the more I realize that the problem is not forgetting how to pray.  Rather, the problem at hand is one of trust.

In an ideal world, prayer would be the simplest part of our day, as it is spending time with the one we love.  What happens, however, when the one we love breaks our heart?  We might not want to spend time with that person and may have difficulty trusting that person again.  That is what happened to me when I returned to the world.  Prayer became difficult because prayer necessarily implies a relationship with the Lord.  A relationship with the Lord implies trust.  I had difficulty trusting the Lord because I gave Him my heart when I entered the convent and it felt as if He shattered it to pieces when I left.  I was afraid that if I placed my trust in the Lord, then I would get my heart broken again.  I knew in my head that the Lord is love and mercy itself, and that He would never lead me this far just to abandon me.  However, I found it difficult to know that reality in my heart.

A wise friend recently told me that a lack of trust is simply forgetfulness.  It is easy to remember the times our friends disappointed us and to hold a grudge.  We get so caught up in our anger and disappointment that we quickly forget the times they have remained faithful.  The same principle applies to our relationship with the Lord.  While we may feel disappointed and hurt, we must recall all the times the Lord has remained faithful, throughout the day and throughout our lives.

Reflecting on God’s fidelity will help us realize that Our Lord is a good and trustworthy Father.  As love itself (1 John 4:8), God could never hurt us or abandon us in our time of greatest need.  It would be totally and completely against His nature to do so.  Everything happens for a reason, even if we cannot yet see God’s reason behind these unknowns.  For example, parents tell their children to eat their vegetables at dinner.  A little girl does not know why her parents insist that she eat the spinach on her plate.  Only her parents know that the spinach contains the nutrients necessary for the child’s growth and development.  Similarly, we may not see why the Lord called us to enter religious life and return home.  However, this apparent detour is all part of His divine plan for our lives.  God has not abandoned us, but has been holding us by the hand, leading us every step of the way.

Detour

By Bernadette Monica.

My life has certainly taken a detour over the past few years. I never would have chosen the road I’ve ended up on, but for better or worse, here I am. There’s certainly been a lot of grace in everything that’s happened, but there sure has been a lot of anguish as well. I was reflecting on that as I was on the train home one evening as I approached the one-year anniversary of being told I needed to leave my community. It had been an usually rough week, and when the battery of my iPod died I started to pray the rosary. It was Friday, so I was praying the Sorrowful Mysteries, and I started to contemplate Christ’s words about taking up our crosses and following Him. A friend of mine had recently said something about how each of our crosses is just the right size for us to carry, because our cross was made specifically for us – that if we all got to put our crosses in a big pile then pick the one we wanted, we would choose our own, because it’s the one we’d best be able to carry. And the one that brings us closest to Christ if we allow it to.

As I sat on the train I was reflecting on that – how, as much as I would never have chosen the path I’m on, somehow good seems to be coming out of it, even in the midst of the moments of trial. That doesn’t mean a happily-ever-after where everything somehow magically works out. Rather, I can see that I’m growing stronger and better able to carry my cross; I’m learning to see and appreciate the beauty of Christian friendship and community, and to appreciate the gift of the other, in spite of people’s faults and failings; I‘m realising that I have choice to love and trust others, even when I’m not feeling loving or trusting – that the risk of hurt or rejection, or even betrayal, is a lesser evil than a life of loneliness through shutting people out. And slowly, a little at a time, I’m learning to accept , work though and let go of some of the more painful experiences in my life. My prayers do seem to be having an effect – not necessarily through convincing God to change His plans or my circumstances, but rather through Him working to bring about change and growth in me.

That first year and a half after leaving my community wasn’t easy. In fact it was the hardest experience of my life, and I’ve faced some difficult challenges in the past. It’s been just over two years now since I was in the middle of the toughest, most shattering, and most heartbreaking experience of my life to date. After desiring for so many years to give my life to the Lord I found myself back at was seemed like square one, struggling to make sense of things and get back on my feet again. Forget detours – it sometimes felt like my life has undergone a head-on collision with a semi-trailer. And yet this is the road I’m on. I’ve long since realised that this isn’t a detour – that there’s no going back to the way things were or changing some of the things that have happened. Like it or not, this is this is the road I’m on and these are my circumstances. No-one else can carry this cross for me, although they can help me bear the weight if I allow them to.

In the words of Vaneetha Rendall, whose article inspired this post:

“I cannot cling to the past. I cannot get back on the old road and put everything back the way it was. Some things will get better over time. Some prayers will be miraculously answered. Some dreams will come true. 

But the old road is gone.

…This new road that I am on, bumpy and twisty as it may be, is the path that God has chosen for me. It is the best road. The only one worth taking.” http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/when-the-detour-becomes-your-new-road 

This is the road I’m on, and as lonely and difficult as it has seemed at times I have to keep moving forward.  I have to trust that God is working through everything, and keep looking for the beauty in my circumstances. And there is beauty. Just as water is never so sweet and refreshing as it is for the parched wanderer who stumbles across a spring in the desert, so too are all the daily blessings, simple joys and small pleasures so much more worthwhile and of such greater value after having endured the trials in our lives.

Every day and in every moment I can choose to accept my path and to keep walking it; to trust that the Lord is leading me, and to beg Him to carry me in those moments when I feel too weak or too overcome with grief or helplessness to push on. And every day, if I open my eyes and look around, there are those small reminders that I do not have to walk this road alone. The more time that passes the more I realise the truth in that, and the more I see how God’s grace is extended to us and is working to bring about fruit in our lives, even in the worst of circumstances. I see the ways He has brought about growth in my own life, and some of the ways He has used my experience of heartbreak to help me to have more compassion for others in their own sufferings. I can also see, at least to some extent, how He offers opportunities for healing in certain moments of struggle, or in circumstances that may bring up unpleasant or even outright painful memories.

1 Peter 1:6-9

There is cause for rejoicing here. You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials; but this is so that your faith, which is more precious than the passing splendour or fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ appears. Although you have never seen him, you love him, and without seeing you now believe in him and rejoice in inexpressible joy touched with glory because you are achieving faith’s goal, your salvation.

For each of us who have had the experience of entering and leaving a religious community, our roads have taken unexpected twists that we weren’t expecting, often didn’t feel prepared for, and certainly wouldn’t have chosen in and of themselves. We have each faced, and continue to face, our particular trials, but there is grace in that, and St. Peter reminds us that it is through our sufferings that our faith is strengthened and purified, and that even in the worst of circumstances we can trust that God is working to bring about the good of our eternal salvation and union with Him. I pray that each of us may find strength, comfort and healing in walking with the Lord this Holy Week, and that we may be renewed in hope for the resurrections that follows the cross.

Happy Easter!

This won’t be a long post – if your Holy Week has been anything like mine, you’ve spent the past four days either in church, heading to church, or falling in a heap after getting home from the church, and it’s all turning into a bit of a blur!

There is one thing, however, that I do remember clearly. In the homily he gave for the Easter vigil, the visiting bishop who said Mass for us began by saying, “Every great change in life begins with a form of death: the transition from childhood to adolescence involves casting aside the life of a child, as the beginning of adulthood requires us to leave behind adolescence and take on a new way of living. In order to be re-created, something of the old self must first die.”

My mind, of course, went straight to Leonie’s Longing. To leave religious life does indeed involve putting something to death – in many cases, it means the loss, whether temporary or permanent, of aspirations that had been cherished for years. And yet, a new life is being created for each of us out of the old one we once possessed.

Our Lord was called a fraud, a bringer of false hope – this deceiver said that He would rise again on the third day – and yet, He kept His promise. He returned. The battered, tortured body that had been sealed in a tomb rose, alive and glorious. Nothing, not even death, could hold power over Him.

Death – of a body, of a hope, or of the person we used to be – is not the end for those who follow Him, but the beginning of a new life. “Christ has risen,” the bishop said, “and so will we.”

May you rejoice in all the blessings of Easter!

God bless,

Penny.