Anniversaries are supposed to be happy, right? The anniversary I celebrate today, however, that of departing from my former Religious Community, is filled with a range of emotions, none of which are happiness. There are no roses, gifts, cards, or breakfasts in bed. The worst part is that no one else knows, it’s just a regular day. Well, this year it happens to be on Black Friday and I still don’t know how to shop!
Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and I can hardly think of a prayer, let alone one of gratitude. It has been two years, and it seems like just yesterday and yet like forever, since I took off my habit and veil, replacing it with khaki pants, a green sweater, and a headband to make my “peter pan” hair cut at least a little less awkward.
Each month or year or Liturgical Feast is a reminder of the life I thought I would have lived for the rest of my life with the people I miss dearly.
But these benchmarks in time are increasingly less sad as I transition. Although I never thought I would be able to enjoy Midnight Mass or even see the word Tenebre without becoming upset, filled with regret and remorse, I now have so many other joy-filled memories among which my mind can dance! Before, all I could think of was what I was missing. Now I rejoice in what the Lord has given me in these past two years.
Sure, I still miss the convent, and not a day passes when I don’t think of it. But the way I think about it is drastically different. I am grateful for the life I have now, which seemed so fragmented two years ago but now I know with confidence and faith that I am much more whole and healed than I was before I left, when I “had it all together.”
I have finally learned that Jesus does not want me to stay sad forever and ruminate on what I had and “could” have had. He has arranged the pieces of my life into a beautiful mosaic that I never could have imagined. I spent so much time trying to hide my brokenness, but those broken pieces are what the Lord has chosen to make the centerpiece of His masterpiece, the places in which He glorifies Himself.
If you find yourself mourning your anniversary, a feast day, etc., know that those feelings are very normal, but that you have permission to move past them. You are not resigned to a “lesser” place in the Kingdom now that you are a lay person with less certainty about your future. In a very real way you are living the poverty of will which was such a visible hallmark of the Life of Christ.
So, smile. It’s hard but it gets easier, and you are not alone in that loneliness! Let Jesus give you an anniversary gift. Treat yourself too! Celebrate knowing that the Lord has a beautiful life planned for you. Wait with expectant joy as you anticipate the great season of Advent, confident that there will be graces in store that are far beyond your imagination. If you expect goodness, the Lord will outdo Himself. But if you keep your head down in fear, you might miss what Jesus is trying to show you, and the great work He is doing this moment in your soul!
Thanks for this reminder! I was struck so many times this Thanksgiving by the drastic differences between my last Thanksgiving in the convent, three years ago, and my life today. I know I have made progress and am where God wants me, but it is hard, sometimes, to accept the loss of that life and be hopeful about my future. Jesus, I trust in you…but would you please hurry up and be a little more helpful here?
Thank you for this beautiful post! I just had my anniversary of departure from the convent. It has been seven years and still the day is difficult to get through. The Lord reminded me, though, of how far I’ve come since then and all the ways he has worked in my life post-convent. Through the joys and the sorrows let us praise our Lord and King.
I’ve been “away from home” (the monastery) for 2 1/2 years and I still sometimes yearn for it. But Jesus still loves us. ?
My “First Annversary” was Tuesday, November 14th. Later on last week I went to the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis (My home Archdiocese). I couldn’t help finding myself crying at the opening Mass with our new Archbishop, Archbishop Charles Thompson, in seeing how much has changed in the past year. The other chaperones from my parish understood and let me cry. I saw a lot of people I knew before entering the convent, and a lot of people that I knew whole I was in the convent, including the Bishop whose diocese I ministered in while in community, Bishop Hying, who listened with a shepherd’s heart, as I poured out my soul to him. I spent much needed time with Jesus in Adoration, realizing just how much I missed Him. Needless to say it was a time for healing for me, and a shot in the arm.