Picture this, I’m on a silent retreat (but not a religious vocation retreat; I’m no longer discerning religious life!) and at the end of the closing Mass for the retreat, the priest calls forward for a “special blessing” two religious sisters and four consecrated women as well as any women who may be feeling as if they are called to be the “spouse of Christ”. No one else probably noticed, but an invisible dagger went into my heart. I wonder what would have happened if I suddenly yelled, “Christ is my Spouse too! He’s the Spouse of all of us! (and maybe I want a special blessing too!).”
God had mercy on me. Once the women had returned to their pews and we were praying after Mass, a song was played with lyrics from the beginning of the Gospel of John 14. “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many mansions. Were it not so, I should have told you, because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again, and I will take you to myself; that where I am, there you also may be.” I then started to cry. This was the Gospel passage at one of the final Masses before leaving religious life and these are consoling words. And so I ask myself this question. Was it really religious life that I longed for or Heaven? Union with God, to feel Jesus’ presence 24/7, the Beatific Vision, our Eternal Home: that is my true longing; my thirst. Deep down all of humanity has this same thirst; realized or not. When drawing closer to God in prayer, this desire would naturally increase. I had it before entering religious life and, if I’m honest, it was not quenched in religious life for religious life was still not Heaven. I don’t have Leonie’s Longing as much as I have God & Heaven Longing!
I’m going to end with a few resources and thoughts:
1. Danielle Rose is my favorite Catholic singer. She also used to be in a religious community. If you haven’t heard this song yet, I invite you to listen to it. It’s titled “The Saint That Is Just Me”. Here is a link to it, though with a YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh_fSNz6NvQ “Yes, if it weren’t for my sins or wounds or weakness, then You wouldn’t have married me upon the cross. Why do I fear being seen naked and broken? That’s why you came; cause I need You that much. When you hung upon the cross looking at me, You didn’t die so that I would try to be somebody else. You died so I could be the saint that is just me.”
2. Lighthouse Catholic Media puts out several inexpensive talks on CDs. “Jesus the Bridegroom. The Greatest Love Story Ever Told” by Dr. Brant Pitre may be one of my personal favorites for possibly obvious reasons. 😉 He has also written a book with the same title.
3. Drink deeply of God’s mercy. A few days ago, I was in a Perpetual Adoration Chapel praying when everyone else that had been in there got up and left. I was left alone with Jesus. While before Him, I saw more deeply times I haven’t trusted Him yet also how He loves me. Oh, how He loves us. I am currently reading “7 Secrets of Divine Mercy” by Vinny Flynn and recently finished reading a book titled, “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told. Now Is the Time of Mercy” by Fr. Michael Gaitley. Both are SO good. Fr. Gaitley’s most recent release is “33 Days to Merciful Love” and can be used to make a consecration to Divine Mercy (St. Therese of Lisieux style).
So rest in God’s Merciful Heart & Love AND ponder this: God also longs for me (and you) to go to Heaven where we will be His brides forever! “Jesus, I trust in You!”
Wow, so very beautiful! Thank you for sharing this- I recently had a similar experience a few weeks ago…And LOVE all your recommendations! “The Saint that is Just Me” helped me especially during those first few weeks I was home from the convent.
Yes, that song of Danielle Rose’s is wonderful. A couple of years ago after a concert, I was able to talk to her (She is married & has since then also had a child). She told me three things that were helpful in regards to her being married now instead of in a religious community. I probably shouldn’t share them all on here, but I will share this one that I found beautiful. It was something like this: Mary wanted to give all of her heart to God but then God also asked her to share it with St. Joseph.
I had never thought of it like that. Although Mary remained a virgin, she herself was married and really loved St. Joseph (and he loved her). For anyone who had been in religious life & later transitions to being married (to a human man in addition to God!), we have the Holy Family as our model and they are there to help us.
Wow! What a beautiful insight!
…It would be so cool if Danielle Rose would write a blog post for LL.
listened to “The Saint that is just Me” on repeat when I first got home!
Seriously, though, it has been so hard to see other people entering religious life or even just religious being praised for their special consecration to Our Lord – partially for un-virtuous reasons (“What about meeee?! I want that kind of support and attention, too!”), but also for more virtuous reasons (“But Lord, I desire that closeness with You, too. I want to be fully Yours.” etc. or even just “I want a special blessing, too!” like Guadalupana said!) It’s definitely a struggle.
Thanks for the beautiful blog post!
“It has been so hard to see other people entering religious life or even just religious being praised for their special consecration to Our Lord – partially for un-virtuous reasons (“What about meeee?! I want that kind of support and attention, too!”
ah yess, I am glad I am not the only one that has these thoughts!
I’m glad *I’m* not the only one! haha
Gotta love being human! >.<
Yes, gotta love being human!
Just wanted to pass along something a priest told me today: “The reality that we’re talking about when we use language of divine espousal is deification, also called divinization. It’s the ultimate goal of the Christian life: to be united with Christ so intimately that we participate in our soul, body, our very selves, everything about us, in the union between God and man that Christ creates for us. I strongly urge you to read this little book (Divinization: Becoming Icons of Christ through the Liturgy Paperback – July 17, 2015 by Andrew Hofer OP)… Jesus wants us to share in what He has by nature, which He gives us by grace. We remain ourselves and never cease to be human beings, but as we become God’s, we become more and more like Him.
Your desire to be Christ’s spouse is a particular linguistic and visual image for the central mystery of the Christian life, which is our being divinized by true participation in God. Don’t ever lose that desire. Ask God to show you what it means and to make it deeper.”
Beautiful! Thank you for sharing that!
I’m just reading this today after being directed to this site from Sponsa Christi. I can really identify with the thoughts in this post even though I have NEVER been a religious sister. In fact, by the time I became Catholic 9 years ago, I was already past the age when most monasteries even consider accepting anyone. I was in a marriage relationship for over 31 years, and now I want to be married again….to Christ. I yearn and desire a “special blessing” from the hands of Holy Mother Church, but alas, I don’t think it’s possible. My desire is HIM, of course, and only by His Grace can I expect to receive the blessing I am searching for. Pray for me as I can now pray for you.
Regardless of our vocation, our desire should be HIM and, as a priest said today in a Homily, the supernatural is the reality. God is madly in love with us and God wants us to be forever with Him in Heaven. I just got back a bit ago from talking with a friend who had been in a religious community and is now seriously dating someone. She still desires to be the bride of Christ as do I and as should we all because ultimately, if we use that lingo, we all (even men!) will be in a way His brides in Heaven. God also wants to be one with us on earth too.
At each Mass, we receive Jesus Our Bridegroom in the Eucharist. As stated in a study guide for “Full of Grace – Women and the Abundant Life” by Johnnette Benkovic, “(The) opening procession (at Mass) is reminiscent of the Old Testament custom of the bridegroom who processes with his friends to the home of his bride to take her to himself. The priest, who acts in persona Christi, comes as the bridegroom with his attendants, to take his bride, the Church, unto himself. Indeed, this is cause for music and song: Jesus Christ, our Bridegroom, is come to unite Himself with us, His bride.”
God desires an intimate relationship with each of us and union with each of us and we can’t get more intimate than having Jesus, Our Bridegroom, literally inside of us after receiving Communion…a foretaste of the Eternal Marriage Banquet to which we are all called.
P.S. to anyone reading this: For anyone who may be outside of the more “normal” age range for acceptance into religious communities, the Sisters of the Visitation have accepted individuals who have been married, who are grandmothers, etc. (I did not belong to that community but did visit there about a year after leaving mine.) Yet, with that, it’s still a discernment after entering any community whether one is called there or not with it being a few years before final vows take place. I realize after having left a religious community that I was too “attached” to the idea of being a religious sister, perhaps since I began to equate it with being more special or loved by God, neither of which are true. Those in religious life are not necessarily holier or more united to the Lord than someone outside of it. (As one priest told me, there may even be religious sisters & nuns in hell.) God knows what is best for each of us, how He can best reach us with His love, how He can best bring us to Heaven. Live in His presence, live in His love, in or out of religious life.
“No one else probably noticed, but an invisible dagger went into my heart.”
Oh, how I can relate to this. Just over the past few weeks I’ve heard of a few acquaintances who are entering religious life, or at least beginning to discern with communities and it was a painful experience, even though I know I should be happy for them. Or at times people will be chatting casually and the topic of vocations comes up, and it either makes me squirm uncomfortable, or desire to tell people, “I discerned with a community too once…”
I’ve also tried going on a few general discernment days but I really struggle sometimes when it seems like some of the participants just seem to think that sisters are “cute” even though I know I shouldn’t judge and don’t know their hearts. I’m learning to see these experiences as something I can offer up, but it’s difficult sometimes.