Further Up and Further In

Further Up and Further In

By Mikayla

This story does have quite a few details, and I’m aware of it. But stick with me—I promise there’s a reason for all of them.

At last, it was the weekend, and I was going hiking! Since discerning out of the convent the previous summer, I had been busy working at a homeschool resource center (and under the radar adjusting/ grieving). Over this summer I was grateful for the extra hours working on some projects, but I was ready for a break. Hiking had been a favorite pastime growing up, and since discerning out, had become a very freeing opportunity to immerse myself back in the silence that I had loved so deeply in the convent. After grabbing some Builders Bars from Publix, I jumped in my truck and was ready to execute all of my perfectly made plans and enjoy my hike by the Etowah River. But Jesus–He probably watched me and smiled, because He knew He had His own plans.

The mountains were about a two-hour drive from where I was living, but I am not afraid of long drives. I saw signs on the way to the Etowah River campground and excitedly knew that I should be getting close. When I arrived at the location where the maps on my phone had taken me, it was a dirt road going onto what looked like private property with a sign that said “no campground.” 

Well, now what? Where could this campground be? It must be around here somewhere. I wanted to ask for directions, but there was not much more than some homes around the curving mountain roads. Luckily I saw a little sign (about the size of a yard sale sign) saying: “Annita’s Hair Salon: Walk-ins Welcome.” 

Hm. Okay. I drove up the steep driveway and walked into the tiny little building. It was one room, with a half wall in between. There was a lovely lady doing a gentleman’s hair in the one solitary chair on the other side of the room. 

“Can I help you?” she said as I walked in. 

After asking for and receiving directions to the campground, I was quickly on my way again. The angels in heaven could practically have been singing as I drove past the sign—at least I was. But when I arrived, I quickly discovered there was nowhere to hike; I couldn’t even get by the river. It was really a campground, mostly for RVs with about five spots for tents. 

The internet lied, I internally grumbled. I stood outside the locked office door trying to make acts of trust in the Lord, but I was really so full of frustration. It had ended up taking me three hours to get there, and it was unmistakably a dead end. 

Why would you bring me all the way out here, just to bring me to a dead end? What do you want me to do, just turn around and go back to the city? Just a waste of all this money on gas! Why would you let this happen to me? 

Just then the alarm on my phone went off to remind me that it was 3pm. The hour of mercy!

After listening to a great talk on the hour of mercy a while before, I had made a habit of saying some prayers in honor of Divine Mercy at 3 o’clock every day, so as usual despite the frustration, I stopped to really pray. Afterwards, I looked at the crucifix image on my little ring, and I stood there deciding—do I go home or look for another fun thing to do up here? 

Don’t give up

After a brief interaction with some lovely people from Arkansas staying at the campground, I was determined to at least try and find a cool waterfall. I needed a map or directions from somebody local (my phone was no help in this regard)—so first step: find civilization. 

First, I encountered a solitary Dollar General where I went in looking for a map. Due to a lack of success, I went to the lovely purple-haired teenage cashier and began to ask her. “Um, I don’t really know, but if you want I can ask the manager.” It was sweet of her, but the manager didn’t know either.

A decent 20-30 minutes away, I knew there was a little mountain town that was rather touristy, so after my Dollar General excursion, I headed there. It was getting to be late in the afternoon when I finally arrived at the town’s information center. Not too long after looking around, I heard, “Can I help you with anything?”

“Um, yes, do you have any maps of hiking in the area?” I told her the story of my day so far. After giving me a glance up and down, she said, “You want to do some real hiking, don’t you?”

“Yes, if you know how to get to the Appalachian Trail I’d love to try that for just a little day hike. I couldn’t figure it out online when I tried to look it up before I headed out here. That was why I tried to hike by the Etowah river…”

“The Appalachian Trail?! Oh, I’ve hiked it a bunch of times!”

“The whole thing?”

“Well, pieces of it…” She then proceeded to pull out a map of the town and circle the entry points to hiking the Appalachian Trail. Following this, she pulled out a packet with directions to every place you could possibly hike in the area and started circling the directions that were applicable to me. 

“It’s about a thirty-minute drive up to this mountain. And once you start hiking it, you’ll want to be really careful because so many people go there and make different trails that go off the marked trail.” 

My gratitude was through the roof! And at this point I was thinking, “What’s another 30 minutes in the car at this point? Might as well!” Through my brother, I knew where a little Eucharistic Adoration chapel was in this town, so I walked past the square to go express my joy and gratitude to Sweet Jesus.

Not long after, I was headed further north into the mountains, going higher and higher through the S-curved mountain roads. I arrived at the little mountain store at the foot of the trail at 4:45pm…15 minutes before they closed. Just in time to talk logistics about parking and where to get water. There was a stunning view by this store with picnic tables where I sat to say Vespers. At that point, the 4 hours in the car were all worth this view already. But then, I was on the move.

 

Oh! It was steep! But it was amazing! I was continually grateful for the lady in town who had warned me about staying on the correct path. It was definitely tricky at parts, and I was intentional about remembering how I had come, knowing that I would be coming down the mountain at dusk.

How does one convey any “mountain top experience?” I don’t think I can. It wasn’t flashy or exciting. Just simple, peaceful, and splendidly beautiful. At the top, I had almost a complete three-sixty of the Appalachian mountains. The sun was setting behind clouds with soft gold streaks coming through the breaks in the clouds. It was so much better and more perfect than anything I could have planned on my own.

Now, you may be thinking, “Well that’s nice for you, but what’s the point?” God ruined my plans to give me something better. It was a great reflection on being asked to leave a convent. Some people have very healthy, good experiences where they and the superior mutually decide that this particular life is not their calling. I was not one of those people. Being told that I was not admitted to renew my vows was the most excruciating “dead end.” I felt like I had nothing left to live for. 

“Why would you bring me all the way out here, just to bring me to a dead end? What do you want me to do, just turn around and go back home? Just a waste of all this time, energy, and love! Why would you let this happen to me?” Only, this was a bigger deal than driving out to the Etowah River for three hours and hitting a dead end.

My dear sisters in Christ, God has not abandoned or rejected you. Just because you owed obedience to your superiors does not make them equivalent to God. People may leave you behind, screenshot you out of community photos, and pretend like you never existed. 

But He. Was. There. In fact, He was there with you on the cross, His heart breaking alongside yours. Why does God not spare us suffering? Why doesn’t He get rid of it? He did something much better. He touched it with ETERNAL GLORY. The glory and radiance of His merciful love. The cross cannot be overlooked, but neither can the resurrection. Why did you leave me dead and all alone, Jesus? My God, my God, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?

My beloved bride. I allowed this for something beautiful beyond belief. I WANT YOU TO RISE FROM THE DEAD. Reality is so much better than anything you could possibly imagine.

He ruined your hiking trip so that he could take you to the highest point of the Appalachian Trail to enjoy the sunset with Him. But we’d never have made it to the top if we hadn’t set out to begin with. So sisters, further up and further in. I know it’s all uphill. But I trust that it is worth it. Are you in?

Keep the Fire Going

Keep the Fire Going

by GA

I left the convent five years ago. It was still Advent. Christmas never came to my heart that year. The sense of a perpetual, watchful waiting for the “what next?” was far from comforting. 

Like many, if not most of you reading this blog, I have asked God why He would call me into that life, only to call me out and back into the restlessness of the world that I once knew. It still makes no sense to me. Countless times I asked why He changed His mind, but I couldn’t hear an answer. 

It took five years to hear an answer, and it came through the fire in an old fireplace. 

If Moses found God in the burning bush, I can say found Him in the request of a priest to “keep the fire going.” And like Moses, I had little idea about where the answer to the call would lead. 

It was the last night before the end of an extended weekend retreat. I was enjoying the crackling sound of the wood burning in the fireplace of the old house that quietly saves the story of that sacred place. In the burning silence of that evening, my mind couldn’t help but wander into memories of being a postulant and enjoying the novelty of a real and old fireplace at the Sisters’ retreat house. 

The fire had been started by one of the priests directing the retreat, but he had to step away and needed for someone to keep vigil. I happen to be there accompanied by another retreatant. He turned around, asked us to “keep the fire going,” and left. My eyes wandered around studying the scene in front of me, planning on how to engage and respond to the request to keep the fire going. Whispering, the other retreatant acknowledged that she had no clue about how to keep the fire alive, but she volunteered to bring in the wood from the pile outside. 

While she did that, I played around with the instruments at hand, and made sure to be successful at my entrusted task. In my mind, I was to keep the fire alive for the benefit of all retreatants present that night. Eventually, I would have to leave my task to participate in a healing service that would soon start in the chapel, so somebody else would have to keep the fire if they wanted. 

Little did I know that what I had done by adding wood to the fire until I walked away would keep it alive until the moment when it would be needed in the healing service.

The retreat director announced his plan for the service. After some singing and praying, we were to respond to some questions on a sheet of paper, walk to the fireplace, and offer our writing in the fire. Ah… that’s why the fire was needed. The fire was needed for the healing. 

Father didn’t have to explain why it was important to keep the fire going when he asked me to do so. He just asked, and two of us responded—not knowing how to perform the task fully, and not knowing why we were entrusted with such task. 

I found some peace in this experience. While I continue without an answer for why God called me into religious life only to call me out again very soon, I trust that in my responding wholeheartedly to His request, I was instrumental in Him accomplishing something for myself and for others. 

I just have to trust that this is true—just as it was true that I needed to keep the fire alive that night. Rather than continuing to ask the question without an answer, I trust that God will reveal Himself at the right time. I just need to keep the fire going.

May you have a blessed Advent. May you find peace in the fire that burns within you.

Still Searching

By Sarah

I return “home” after the Christmas holidays with my family–a beautiful time that I am still learning to appreciate at it’s proper value. I savor the memory of this experience, yet the feelings are still so new–almost hard to embrace fully. It’s only the second Christmas for me since returning to lay life, after a full nine years of life in the convent. Unlike last year, I don’t wonder this year if I could ever go back to my convent, or any convent, back to the liturgical grandeur of the celebration of the birth of the Lord. However, though my family’s love warms my heart, and I soak it up gratefully, I do not yet feel totally at home again taking part in the family traditions.

The “home” that I’ve now returned to is the house I’m renting with two grad students, near the college I attended so many years ago. I love the smallness of this town, its familiarity, and the possibilities that being close to a college exude. These are possibilities of a future that on the one hand I want, and on the other make me hesitate–for I am not yet ready to embrace them.

On January 2nd, the birthday of St. Therese, I made it to 1 year and 6 months since leaving religious life. 1 year and 6 months. That is really not that long. I breathe a long, slow, and deep sigh of relief. Tears rise in my eyes, and simply hang there. I’ve been through so much. The questions within me no longer seem to be darkened by I thought I would be farther by now. They seem…well…normal. They are: What am I doing? What should I do next? Where am I going? Not only that, but who are my friends? Who should I call? With whom do I belong? These are big, and hard questions. And it’s such a grace and gift actually, for me, to be able to write about it.

Right now I have a part time job working at a local specialty grocery store. It has been good for me to just get my feet wet. I tried a full time job for a startup company earlier last year, and well, it didn’t go so well. I ended up quitting. I think I’m going to have to build up to a job just like I’m building up to a life. Slow but steady. Plunging might work for some people, but it’s just not for me.

What this piece is about however, and what I’d like to share with you, my sisters, is the astonishing realization that my reflections at this time have led to, and I simply wonder if you may share as well.

There is one thing I don’t understand: how am I staying sane in all this? I would expect that someone who is asking the questions I am, who is so deeply ungrounded as I am, would be deeply shaken! Well, I will not deny I have dealt with a lot of both anxiety and depression, but now I see this as absolutely part of the journey. I am not ashamed to seek the help of a therapist. 

But what has helped me a great deal–and I recognize it now more starkly and with awe and gratitude–has actually been my experience in entering religious life. Whatever God did to my soul in giving it to Him, He has blessed, and made strong… so that I know that He is my God, always. I am grounded in Him.

It is precisely because of going into religious life that I am able to face this now. I’m certainly not afraid. I am at peace, deep within, and I know that nothing can take that away–because God is God. I think that this is the gift that God has given to me, through what I’ve offered Him. And the peace itself that He gives me is the reassurance that I have done the right thing all along. He, God, is the life of my life. I feel that truly–even though a lot of things have changed in my spiritual life, and dramatically so, throughout my journey. I think it’s only when you’ve left everything for the Lord that perhaps you know …not in an abstract sense but in a lived sense, what the Lord can be for you. 

What St. Paul says in Philippians 4:12 resonates with me, especially through this rocky time of transition: In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.”

Jesus’ own words also strengthen me, and I can make them my own, even though not in the sense that He says them as the Son of God. He says, “The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone.” – John 8:29. 

So I too feel like the Father is always with me, within me, and He will never leave me alone–through the times of sweetness but also in the darkest night. I trust Him. This is the ground I can stand on.

Though it is not easy, I find comfort in this prayer, shared with me by my spiritual director, and I pray it now for all of you, my sisters around the world. And I pray that you too will experience, if not today, then down the road, the gift that your gift to God can be back to you:

Trust in the Slow Work of God by Teilhard de Chardin

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown, something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress, that it is made by passing through some stages of instability, and that may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time–that is to say, grace–and circumstances
acting on your own good will will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit gradually forming in you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God, our loving vine-dresser.

 

You know the way for me, You know the time,
Into Your hands, I trustingly place mine.
Your plan is perfect, born of perfect Love,
You know the way, Your way is love

– Prayer card from my former convent

Monastery in My Heart – A Poem

By Mary Rose Kreger, republished from her shared blog Monastery in My Heart.

Eight years ago, I was a young novice, Sr. Mary Inez. I spent 19 months in the convent before realizing I was called to a married vocation. Today I am a happy wife and mom, but re-entering the world was a great struggle for me. Here is a poem about my experience:

 

Once outside the convent

You still long to be inside it

The white curtained walls

The ancient creaking floors

The silence and the song.

 

He drew me in and I followed,

Hungry for the final Word in treasures—

His secret gaze pierced me, pleaded silently:

Come.

 

I left everything to find Him,

My home, my job, my family—

Stepping out of the boat into the deep waters.

In return, He gave me the Cross,

That bitter cure-all for a thousand ills,

But also a taste of Heaven.

19 months in His garden, and then He says,

“Go home and tell your family all that I have done for you.”

And so I do. I go home and tell of

The white curtained walls

The ancient creaking floors

The silence and the song.

 

Six weeks later, I meet James,

The man whom I will marry

Whose birthday is Christmas like

The First Beloved of my heart.

We work and we play, we talk and we pray.

We are married, find a home,

Have a son, then a daughter—

Make friends, lose friends.

Die a hundred tiny deaths, and

Rise a hundred times again.

We share our lives together.

 

The Lord makes us new—He kisses me

With James’ touch, and embraces me with

Lukie’s arms, and gazes at me

With my daughter’s eyes.

He still wants me, even if His rose was

Never meant to stay in His convent garden.

 

No, rather to struggle and labor

In this world, pretending to fit in

When my heart has been spoiled for anything

Save Him.

On the outside, endless motions,

Movements of faith, hope, love—

And grit and survival, too, for this

Long journey is hard.

On the inside, a tiny-heart-home,

Always longing for the white curtained walls,

The ancient floors, where I first saw Him.

There, I tasted heaven once—

A darkness that was Light—

And I can no more return to my

Heathen ways than a child to her

Mother’s womb. I tasted heaven once, and my

Heart is ruined for anything else.

All Things New: Rediscovering the Word of God Post-Convent

By LumenChristi

I was on a very difficult discernment visit with a community, when a priest in confession assigned me to pray Psalm 23 as my penance.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. . .”

As a 22-year old cradle Catholic, the words were so familiar that they had lost their meaning. But in this moment, they really took on new significance. In the midst of this stressful period, I felt Jesus reassuring me that he was there with me even though I didn’t feel it. He had led me here; he had started this journey with me and he would see me through.

He guides me along right paths for His name’s sake,

Even though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death,

I shall fear no evil, for you are at my side. . .

As I continued to read, in the chapel, before the giant crucifix that the community had behind the altar, the final verses of the psalm struck me like a lightning bolt:

You anoint my head with oil;

My cup overflows. . .

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

This hit me strongly, with both peace and anticipation. I sensed that the Lord was really getting my attention about something. I deeply felt a call from him, that despite the difficulties, he truly was calling me to enter this community and “dwell in His House” – this house. My cup did “overflow” with joy in response to this, and as I looked at the crucifix, it seemed to me that despite the struggles and sufferings I had encountered there, he had great graces to give me also, in that particular place with that community.

Fast-forward to the following spring, when I applied to this community, and despite the revelation I thought I had received, was not accepted.

If the experience in the chapel was a lightning-bolt showing me the way ahead, the rejection letter was a thunderbolt, appearing out of nowhere and painfully throwing me to the ground. I felt jolted by this on multiple levels.  Not only were there the feelings of hurt and rejection, but there was something else, even deeper. I really had – so I thought – learned to recognize and listen to the Lord’s voice and followed an instruction direct from Him. And then, it would seem, he did not keep His promise. I fulfilled my end, and he failed to uphold his.

This disturbed me even more than the circumstances and misunderstandings that led to not being accepted by the community. For if something that I clearly heard God say was not Him, how could I ever trust Him again? More importantly, how could I ever trust myself again, in believing that he spoke to me?

I learned to pray anyway, even if it was more often complaining than anything else. I learned to go to Mass anyway even though my heart felt dead rather than alive in the Lord.  I learned to go through the motions of my life, seeking his will for me in practical ways (job searching, finding God in friends and family). I took comfort that St. Francis too, thought that God spoke to him (“rebuild my church”) and it meant something completely different than he thought – in fact greater than what he thought. But something was missing, completely gone, to the point where I didn’t think it would come back and barely remembered what it was in the first place.

Fast-forward again to six years later. . . I had reached a place in my spiritual life that was more peaceful. I had learned to see the Lord in my daily life, even while I was unsure about the future. I had accepted that some things about his workings with us remain a mystery in this life; but it didn’t mean they weren’t real. Yet I still felt annoyed whenever I “ran into” Psalm 23. Like an old injury or pain that is mostly gone, but “flares up” under the right conditions, Psalm 23 was a sticking point in my relationship with God. I avoided it by skimming through when it came up in any reading I was doing, thinking about something else when it came up during Mass, and generally writing it off as a part of the Bible where God had something to say to everyone except me.

Then one cold winter day, I was sitting at my kitchen table with a warm cup of tea, doing my prayer-time for the day, and generally experiencing a pleasant time with the Lord. I opened the scripture readings for that day, and lo and behold, waiting for me was That Psalm. Its’ words jumped out at me from the page and danced before my eyes.  They seemed to taunt me, reminding me how I didn’t trust God enough, reminding me how much I sucked at listening to him, and how prone I was to “getting it wrong” when it came to his message for my life.  Oh no, not That Psalm! I thought. Not today. I will read the gospel instead.

Normally the gospels provide me much food for meditation. But that day it just left me restless. “That Psalm” kept distracting me. So I thought, perhaps, the Lord wanted me to go there after all. I turned the page, took a deep breath, and asked Him what he wanted to say. Then, by some small yet magnificent miracle of grace, when I read the words over again, they were no longer taunting at all. They came washing over me, like gentle waves that wore away at my resistance and washed over the hurt in my heart.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. . .

He guides me along right paths for His name’s sake,

Even though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death,

I shall fear no evil, for you are at my side. . .

“This is still true,” he seemed to be saying to me. “I am still your shepherd. I always have been. Through the “deaths” of rejection and confusion, still I have been beside you. Even though you have stumbled in the dark, still you have not strayed from ‘right paths’ because I have been with you.”

You anoint my head with oil,

My cup overflows. . .

You spread a table before me in front of all my foes. . .

I realized I had been anointed. Literally. At my baptism. That was where he had chosen and called me. And that call in itself, was unique and beautiful. He had not chosen me for religious life; at least at that time, in that community. But he had chosen me to be baptized. And he called me and chose me still, out of all the others on earth who could be privileged to know His name and yet, by some mystery, hadn’t been. It was a great honor and a great responsibility. “My cup overflowed” again, for different reasons, but even more so than the first time.

I felt in that moment too, that he had “spread a table in front of all my foes” because the darkness and the devil were vanquished, in a very significant way. The “fear of being wrong” in prayer began to lose its’ power.

And then finally. . .

Only goodness and kindness follow me, all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Previously I had misinterpreted this to mean “only blessings follow me” (in my relationships with other people) all the days of my life. But now I realized, these words were not the Lord’s promise to me. They were my promise to Him, in return for His goodness as my shepherd. I would choose to be kind, to bless others, that even the smallest encounter with me would grant them an encounter with Him. And “his house” – beyond being the Church I was privileged to belong to — was also His presence. In that, I could choose to dwell always, regardless of success or failure.

These revelations were profound for me. That Psalm that taunted me was transformed into the first place I now go for consolation. When other storms have come, that is where I have found Him.

I pray that this experience of mine grants His peace to each of you reading it. I hope that it gives you a foretaste of the healing he has for you and the nearness he wishes to restore to you, even in the scriptures or devotions that you now find most painful. He makes all things new, even the thing you find most “ruined” at the moment.

I am the Good Shepherd

By Emma.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;

he makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

Those are difficult words to pray when life has taken on the characteristics of a desert.

There are still moments when I miss the “green pastures” and “still waters” of religious life. There are still moments when I miss the hours set aside for prayer, simplicity of our cell, the laughter and smiles of the community, the folds of our habit, the quiet and simple work, the Stations of the Cross leading to the cemetery, the rattle of our side beads, the bells… Now there is even more that has been taken away due to the pandemic. So much more. I miss being able to pray with others. In person. In a Church. I miss being able to enter a Church. I miss going to Mass. I miss the Eucharist.

Yet I shall not want.

Jesus, the good shepherd, is the shepherd of my soul. He is mine, and I am His. That is what is important. That is all I need. Even when so much as been taken away, Jesus remains and He alone is enough. Although He has bound Himself to the Sacraments, He is not bound by them. He will continue to nourish my soul somehow and in some way. He will continue to lead me on the path of righteousness the Father has marked out for me from all eternity. He continues to come to me, and I can find rest and restoration in Him. Even here. In this desert. Even now. In the midst of the challenges and uncertainty.

Jesus is the green pasture. Jesus is the still water. Jesus is the restoration of my soul.

He always has been, and He always will be. And He cannot be taken away from me.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil; for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

What has struck me most in the Gospel readings lately is how often Jesus seeks someone out and goes to them. “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him…” (John 9:35). “Jesus himself drew near and went with them.” (Luke 24:15) “she turned around and saw Jesus” (John 20:14).

How fitting it is that we should see Jesus seeking out His sheep in the days when He walked among us. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). Jesus laying down His life is not confined to one moment 2,000 years ago. The burning love that made the sacrifice of Calvary possible is still alive here and now. Jesus lays down His life for His sheep in the little things and the big things. No act is too small for love. He who hung upon the cross for me will not abandon me in the bitter valley.

When St. Therese found herself in the midst of darkness, she found herself turning not to the cry, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” but rather, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me.” Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He will not abandon me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

At first the verse “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” seems nonsensical. Why would the good shepherd prepare a feast in the presence of enemies? Wouldn’t far away from the enemies be better? Yet in doing so, Jesus shows His true mastery over that which causes distress. So often I just want the difficult and unpleasant parts of life to just go away. Jesus shows His true power not through eliminating the difficulty, but rather through inviting me to feast in the midst of the difficulty and uncertainty. This harkens back to Isaiah 11:6 with “…the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” To be at peace in the midst of tranquility is expected. To be at peace in the midst of tribulation and distress is a gift. A gift that Jesus invites us to receive each day.

In the end, we are all on pilgrimage to our heavenly homeland. “I am the good shepherd,” Jesus says; “I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father” (John 10 14-15). Jesus knows us. We are not anonymous to Him, the creator and shaper of our hearts. He knows our rising and our resting. He knows the path that will lead us home to eternity with Him. Some of us will spend the pilgrimage in convents and monasteries which are like little vestibules of heaven. Others of us will spend this pilgrimage reflecting the love of the Trinity through the Sacrament of marriage. Others of us will spend this pilgrimage living the mystery of Nazareth through the seeming ordinariness of our life. Many and fleeting are the paths that we take. One and eternal is the destination. May our steps always remain homeward bound. May our gaze always remain fixed on Jesus.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

I am His sheep.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

I shall not want.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

I find rest in Him.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

I am never alone.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

I trust in Him.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

I shall not fear.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

I am homeward bound.