There it is. That familiar sting that says “not you.” I sat down with my Magnificat book, my fiancé just across the room, for our daily time of prayer. I opened the Magnificat to the day’s readings, and there I saw the Gospel passage I’ve been battling with the Lord over for the past year and half since leaving the convent:
“‘We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?’ Jesus said to them… ‘And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.'”
And just like that, I feel the sting again. That all-too-familiar twinge that whispers, “You tried, but you failed. You could’ve been the one to give up everything, but now you’re not. You can’t get that hundredfold.” I sit there, angry and confused, ready to throw the book to the floor and end my prayer time right then and there. But I don’t. Instead, I find myself like the apostles, asking Jesus, “What will there be for me?” Perhaps you too, dear sister, have found yourself asking that question time and again, “What is there for me now?” And perhaps, if you’re anything like me, you too have been disappointed by God’s apparent silence, left wondering what the heck “God’s will” even means anymore or if you’ll ever move past the pain or be able to trust God again.
Well, back in my prayer corner, I found myself spiraling into that rabbit hole again. But then the Lord gently reminded me of the last time I had this battle with Him, and the words He spoke to me then, and continues to speak to my heart. You see, sister, the Lord sees that you and I, we gave up everything- our families, our homes, our friends, careers, etc.- when He asked it of us. He does not disregard that sacrifice just because we left the convent. He also recognizes that even though He has given some of those things back to us, we also sacrificed much in leaving. For me, that was leaving behind a community of sisters I deeply loved and cared for, giving up the life that I thought and dreamed I would live for the rest of my life, and then having to endure the many hardships that befell me in the months following my departure- an unsupportive pastor, the loss of friendships, and the unexpected loss of my job. I cannot tell you how many times I cried out in pain, “God, what now? There’s nothing left for me!” I thought of that pain, but then Jesus also reminded me of the good things He has given to me since I left.
I know that often it’s so hard to see the good things or see how certain Scripture passages still apply to us. But, sister, do not think that this Gospel passage no longer applies to you. In some ways, it might apply even more now in the “post-convent” reality. The Lord sees and understands the great sacrifices you made to follow Him into religious life, as well as the sacrifices made and sufferings endured in leaving the religious life. He sees those sacrifices, and holds them in His heart, and listens when you cry out to Him once again, “What is there for me?” Hold on to your hope, my dear sister, and don’t give up. That hundredfold is for us, too.
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.
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;
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.
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.
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.