From My Inner Cell (1): A Meditation on Hope

By AfterEpiphany.© Xalanx | Dreamstime.com - <a href="http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-prison-bars-image6189764#res16092772">Prison bars</a>

I think Joseph is quite a comfort to the average convent/seminary leaver. I’m not talking St. Joseph the Foster-Father of Jesus… he’s awesome, yes. But right now I’m talking about the owner of a certain Technicolour Dreamcoat.

We all recall that he was sold into slavery by his brothers who were offended that he seemed to think himself better than he really was. He was thrown into prison because he turned out to be better than the Pharoah’s wife thought he was. And if the irony of all of that wasn’t enough, throw in the fact that he was accompanied in his unjust fate by two others who deserved their punishment!

Unlike the Event for which this was a pre-figurement, where one of the thieves asked to be remembered by the Innocent One when He entered His Kingdom, in this case rather it was the innocent one who asked to be remembered:

“Only think of me when all is well with you, and please do me the great favor of mentioning me to Pharoah, to get me out of this place.” (Gen 40:14)

This request was made of the “chief cupbearer,” who promptly forgot all about Joseph when he left the prison. Joseph remained in prison for another two years.

What on earth went through Joseph’s mind and emotions over that two year period? What do you think he prayed about during that time? Did he give up hope that he would be remembered and freed? Was there some point at which he decided there was no way he was ever getting out of there, and was that belief something that sparked off the grief cycle for Joseph? Do you think He got angry at God? Perhaps he felt as though he had been forsaken? I wonder if that first little while after leaving the convent/seminary isn’t just a little bit like Joseph’s time in prison?

In the story of Joseph, we cannot help but notice that he did not return to Canaan. Yet as the adventure played out, albeit in a place other than that which Joseph had planned, it is worth remembering that God provided him with the means to put things right with his brothers, to be reunited with his father and to live a full and happy life.

How I Found Peace With God’s Will

How to deal with anxiety, from the pen of a paranoid schizophrenic.

By Stephanie Grace Cesare.

Jeremiah 29:11: Yes, I know what plans I have in mind for you, Yahweh declares: plans for peace, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Trust has been a major problem in my past, but if we believe in God’s goodness, how can we not trust in Him completely? Every second of our life God knows and allows to happen to us. “There is a spiritual world all around us, can you not see it?” – Jane Eyre.

Because of my condition I am always worried that the worst thing possible is going to happen at any second. The only way I could overcome that was to believe in God’s loving providence: to actually live second to second with a great belief that everything was in some kind of play book for my life. It is when the waves start crashing in on us, when we think we are alone and will drown, that God says, “O you of little faith”. In that moment the Apostle Peter cried, “Lord, we are going to drown, don’t you care?” Whenever we take our eyes away from God, that is when we become anxious, scared, feeling we are on our own and will drown in worries: that is when we need to cry, “LORD!”

This is where suffering must be understood.

Luke 11:11-15 says, “What father among you, if his son asked for a fish, would hand him a snake? Or if he asked for an egg, hand him a scorpion?” Suffering as the saints know it has infinite worth. God allows suffering to come upon us for this reason, that we may fill up what is lacking in the wounds of Christ, and that we may actually participate in God’s salvific mission for the world. God works through us when we accept life’s difficulties

2 Cor 12:7-10: “Wherefore so that I should not get above myself I was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to batter me and prevent me from getting above myself about this. I have three times pleaded with the Lord that it might leave me but he has answered me, “My grace is enough for you.” For power is at full strength in weakness. It is then about my weaknesses that I am happiest of all to boast, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me, and that is why I am glad of weaknesses, insults, constraints, persecutions and distress for Christ’s sake, for it is when I am weak that I am strong.”

Some examples in my life… God is in the details. To let go and realize every detail of the day is God’s will, will give you an extreme amount of peace. One day I realized I wasn’t going to be able to have a job because it was so stressful so I gave it up to God. I am a cosmetologist and I am supposed to take the next person on the computer list no matter what they want done, so I said, “Lord, please send me the people that I would be able to handle.” This went really well. Every time I went to the list I had the confidence that the Lord would help me with the next customer. He must really want me to have this job so I trusted.

I was in a religious community when I was having signs of schizophrenia and had decided to leave. I went into an extreme depression that landed me in the hospital several times. I didn’t know how a good God could push me away from him and not want a girl who dreamed all her life since the age of reason to be his spouse; to be incapable of it! How could a good God abandon me like that? “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” – that just wasn’t true – or, “She has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” – hmm, what about that one? I was telling God how to make me holy rather than trusting that he knew the best way. Then one day, I read that God sent the man who had asked to be his disciple to go home and be a witness to his family and home town – “How can I do that?” I thought. Well, I have had the chance to help those in the world with me more than I ever had in the convent with my peers, family and customers. I am planning on volunteering at a nursing home so I can talk to the infirm about God while doing their hair. I never had this in the convent…the chance to get close to people and love them. To get to know them, unlike I would ever have in the convent. That’s when I realized I was called to the single life and so be a witness.

One night I was crying hysterically over the fact I left the convent when my parents came home from Louisville with a note from a homeless person on the street to me. It said, “I have chosen you to bear fruit.” That was the quote at my clothing in the convent on my card. It made me realize that I have a mission greater than I could ever imagine as long as I did God’s will.

I was chosen, but how and for what? The most anxiety you go through is not knowing your calling in life and the second is not trusting and giving up your will to God. Mother Teresa said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”.

The teenager days are usually the most arrogant. I’m going to be rich, I’m going to change the world, I’m going to be famous. There is nothing wrong with having these goals, as long as we give our will to God, but many do not and go into despair when they do not accomplish what they desire. This has caused many college-age students to commit suicide because their goals are so high. Many people come out of religious life and this can be devastating to live a humble life of a lay person or the married state. In Abandonment to Divine Providence, Fr. Caussade explains that it is not in seeking holy things or circumstances, but seeking holiness in all our circumstances, that makes saints.

We will never have peace unless we trust that doing what is in front of us is God’s will and that doing it well (little detail by little detail) will take away the anxieties of life and will lead to greater, wonderful things. Think, when you offer your life to God in your daily duties, of how much more God in his generosity will give you to accomplish in your life. He is all goodness, so do you not believe he will give you a grand adventure – one that will bring you to heaven?

In living each moment the way God calls (the little details) God will give greater things for you to do. I love St. Therese because she taught the little way to heaven. Doing every little thing because it is most humbling and therefore more meritorious in the eyes of God. Once we realize the great worth of these small details, the more at peace we will be. Believe in PROVIDENCE! Just realize that our daily duties are so important when done with love – how much more at peace. God will always outdo us with love, and the more we offer up these small things, the greater the things he will call us to, and we will be at peace in his love.

Psalm 131, song of quiet trust: “O Lord my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high. I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me, but I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child that is quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego: “Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that disturbs you, the thing that afflicts you, is nothing. Do not let your countenance, your heart be disturbed. Do not fear this sickness of your uncle or any other sickness, nor anything that is sharp or hurtful. Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.”

The End of the Story

Leaving the convent and returning to the world was quite the experience, to say the least.  Did you feel the same way?  I was in the convent, going about my day and then two days later I was in a car driving to my parents’ house.  My routine was suddenly turned upside down.

I certainly did not know where I was going or what my future would hold.  It was difficult to fight off the anxiety and fear.  Now what?  Where will I work?  Can I find a job?  What kind of job?  Do I have clothes?  Where can I live?  Once the immediate needs passed, other questions set in.  Do I have a vocation at all? Is there a plan?  Do I have a path?  Is my holiness in jeopardy now that I am back?  Does God still love me?

Though I have been back for a few years, the latter questions still periodically crop up in my mind.  As I am in the heat of the moment, feeling rather hopeless and confused about my future, nothing seems possible.  I am a weak sinner and ending up in Heaven seems basically impossible.  Oh, if only I were St. Teresa of Avila or St. Francis de Sales (for example), then I would be fine!

But recently I realized that they probably felt the same way at times.  When they were alive and struggling through life just like me, they had to feel confused, lost, unsure, etc. because they did not know what would happen in the future.  They did not know if they would end up in Heaven and they certainly did not know that they would be canonized by the Church!

But I know the end of their stories.  Therefore, it is easy to view the difficulties they experienced as being “no big deal.”

Yeah, St. Therese died from TB, but so what? She ended up in Heaven, so it’s fine.

St. John of the Cross was thrown in prison but he was holy so I am sure that was easy for him.

Bl. Margaret of Castello was abandoned by her parents, but she totally got over it.

Really? Do I really believe this? That these saints were not human at all and did not struggle? It is ridiculous, and yet I think I slip into this very easily. And more than that, I somehow think that what I am experiencing is so much worse! It’s rather funny, actually.

So what can I learn from this? Today is passing and tomorrow will come and surprise us all. What I am experiencing right now will not necessarily determine my future. Many studies show that envisioning what you want and how you will attain it increases the chances of it becoming a reality. This is not the case only for material wealth and worldly success. I need to picture myself in Heaven with God and imagine myself acting in ways that will get me there! When St. Thomas Aquinas was asked, “What does it take to become a saint?” He answered, “Will it.” Is that not the same thing? We have to be like little children and trust that the Father wants us to be eternally with Him in Heaven infinitely more than we want it for ourselves!

Finally, we need to have confidence that what Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel is TRUE:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.

You have faith in God; have faith also in me.

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.

If there were not,

would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?

And if I go and prepare a place for you,

I will come back again and take you to myself,

so that where I am you also may be.

Where I am going you know the way.”

John 14:1-4

 By Rosa Mystica

 

Abjection

While in the convent, my class read Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. I had read this book a few times in my life before the convent and I was excited to read it again. If you have never read it, it is one of those books where you notice so many “new” things each time you read it.

Because my class was reading it together, we discussed it at times during recreation. One of the parts that some of us had difficulty understanding discussed abjection. What exactly does abjection mean? If you look up “abject” in the dictionary it says:

  1. utterly wretched or hopeless
  2. miserable; forlorn; dejected
  3. indicating humiliation; submissive: an abject apology
  4. contemptible; despicable; servile: an abject liar

In this section St. Francis de Sales discusses accepting and even cherishing abjection. (If you want to read this section, you can read it here). I feel that the time after one leaves the religious life is a perfect time to put this into practice. But why do I say that?

When you live as a sister or nun in a religious community you are poor. You know that going in and you are happy about it! When people hear about what you are doing, they generally respect you for it. “Oh Sister, let me buy some food for you!” If your habit is getting a little tattered and stained, someone might offer to purchase material for you so you can make a new one. If you run out of gas because you are lost and don’t have money to buy more, it is probably pretty easy for a stranger to stop and fill up the tank for a woman in a religious habit. If someone spits on you in the subway, you’ll know it’s because you’re a woman religious and you can joyfully accept “all for Jesus!”

But what about when you return to the world? You are still poor. But it’s different. It’s abject poverty. When you go out wearing the same clothes every day because you only have one outfit, people might notice and judge you. If you run out of gas, will anyone stop and help you? If you can’t look quite “together” for your job interview, will you get the job? If someone sends a rude gesture in your direction for no apparent reason, how will you handle that?

St. Francis de Sales encourages us to use these situations as opportunities for growth. Sure, it’s easier said than done. But God allows every situation in our life for our sanctification. Even if we felt that being in the convent was our path to holiness, it isn’t right now because we are in the world. This isn’t easy to accept, but it is worth considering and taking to prayer. May God bless you!

by Jane F.