by Katita Luisa
Today was a little off, and I wasn’t sure why…until a memory on social media popped up, and I realized why. Yes, today is six (!) years since I entered the convent.
At first, each day seemed to drag by, a painful reminder that I wasn’t where I thought I’d be. And then it got better. Not magically, nor overnight. But today, looking at the picture and remembering entrance day, I am happy I was brave enough to enter, and I am happy God had other plans. I don’t even know who that girl is in the picture, but here are six things I wish she had known:
1. Jesus loves your gift of self and the desire He placed on your heart to belong to Him alone. Don’t doubt that He has called you to Himself, even if He asks you to leave these walls.
2. You are loved, good, and chosen, just as you are. Your vocation is not something to be earned.
3. Jesus isn’t only the Just Judge. He is a Lover. Trust the Good Shepherd’s voice, and don’t confuse it with someone else’s.
4. There is sanctification, and then there is something else.* If something feels off, it probably is. The convent is a place to be perfected, but it’s not a perfect place.
5. You’re not a burden.
6. Starting over post-convent doesn’t mean you failed. In fact, it may be one of the best gifts.
*I found this podcast episode very helpful in beginning to learn about spiritual abuse.
Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash
When my alarm went off and I sat up on my bed, my mind thought of God for a moment, then quickly asked the question, “What day is it?” It was Friday, and I still had to go to work. I laid back once again and scrolled on my phone. I checked emails, social media, and my bank account—nothing unusual for that day. Just a regular Friday.
It was not until the middle of my workday that it hit me. It was the sixth anniversary of my receiving the letter of acceptance into the postulancy. All it took was a memory to pop up on my social media, and just like that, my heart was hijacked by grief until I fell asleep in tears at 10:00 pm. Grief is a revolving door.
The post that made me realize the significance of the day in my personal history was that of a playlist I had listened to on repeat an entire evening when I found the anticipated letter in my mailbox. That playlist was filled with upbeat, uplifting music both in English and Spanish, including songs like “Happy” by Pharell Williams and “Try Everything” by Shakira.
For most of my life I had been dreaming of the moment my everything would change by entering religious life, and this letter was my passport to that life. Of course, I was happy, and of course, I blasted the music in my third-floor apartment and danced in my living room with the Mississippi River as my witness. I had not shared on Facebook the reason for my happy playlist, but it is impossible for me not to remember the motives behind my post. Only this time, looking back to a post from six years ago, instead of dancing, I was paralyzed by grief.
My heart asked for a witness right after I took a deep breath. I needed someone who could hold my grief with me for a moment, helping me come to terms with the wave of emotion. Six years before, my witness for joy had been the big river, but now only a few people would understand what I felt without much explanation. They too had lived and left religious life. For a moment, as I held my face over praying hands, I thought of how I was still alone with the sharing of my grief story. I considered not bothering these convent friends but instead going onto a social media group to post about my grief. However, I did not want to appear as if seeking sympathy.
Seconds later, I realized that there was at least one person who would be receptive and responsive to a message of this type. She had entered the same congregation with me and had left a couple of years after I left. Entering religious life had also been the dream of her life. So I trusted my instinct and texted her a screenshot of the memory, explaining the context for the playlist. She immediately responded like I had hoped. She also commented on the songs and her impressions of them. That was it. All I needed at that moment was a witness. However, my day continued.
My heart continued to be hooked up on the meaning of the day. At the end of my workday, I went grocery shopping, visited with family, and finally sat down to eat dinner alone in my new apartment. The quiet evening was certainly inviting me to dwell a little more on it all. I prayed to God about my pain, the dream He had placed in my heart, about how I had offered everything to him out of love, about how He also called me out of the convent, and about how I continued to be single and, seemingly, hopelessly alone. Tears dripped all over my shirt, my lap, and my sofa. As I allowed myself to have that moment, I worried that my neighbors would hear me sobbing. I couldn’t help it!
I went online and found a video about singlehood. The YouTuber shared her favorite psalm to pray with when she is yearning for connection. The psalm, she said, helps her offer her pain to God. I found myself falling asleep and somehow mustered the strength to brush my teeth, wash my face, put on my night creams, and make it to bed. My heart was certainly yearning for God and His love. Therefore, I pulled up my psalms and went straight to the one recommended by the YouTuber: Psalm 69. I prayed it like never before. It was painful. In seconds I was sobbing again and could not read anymore.
Then it came to me—I could only continue to trust God. He was always there, on my side, but I kept acting as if I doubted His love and glorious dreams for me. I laid back, turned off the light, and allowed my eyes to dry as I inhaled and exhaled, imagining myself on Jesus’ lap. He was the witness of my grief all along.
The revolving door of grief, though painful, had returned me once again to His presence. Grief was turned into gratitude.
Photo by Zack Yeo on Unsplash
As 2015 comes to an end, I’d like to wish you all a peaceful, happy and blessed New Year, and to express my gratitude to those who have given their time and skills to the LL blog and social media this year.
To those who have managed our Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and newsletter – thank you!
To those who did yeoman’s work getting the blog up and running on a new server – thank you!
To the many people across the world who have shared their sorrows, joys and insights on our blog – thank you!
To those who have created graphics and memes for the LL social media – thank you!
To those who have “liked,” re-tweeted, commented on and shared our posts with their friends – thank you!
It’s been an enormous privilege to have worked with you this year, and I’m looking forward to 2016!
Lastly, thank you to those who have contributed to our #thanksconvent campaign throughout Advent. We thought it would be appropriate to wrap up the year with an expression of thanks to the communities that formed us during our time in the religious life.
God bless, and Happy New Year to you all!
As the end of the year draws near and we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, Advent is a beautiful time to reflect upon the blessings that God has given us.
This year, Leonie’s Longing invites you to join our #thanksconvent movement, and tell us what you gained from your time in the convent. It could be something as simple as a skill that you picked up in religious life, or as profound as a new way of drawing closer to God that you experienced there.
You can share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter, or comment on this blog post, as many times as you like. At the end of December, the #thanksconvent comments will be gathered into a single post in celebration of the gifts that God has given us from our time in religious life!
Day Four: Love that is persevering, enduring to the end.
Opening Prayer: Father, by the blood of your own Son, Jesus Christ, you have set us free and saved us from death. Continue your work of love within us, that by constantly celebrating the mystery of our salvation, we may reach the eternal life it promises. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Scripture Reading: Romans 8: 31-39 Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
John 13: 1-17 Jesus would show His love for them to the end.
Reflection: We see many unfinished buildings, unfinished projects throughout Africa. Sometimes it is just that it is slow, and the funding money is not available. Or, a project is started, and a new governor comes in, and the project is abandoned. On a more personal level, sometimes we fail to follow through on our promises. We get distracted, we move on to something new. We forget, we lose interest.
But God’s love is faithful, enduring to the end. We gain insight into the persevering love of God from the prophet Isaiah. Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you (Is. 49:15).
The public life of Jesus is marked by love for His apostles and disciples, marked by love for the crowds. This love would persevere and continue till the end. Our Scripture reading from the gospel of John affirms this as Jesus continues His journey to the city of Jerusalem. There He will meet rejection and death. Jesus realized that the hour had come… He had loved his own in this world, and would show His love for them to the end. He did not turn back, did not slow down, did not shrink from what lay ahead. No, He manifested and practiced His love to the end. This quality of the Heart of Jesus is one we seek and need in our lives.
One beautiful example of love that remains faithful and perseveres to the end comes from Liv Ullman, a film actress. She saw a photograph of an old couple. The wife is in bed, and almost in a coma, living in another world, her eyes are empty. The husband on the bedside with a bowl and a spoon and he is feeding her, and looks at her so lovingly. He is making a quiet statement about his love for her. He is saying that what we once promised each other when we were young – love in sickness or in health – remains strong even today. Liv Ullman would like to make a movie from that picture, and she calls it the strongest and most beautiful statement of love that she had ever seen.
May we imitate the ever-faithful, enduring love of the Sacred Heart.
Resolution/Practice: 1. At the end of each day, resolve to spend five minutes reviewing the day. Thank God for the good. And if there is any unfinished business,= any obligations which I still have to fulfil, ask for the grace and strength to persevere to the end in bringing to completion what I have begun, what I have promised to do, or what I am obliged to do. I pray for a loving heart that follows through, and perseveres to the end, a heart like the Heart of Jesus.
2. Prayer every day for the grace of final perseverance… For example, in the Hail Mary, we say: Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
This Novena in Honor of the Sacred Heart was written by Rev. Peter Schineller S.J. for the Apostleship of Prayer/League of the Sacred Heart.