From My Inner Cell (3): Let the Light In!

By AfterEpiphany.

Don’t be scandalised… but it took me a while to get excited about the Luminous Mysteries when St John Paul the Great first gifted them to the Church. If even a tiny bit of me had held on to that initial lack of enthusiasm, that is now well and truly gone! The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary have been a particular comfort to me over the past few months as I’ve faced some more-intense-than-usual challenges in my own post-convent journey.

Anyone who has spent any time at all in religious formation will know how painful it can sometimes be to grow in self-knowledge… and the growing and learning doesn’t stop when we return to the world. When faced with something about myself that is difficult to accept, it is unhelpful to hide from the Lord as did our first parents in a certain primordial garden. Facing difficult truths and difficult situations is far less intimidating when done in the presence of Our Lord, lifted up to Him in the Blessed Mother’s maternal embrace.

It was in this way – taking something that I found distressing about myself to my rosary one Thursday – that I got distracted from my distress as I reflected on what it was to invite our Lord to shine His light into difficult personal discoveries. It was almost like He was telling me to stop obsessing about the problem, and simply fix my contemplative gaze upon HIM. The moment I stopped looking at the figurative soot on my hands and started gazing deep into the dancing flames I felt drawn nearer to the Fire, taking comfort in the warmth it afforded, all the while dazzled by the brilliance of the light. This is where that meditation on the Luminous Mysteries ended up that day:

The Baptism of Our Lord: In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI explained the significance of Our Lord’s Baptism as the moment where He took on His own shoulders the sins of the whole world throughout time and space. It was a prefigurement of His shouldering the Cross, it was a prefigurement of His harrowing of hell and it was a prefigurement of His Resurrection into new life, all at once. The weakness I’ve just discovered in myself was something Jesus already knew about in His eternal now and purposefully took upon Himself those centuries ago in history when He was baptised in the River Jordan. The Lord of Heaven and Earth, who loves me personally and perfectly, has long anticipated this moment when I would lay this very weakness of mine at His feet.

The Wedding Feast at Cana: Pope Benedict XVI also talks about how St John takes great care to say that the Wedding at Cana happened “on the third day” – clearly related to the Resurrection, of course, but also related to the traditional, Old Testament understanding of the appropriate time for “Theophany”, i.e. the manifestation of Divinity. At the Wedding Feast at Cana, Our Lord shows us that He is God, but also demonstrates that He is both able and willing to provide the good that is lacking in our lives. He can turn the insipid water of my weakness into the rich, abundant new wine of Christian joy!

The Proclamation of the Kingdom: As comforting as it is to know that Our Lord has taken my weakness upon Himself and is longing for me to let Him provide the good that is lacking my life, He also invites me – requires me, whilst never violating my freedom – to change. In filling me up with the new wine and revealing His goodness to me, He asks me to conform to a way of life that will help me to become more myself-as-He-created-me-to-be. We all need this reminder… and sometimes it is more helpful to focus on the virtue to which we aspire than it’s related vice with which we struggle. Meditating upon the beatitudes and His parables… what beautiful treasures He has given us to ponder in our hearts! Such pondering, after the example of Our Lady, will gradually enable Him to fashion our hearts into the new wineskins that will be able to contain that new wine He seeks to give us.

The Transfiguration: When I follow that invitation to change, and ponder His words and continue my interior dialogue with Him, He draws me still further… up a mountain, as it were, to contemplate not just the way He would have me live… but to look upon the radiance of His Face, to allow my desire for Him to be heightened as I behold His resplendence to the extent that He reveals that to me. As I’ve worked through my own recent challenges, I’ve been more drawn than ever to spend time with Him in the Eucharist and I do my best to get to make a holy hour several times a week wherever possible. I’m quite convinced that this increased desire is His doing and to be honest it’s a little exciting to wonder what changes in me He might be working away at whilst I sit and gaze upon Him, none the wiser as to the details, but growing in trust that He IS doing something!

The Institution of the Eucharist: With this increase in desire has come a reminder that the most important thing I will do on any given day is attend Mass and participate in the Eucharist. For me personally, this is gradually conforming my heart to be best able to receive the love He wants to give me, as I attend His sacrifice re-presented on the altar… but it also puts the rest of my day into perspective. The difficult meetings at my workplace and my frustrations with my own personal and daily failures pale into insignificance when considered alongside the beautiful half-hour during my lunch break where I get to witness the meeting of Heaven and Earth and receive Him in the Eucharist. This temporary union with Him, the magnitude of which I can only scratch the surface here on earth, truly is a foretaste of that eternity for which I was created…
As you can see… having followed all of the above line of thought I found myself all of a sudden marveling in His goodness to me and less and less distressed about that personal weakness that I took to prayer in the first place!! I still have my weakness… but now I’ve invited the Lord into that, and followed His invitation to dwell more on Him… my relationship with Him is strengthened in the dialogue, I’m less scandalised by my faults as I realise the truth of who I am and the truth of who He is, and my trust in Him and dependence on Him grows every time I get out of my own way, lay my troubles at His feet and ask the Blessed Mother to pray with me and for me.

Whilst it can be tempting to cast the Rosary aside, now that there’s no longer an Horarium requiring you to pray it, it’s really important to resist that temptation! I really can’t recommend the Rosary enough as one way of spending time in your inner cell, working through the challenges you face in everyday life with Him. Go to Our Lord through His Blessed Mother and let the light in!

Q: What is “From My Inner Cell” all about?
A: From My Inner Cell: Conversations with God for convent-leavers

I’d Rather Go to Heaven

By Amata

Some years ago, I was talking with a dear friend.  She and her husband had been struggling to conceive, and she was sharing with me how painful this experience was.  However, she said, if this was something that she needed to go through, to suffer, so that she could become holy, then so be it.  She said she’d rather go to Heaven than have a baby, if that was what it took to get to heaven, if this experience of infertility was purifying her and sanctifying her through her pain.

Her words that day stuck with me.  She’d rather go to heaven than have a baby, if that was what it took.  I continued to ponder and to be amazed by those words. I grew up in a large family, where babies are seen as one of the greatest gifts God can give, and now I feel myself drawn to marriage.  I love babies, and I could see the pain in my friend’s eyes as she spoke. And yet, she would rather go to Heaven than have a baby.  Her desire for God, for sanctity, and for doing God’s will was greater than her desire to have a child of her own.

St. Ignatius talks about the indifference that is necessary for sanctity.  He is not talking about a world in which we have absolutely no desires. Rather, he is talking about a world where our desires match God’s desires for us, where we make decisions based on God’s will, and where we subject our own desires to God’s desires for us.  When I first heard of this idea, I struggled to understand what it really means. What does this holy indifference really look like in today’s world?

I think I saw it in my friend’s eyes that day.  She’d rather go to Heaven.  She was placing her own desires at the feet of God and accepting His will for her as necessary for her own salvation. And even as she spoke, there was a joy behind the pain.  Nobody was twisting her arm making her accept the will of God. Rather, mingled with her tears there was a genuine desire for Heaven and an excitement at the thought of seeing God Himself face to face for all eternity. She’d rather go to Heaven.
I think that, in many ways, the greatest sufferings in our life come from a lack of this holy difference.  If we are really
able to say “blessed be God” no matter what comes, if we can learn to let go of something because it does not correspond with God’s will for us at this moment, then I think our lives would be so much easier. Easier said than done, I know.

As I continue to ponder my own journey of discernment of religious life, through living active life and nearly joining a cloistered community, these words have stuck with me. Would I like to still be in my religious community, joking that I’ll be buried out back?  Yes. But, I’d rather go to Heaven, and if living in the world as a layperson is my path to sanctity, then so be it. Would I rather have had that cloistered vocation that I explored? Somedays, yes. But, I’d rather go to Heaven.

And now, as I discern married life and am surrounded by friends and siblings with families of their own, it is easy to be frustrated. I never imagined that at this point in my life I would still be so… unsettled. Would I absolutely love to have a family of my own right now, or at least a serious boyfriend, so that I can be closer to the vocation God seems to have in mind for me? Oh, yes, by all means!

But, I’d rather go to Heaven.

Happy Feast Day to Blesseds Louis and Zélie Martin!

Today is the Feast Day of Blesseds Louis &  Zélie Martin, the parents of Léonie Martin (our namesake!) and of St. Thérèse. In their honor, we offer you a few short quotes and a prayer.

“If the Blessed Virgin doesn’t cure me, I shall implore her to cure my child, Léonie, to develop her mind and to make her a saint.” ~ Zélie Martin, in a letter to her brother

“Léonie will love God very much, and will be good to everyone.” ~ Zélie Martin, shortly before her death

“When Léonie left the Visitandines, he did not complain; he never reproached God for not having answered his prayers to send his daughter a vocation. Indeed, it was with a kind of joy that he went to meet her. Léonie spent her time in Lisieux visiting the sick and the dying and doing house work.” ~ St. Thérèse speaking of her father

[All quotes from the book Léonie Martin, A Difficult Life, by Marie Baudouin-Croix]

Prayer for the Canonization of Blesseds Louis and Zélie Martin

God of eternal love, You gave us Blesseds Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of Léonie and St. Thérèse, as an example of holiness in marriage. They remained faithful to You and Your commandments in all the duties and trials of life. They desired to raise their children to become saints. May their prayers and example help Christian family life to blossom in our world today. If it be Your will, grant us the grace we now ask of You through the intercession of Blesseds Louis and Zélie Martin, and let them be counted among the Saints of the Church. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blesseds Louis and Zélie, pray for us as you prayed for your children.

Many thanks to Jacqueline Thérèse for providing quotes and prayer!

The Vocation of Now

After I returned from the convent I was filled with worries, fears, and questions about my future. I asked God over and over: What do You want me to do now? Where do You want me to go with this life You have given me? Why am I back here?

I like to have a plan, directions, and a goal. When I left the convent I felt like I was plan-less, direction-less, goal-less. I didn’t know where to go, what to do, or how to do it.

So, two weeks after I got back I got my first job, working at a deli. I knew if I didn’t start doing something I would go crazy. St. Joseph, the patron saint of workers, isn’t my namesake for no reason! I recently quit the deli in favor of a bakery job and am now saving up for college in the Fall. I don’t know what I’m going to study, what career I want to pursue, or even if God is calling me to religious or married life in the future. These are all future vocations, vocations of later; I needed to have a vocation of now.

I believed that I didn’t have a vocation of now. But I do. What is my vocation of now? I am a single working lay Catholic woman, soon to be a student, too. I try to attend daily Mass and to “pray unceasingly” throughout my day. I try to serve everyone at work with the dignity they deserve as my brothers and sisters in Christ, even if I am only serving them donuts and coffee. I try to be a joy-filled witness of Christ’s love to all. And soon I will also be called to be a living example of my Catholic faith in a college setting, too. This is a pretty busy vocation: spiritual priorities, being in the workforce, and being a student.

Sometimes I get so caught up in wondering what my vocation of later is that I miss what is right before me. I need to live in the moment and use each second to glorify God. This is my plan now: to trust God, show Christ’s love to all, and be joyful no matter what my directions are. My goal is to use where I am now to bring me closer to Heaven, and to bring as many of my brothers and sisters with me, too. These directions, plans, and goal fit with every vocation: vocations of now and later.

Let’s realize that God is calling us now and that we do have vocations of now, and God will guide us to our vocations of later in His own time.

“Entrust your works to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” ~ Proverbs 16:3

Josephine was a postulant for six months before discerning that God was calling her back to the world to attend college. She has been back for four months and is enjoying her job at a local bakery. She is still discerning religious life but is open to married life, too, if that is what God is calling her to. She loves to read, write poetry, sing, cook, go thrift store shopping, and she likes to laugh a lot! She is grateful for the opportunity to reach out to others who are going through the same situations as her.