On May 29th 2014, we explored the stages of grief and discussed healthy ways of coping with the pain experienced by those who have been in religious life and returned to the world. We sincerely hope you benefit from this video! May God bless you.
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?
As many of you know, Pope Francis announced on July 5 that JP2 and Bl. John XXIII will soon be canonized.
I recently read a biography about the life of Pope John XXIII (Angelo Roncalli). The book was filled with beautiful and interesting stories about his life. One that struck me in a particular way was about his niece Enrica. She was in the convent for a little over a year, fell ill and had to withdraw. When he heard this, he wrote her a note, knowing that she was having difficulty being back in the world.
“My dear niece Enrica, a word for you alone. You have already shed enough tears. Shed no more but be happy and content in the Lord. If the Lord requires something else of you he will make his voice heard clearly and loudly. Holiness consists not in penances and extraordinary practices but in seeking in all things the Lord’s will, in obedience and humility.” (“I Will Be Called John” by Lawrence Elliott, page 156)
Enrica later said “his letter made it possible for me to accept myself.” I find the last part such a great reminder that God is calling us to holiness here and now. Many people think that one has to go to the convent/monastery/etc. in order to be holy. But if God has brought you back to the world (even if it’s for a short time), it is because this is part of the path to holiness for you.
St. Josemaria Escriva was a strong proponent of holiness in daily life, and that is the purpose of Opus Dei (which he founded). If you haven’t heard of it, I would encourage you to learn more!
If you are having a hard time adjusting, I would encourage you to ask the intercession of Bl. John XXIII, St. Josemaria Escriva and Leonie Martin.
Here is a newly approved prayer to Leonie:
Dear Leonie our Sister,
You have already intervened with God on our behalf,
and we would like to be able to pray to you officially,
so that many more might know you.
Come to the aid of parents who risk losing a child,
as you nearly died at a very young age.
Continue to uphold the families
where different generations have problems living together in peace.
Enlighten youth who question their future and hesitate to commit.
Show to all the way of prayer
which permits you to bear your limitations and your difficulties with confidence,
and to give yourself to others.
Lord, if such is your will,
deign to accord us the grace that we ask of you
through the intercession of your servant Leonie,
and inscribe her among the number of the venerable of your Church.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Imprimatur: March 25, 2012
Bishop of Bayeux-Lisieux
Do you believe that God will fulfil all that He plans to through you?…or do you feel that your only opportunity is destroyed, has passed, or is not going to happen? Well, the good news is that despair has no place in the Christian life and that nothing is outside of God’s Providence.
The greatest Christian walk was done through a woman who began by saying, “How can this be?” The response from God’s angel ended with the words, “For with God nothing will be impossible”; to which Mary responded, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:26-38) This woman said yes to her God in the moment of the grace of the day, having no clue what was to come and not being prepared that moment to see the fullness and end of the walk that she would live. She received the grace of the day to take the step of the day that He asked of her. This is the radical Christian walk. This is the walk of radical faith, trust, and vulnerability to what God has planned. This faith begins by believing that if we just respond positively to the promptings of the day that He asks of us, there is no greater thing we could possibly do in our lives at that moment. Seriously, just stop to think, if I say yes to all that God asks for this day, there is no greater walk I can choose. The Living God finds us, holds us, and leads us in the living moment! This is truly the Marian journey with God, life in the Spirit, the faith that Mary had, that made her not fear one prompting of the Lord because she knew that with God leading her she had no one and nothing to fear. If we would only all believe that and live that way, living in the vulnerable moment of now, not knowing what God plans to open to us next.
What does this mean? Well, it starts by realizing that we didn’t miss the only plane to Jerusalem or lose the only chance to meet that perfect man or enter the only fitting Religious Order. No, that is not how God works and that is not awaiting the Lord with radical hope and trust. Would God really say, “You just missed my only plan for you so now you will have to live the rest of your days in misery; I’ve got nothing else for you?” No, that is certainly not our God. There is no path we can choose that God can not make glorious in the end. Our God says this, “Fear not. Do not despair. Have faith. I know well the plans that I have in mind for you.”
We may find doors shut that we thought we were to walk through. Or paths diverge where we thought were certain. However, the one thing we must hold belief above all: Praise the Lord, He is in control, He is God and we are not; there is no need to despair; he will provide if we let Him! And the more we allow Him to lead us where He wishes and stop thinking that we need to make things happen instead of letting them be done unto us, the better off we will be, and the more peaceful. When we think that it all depends on us, we will inevitably feel the anxious, unnecessary weight of the world on our shoulders. A famous line a good friend says is, “Don’t worry, God will have his way with you.” The catch is: we must let Him have His way with us in active-receptivity of His Will. Then, watch out world of what He will do through us!
Allowing ourselves to be disposed before God and walking towards what we believe that He is asking of us is scary at times and makes us vulnerable to possible rejection, hurt, or loss, however, this disposition will bring the greatest joy of our lives if we follow Him. God loves His sons and daughters vulnerable to Him. Peter loved the Lord but had many winding paths in trying to follow Him, however, did any others get out of the boat to walk on water!? Or was anyone else given the keys of heaven? It’s better to get out there and walk with the possibility of sinking when the Lord invites us to the challenge, then to never get out and feel the water under our feet.
Will the Lord find us open and waiting in a vulnerable stance, ready to face the next opportunity He gives us to receive a gift, be an instrument of His love in the world, or are we too fearful of hurt or failure, finding it easier or safer to stay where I keep myself and what I make happen in life? Will Christ walk away from our city with no power to perform miracles because of our lack of faith (Mk 6:1-6) or will he have the freedom to say “your faith has healed you” or “be it done according to your faith”. (Mt15:28)
Let’s pray for one another, that we may foster the Marian walk with our Lord and receive the grace of the day that He gives us and walk with Him and in Him on whatever crazy paths He may lead us, with faith that truly has Divine power to walk on water (Mt 14:22-33) and to move mountains (Mt 21:21-22)!
By Dawn Hausmann.
Dawn is the Director of Consecrated Vocations in the Diocese of Lansing Department of Formation.