Dec 31, 2015 |
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!
Dec 7, 2015 |
The Immaculate Conception was a big feast day in the convent I had entered. We had our letter-writing day for all of our Christmas cards on that day and it was a mad race to try and write to every person that we did not often have the chance to write the rest of the year. There was Christmas music on and different Christmas treats around in the midst of all the Advent preparations. I always enjoyed this day in the convent, and I found it difficult the first year I was home again during Advent and had to write Christmas cards whenever I chose to make time for them. There is something to be said for the beautiful way feast days are often celebrated in the convent.
Mary was someone who was difficult for me to relate to and understand prior to entering Religious Life. I did not have much of a devotion to Mary, and I often prayed the rosary half-heartedly because I felt it was a “good” thing to do. During my time in the convent, my devotion and love for Mary grew and grew. I am grateful for that gift that Religious Life gave to me.
After returning home, I found I couldn’t even speak with Jesus in prayer most of the time because I felt so completely rejected by Him. I had laid down my life and made my vows only to discern Him asking me to leave a year later. Mary was the one solace I had in leaving because I felt like she could understand my pain of feeling so separated from Jesus while still knowing in my mind that He did love me and want what was eternally best for my soul. I’m grateful for her taking my hand and leading me through the darkness of leaving Religious Life. On days when I couldn’t bear to spend a minute in prayer, I was able to say a prayer to Our Lady and find some peace with her.
Jun 11, 2015 |
Day Nine: love that brings rest, peace, and joy.
Opening Prayer: Father, we rejoice in the gifts of love we have received from the Heart of Jesus your Son. Open our hearts to share His life and continue to bless us with His love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Scripture Reading: Romans 5: 5-11 God proves his love for us: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Matt. 11: 25-30 Come to me, I will refresh you; I am gentle and humble of heart.
Reflection: There are many reasons to be troubled and worried. It could be one’s health, a problem in the family, economic difficulties, unemployment. It could be a problem in a relationship or some fault or failing that we cannot get rid of. We are anxious and worried, rather than peaceful and joyful.
Precisely when we feel these difficulties, we should turn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He invites us, He calls us to receive and feel His love and peace. Come to me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest, I will refresh you. The love of Jesus Christ is the anchor, the polestar, the rock we need. He is our refuge and our strength. He is our peace and our joy.
Resolution/Practice: 1. Every morning or evening, resolve to take five minutes of quiet in which you recall and thank God for His blessings of God to you and your family. These blessings are signs of God’s love.
2. When something troubling or worrying occurs, try to get into the habit of saying prayerfully: Sacred Heart of Jesus, Your Kingdom Come.
3. Reflect on your practice and frequency of receiving Holy Communion. As Jesus is ready and willing to come and be with us, so we must prepare well to receive Him and His love.
Apr 14, 2015 |
By Liz Miller.
“Sometimes the only way the Good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.”
– Ven. Archbishop Fulton Sheen
It’s been almost 1 1/2 years since I wrote “A Hairy Story,” and yet it feels like eons ago. Firstly, I’ll just say that, as women who have entered and left religious life, it is healthy to take time to look at how we’ve grown since “That Day”. After all, who wants to live “the unexamined life?”
As a young, Catholic woman having left the world, entered the convent and then re-entered the world, my life has gone through such a beautiful string of phases, it’s hard not to recognize God’s hand in it all:
Peace… Confusion… Struggle… ReAbandonment… Discernment
Because I could write a book [and perhaps someday I will… bucket-list maybe?], I’ll try to limit myself to short snippets of insights I’ve gathered throughout my experience thus far.
Peace: If ever I am distraught about or question my current situation, I must never forget that strong sense of peace I received from leaving the convent and knowing it was God’s will for me. This peace stayed with me for a maximum of 5 days after leaving the convent. All of a sudden, I felt…
Confusion: During the month between leaving the convent and going to college, the questions that ran through my head are very legitimate. Why would God do this to me? I love Him with all of my being, but how am I supposed to reconcile this feeling of having my heart broken? Who am I? Where do I belong in this world? Confusion then led to the hardest…
Struggle: Immediately upon attending University, I experienced a relapse of self-consciousness that I hadn’t felt since high school. At this point, I know I am supposed to attend and graduate college. But I ache to figured out who I am in the world: am I the crazy Catholic girl who wears long skirts and does all the Catholic things on campus? Or am I hiding behind the skirts because I want to make my femininity absolutely clear due to my short hair? The answer was the latter, which played a large role with my insecurities. Praise God that I didn’t have it in me to take the downward path to despair but instead walked tip-toe on the road to…
ReAbandonment: Once I recognized how much I still needed Christ, I found comfort only in His presence. With the help of the chaplain on campus, and my now-best friend who – Providentially – had left the same convent and attended the same University, with the help of the Mother Superior of a Community that is close in location and heart, and Leonie’s Longing, I learned that my life’s not over. In fact, Life Himself has taught me the truth and beauty about my vocation. This was the stepping stone for my…
Discernment: My second semester of college found me at a conference organized by the diocese where my university is. There was a religious community that I was intrigued by, which surprised me because I had distaste for all things religious life prior. Curiosity led to interest which led to a conversation by phone with the vocations assistant. To my surprise, she didn’t want to talk about my having left the convent. For half an hour, we talked about my prayer life. This is the second most life changing event, but probably the first and foremost best change that has happened. Through her direction, I have re-discovered my relationship with Christ because I made time for Him in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I’ve learned how to pray with Scripture and with Christ.
During one of our monthly phone calls, I mentioned to her that I was struggling with worries about my vocation. Am I called to marriage or to the religious life??
Her answer: “That’s not for you to worry about right now… Your vocation is to love Jesus Christ.”
So I’ve found that this is the best and most exciting vocation there is. That being said, there are moments when I wish I could just snag a guy, run away, and get married. There are moments when my heart leaps for joy at the sight of a religious sister. And of course, there are moments when I want to quit school because the road seems too long, the light at the end of the tunnel too far to see.
But then I think of how much the Lord can do with the little I give Him.
Take heart, sisters in Christ! And “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15); even if that “anyone” is the doubt inside you. We gave up everything to follow Him once… He’ll give us strength to do it time and time again. Let us not forget that a life worth living is a life worth giving – a daily laying down of our own wills in exchange for His; a daily re-version of heart, mind, body and soul.
Here I am, Lord, I come to do Your will.
Reunited with siblings after leaving the convent.
Enjoying abundant blessings of studying abroad in the Eternal City!
*If you check out this video, Ruth Bachman explains well the story of the book after which this post is titled.
May 4, 2014 |
Leaving the atmosphere of religious life can feel like a big let-down. It’s easy to fall in love with that atmosphere, away from the seemingly pointless hustle and banality of our modern culture. It’s easy to think that you’ll never find the peace and tranquility you found “on the inside” again, and this fact alone drives many people who leave a community to near-madness. I know, it happened to me. But it doesn’t have to be like this.
One of the biggest problems I faced when leaving was despair. I worried about how I’d find work and where I would wind up and how I’d pay the bills. I worried that I’d failed God, or worse, that He and in particular His ministers in the Church had failed me. I wondered if He really cared about me or had a plan for me. I also felt that the world was completely against me, that worldly people would believe me to be a religious freak, and that without life in a religious organization I would be incapable of survival, in both the spiritual and material sense. Never in my life was I more wrong. What I desperately needed was a view of good things that can happen on the outside, and thankfully I got that.
I’m not advocating a foolhardy Pollyanna attitude, but I do know from first-hand experience that the world really isn’t quite so bad as that, and being a faithful and joyful Christian is possible out here. Here’s some things I discovered, in no particular order:
The world is a place filled with beauty. Beg, borrow, or steal a ride and go camping. Visit some place you’ve never been. Meet some new people. Or if you really can’t get very far, go for a long walk. Stare at the sky. Watch a squirrel closely. Listen to beautiful music. Then remember this: God made all this for you. God made you, and everything around you, because He loves you. This experience is His gift to you. This experience has been so necessary for me from time to time, because otherwise, if I’m trapped indoors or at work for a long time, I can easily assume that God isn’t close. When you’re in the convent or in a seminary it can be easy to forget to perceive beauty and God’s loving care for the world in places outside the Adoration chapel, the choir bench, or a beautiful traditional Mass. You’ll feel starved for love and beauty if you ignore the great beauty of the world around you.
Waste time with other people. It can be tempting to spend a lot of time working or praying, or working and praying, if you’re really into ora et labora. But humans are meant to be in relationship with others, and most often you’ll find that you can’t do that if you won’t just waste time with them. In a community it’s easy to take this for granted. You’re always together, doing the mundane things of life. When you’re outside, you won’t have this. So ask somebody to sit and eat with you in the break room at work. Talk about frivolous things and laugh. Even the most introverted of people can feel starved for this after leaving a community.
Remember that the world in a very real way needs you, and you will need the world. Remember that God has given you gifts, gifts that are meant to serve other people. Be prepared to be surprised at the ways your gifts get used by others. The skills that you thought would make you so perfect as a priest or a nun could very well make you an extremely effective counsellor or businessperson. Don’t be afraid to use these skills on the job and outside of it too. It will draw people to God in ways they do not expect, and He will reward you more than a human employer could do. There is little in this life that is more rewarding than that.
Finally, consider seeking new ways to pray. Without the community life of prayer you may find it very difficult to pray in the old ways. I found that after leaving seminary I could no longer pray the Office with anything other than a sense of reluctant recitation. I needed something else. So I learned lectio divina, and started taking a sketch pad with me to the parish Adoration chapel to draw what I meditated upon. God is a person who loves you and wants to spend time with you, so do not become discouraged if your old prayers seem lifeless and impossible. He will understand if things change.
Anthony is a thoroughly lovable former seminarian, artist, and Catholic blogger. He is not only the author of this week’s post, but also the creator of its featured image. If you’ve never seen his artwork, check out his blog at http://weaselsgonarf.blogspot.com/.