To read the first installment of this three-part series, click here.
When praying about which of the many aspects of Theology of the Body to cover in this blog series, I really felt the Holy Spirit tugging at my heart to focus most importantly on one word:Hope. Honestly, I don’t even know if this word is mentioned once in the audiences of Theology of the Body, but that is the topic the Spirit wants me to develop. Specifically, hope in our identity as daughters loved infinitely by God, seen particularly through the witness of Mary.
The main reason I found these audiences of St. John Paul II so life-changing was that it helped me focus on a very important reality that was missing in my life- my identity as a daughter of God. When experiencing depression, extreme self-centeredness, and low self-esteem, I seemed to lose a sense of knowing my worth and even start to fear my own self.
In this beautiful catechesis that God placed in my life, I found support in my inner struggle. It helped me answer the following questions I was asking in my heart, “Who am I? What is my purpose?” In the asking of these questions, I found that I needed to become rooted in my identity first, and then to go forth from that into my mission.
We are all called to communion and love. Out of all the desires of our hearts, the one that is at the center is the desire to love and be loved- to enter into communion and union with another. This desire in each and every human person is a very good desire, and not only that, it points to the deepest desire that God has put in man- the desire for communion with Himself.
How do we live out this desire for union? We must know of our identity and receive. Women have the special gift of receptivity and receiving the love of another. We can see this especially in the example of Mary. She was the most beautiful example of authentic womanhood, and following her example, we can be the women God has created us to be.
Mary became a living vessel of God’s presence and love through her receptivity, seen particularly in the Incarnation. She had the particular gift in her femininity to receive and bear forth life through such open receptivity. Mary knew her identity came from God, and so had the confidence in His love and providence for her. In knowing of God’s love for her, she was able to give her “fiat” in trust, love, and freedom.
Likewise, by rooting ourselves in our immense dignity as daughters of the Father, purchased by the precious blood of Christ, we can open ourselves to receive all the love that God has for us. Even amid your own struggle of coming home from the convent, know that it is part of the beautiful plan of God, even if you do not understand right now. Trust in Him and be open to receive His love for you!
This is the first instalment of a three-part series on the Theology of the Body of Pope John Paul II, and its special meaning for women who have left the religious life.
“For my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9) Have you ever thought of these words, especially as you struggle day by day, or even moment my moment in your transition home from the convent? In my own life, my time of coming home from the convent helped me to see how utterly helpless I was, and there were times that I felt so overburdened with my fragility that I wondered how God would bring good out of it. While I believed the mystery of the cross – that God brings good out of every evil and weakness – I found such difficulty experiencing it in my own life.
I doubt I was the only person that experienced immense guilt, fear, shame, and acceptance when I came home. Honestly, speaking with many of the young women from my class who also left, it is a common experience. Even though I made the decision to leave the convent after much discernment, I constantly doubted myself if I did the right thing. Before I knew it, I was absorbed in fears of making any decisions due to an immense feeling of shame.
While I knew these were lies from the evil one, I could not seem to shake off all these struggles, even as months went by. It was then that I knew that that God was calling me to abandon all to Him and to let Him take my weakness. I knew that He had the most perfect plan for me from before I was born and so would take my weakness and use it for His glory. It was amidst all this that God reached out to me and healed me through St. John Paul II’s catechesis called Theology of the Body.
I came across Theology of the Body in St. John Paul II’s “Letter to Women” in a Catholic study group called Endow (Education on the Nature and Dignity of Woman), and this began to touch the deep recesses of my heart. Amidst my pain and suffering of trying to figure out who I was again, St. John Paul II encouraged me that I had an immense gift to give to the world as a woman. Through his letter to women, this saint led me to encounter the heart of God the Father in a profound way.
In my own life experience of coming home from the convent and adjusting, God called me to know ever more deeply of my immense dignity as His child, and to trust in His Divine Providence. When coming face-to-face with my own fears and inwardness, God touched me with the beauty of human relationships and what it truly means to love through Theology of the Body. I hope to share that with you in the coming posts of how this catechesis led to deep healing in my experience of coming home from the convent, along with how it might help you in your journey. I pray that in this blog series, God speaks to your heart in how he calls you to love and communion with Himself in your experience of coming home from the convent.