More Than We Can Ask or Imagine

RaisingofLazarusI love, love, love the story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  The Lord often reminds me of it when I’m trying to pretend that everything is okay (like he doesn’t know everything!).  I can’t tell you how many times in prayer I’ve felt the gentle nudging to be honest with Him but insist that I’m “fine”.  In these times I’m invited to have the honesty of Mary and Martha – to get angry, because God can handle it!  Martha and Mary didn’t meekly say, “oh it’s okay Jesus, we know this is for the best and we trust you.”  No, they were not afraid  to show that they were angry and confused: “what the heck Jesus!  You go around doing all these great miracles but you can’t stop our brother, who you claimed to love, from dying.  Some Messiah you are!”

I think the key to understanding this story is the fact that Mary and Martha never lost their faith.  They believed with their whole hearts that he could have healed their brother and Martha even says, “even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

These two sisters believed that Jesus could do anything, they just didn’t realize “anything” included raising men from the dead.  This is something they couldn’t imagine.  Our God does more than we can ask or imagine.

But the part that we still struggle with is why Jesus let Lazarus die in the first place.   Because he loved them.  Logically speaking, this is completely insane.  Let’s talk about my ways are not your ways.  Jesus even goes so far as to say, “for your sake I am glad I was not there”.  Can you imagine the disciples shock and confusion over this?

Jesus allows Lazarus to die because in the end, it is better for everyone.  I’ve wondered if this was to give them all hope during Jesus’s crucifixion.  They must have thought:  He raised Lazarus from the dead, perhaps He will rise also.  God allows a brief period of pain and mourning, to make the new day that much more brilliant.

One thing I learned in convent was that I hate suffering (okay who really likes it?).  But I really struggle to see the value in it, which I think is true to most of us.  We believe in a God whose plan to save us involved letting His Son die in utter agony by being crucified.  I know we’ve all struggled with the questions “why suffering?” and “why do good things happen to bad people?”  Maybe you’ve even tried to explain redemptive suffering to others and think you really get it.  But deep in each of our hearts we all ask, “why?”

Why does God allow so much evil?  Why do little children get shot, abused and horribly mistreated?  Free will, we like to throw around.   Is that a satisfactory answer?  God could just stop it all if He wanted.  And then what would draw us close to Him?

 

A Beautiful Waste

“What is he?” murmurs one gray shadow of my forefathers to another.  “A writer of storybooks! What kind of a business in life, – what mode of glorifying God, or being serviceable to mankind in his day and generation, – may that be? Why, the degenerate fellow might as well have been a fiddler!”

-The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

Ironically, I was introduced to the show “Call the Midwife” while in the convent.  Now that I have some time on my hands I’ve watching some more of the episodes.  I’ve noticed that some of the characters struggle with something that I do as well (and I suspect most of you): wanting to be useful.  Through aging or illness, they are afraid of not being able to do what they used to, and therefore being of less value.

Over the past few years this desire has been purified but it is still a nagging thought: am I doing something worthwhile?  Will I live up to these ridiculous expectations I have set for myself?

I came face to face with this need to be “useful” in religious life – which was perhaps the Lord’s plan all along.  What good could it do the world to do laundry, sell Altar Bread and pray – oh prayer is what always seems like the most useless thing.  What good does prayer do?

But religious are not the first and are certainly far from being the last to be accused of wasting their lives.

Remember this story?

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Now when Jesus was at  Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.  And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”  But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.”

When I was in college I switched my major from English to Social Work, because I thought I should do something more “practical” to help people.  Partially through physical illness, I was stripped of my desire to be “useful” in the convent and as the Lord uncovered my eyes to see my own beauty, the desire to write re-awoke in me like a living fire.  Poverty fosters creativity and I’ve done my best writing in the past four years, showing me what I am capable of.

So now God is calling me to waste my life in a different way and I have a feeling I won’t be leaving poverty behind!

 

Find Your Humanity! (Beauty and the Beast Style)

TOBI’m sure someone has written about this already, but my cursory internet search came up with nothing, so here’s my two cents: Beauty and the Beast screams Theology of the Body.  I had this revelation while watching the new live action version.

What specifically came to my mind is the fact that St. John Paul II says women teach men how to be human.  This is literally happening in Beauty and the Beast!  Due to the fall, men tend towards beastliness (ok honestly we all do), at least figuratively.  In this classic movie, Prince Charming is literally turned into a beast, so his outer form matches his cold, selfish heart.  Remember, he was never really charming to begin with, so he couldn’t use turning into a beast as an excuse.  However, he became more bitter and resentful.

Enter a beautiful, selfless, young woman.  Here is a person whom the beast can love, can live for.  With her he can, “discover himself through a sincere gift of self”.  And she must let herself be loved as she is, just as she receives him as he is.  She, through her love, helps to redeem and transform him into a man, more of a man than he ever was.

Incidentally, this is all reminding me of the ideas of a newly ordained priest, Fr. Patrick Shultz, of the Cleveland Diocese.  In his Master’s Thesis on the genius of men (it’s about time!), he described the man’s heart as a castle.  A man is pierced, wounded by a woman’s beauty and he let’s her into his heart, to be protected.  The man’s instinct is to live with an outward focus, but when he lets a woman inside she draws him in as well, into the home she creates.

Do you see what I see?? This is also happening in Beauty and the Beast!  The beast is trapped inside this castle, through his own fault.  It became a prison, something to escape from.  But then he lets Belle, aka Beauty, into his castle and eventually into his heart.  His rough exterior is pierced and he is freed to love.  At first he tries to possess Belle, to keep her as a prisoner in his castle, but it is only when he sees her as a gift and lets her go that she can truly be his.

Why do women have this unique role?  The more human we become, the more God-like we become.  Jesus became man so we could see what we’re supposed to look like, for we were made in his image.  Furthermore, God chose to redeem the world through a woman – and continues to do so.  It is women who are the preservers of culture, who embody compassion, kindness and mercy.  It is women who make humanity more human.  Every time a woman gives birth to an immortal soul, it is a redemptive act, and as she tries to bring that child up in a Godly way, then she is bringing that child closer to its destiny of becoming God-like.  She is repairing the image and likeness of God in humanity.

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I’m Back!

My head is cold.  I have an irresistible urge to wear outrageous color combinations.

I gave up being a nun for Lent.  More accurately, God led me into the desert and to follow His crazy plans!  St. Faustina called Jesus “the divine madman” and now I know why!  He will stop at nothing, absolutely nothing, to recreate us in His image, to bring about His plan for our lives, which will ultimately bring us life to the full and blissful union with Him in heaven.  The Divine Bridegroom will stop at nothing to win His Bride and be united with her forever.

For the past three years I have been in formation with the TOR Sisters, as most of you know.  God made it clear that He is calling me elsewhere, so I came back home recently.  I’ll write more about that experience and my time there as I process it.  I’m not sure if anyone even still reads this blog, but if you do hello again!  Thanks for sticking with me.

P.S.  Have pen, will write!  I am looking for a job and any writing opportunities.

Thank you St. Joseph!

My dear friends and family,

I have some sad news to share with you.  This probably really will be my last post (unless the Holy Spirit has other plans!), because…

I AM DEBT FREE!!!!

AKA I can be a sister!!!!!!

Last Friday, I found out that I have been awarded the St. Joseph grant by Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations.  I am still in shock and awe at the great work the Lord has done.

This wonderful organization will now be paying off my student loans and those of everyone else who they are helping.  I ask that you prayerfully consider supporting their mission.

Here is a letter from their website about this years awards and why they need your help more than ever:

We have made a leap of faith.

Two unexpected occurrences have led to a very surprising event for the Fund for Vocations. First, by the time the application period had closed this year we had only 23 applications for grants. Normally, the count is in the 40s. We have no idea why there were so few, but we expect it is just happenstance and we will see a return to normal numbers next year, particularly since we are seeing our usual level of inquiries for early in the year.

Second, our donors’ generosity has greatly exceeded our expectations and the Fund ended 2013 in the fairly good financial condition.

Those two occurrences led the Fund’s board of directors to make a great leap of faith and authorize the funding of grants to all our applicants this year! This act equates to a commitment to raise an additional $75,000 each year for more than a decade.

That is a 35% increase in our commitment to help men and women proceed with the life to which God has called them. As we can only attribute our good financial position to your generous response to God’s call to you, we can do no less. Please pray for us and continue to help us in this work to build up the Church.

I cannot thank you all enough for supporting my vocation and know that all of my benefactors are in my prayers.  Please continue to pray for me especially during this time of initial formation!

I would love to receive letters and hear from you.  My address is 369 Little Church Road, Toronto, OH 43964.  If you’re in the area please don’t hesitate to ask about visiting!

May God Bless you all and may you remain in His most Sacred Heart!

P.S. Entrust St. Joseph with all your needs – he gets things done!

Christians Never Say Goodbye!

I told you that my last post wasn’t goodbye!  I’m writing this quick update while on my home visit because I really need your help.

These last five months have been amazing, challenging, and just all around a blast!  When St. Francis started attracting followers he reportedly said, “…and the Lord gave me brothers.”  Now I can truly say, “…and the Lord has given me sisters!”  The TOR community has quickly become my family and I love them dearly.

By the grace of God and the trust of my superiors, I was allowed to enter with some remaining debt.  However, it does need to be paid off before I enter postulancy in August 2014.  So many of you have been incredibly generous and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  However, there is still about $23,000 that needs to be paid off.

I have applied for a grant from Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations but they do not make their decisions until March 15th.  Please pray extra hard until then!  My chances for receiving the grant will increase if I can decrease my debt before then, so anything will help!

Donations can be made through this website: http://www.youcaring.com/other/form-a-franciscan-sister/85925

Or by mail:  369 Little Church Road   Toronto, OH 43964

Please make checks out to Franciscan Sisters, TOR

We visit a nursing home weekly and bring communion to the Catholic residents. It has been a very stretching experience!

Check out the Youcaring site for continuing updates!

I’ll Be Seeing You

I hate saying goodbye, therefore this is not a goodbye post.  Anyway, C.S. Lewis is on my side.

“Christians NEVER say goodbye!”

This isn’t even a see you later post.  Why is that?  Because of this big, beautiful thing we are part of called the Body of Christ.

I’m not leaving you at all! We’ll be connected, closely and intimately, through the Eucharist.  We receive the Body of Christ.  This means Christ’s personal body, but also, the mystical body of Christ.  We receive each other.  I’ll let Danielle Rose explain(get your box of tissues!):

Over the past week, I’ve been struggling to understand the separation I’ll be entering into.  For religious life entails a certain separation from the world.  Yet, I will enter deeper into the heart of the Church.  My brain can’t handle the paradoxes!  So I’ve been fighting the instinct to “stay in touch” with old friends and people who were never really friends to begin with (again, Lewis backs me up on this).  In short, I am afraid of disappearing.  All our lives, we are conditioned to be “connected” with people in certain ways – mostly through technology.  Without the use of technology, will I no longer be connected to people?  I think everyone can see the falsity of this line of thinking.

As I’ve said before, my life will be about being present to people, specifically the people God calls me into personal relationships with.  First and foremost, my primary relationships, after God, will be with the Sisters I live with.  Secondly, the people I am called to minister to.  Through my life of prayer, I can be intimately connected with people who I may never meet or talk to again.

My best friend and I parted last night (without saying goodbye!).  We were astounded at the lack of sadness we both felt.  There was this overwhelming sense of peace – that it is time for our paths to diverge.  Thank God for the gift of detachment!  We also have the gift of Hope – hope that we will spend eternity together.

And because I’ll basically be living The Sound of Music(without the part about marrying a captain with seven children), I’ll leave you with this:

“Christians NEVER say goodbye!”

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P.S. Don’t forget, my loans still need to be paid off before postulancy, so please consider helping out in any way you can.  Donations can be sent to:

Franciscan Sisters, TOR
369 Little Church Road
Toronto, OH 43964

Or made online here – designate the donation for “Formation – Education – Vocations” and put in honor of Victoria Clarizio.

You will all be in my prayers!