Be Not Afraid

“You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion.

~ The Silver Chair

I could blame it on Nemo, I could blame it on my lack of free time, but in truth I have not written in almost 3 weeks because I have been mulling over some big decisions and couldn’t quite put into words all that God has been asking of me.

In the past few weeks, I have been astounded by the mysterious, yet wonderful ways in which God opens doors.  I have learned that when God swings open a door and asks you to run through it, you make like the apostles and follow him immediately.

I have  been begging God to provide a way for my loans to be taken care of.  After being accepted, that begging became more persistent and demanding(we’re supposed to be like children, right?)  I really need to start being careful what I wish for…

God answered my prayer, but, true to form, not how I was expecting.  The same week I was invited to join the Sisters, I was also offered a nannying job which would allow me to pay off a significant chunk of my debt(but I still need your help!)  As you may remember, I’ve been part of Chi Rho Catholic Service Corps since September and had committed to do that until June.  And yet when this opportunity presented itself, there was a definite sense that it was time to move on and that  God was calling me to take a real and active step towards my Vocation. He has given me another chance to respond with an emphatic “yes!” to his call.

So, at the risk of seeming irresponsible and being rejected by those who do not understand my decision, but with the blessing of the TOR Sisters, I have left Chi Rho.  It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, but I am at peace with it.  I will miss my students and coworkers dearly but they will continually be in my prayers.

Stay tuned for updates as I embark on the next step of my journey!

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,  “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

 “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

~ Isaiah 6:8

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Yahoooo!!!!!

Dear, readers I have exciting news!! After beginning the application process to join the TOR Sisters almost exactly one year ago,  I have officially been invited to enter as a candidate.

This pretty much sums up how I feel.
This pretty much sums up how I feel.

So basically I need to raise $24,000 in 8 months.  As my kindergartners would say: easy-peasy lemon squeezy!

The Risk of Surrender

Right before I visited the TOR Sisters for the first time I decided to take a huge leap of trust and not make any after graduation plans.  The tug towards sisterhood was too strong to ignore and I really felt like God might be calling me to enter right after graduation.  As a sign of surrender I decided not to apply for graduate school or a volunteer program (which I was originally planning on doing).  I trusted that God would show me the right order and that he has a plan.  Then I found the TOR Sisters, fell in love and was put on the fast track towards acceptance.

Well I recently received the psychologist’s evaluation a few days ago.  There wasn’t anything too concerning in the report, but there are some areas of self-improvement and self-discovery that he wants me to explore.  Then yesterday the vocation director called me and revealed the decision of the formation board: they want me to wait a year before entering.  I’m still accepted and everything, my application process is just being extended.  Still, my heart sank at her words.  I had gotten so caught up in the possibility of entering in August, that I had ignored the reality.  The reality is that I have a lot of growing to do, I’m still very young and I haven’t done any living in the larger world outside of college and school.

This is my first concrete experience of obedience with a religious community but it was surprisingly easy to accept their decision.  I think it’s because deep down I know this year is what I need. It’s almost a relief to have this decision made for me.

Up until now I’ve been reveling in the fact that I don’t really need to figure out what I’m doing after graduation.  Now I have to get a job and move back home.  I also need to be very attentive to how God wants me to spend this year.  It’s important the I engage in activities that will help me grow spiritually, as a person and in my relationships with others.  I need to sit down and think hard about what I want to get out of this year.

One thing God has definitely been placing on my heart lately is a passion for the pro-life movement.  I think he is asking me to get more involved with actively fighting the horror of abortion and widespread use of contraception.  If anyone knows of any opportunities involving this movement, let me know!

Pushing the Fast Forward Button

I wrote my last post just before going to visit the Sisters and I feel like God has pushed the fast forward button on my life since then.

The few days I got to spend in Ohio were blessed and filled with joy.  It was a very confirming experience and I definitely think it is where God is calling me.  God revealed to me several ways in which my talents and skills will be used within the order.   I spent some time at The Samaritan House, which is a thrift store and food pantry.  The Sisters that work there really care for the physical and spiritual needs of the people, by providing them with food and clothing, but also praying with them.  I really saw the commitment to Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy in this ministry.  They are looking at ways to expand their services to the poor, so my skills as a Social Worker would be put to good use.  I also had a chance to tag along with the postulants to the ministry that they engage in which involves visiting the elderly at a nursing home.  I was telling them about my experience working with the elderly and one of the girls commented that maybe I could teach them a few things.

I noticed throughout my time there that “being present” is very important to these Sisters.  One day a Priest was staying for breakfast and the mother superior asked if anyone could “be present” to him.  I thought it was interesting that she said this, instead of just asking if anyone could spend time with him.  This phrase was used by a couple of the other Sisters and I decided that it should probably be their motto.  It just says so much: being present to someone implies that you are giving that person your full attention and are not thinking about what you have to do in an hour or thinking about how bored you are or texting.  It also reminds me of the fact that the entire purpose of consecrated life is to be the presence of God in the world.  These Sisters truly live in the joy of the present moment.

So after spending a few days with them and being hit over the head by the Holy Spirit numerous times,  I sat down to process my visit with the vocation director.  She sensed that my visit had been filled with peace and asked me if I wanted to continue with the application process.  Without hesitation I said, “yes!”

The main parts of the process are extensive interviews and a psychological test.  If all goes smoothly, these things are going to happen pretty fast within the next two months.  Next weekend I am meeting two of the Sisters in Washington DC to do the interviews, which are 2 and 4 hours long.  After that, I will find out on January 30th if I am approved by the formation board to move onto the psychological exam.  If I am approved, I will be going to Ohio on February 20th to do that.  If I pass that, I will be given an invitation to enter pending my loans being taken care of.  Then God needs to make some serious miracles happen and if I can get my student loans paid off, I can enter in August.  He’s already taking care of me though.  The Knights of Colombus at my home parish have given me money to pay for the psychological test and I know that’s just the beginning of the blessings that God is going to shower upon me.

Recently I came up for an analogy for my life; I am sprinting full speed towards a cliff.  I can’t really see what’s waiting for me at the bottom of the cliff, but I know it’s Jesus waiting to catch me.  Oh also I’m afraid of heights, so there’s that.

“Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.” ~ Pope Benedict XVI

What About Africa?

For all of my readers asking this question, you should know that I am too.  For the longest time I was so sure that God was calling me to foreign missions, particularly in Africa.  But as I continue to surrender my dreams to His will, something strange is happening: he is calling me in completely unexpected ways.  When I went on the discernment retreat with the TOR Sisters in Ohio, the vocation director said that it is important to discover the deepest desires of our heart.  There are many things we want in life, but some of these are superficial and not really what God needs us to focus on.  It reminds me of this quote:  “There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart…pursue those.”

This definitely applies to me because I have many random passions and get easily distracted by good things.  So as I walk down this path of discernment, I’ve been asking myself what the deepest desires of my heart are.  What I came up with is: serve the poor – both spiritually and materially, reveal the truth of God’s love, make the redeeming love of Christ known and build up the Church.

At the same time God has been revealing to me the desperate need of the American people.  More than anything, we are spiritually poor and the spiritual state of our youth especially is disheartening.  I believe that he has important work for me to do here.

When I went to Tanzania, that is absolutely where I needed to be.  I learned many important things during my time there and it was huge leap of faith which helped solidify my relationship with God.  God took me to the other side of the world to confirm my vocation as a Sister, teach me the power of prayer and teach me to trust him in everything I do.

In the end, complete obedience is the only way to true freedom.  By completely abandoning myself to God’s will, I will allow him to fulfill all of my desires and beyond.  I may still end up in Africa one day, but the only way to find out is to be obedient and go to Ohio…

A God of Surprises

So I wrote a post about two months ago revealing I am discerning religious life.  It has become obvious that God is definitely calling me down that path and now that almost everyone in my life knows, I’ll be using this blog to track my journey towards sisterhood from now on.

God sure likes keeping me on my toes and keeps surprising me with blessing after blessing.  I’m learning that the more I give to him the more he will give back to me.  At the beginning of this school year I began actively and prayerfully seeking out which order of Sisters God wants me to join.  After a couple of months of searching though, I got frustrated.  With the internet all the orders in the world are at my fingertips and that is way too overwhelming.  Finally I stopped looking and told God that he was going to have to lead me to the right one in His own time.  I really should be careful what I wish for…

I decided to focus my energy on learning about other aspects of religious life instead.  One day, while browsing google to figure out how to pay off my loans in a record amount of time, I stumbled across the website of The Franciscan Sisters of the Penance of Our Sorrowful Mother. After perusing it for a couple of seconds I realized that I had met these sisters before!  My first interaction with them was on a retreat about a year ago.  I had a powerful experience of prayer with them and had talked to one of the novices about discernment.

I knew that God had led me to this website for a reason so I decided to check them out.  I contacted the vocation director and found out they were having a discernment retreat in early November.  I also found out that two girls from the retreat where I had met the sisters originally were going.  It seemed that everything fell into place for me to go out to Ohio.

It wasn’t love at first sight upon entering the convent, but as the weekend progressed I began to have a sneaking suspicion that my search might be over.  Their charism and life style really clicked and it seemed that everything they said was already on my heart.  The Holy Spirit continually bombarded me with signs throughout the weekend.

Throughout the weekend this phrase repeated itself over and over in my heart: Everything you long for, great and small, is found here.  Any doubts I have since returning to “real life” have been pushed aside by God’s great guidance.  It has already worked out for me to go back in January and I can’t wait!  I could go on and on about the incredible things God has been doing in my life in the past month but I’ll leave you with this for now.

This order is so far from where I thought I would end up (geographically and spiritually) but obviously God had other plans.  That’s a whole other blog post though…