“O my soul, how can you refrain from plunging yourself ever deeper and deeper into the love of Christ, who did not forget you in life or in death, but who willed to give Himself wholly to you, and to unite you to Himself forever?” –Blessed Angela of Foligno (Third Order Franciscan)
About two weeks ago I was blessed with the opportunity to spend the week with the order of sisters I am discerning with. Having had time to process the experience (and having more free time), I’d like to share what God put on my heart.
The week brought much-needed refocusing and quieting of my spirit. Living in an intentional community has been wonderful and is just what I need, but it doesn’t provide much alone time or the contemplation that my soul longs for. Being thoroughly in the midst of the world has caused my mind to be filled with doubts about my vocation – whether it is the attraction to active ministry, marriage or the seeming freedom of being a single lay person.
Yet my week in Ohio left me such a deep sense of peace – one that cannot be ignored. Describing my visits to others is always interesting, because, frankly, some of what I did doesn’t sound all that exciting. I cleaned fans, helped cook, made beds and prayed A LOT.
This was my fourth visit and I am beginning to realize it is getting harder and harder to describe my experiences because most of it involves God whispering within the deep depths of my heart. I have also come to learn that religious life is a mysterious and supernatural way of life, so those who are not called to it often have a hard time understanding the attraction. The best way I can describe it is simply a deep-rooted sense of “rightness.” As much as I try to reason my way out of it or argue why I should be doing something else, that sense remains.
“A vocation is so mysterious a gift, a thing so locked in the inner court of the soul, where alone God speaks His wishes, that no one can properly describe or explain it. What can be said is that a true vocation is a call so compelling that a soul must loosen its hold on the dearest and even the holiest of its loves to rise up and follow the summons.”
~Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C.
I have always been a big believer in seeing everything as a sign from God. I also believe that he especially speaks to me through music. In college, I was introduced to the Jim Cowan song “This is Jesus.” Since then it has been one of my favorite worship songs. Although it is a little known song, it is popular in the Steubenville, Ohio area. Every time I have visited the sisters, without fail, it has been played. I’ve come to think of it as God’s “green light,” telling me to keep moving forward.
So this last time I visited I wondered when it would be played and apparently God wanted to leave no room for doubt. The second day I was there, before evening prayer, I was thinking about the song and literally seconds later a sister began singing it. As everyone joined in, it was impossible to stop the tears of joy that flowed from my eyes.
Later I talked to the sister who started the impromptu singing of “This is Jesus.” She said she had forgotten to prepare a hymn for evening prayer and was inspired to sing that. Holy Spirit FTW.
Having been to the convent a few times, it was natural to settle into the rhythm of their life once again. One new thing I had the chance to do was go to class with the candidates and novices. Call me a nerd, but this was my favorite part of the week! The sister who teaches the novices even commented on how eagerly I listened during class and could see what I love learning.
The other part of their life I was able to observe was a day of renewal. This is like a mini retreat for all the sisters once a month. They keep complete silence for the day and have a chance for deeper contemplation and private prayer. They also have talks by the sisters themselves or priests. The theme for the day of renewal was spiritual motherhood. Although I, along with the other visitors and candidates, didn’t participate in the day, we were able to sit in on a talk by Sr. Therese Marie, who is an incredibly beautiful and deep bride of Christ. Her talk on spiritual motherhood brought us all to tears. Although that particular talk isn’t up yet, you can find others on the website.
What was the one thing I left this week with? That I need to continue to learn to be completely satisfied by God in order to reach a place where I can freely choose to run after his will.
Awhile a go I posted a poem by St. Anthony of Padua. It is meant for those called to marriage, but the fact is, you cannot truly embrace your vocation, “until you are satisfied, Fulfilled and content with being loved by me alone, With giving yourself totally and unreservedly to me. With having an intensely personal and unique relationship with me alone.”
“Your life is not a series of open doors! Listen to your heart! Do not stay on the surface but go to the heart of things! And when the time is right, have the courage to decide! The Lord is waiting for you to put your freedom in his good hands.” – Blessed John Paul II