A Request for Prayer

Every six years, the Canossian Sisters convoke a “General Chapter”, a formal body comprised of our Sisters from all around the world. The Sisters nominated, will meet this coming spring in Rome. Prior to that, each of our 19 provinces is conducting their own Chapters through which they feed issues for discernment into the preparation for the General Chapter. The Sisters of the North American province of Cristo Rey will be meeting from November 11-19, during which we will review our journey and plot the course for the next six years. We will also elect from among us a Chapter Sister who will represent the Province in Rome at the General Chapter in the spring.

All is done with the words of our Mother Foundress Saint Magdalene of Canossa in mind: “see to it that the spirit of the Institute is handed down in all its entirety and perfection to those who come into it after you.”

It is a time of intense prayer and discernment. Will you join us?

Icone St JosephI invite you to join us in prayer as we continue our preparation, using this beautiful prayer to Saint Joseph:

O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.

O Saint Joseph, assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

O Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. Amen

O Saint Joseph, hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. O Saint Joseph, pray for me.

[I ask for the success of the Provincial Chapter of the Canossian Sisters of North America (November 11-19, 2013), may the Sisters be open to the Holy Spirit and have courage to speak the truth, for the good of the whole Institute and for the poor they serve.]

Saint Joseph, Pray for us!

Saint Magdalene of Canossa, Pray for us!

Saint Josephine Bakhita, our Universal Sister, Pray for us!

Venerable Fernanda Riva, Pray for us!

Saint Francis of Assisi, Pray for us!

Saint Cajetan, Pray for us!

 

Related Posts:

All the Saints Pray for Us

Patron Saints

Seven Sundays Remembering St Joseph

Pope Benedict Chooses a Road Less Travelled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Robert Frost’s famous poem was instrumental in the shaping of my early adulthood. It seemed to me a mystical thing to stand at a crossroad and look down each fork as far as one could see, deciding which of the two to choose. This image is the one I looked to in carving out my own religious calling.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

I could have chosen a great number of things, and as I whittled through my choices, I found a wanting to follow the Lord. The first steps down that path seemed well worn by the many who had gone before me. Yet it seemed more edgy and rough compared to the path of my friends; an uncertainty hung there that frightened me and yet compelled me to look at it more closely.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

The evening I entered the Canossian Sisters, I recall how new everything seemed. A new page was indeed beginning as I learned how to live in a community of women of different cultures (my first community comprised of one Filipino, one Chinese, One Mexican-American, three Mexicans and myself of deep California-American roots). Just as Frost hints at the starting down that un-trodden path, my stepping the threshold of the Postulant house left me changed.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

There is one mistake I made in my own estimation of this first step. I thought the hardest part of my journey was the decision to enter. What I have learned – what should have been obvious – is the first turn off the beaten path was only the first of many choices; the journey only begins with that first step where the undergrowth is thickest.

God woos each of us, His beloved, slowly and gently pulling us by the hand at our own pace to wade ever deeper into His love. My journey to follow Christ more deeply into the abyss of His love has so far to go. Thankfully, God is patient to present the invitation to each of us to enter the Portal of His love in our life of prayer, Sacramental life, and community.

As we watch Pope Benedict in the final hours of his Pontificate, he is preparing for the plunge into God’s love.  He has heard the Lord call Him even more into quiet, to become less so that God can be more; to a place where God can become everything.  This is difficult for even religious to understand, and we must understand this from the perspective of our cloistered brothers and sisters who live their lives as a hidden sacrifice of praise to God and prayer for the world. Mother Maria Angelica explains:

“When he lives this monastic lifestyle, his prayers will reach those who maybe were unbelievers during his papacy,” said Mother Maria Angelica, of the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria del Rosario. “I’m absolutely sure of this, of the value of his prayer and of his silence. And it will reach the whole world, even where it wasn’t previously able to reach. . . .  [Even unbelievers] will feel the effects of [a cloistered person’s] prayer.”

benedictatprayerIt is a very generous act.

One where Pope Benedict’s impact on the world is just beginning.

And that will make all the difference.

Please read The Anchoress’ take on Pope Benedict’s call to that which is essential in the life of the Baptized.

 

 

 

A New Year – A Patron Saint

I wrote on Twitter this morning:

Each Sister of my religious community receives a Patron Saint for the year, along with a mandate to pray for an intention of the Church and/or of our Religious Institute. This year’s line-up of Saints is pretty formidable (at the bottom of the post, there is a very helpful Saint Finder that can help you locate a Patron Saint for 2012)!

Sister Teresa received Blessed Cesar de Bus, Founder of the Priests and Sisters of Christian Doctrine, Patron of Catechists (our primary ministry).

“I was so beside myself and fired with such a longing to do something in imitation of him (St Charles Borromeo), that I would not give my eyes sleep or my days rest until I had given some beginning to this resolution of mine.”

Feast Day: April 15

Virtue of Piety.

Pray for our Ministries of Charity: Catechesis, Care of the Sick, Education, Formation of the Laity, and Spiritual Exercises.

Sister Elisa received Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church and Founder of the Redemptorists, Patron of Vocations (God knows we need more workers in the vineyard!).

“It is necessary for you to pray diligently to God to make you know his will as to what state he wants you in. But take notice that to have this light, you must pray to him with indifference…if you entreat him with indifference and resolution to follow his will, God will make you know clearly what state is better for you.”

Feast Day: August 1

Virtue of Humility.

Pray for the increase of Holy Vocations to our Religious Institute.

Sister Felicity received Saint Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church and Refoundress of the Discalced Carmelites, Patron of Religious and of Headache Sufferers.

“Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and there is only one Glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.”

Feast Day: October 15

Virtue of Fortitude.

Pray for renewal of the Canossian Religious Institute to its original fervor and Foundress Saint Magdalene of Canossa’s intention.

Sister Jenny received Saint Cajetan, Founder of the Theatines, and was known for his concern for the corruption of priests, and for the sick in hospitals. He is the Patron of the Unemployed.

“Do not receive Christ in the Blessed Sacrament so that you may use him as you judge best, but give yourself to him and let him receive you in this Sacrament, so that he himself, God your saviour, may do to you and through you whatever he wills.”

Feast Day: August 7

Virtue of Faith in Divine Providence.

Pray for the Protection of the Church against scandal and corruption.

Lastly, my Patron Saint is Our Lady of Good Counsel, whose image is linked to a mystical appearance of a painting in the town of Genazzano, Italy on the Feast of Saint Luke (April 25). She is the Patron of those seeking clarity/enlightenment.

O Mary of Good Counsel, inflame the hearts of all who are devoted to you, so that all of them have shelter in you, O great Mother of God. O most worthy Lady, let everyone choose you as teacher and wise counselor of their souls, since you are, as Saint Augustine says, the counsel of the Apostles and counsel of all peoples. Amen.

Feast Day. April 26

Virtue of Prudence

Pray for the Provincial Council of North America and for the Institute’s General Council.

And so begins our New Year, flanked by our Patron Saints, along with our Institute’s protectors:

Saint Michael the Archangel, Pray for Us!

Saint Francis of Assisi, Pray for Us!

Saint Cajetan, Pray for Us!

Servant of God, Sister Fernanda Riva (FdCC) Pray for Us!

Servant of God, Sister Luigia Grassi (FdCC) Pray for Us!

Saint Josephine Bakhita (FdCC) Pray for Us!

Saint Magdalene of Canossa, Our Mother Foundress, Pray for Us!

Mary, Our Mother of Sorrows at the Foot of the Cross, Pray for Us!

Now, it’s your turn! Have you chosen a Patron Saint for 2012? If you need help, you might want to try Jennifer Fulwiler’s Saint Generator. Offer a prayer to the Lord, asking Him to provide you a Saint companion for this year. When you are ready, go here. Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

And, I would love to hear who your Patron for 2012 is, so report back in the comments, or send me a tweet!

Blessed New Year everyone! Let us start off right, and let the Lord and our Saints take every step with us!

The Path of Love

Today, in commemoration of my ten year anniversary of profession, I break retreat for a brief instant to share my gratitude that God would take me to be His own.

No words express my sentiment better than those of our Foundress; she writes in her memoirs:

“I have to tread the path of love ( I must do this!), so I took courage and began as usual to give in to some expression. Gradually, my old desire for the glory of God swept over me. As I repeatedly offered myself to the Lord, it crossed through my mind that this might be the right moment to pronounce the vow of perpetual chastity. Then, with all the affection I could muster, I pronounced my vow. The thought of belonging wholly to Jesus Christ overwhelmed me to the extent that I could think of nothing else. I simply told our Lord, that henceforth, He would be my very own, and I begged Him to take care of everything.”
Saint Magdalene of Canossa
Foundress, Canossian Sisters

So, rejoice with me today, that God loves us in such a way that He, the Maker of the stars of heaven, would stoop down  and espouse Himself to a mere creature such as myself.


Note: back to retreat now. I’ll re- emerge Sunday. Holding the intentions of my readers in my prayers. God’s abundant blessings upon each of you! Sr. Lisa Marie

About Spiritual Motherhood

Simcha Fisher at National Catholic Register wrote a post exploring her own understanding of what spiritual motherhood is about:

“This notion (spiritual motherhood) gave me hives for many years, since I was already fully surrounded by my offspring before I started to feel really comfortable or confident in my role as mother. Maybe my problem was that I was expecting to feel motherly right away…once I started to feel it more for my own children, I took my responsibility toward the motherless people of the world much more seriously.”

She goes on to ask, “…if you, like me, had to learn to adapt to this role, what helped you get there? Do you still struggle? If you don’t have physical children, do you feel that you’re fulfilling this vocation?”

In reading Simcha’s post, I could relate with her on many points, even though I have never given birth to children of my own, I have had to grow into my own ‘motherhood’.

Ever since I was a small girl, I had an aversion to barbies and dolls, preferring to care for animals instead. Maybe it was because the dogs, cats, rats, rabbits and hamsters were really living, breathing things, rather than plastic and immobile objects. Yet, I also remember the first time I held a real baby, my little brother Michael. I was afraid I would drop him, and so instead of holding him with love, I held him in fear.  On the other hand, I had from a young age an affinity for Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I remember my first introduction to her when I was seven. I was sitting in my Nana’s playroom, and of all the toys she had in the closet for us, I would always go to some books in the corner of the room, a series of them had a section on countries and cultures. One day, the book I picked up was featuring India and the story of Mother Teresa. What struck me was, in fact, her caring for the broken human beings she encountered with great tenderness and compassion. The story made me ponder how was it that she could care so deeply about these whom she didn’t know. What was it that made her pick up that first dying man on the street? Was she afraid she would ‘drop him’? That he might die in her arms rather than get well?

Sr Lisa in Indonesia

My ‘awakening’ to my calling to be a mother to others first came the summer after my first vows, in 2002. I was helping with the summer program for Catholic youth in Vimercate, Italy. I was playing futbol (soccer) with the children, and managed to score a goal. The boys started cheering, “Madre, Madre, Madre!” I was looking around to see who they were talking about – who is this ‘Mother’ they were shouting for – sheepishly remembering that is the title the Italians use for religious women – Madre. Mother. It was a moment of reconciling for me, both my call as a celibate who, under a vow of chastity, chose to follow Christ in this way, offering my own motherhood to God and in doing so became a mother to God’s children, all humanity.  It is an overwhelming thought.

After ten years of professed life, I am still discovering what it means to love those who are not my own, and in the process understanding more deeply my own vocational call to religious consecrated life. As Simcha mentions in recalling her own experience, it was – and continues to be for me – a growing into motherhood. The key to its success is not our inbred feminine disposition for nurturing (although I imagine having it, makes the motherly role come more naturally), but more important is one’s steadfastness in their living out their vocation. This makes sense reading Simcha’s words, “I was already fully surrounded by my offspring before I started to feel really comfortable or confident in my role as mother.”  These words ring true in my own experience, the importance of living faithfully our calling goes way beyond one’s feelings: it is commitment.

This idea of commitment plays out so true, recalling my own childhood, being one of seven children. We were a handful for my mother, that much I remember, often teasing each other to tears.  I often wondered what superpowers my mother was endowed with by God, by the very fact she did not lose her sanity in the process of raising us. When she said her ‘yes’ in marrying my father, that yes meant accepting the fruit of their marriage – children. The late nights caring for us when we were sick; and later picking us up from detention after school. The sacrifices to the things she would have liked to have had so that her children would have opportunities. Now that I am grown, I often reflect on her motherhood as an example for my own. I am sure there were times she was fed up with us and our craziness and wanted to get away, yet she stayed the course, loving us even when we showed little or no signs of appreciation. This is the motherhood that I strive for.

Here are some ways I celebrate my spiritual motherhood.

On one hand, I think of the desert Fathers and the many who would come out to the desert to pray with them and find sound counsel. In this way, I see myself a spiritual mother when I take someone under my wing to help them in their spiritual journey, by sharing from my own experiences the workings of God. I also feel I am a mother in this sense as I carry in my heart all who ask for my prayers; my heart is burdened for their concerns, their sufferings, and my heart rejoices with them in their successes. This plays out big time in the classroom, teaching catechesis, working with youth; the need to be attentive to the heart of those in my care.

Sr Lisa in Tanzania

I am also a mother by my call to availability, to be willing to interrupt my day when I encounter someone in need. It happens from time to time that I am stopped along my way by others because of my habit – the exterior sign of my consecration – and asked to talk with them, or pray with them. These are pinnacle mother-moments. Where through being present to these strangers, I present them to the Heavenly Father, and Jesus, His Son. Some of these moments hold me in dread, not knowing how to respond, much how I felt when I was five years old, holding my little brother in my lap.  Thus, the Holy Spirit becomes my companion, that God’s word may reach the soul in front of me, that I might be given words to say to him. These encounters have strengthened my desire to take each person who I encounter and love them, realizing that their Heavenly Father would want it so.

A New Life in Christ

As we begin our Easter Season, we call to mind that the ‘new life’ we enjoy is because of the Lenten sacrifice and passion or our Lord Jesus on the Cross. The notes are up over at the Canossian Sisters of Sacramento, of a Lenten reflection given to young women. Still very appropriate for our season of the Resurrection:

The reflection was based on the Gospel of John11:1-45, and the reading from Ezekiel 37:12-14. We discussed how, to understand the Gospel, and the raising of Lazarus, we must reflect on the first reading for the 5th Sunday of Lent. The two readings go together. There are four key points in this short reading, promises of God:

1. I will open your graves;
2. I am the Lord;
3. I will put my Spirit in you; and
4. That you may live.

First, the promise of God that He will ‘open our graves and have us rise from them.’ We considered what can be meant by ‘grave’. Of course, there is the physical grave, or place of burial. Here, there is nothing left. The person who is buried ceases to live. There is no breath; only darkness. We have no control over death; it is a part of our human existence. But physical death is not the only way we stop living. We also considered that the ‘grave’ can also be metaphorically used to consider the ways we block ourselves off from living as God intended, through our sin. Sin, such as when we choose to put ourselves first before God, and put ourselves first before our neighbors, block us from living in God’s grace (the abundant gifts of His help) when we shut Him out, and turn our back on our brothers and sisters in their need. God wants to free us from the grave of sin – to unbind us from the things that keep us from loving. Some of these ‘blocks’ seem very small: when we refuse to take out the trash when we’re asked; when we say things to others knowing it annoys them; when we forget to say our prayers. But, what happens if we do the opposite? What happens when we do not hesitate to help when asked; when we see someone who is alone and befriend them; or when we are attentive in our prayers, and our time with God. These small acts of love work in us, to open our hearts to God’s grace. The more we do these kinds of things, we find our hearts grow to love, more and more like the heart of Jesus…

Go read the whole thing.

Our lovely participants:

The Sisters all wish to thank the many of my readers who prayed for the success of this retreat. “We couldn’t have done it without you!”

Next Retreat is scheduled for May 21, 2001.

If you’re planning to be in the Sacramento area and would like to come, contact us!

Please pray for our community, that has been serving the Diocese of Sacramento for 39 years, and hopes to keep on serving. We need more hands to make the work lighter.

Join us in praying for holy vocations to our Institute. Thank you!

___

Thanks goes to Elizabeth of Startling the Day for the mention in 7 Quick Takes Friday.

And, don’t forget to go look at Bright Maidens, a writing project by young Catholic women about young women and faith.

___

Related Posts:

Sister Elisa, Passing on the Faith

Who do We Give our Hearts To?

A new friend of mine from the Newman Catholic Center at Cal Poly University shared with me a little story that I thought is a good lesson for all of us:

Ever since she was a young girl, she knew she would one day meet the right man and marry. She spent her time and energy waiting for that day, looking for the right man, and eventually, joyfully finding him.

Then, all of her attention went into the planning for the wedding, to mark the first day of their lives together as special. Invitations were sent out, guests arrived to the beautifully decorated church, and the bride, with her heart fluttering in excitement, was almost ready.

The maid of honor helped her into her exquisite dress. The bride was radiant, her joy was mirrored back to her when she took one last look in the mirror before making her way to meet her soon-to-be husband. Only….

There, in the corner of the bridal suite, in the shadows, sat Jesus weeping. The bride’s heart was full, and had no room left for Him.

___

Many may think this is a story to encourage one to think again about giving themselves totally to Jesus through becoming a religious sister, brother, or priest.

But in truth, the moral of the story is so much more.

We do this to Jesus, shut him out of our lives, every time we fill our hearts with other desires before first making our hearts the home for our King. Was the young woman wrong to desire to find a worthy spouse? Of course not. No more wrong as for one to dive head first into a calling as a religious or priest. BUT for either vocation to be successful in its entirety, the spiritual home must first be nourished with the Divine love that makes us whole in both body and spirit; the in-dwelling of the Holy Trinity.

It is in this wholeness, that we are equipped to give ourselves fully to another. It is only then, the bride who runs to meet her bridegroom will be found carrying more than her beauty to the union; she will be bringing the gift of God himself.

The Bittersweet of a Vocation

Last night, fellow blogger Punk to Monk tweeted the following message to me:

Message via Homboy McCoy

His blog post (no longer available since he “unplugged” to follow his dream!) relays the good news that he has been accepted to begin his postulancy – the beginning of formal instruction towards vows – in August. Apparently, the good news turned bittersweet when his family had a date in front of them. As if to say, “Wow, he’s really going to do this!” Which, of course, brings to the forefront the first of many ‘letting go’s’ in the life of a religious.

I recommend reading the post which tells the straight-forward truth that one’s religious vocation is also part of the family’s vocation. There is a need, on the part of the family, to ‘get used to the idea’, which later they will find it to be a blessing for the whole family. Such is the reality of God’s providential love… which is so very wonderful to see unfold when one gives himself to follow God through an act of self-giving.

For those who are thinking of taking the plunge into religious life (and if you haven’t considered it, let me invite you to at least pray about it), here are some helpful scripture passages:

Purpose of Call
Exodus 3:14; Judges 6:12-23; Psalms 20-38; Luke. 1:13-17;
1 Peter 2:9

Seeking God
Hosea 6:1-3; Psalms 27 (26); 24:3-6; 105:1-4; 42:2-5,12; 84:2-4; Isaiah 55:6-13

To Individuals
Gen. 12; Ex. 3; 19: 3ff; 24:16; 1 Sam. 3; 2 Sam.7; Isaiah 6:13;
3 Ruth; Jeremiah 1:4-10;
Matt. 4:18-22; Matt 28:16-20, Mark 1:16-20, Luke 5:1-26;
John 1:35-51; Acts 9, 1 Peter 2:9-17

Discernment
Psalms 25(24); Romans 11:33-36; Ephesians 1:3-14;
1 Corinthians 2:7-12; 1 Peter 1:1-10

Communication of the Spirit
1 Sam. 10:6; 16:13; Isaiah 2:2; 42:1; John 15:16, 26; 20:22; 14:16; Mark. 3:13

Given Freely
Jeremiah l:4ff; Romans 8:30; 1 Corinthians15:9-10; Galatians 1:15

Demands Faith and Obedience
Genesis 12; Matthew 4:18-22; 16:24-26; 8:18-22

Creates Newness in Person Called
Genesis 17:4-8; Luke 1:13, 31-32, 59-63; John 1:42

God’s Divine Providence
Exodus 19:3; Judges 6:13-14; Ezekiel 3:7-9; Jeremiah 1:7-9;
Matt. 10:1-8; Mark 3:15; Luke 9:1-2; 2 Corinthians 3:4-6; 4:7; Ephesians 4:11

Communal Aspect
Rom. 9:7; 1 Corinthians 12:lff; Colossians. 3:15; Ephesians 4:1-12
Rewards: Matt. 19:27-29; John. 15:15; 2 Cor. 2:15-17

Prayer for Perseverance
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Mission
Is. 41:8-16; 42:5-9; 43:8-12; Matt. 28:16-20; Luke. 9:2; 10:1-9; 24:46-48;
Acts 1:8; 10:42; 5:20, 42; 6:6; 13:2; 7:1, 52-53; 8:12; 4:3;18:10; 2 Cor. 2:14-16; 1:18-19

Servant
Isaiah 42:1-8; 49:1-7; 50:4-10; 52:13-53

Poverty
Proverbs 22:1-2, 16, 22-23; Psalms 73 (72); 40:5; 18; 107; 72; Isaiah 66:1-2; 11:1-5; 61:1-4; Matt. 5:1-12; 6:19-34; 8:10-20; 11:2-6; 19:16-22;
Lk. 1:46-55; 4:18-21; 6:20-26; 12:13-21; 14:12-14; 16:1-13,19-31; 20:45-21:4;
Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35:1 Cor. 7:29-31; 2 Cor. 6:2-10; 8:1-15; James 2:1-9

Chastity
Wisdom 3:16-28; 4:1-2; Matt. 19:12; 5:38; 1 Cor. 7:1, 7-8, 32-35, 36-40; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7; 1 Timothy 4:10-12

Obedience
Deut. 4:32-40; 6:4-6, 13-19; Is. 29:13-24; 53; Ps. 50 (49);
Matt. 7:21-27;
John 6:35-40; 14:21-24; 8:38-42; Acts 4:19; 5:27-32;
Eph. 6:1-10; Philippians 2:5-11;
Romans 16:25-27; 13:1-7; 1Peter 1:1-2; 2:13-19

___

Be assured, Homeboy McCoy, and all others discerning religious life, you are truly held in my prayers.

God bless!

NOTE: About Homeboy McCoy, he is no longer available on the net, having unplugged his digital life to follow Christ as a postulant. Please keep praying for him. :)

___
Related Posts:
That “V” Word – Vocation

From Punk to Monk

Look into Your Heart

A Moment in Crisis

Laboring in the Vineyard

One of the advantages of studying at a Pontifical University in Rome, was the opportunity to come in touch with so many seminarians preparing for the Priesthood. I have met so many awesome then-seminarians (now, awesome priests!) who made my theological training all the deeper because of their own daily profession of their calling to become shepherds of souls through the administration of the Sacraments. One such then-seminarian, now-diocesan priest, Fr. Jason Vidrine shared the following video promotion for the Norbertines of Orange (Norbertine Canons Regular in Orange County, California). We were both privileged to have among our classmates some of the young men in the video. Their charism and intensity of community life is portrayed beautifully here.

I recommend to any young man called to the priesthood and religious life to consider a Norbertine vocation.

___

Prayer to Discern a Vocation

Lord, there are so many things in my life that I do not understand,
so many questions about the future that I need to ask.
What is Your plan for me?
What is the work You want me to do?

All I really know is that You love me.
Show me the road You want me to walk –
to fulfillment, to happiness, to holiness.

And if You are calling me to
priesthood or to the religious life,

give me the strength to say “yes”
and the grace to begin even now
to prepare myself for the challenge
of a life spent in Your service and
in the care of Your people.

I ask You this in Jesus’ Name.

Amen.

Theodore Cardinal McCarrick
Archbishop Emeritus of Washington

From Punk to Monk

A new reader of my blog, Punk to Monk, has started his own, “reflections on the transition from raucous musician to religious monastic.” Like many young adults, he tells of his wondering away from the faith of his youth, and how God somehow weaseled himself back into his ‘punk’s’ heart. He explains:

“From punk to monk–that is my story.  I was baptized and brought up Catholic but wasn’t really all about practicing it.  My mother, raising me and my brother on her own, made us go to Church and receive our Sacraments.  Because of my lukewarmness toward my faith, I of course fell away when I left for college on the other side of the country.

That’s where I discovered sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  Got me a girlfriend.  Got me into alcohol and other illegal substances.  And, found I could play a pretty mean guitar.”

His story is an uplifting one of youthful angst meeting sober reality of coming of age, and the longing for something more than he was finding. You can read it in full here.

___

Let us remember to keep this young man, and others, in our prayers as they discern a life of self-giving through the consecrated life:

Lord God, grant to Your people health of soul and body. Through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, may we grow in Your likeness and increase in the humility that marked her life.

Convinced of Your greatness and our lowliness, we ask for many vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. May You be praised in the raising up of these new servants for Your Kingdom.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

That “V” Word – Vocation

A young friend of mine tweeted: “ahh that “V” word! Scary! Lol”. Yes, the V-word. I had just tweeted to her that St Magdalene of Canossa tells us, “God has given you a great gift by giving you a vocation…such a big grace!” Scary, to be sure.

I dedicate this post to her, and to all young women like her who are seeking to do what God wants, but with so much information and opportunity it really does get confusing along the way to hear closely what it is exactly God has in mind. I promised her I would write on the subject, and so, I wish to share my reflection of my own vocation that I shared with my Volunteers back in 2006 following my perpetual vows.

Reflecting on my vows three words come to mind that encapsulate the whole of my religious vocation: ‘here I am’. This is the response I gave at the celebration of my final vows on the 3rd of December 2006 when then General Superior, M. Marie Remedios called out my name before the Bishop Domenico Sigalini and the assembly at the Church of St Magdalene Canossa in Ottavia – Rome. It was my response to a call by God to participate with Him in His plan of salvation. God called my name and I responded.

All of us are called by God but in various ways. Our Christian life is a life of learning to respond according to the state of life we live: some of us are single; others of us are married with children; others of us are religious and priests. But all of us have the same duty of learning to respond whole heartedly to God.

When we open the Bible, we find stories of many who have been invited to follow God, and how they responded. Abraham responded to God with these very words – here I am – in Genesis 22,1 when he was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac to demonstrate his faith, and in his faithful obedience he became the Father of Nations (Rom 4, 1- 17). Moses too received an invitation by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and when called, responded the same way: ‘here I am’ (Ex 3,4). And so also with the Prophet Isaiah when the Lord asked ‘whom shall I send?’ (Is 6,8) Isaiah’s response was ‘here I am, send me’. What is it then to be ‘called’ by God?

The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin word ‘vocare’ which means ‘to call, to summon, to invite’. Our vocation then – to the religious, singular or married state – is an invitation to live according to the will of God. And how do we know the will of God? This is the journey of each person to discover what God wants for him or her, but it is always tied to the mission of Christ who said, “my food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4,34). The ‘work’ of the Father is redemptive, bringing about liberation for all humanity bound by sin from the time of Adam and Eve. Christ came to fulfill this plan of salvation through His life, death and resurrection. All Christians are called to collaborate in this redemptive work by bringing others to know and love God the Father through Jesus Christ. We too are called to hunger for all to know God through fully living out his will through our love.

We learn to share our faith through our experience of God; an experience that is manifested in our life of prayer. Prayer, then, is the key to knowing the will of God. A comedian in the United States was keen of saying ‘you can’t have a relationship with someone you don’t talk to.’ In other words, you can’t have a relationship with God without making time to talk to Him and listen in the silence for His Word. I like to look to Mary as an example: the young girl from Nazareth who listened to God, and her listening prepared her heart to respond when God called her to be the Mother of our Lord, Jesus (Luke 1:28-38). In her example we see the fruit of prayer – a receptive heart ready to do whatever God asked.

When I entered as a postulant with the Canossian Sisters in 1998, I began to respond to God in my prayer where I found a desire in me to dedicate my life to service of God. Although the desire existed in me to want God’s will, I struggled constantly with my own desire and wants; I struggled with fears of letting go and failure. These are the struggles of humanity that each of us grapple with. St. Paul spoke of this struggle when he said in his letter to the Romans: “for the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want” (7,19). One of the most important things I have learned in all my years of preparation for my final vows was that despite my sin – doing the things I don’t want – God continues to love me. Our humanity is so used to judging people based on what they do, or in religious circles, how good one is. My experience of God has taught me that despite my weakness, my failure, my small capacity to love as Jesus loves, Christ still loves me and desires me to belong fully to Him. I have found that I will never be perfect or worthy to belong to Christ Himself; but I have also found that God wants me anyway. He takes me as I am and I find that it is His love that perfects me. And slowly, with His grace which flows always through the Sacraments, I am being transformed to be more like Him and more able to love like He loves. This new awareness has prepared me to choose a life of belonging to the One who is Love, with a desire to live my life so to make Him known.

During my preparation for my vows, I discovered in myself this readiness that dares to give everything to fulfil God’s will. In my Bible the words ‘here I am’ are translated as “ready” (NAB). I had to ask myself, ‘am I ready to do this – to give everything I have, and everything I am – to give myself to God forever?’ I found within my prayer the answer: an unhesitating ‘yes’. It is a response that has taken time to mature through the years as I have discovered for myself the vastness of God’s love. I was happily surprised in the days before my final vows that I was ready, and could hardly wait to stand before the world to say, “Yes, Lord, I am yours forever.”

My word to my friend, and to all who are in the hunt for God’s will: take up the example of Mary, who ‘pondered these things in her heart’ (Luke 2:19 and 2:51). Eventually, all these ‘ponderings’ (our praying over daily events) will come together and help you know what is the path for you. And you will find that the Lord has lead you all the way.

Prayer for a Generous Heart

Father in Heaven, you have blessed us with many gifts.
You chose us before the world began,
To be your adopted sons and daughters,
And to live through love in your presence.
Give us wisdom and insight to know your purpose;
Give us courage to follow where your Spirit leads us,
Give us generosity to serve you in our brothers and sisters.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord.

DVC – Based on Ephesians 1:3 ff.

—Other Helps—

You may find these links on vocations helpful:

vocation.com

Canossian website

Stay close to God in His Word and in His Sacraments. These are great tools which prepare the heart to be ready for what God has in store. Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament helps too.

Find a good listener to let you ponder out loud, so that you can hear the movements in your heart reflected back to you through conversation. This could be either a spiritual companion or a spiritual director.

Read the Bible daily. Let God’s word speak to you, and be attentive to the people in the scriptures that appeal to you.

You are not alone on your journey. Praying for young people in discernment is one of my favorite prayers!

___

Thanks, Sophia, for the cross-post at Always Catholic. Grazie mille a te!