“The Lord has done great things for me and Holy is His name.” Whenever the Lord draws us deeper into the mystery of His love, He first demands that we come out of ourselves. Every great conversion in my spiritual life has come only after I have left my own will behind and submitted to the wisdom of God. I did not want to go to Catholic University; I went to Catholic University. I did not want to go to the Msgr. Reilly retreat to learn how to sidewalk counsel; I went to the Msgr. Reilly retreat (praise be to God). I did not want to go on the walk last year; I went on the walk last year. I did not want to say yes to my vocation, I said yes to my vocation. And I do not regret a single Amen.
I gazed upon the innocence of a child, so full of love and simplicity; his heart ready to conform to whatever you teach him. “My God I want to be a mother.” My heart yearned to find a holy man, to marry him, and to raise our children under the watchful eyes of you, my Lord. “So if you want me to be religious it’s going to have to be you.” I did not realize how prophetic these words would prove to be. My eyes towards the holy altar, “Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” My eyes gazed upon Him who died for me and my heart spoke, “that is Jesus, and I am to be His bride.” A flood of tears poured forth from my eyes. Have mercy. What greater mercy is there then to call me into marriage with Him? Grant us peace. What could bring me more peace then to give my life to Him?
As I recounted my story to Br. James the tears came again. With a heartfelt joy he congratulated me as one would congratulate one who had just been engaged. How could I have known that this encounter would be my salvation only a couple of months later?
So what was the first thing I did after the walk had ended a few weeks later? I started dating someone. Oh stubborn heart! Why dost thou flee from thy Lover! My heart was not at peace. I spent hours in the chapel trying to convince myself that it was. This war within my heart overflowed into my relationships with others and into other aspects of my life. May God have mercy on me for my selfishness and the way that I treated those dear to me.
Providentially Br. James, the Dominican I had talked to the day after my initial call, lives at the Dominican House across the street from my school. I sheepishly approached him and told him of my decision. May God be praised for speaking to His servant when I had refused to listen. I think that Br. James knew what I had rationalized away: the Lord was calling me. I met with him a few times and he spoke to me of the holiness of the religious vocation. It was as if He was speaking to my very being. I could not suppress my heart as it began to beat at his every word. The Lord would not be suppressed. I fought it. It would not be defeated.
He brought me into His presence before the Holy Tabernacle and I began to say the sorrowful mysteries. “My Lord I will not abandon you in the garden. My God I will tend to the wounds caused by the scourging of the whip and the crowing of thorns. Sweet Jesus I will stand at the foot of your cross. I want to love you. I want to love your people. Yes, ‘Here I am Lord.’” And so I took the first step but there were many more to follow. The word “yes” is not simply a word but something which we must live out.
“I think I’m called to the religious life.” It was time for the break-up. “He’s a better man than I” was the response I received. True enough. So why was this so difficult? He took it rather well, which didn’t surprise me. I on the other hand had a long journey in front of me. The break up was more than simply ending a relationship with one guy. It meant ending a relationship with all would-be potential future guys. It meant admitting that at some point in my life I would lose what the world considers my “freedom.” It meant that in the future I will leave behind all that I know and enter into the unknown, somewhere between this world and heaven. I don’t do well with change. These “losses” are what I focused on and it is precisely these thoughts which lead me into a dark hour I had never experienced before.
Over the course of the next few months I think I cried almost every day. I began to isolate myself more and more. My charity towards my friends was faltering even more. How could I think of them when I was so focused on myself and what I was “losing?” Hardly anyone knew of the inner struggle within which my soul was entrenched. I grabbed a Divine Mercy card and would stare at His image whenever sorrowful thoughts entered my mind. For the first time in my life I questioned the existence of God. I plan on giving my life to Him one day, what if He doesn’t exist? Praise God my guardian angel quickly came to my defense and guarded me against such thoughts as soon as they appeared.
It would be a few weeks before I finally allowed the Lord to begin to let His light cast out the darkness in my soul. “My God I want to love thee and thee alone. I want you to be the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning. I want you to be the last thing I think of when I lay my head down to sleep. I want to pray without ceasing. I want to live for you.” My heart cried out for my God. And so He answered. He gave to me three prayers to repeat whenever I felt weak: not my strength but Yours, not my love but Yours, Amen so be it. Little by little, what I expressed with my lips I began to feel in my heart. His love conquered my sorrow, His light dispelled my darkness, and He has “put into my heart a greater joy than they have from the abundance of corn and new wine.” This is what He had desired from the beginning. He softly whispered to my heart “my child, do not focus on yourself. Come, find your strength in turning towards me and gazing upon my suffering body. Lift your eyes to the cross and look upon He who died for you. Immerse yourself in my Sacred Blood and Water, for my heart was pierced for you. My child, my love, be not afraid.
Yours in Christ,
Sunday, June 10, 2007
The Softening of a Hardened Heart
Who we are?
Conversion begins in our own hearts,which is why prayer is so important to our ministry. For this reason, everyday of our ten week walk begins with daily Mass. By receiving Christ in the Eucharist, we are given the grace to be the Love of Christ not only to those in our community but also to those we meet in the streets.
We walk throughout the day to be a witness of love. We are grounded in prayer-we pray with our lips, our hearts, and our bodies. In walking an average of twenty-five miles per day, we offer our fatigue as a gift of love to Christ and the people we meet. Our walking is both sacrifice and prayer.