The Next Step

I previously wrote, about how the Monastic community of Jerusalem, that I am discerning, with, had asked me to visit other contemplative orders, to have different experiences.

I spent a few days, at the Carmel. It was peaceful, but I was bored. I stayed in a guest room. The sisters have strict enclosure, so the only sister in the room next to me was the extern sister, but she was great.  I felt that I discern better, if I participate in the daily life with the sisters and get to know as many of them as possible.  I did get to talk to the sisters occasionally and it was a relief.

It was like I was waiting for someone to talk too. I joined the sisters in prayer, but I was in the Chapel, and they were on the other side. It’s a good thing, they gave me a notepad, in the reading material, they gave me, about their community.  I think I used the whole thing up,  just writing. I just needed an outlet for my thoughts. I finally asked for some work, and I got envelopes to stamp.

I came to the Carmel, for St, Therese of Lisieux, but the strange part is that I felt her presence stronger in Jerusalem, than I did at Carmel. I did speak to the Mother prioress, and she told me to try a community that is contemplative, but not cloistered.

Some of the sisters I spoke, with told me that they just knew, the moment they drove in,  that they were called there. Carmel is a special vocation, and I am glad I tried, but it’s not for me.

So, it’s obvious that God is pointing towards Jerusalem again. During my novena to St. Therese (this must be my 5th or 6th one)  I did get a chance to talk to the Jerusalem sister. She told me that I had done what they told me too, i.e. inner healing retreat and a visit to the Carmel.

Now, I could continue discerning with the community. Sister also said, it made more sense for me to come for a longer stay with the community, before I continue learning French. It’s like she read my mind, since the only reason I am studying French is for this community.

Sister needs to speak to the prioress about me coming for a longer stay, and will get back to me soon. Please pray that the prioress agrees. This is a longer stay, so the community can make a final decision.

Pray. Storm the gates of heaven for me. 🙂

I will pray for other discerners too.

Gift Of The Present Moment

The Jerusalem sisters have a concern that I might be better suited to a more contemplative vocation.  They have advised me to look into and try more contemplative communities.  They also said, it was important to detach from their community, so I could spend time getting to know myself and what rhythm I would fit into. They said, that after this, if I still find that I am drawn to them, then that would be fine.

I was disappointed, when they told me this. I love this community!

There is also no way, I could lived in a cloistered community, for the rest of my life. But, after spending time in prayer and reflection. I have decided to at least consider this.

Everything I have comes from God. God has given me talents and gift that can be used for his glory. I have something to offer God, that no one else does.

I need to be open to God’s will, and not just my own, even if I am not sure where God is leading me. Faith and trust come into this, and it’s hard, really hard.

There is no one to whom I can go to. Jesus is the bridegroom of my soul. And if he’s leading me to a better place, I need to let him do so. Let him hold my hand.

I do not know what the future will bring, but, that God holds the future, and all I have is the gift of this present moment, to love him, know him, and serve him.

Start With Yourself Part 1

I just got back from a beautiful retreat in New Jersey.  It’s run by a team of priests from India.  God placed a few things on my there.

The church is on the rise in other parts of the world, but is now declining in the West. In my encounters with fellow Catholics, of all kinds, I have encountered a deep sense of despair.

Liberal Catholics want the church to get with the times. This to them is the way to bring people back to church. Conservative Catholics, want to rid the church of all liberalism and heresy. This to them is the key to revival in the church.

Both sides are wrong.

Christianity is not about changing institutions or laws, but changing people. Constant grumbling and complaining about other people does not change the world.

I AM TIRED OF ALL THE BICKERING ON ALL SIDES.

It is much easier to change oneself than it is to change others. I want to become the saint God created me to be, and I would like to invite others to do the same.

Go to Mass, frequent the sacraments, read the Bible.  Ask God to help you persevere in faith and change you. To make you the kind of saint He created you to be.  Do not be afraid.

Start with yourself. Matthew Kelly, in his book “Rediscovering Catholicism” said, “The Catholic Church is a sleeping giant. All we nee to do is wake up, smell the coffee, drink it, and get moving.

Do not wait for someone else to do something. Let’s start with ourselves.

My Journey Begins

I spent a month with the Monastic Community of Jerusalem in Montreal. I spent time with the sisters talking, praying, cooking, washing, walking, eating, singing, and even two desert days swimming or being by some beautiful lakes in Quebec. I even got a change to have a hermitage, a small cabin with just a desk and a bed.

There were days when I was tired, challenged, impatient, but did not regret being there. I was at peace. It’s a different kind of peace, where everything is just still or just peace in its natural glory.

Language is still a barrier, because there were times when I would fall asleep during the sermon in French.

The prioress told me not to rush things, so I have to go back for a longer stay and also learn French. I have made plans to relocate in July, to learn French and then spend time with the community. I did find a reasonably priced placed to stay when I learn French.

I was also told to visit other monastic/contemplative communities so this way I know what other communities are like too. I do not want to, but I am open to God’s will.

I have also been asked to attend an inner healing retreat, so I can move ahead leaving my burdens behind to embark on a new life with Jesus.

I have also spent time processing my experience after my visit, and I realize that I am embracing consecrated life for the same reason why some Catholics and others think it should change.

I am not picking a job, or a new career, I have fallen in love and love does not count the cost. I want this to be my existence 24/7.

On the outside it looks like a pathetic choice to make: poverty (no owning anything, and sharing whatever you earn and have), chastity (no marriage, sex and having my own kids), and obedience to the rule and rhythm of my community. It’s not so much about the letter of law, but it makes sense that there would be harmony in a community, if everybody keeps the spirit of the law or rhythm, more like a waltz, that moves together.

People in Jesus’ day must have looked at him and said, “This is the son of God, what a pathetic life.”

It’s no surprise that people do the same today. As the scriptures say,”My ways are not your ways, and my plans are not your plans.”

The Peace of Jerusalem

I just got back from four days spent with the Monastic Community of Jerusalem in Montreal. It was a beautiful experience. Someone recommended them because of the balance I could cope with . Not over-active and not strictly cloistered either.

I don’t understand French and the community is very French, so when I got there, I wondered what I was thinking in the first place.  However, as I listened to the liturgy, I was filled so much peace.

It was not the excitement that I felt with the Salesians or the familiarity of their charism. It was just peace. I think this is what counts at the end of the day, when you get bored with the action around you.

Their community follows the rule of Jerusalem,  they are monastics in the city. They have part-time jobs to support themselves, and open their liturgy to the inhabitants of the city. This rule goes back to the early days of Christianity.

I had a good conversation with the Prioress who, kept apologizing for her bad English. I still understood it though.

She recommended that I read their rule and then come for a longer stay, so I can discern better. She also told me to learn some French 🙂

The church is a 124 years old and was the first church built for the Blessed Sacrament in North America.

My friend  St. Therese of Lisieux was there too. Both as a saint who had a devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the church has a huge statue of her too. I was making constant novenas to her to help show me the way.

The irony is that she’s French too!

Okay, I forgot to add that during the Pentecost vigil, at the end there were prayers being said to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I went up to be prayed over. Two sisters had their hand on each side of my shoulders. There was nobody in front of me. I asked to receive the gift of courage, since in my previous post on overcoming fear I mentioned how fear and anxiety can take a hold of my life. While they were praying, my eyes were closed but I sensed someone stepped in front of me and strong hands anointed me. It was like a man’s hand. I thought it might be a priest or a monk.  The community has an order of monks too.

There was nobody there. I wanted to check out the sister’s hands later to figure out how strong they were, but It would be a silly thing to do.

Did I imagine this or did someone actually step in front of me?

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

There are many discerner’s like me who are on the quieter side. We are not impulse. We like to think before we talk. We like to look before we leap. It’s easy to read more out-going people. With people who are quieter it takes time for others to get to know you. It’s easy to come across people who are judgemental or quick to judge you. There are those who think they have everything figured out about a person, whether it’s a friend, a counsellor or just someone you know.

If this sounds like something you have come across. The advice is do not sell yourself short. You know yourself better than others do. You know your strengths and weaknesses. You have to take a stand and not buy into negative things others may say. Prove them wrong. 

There are two stereotypes about those entering religious life. You are either superwoman or you are trying to escape the world and all in it. 

You are a person like everybody else. You need time to grow, to love, to become the person God wants you to be.

 

 

Listen

An important thing to do when discerning a vocation is to listen. Listen to people more qualified than you. Listen to what they have to say about your strengths and weaknesses. You are not always going to like what they have to say, but God has a message for you in what they tell you.

Listening to my spiritual director and those I know in religious life has helped me understand where God is leading me better and has helped me to come to terms with things about myself that I know I should, but do not want too.

I have learnt that I need to be more patient. God unfolds his plans in stages. It’s not like a psychic who will give you quick answers but take all your money. (don’t worry, I have not tried it)

If someone has a vocation, God created them for that vocation and for that particular community or person.

Nobody likes to admit their weaknesses, such as the fact that an over-active community would burn me out, since I need sometime to reflect and think too. On the other hand, a strictly cloistered community would provide me with an outlet to vent because there would be no place for me to go.

There is no point in pretending that I can do something sometime in the future. I need to look at what can I do know, and what community would I fit into as I am at this present time. A community where I could grow to become myself more fully. Become the person God created me to be.

I will continue to pray that I find this.

P.S. And how could I forget listen to your Mum.  Mothers are irreplaceable.

Eyes On Him

I started this year with a lot of excitement and expectation that this might be the year when I confirm the religious community I want to join. As February came along, I fell into this spiral of depression for no apparent reason. 

I did not get out of the house, I ate only once a day, and slept most of the time. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. The doctor did prescribe some medication, but it only provided me with minor relief. 

And then I decided to attend a Lifeteen retreat for youth ministry called “Eyes On Him”. The theme was about keeping your eyes on Jesus, even when you feel like you are falling apart.

St. Peter was the best example of this. When his eyes were on Jesus, he could walk on water towards him. The moment he got distracted by the storm, he began to focus on something else, and then started to sink because this eyes were no longer on Jesus.

This taught me something about relying on God’s strength rather than my own. 

I then made a decision that I had to give God more of my attention, rather than only when I want too. I also realized that I had an opportunity to rely on God’s strength, but I did not, because I thought I could overcome this on my own.

I also realized that God’s greatest act of love is re-presented at every Mass, because Jesus dies for us on the cross at every Mass, to show us how much he loves us. God wants to love us and let us know that we are loved.

I also spoke to my spiritual director about this and he told me that he could not give me the answers I was looking for. 

Was this a sign that I was not being called to religious life? Was God trying to send me a message? Was my health becoming an issue?

Fr. told me to be patient and trust in God’s time. To start working on the foundations, before I get to the roof. This inspired me to try and attend daily Mass, and deepen my prayer life.

Sr. Cora, said that this could possibly be a sign of something, but did not give me a conclusive answer and told me to focus on my health first.

It’s so hard when you want answers but do not get them right away. Patience is truly a virtue because it puts you to the test.

I have to keep reminding myself that my eyes should stay focused on HIM and in time, he will reveal his plans for me. This is not easy, but I am trying.

 

 

Overcoming Fear

Fear has been a part of my life.  Fear of dogs, fear of the unknown, fear of letting go, fear of failure.  I wanted to be a contemplative because besides the fact that it seems romantic, I thought I would not be in the public eye all the time. I would not have to deal with being judged by the world, putting up with people who are anti-Catholic, or being stared at everywhere I go for being a religious, having every word and deed scrutinized by the world.

God knew what I was running away from, and wanted me to face my fears head on. He wanted to let me know that I would always be under His protection. I experienced this protection in a special way, sometime back.

I was scheduled to attend an interview. It was a bright day in the summer. When I got to my address, I could not find the street. I took directions from people, called the place a couple of times, walked around the place, but I still could not find the street. It was like the entire street had disappeared. I finally gave up and decided to head home.

A few days later, I was sent an e-mail. The e-mail was from the owner of the company that I had the interview with.  It was an e-mail forwarded to a bunch of people. I was not supposed to be on the list, but I think it was sent out to me on accident.

The e-mail was very anti-Christian and just plain evil. It send chills through my system. Turns out this was an occult group.

I know realize that God totally protected me that day, and did not want me to attend the interview. He made the street itself disappear.

How good is our God?

It also taught me not to be afraid. However, even after this, weak humans that we are, fear was still around. It was at the life in the spirit seminar that I heard God speak to my heart and say “Let go of fear, and trust in me.”

Fear is an instrument the enemy uses to keep us from being the people God wants us to be. The late JP2 said, “Be Not Afraid”.

Psalm 91 says, “You will trample down fierce lions and poisonous snakes”

As we walk in trust, fear leaves us and faith increases in us.  Faith that can move mountains.

Accompaniment

Accompaniment is the stage that precedes the application stage. Sister Cora, the Vocation Director ,for the Salesians, in Canada, and myself have decided to meet once a month. This will continue until I am ready to make it to the application stage.

Our conversation over tea and walnut-carrot cake, covered a variety of topics about religious life, community life, the pros and cons of wearing a habit, and the formation process.

I was told to see God in everybody I encounter. What am I learning through this person? Praying the rosary everyday, so Mary can guide me on my journey, making a morning offering to God, examining my day at night.

I realized I need to brush up on some skills that could be useful such as cooking. My Mum says, “Finally”! Just be more attentive through how God speaks to me through the different people and events in my life.

St, Cora let out in a subtle way that I might be good at catechesis. I am a geek, so bring it on.