Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Choice

4th Sun. of Easter
Jn. 10: 11-18

Some years ago I was counseling one of my novices who had received an unpleasant directive.  In the course of our exchange, she asked what she no doubt considered a rhetorical question, “I don’t have any choice, do I?”  But I responded, “Yes you do; you have the choice to do it willingly or to do it unwillingly.”  She did not like this answer.  Neither do I when it comes to be my turn to accept something that goes against the grain of my will.

Jesus laid down His life with the full freedom that was His as God.  Unlike Him, we often have no control over the manner and timing of our death nor of the many daily dyings to our selfishness that present themselves unfailingly in the trials and tribulations of life.  I wonder if we did have the choice, how many of us would choose crucifixion.  At any rate, when faced with the inevitable, we do have the choice to lay down our lives willingly or unwillingly.  If we do so willingly, then, like Jesus, we will experience a resurrection, a new surge of life and spiritual energy.  It may, however, take longer than 3 days.  Sometimes it is more like three weeks, or three months or maybe 3 years, or even 3 decades!  It is also possible that we may have to wait until eternity dawns.  But however long it takes, that new life will be ours.  One of the advantages of growing older (as opposed to growing old) is that we have had the time to experience this ourselves.  Those of you who have the misfortune to be young simply have to take it on faith.    But take it from me as one who is growing older, that after you have been through the death, resurrection cycle again and again, you finally start getting the idea. That is, if you at least make the attempt to do it willingly, to conform your will to that of our Heavenly Father as Jesus did.

On this Good Shepherd Sunday and day of prayer for vocations, I pray that all who are called to lay down their lives for their brothers and sisters as priests or religious may have the freedom of love to do so.  May they know that hundredfold reward promised by the Lord and joyfully sing that new song which only those who follow the Lamb may sing!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mary Tells Her Story

Today we have a guest speaker, Mary Didier who graciously consented to my request to tell her vocation story to you.  Mary is seriously discerning her vocation with us and she is a regular visitor here at Poor Clare Hopefuls.

Hello, J My name is Mary Didier and I was asked if I would like to tell my vocation story. It is rather long but I’ll do my best to condense it as much as I can.

Ever since I was little I would always pray in my bed every night to God for He can give me the best husband that had ever walked this earth and to have as many children as He could give me. I wanted this so much and I had faith in my prayers so much that I knew God would give me those very special gifts. I did not think, however, that he had something else in mind…

Time had gone by and then I started college. Here at my college there is a wonderful Catholic Student Ministry (we call it Wisdom!) and it was during my freshman year my faith grew in such a radical way: I was with friends who shared the same beliefs as I did and I became on what I can only say was a “spiritual high.” However, I remember one time I was in the Church thanking God for his many graces and then heard something say to my heart “Give me more.” I told God I did not understand and I was giving him all I got, but there was always the same words that spoke to my heart, “Give me more!” Deep down I think I always knew what he wanted from me but it was not part of my plans and so I ran away from it, causing me great anxiety.

One day I was walking to class and my anxiety was so great that I screamed out loud for relief, "God help me!" Everyone looked at me and my face turned red. But then a thought came to me, "Call Mrs. Deborah." (She is a wonderful woman who allows the Holy Spirit to talk through her. You must be careful when you hear people who can do this. Sometimes they are not of the Holy Spirit and they allow the evil one to take the place of the Holy Spirit. However, she goes to my parent’s parish and so I knew her to be the real deal.) So after class I called Mrs. Deborah and she said that my Dad called her in September because he was worried about me and after he called her the Holy Spirit allowed her to write down three scripture passages (she wrote them down in September and it was march when I called her):

S/S 1:15-17 
15   Ah, you are beautiful, my beloved, ah, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves!
16  Ah, you are beautiful, my lover-yes, you are lovely. Our couch, too, is verdant;
17  the beams of our house are cedars, our rafters, cypresses.
Rev 19:7-8
7  Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready.
8  She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment." (The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.)
Luke 1:27b
...and the virgin's name was Mary.
We then talked for a bit more and she prayed over me for I may accept God’s will and when she hung up I was mad! The first thing I did was run to the adoration chapel and fall to my knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I told God why give me such desires to be a mother and not let me become one?! I told him right then and there that I would leave the Catholic Church because I will not have Him force me against my will. (I am not proud of what I told God then and I believe I will never be proud of that. I think that is why I have so much respect for women that join religious life without even hesitating. They are good strong women to do that and I myself do not deserve the same blessing as they do.) I went to bed that night angry but when I woke up I realized how could I leave the Catholic Church when She has everything I need, the Eucharist. I went back to the adoration chapel. I had to trust that if God wanted me to join the religious life then he would give me the desire to do so. So I stayed and prayed and cried for a while. My whole life plan seemed ruined but you remember that saying that "God laughs when you tell him your plans"? I don't believe He laughs, I believe he holds you close and cries with you because he knows how much those plans mean to you. And He will be patient until you finally come around to what He has always had planned for you. And his plans, my friends, are much better than our plans. Full of Joy!

It was not until that summer that I finally and happily said yes to Christ and when I look back I do realize how much of a silly and sappy girl I was to behave in such a way. I told my family and they were all exited. My Mom was so happy that she cried and my Dad said that he knew it all along. I was happy that they were behind me on this but God still wanted me to grow. After a while I felt like God still wanted me to give him more and after a year of not understanding what he wanted from me I finally understood that maybe I should look into contemplative life. I remember talking to God saying, “Ok, if you really want me to pursue this then you give me the order that you want to look into and I’ll go from there.”

I have a friend who is discerning with the Nashville Dominicans and we went to visit them in New Orleans for a weekend. They told me if I was discerning and I said yes I was and lately I have been feeling a pull to contemplative life. I told them I was looking into Franciscan spirituality and one of the sisters told me that they know of Poor Clares who live in Barhamsville Virginia and the spirit of St. Clare is definitely in their monastery. Now, usually when people give me information on orders my heart is closed to them but this time my heart was open and I took the written information happily and emailed the Poor Clares the next day. The Mother Abbess was so nice and very patient with me. She sent me information on their order and spirituality and I fell in love with it and soaked it up like a sponge. I even had a chance to visit them and really enjoyed myself there; the food was great, their land was beautiful, and the sisters were even more beautiful! However, I do believe that before I came I did have a romantic notion about the Poor Clares and so staying there made me realize that you really do have to be called to be one. And oh! How I really wanted to! (And still do of course!) I was scared when I left their monastery that God would not want me to join them and I started to feel like I should also look into the Carmelites, but when I did look into them more I realized that I did not have the Carmelite Spirituality. I must say that when you are looking for an order you need to pick one that you do not have to change your true self with. For God made your personality and if you join an order where you are not fitting into then that would mean that you are probably not called to it. That is what I found out with the Carmelites, that if I joined them I would have to change myself. Keep in mind though that when you do enter an order changes do happen, but the change is spiritual change. This spiritual change is necessary and the biggest change ever; you will begin to talk, walk, pray, work, and do many other things differently. Yet, this spiritual change should never change you. Because God made yourself the way he wanted to do it and if you pretend to be someone you are not then it will end up killing the soul instead of making it grow.

After I looked into the Carmelites more and surrendered myself to God’s will I discovered that St. Therese (my patron saint) was taking my hand and giving me to St. Agnes. In order to be sure that the Poor Clares were for me I had to stop leaving God out of the equation. I had to pray and bring him back into my life and when I included Him in my future that is when He began to lead me to the Poor Clares. I still beg God everyday for the graces to be a Poor Clare and one day I do hope to join the Poor Clares in Virginia but right now I know God wants me to remain in college (much to my disapproval). Maybe there is still something he needs me to do here, but until then I will keep the faith and always be thanking Him for His great kindness. I hope you all did something out of my story and I am so sorry it is long so God bless the person that finishes reading it.

Pax et Bonum!
Mary J

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mercy Sunday

Mercy Sunday

Blessed Octave Day of Easter to all of you!  Today Jesus shows us His holy wounds, not in a vengeful, condemning way, but rather to prove to us how much He has loved us.  See what He has done for us!  He has endured the depths of our hatred and our sin and He still loves us!  He comes close to us—so close that we feel His breath.  He gives to us His own Holy Spirit in a very personal Pentecost.  And in Him we find our peace.

Four weeks ago our Sister Mary Angelique experienced the mercy and love of God in a special way on the day of her Investiture.  Here she shares her reflections:

            I shall leave it to you to imagine what the day itself was like, and what joy it had for me.  My sisters worked with such love and tenderness to make the day special, and they even did a touching rendition of a scene from Candle in Umbria (play written about St. Clare) for the occasion.  I think all our minds went back to that blessed day 800 years ago when our Holy Mother Clare first showed the way for us to follow as we celebrated the anniversary of the founding of our order.  She is so beautiful a saint, so profound and so full of the love of Jesus that I am constantly awed by her and can only hope to imitate her.

            For the reading at the ceremony I chose a passage from 1 Jn. 4, as its message is one of special significance for me.  My vocation is a precious gift of God’s mercy and a profound proof of His love.  During my retreat and investiture I was so moved by the realization that God has first loved me, and places His love in me, and by it unites me to Himself.  It is by this love that I know Him, and that I love Him in return.  It is by this love that I am united to His death, His total gift to every human soul, so that I also am a total gift to Him and every soul.  He truly enkindles His fire in my heart and increases it day by day giving me a life far beyond what I could ever reach.  How blessed is our vocation!

            Being clothed in the religious habit and receiving a new name makes me feel very strongly God’s compassion for me.  The bare feet remind me that I am vulnerable, utterly poor, and that He will take care of me.  The various head coverings make me feel that “His left Hand is under my head, and His right Hand happily embraces me.”  The veil and guimp remind me that He has called me to be His Bride.  How good it is to live in the House of the Lord!

            Please pray for me that I may persevere unto the end for the glory of His Holy Name.  I pray with grateful heart for all of you near and far, especially those celebrating and those suffering.  May all the angels bring you smiles!  Wishing you a Holy Paschaltide,

In Jesus our Beloved,
Sr. Mary Angelique
of the Infant Jesus

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Prayers

Blessed Easter to one and all!  Here are the Prayers of the Faithful that were offered in our chapel on this glorious feast of the Resurrection:
  1. That the joy glowing on the face of Holy Mother Church this day may be a clear witness to a sad and suffering world that Christ is risen--truly He is risen!
  2. That secular rulers, who would again crucify the Lord of glory, may come to the empty tomb of Christ and see there how vain are all their ways.
  3. That Jesus, who descended into the depths of the nether would, may again bring His message of peace to those who languish in the hell of abuse, addiction or oppression of any kind.
  4. That we who have died with Christ may cast aside whatever wrappings of death that still cling to us, and go forth to proclaim by word, and especially by deed, that suffering has a purpose, sorrow has an end, and that true love will always rise again!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is a special day for Poor Clares.  Not only is it the beginning of Holy Week, when they, along with the whole Church, enter into the most solemn commemoration of the Paschal Mystery, but it is also the liturgical day St. Clare chose to begin her religious life.  In the year 1212, exactly 800 years ago, she had listened to the preaching of St. Francis during Lent and had sought his advice concerning her great desire to consecrate herself wholly to Christ.  He spoke to her with burning words of the love of Jesus and that His way of poverty and self emptying was a most sure way to His embrace. 

On Palm Sunday morning, St. Clare, dressed in her most beautiful gown and adorned herself with her best jewels, attended Holy Mass in all her youthful splendor.  When it came time to receive the palm, she became suddenly shy, perhaps overwhelmed at the thought of what she would be doing that night.  The Bishop, who knew her plans, noticed her alone in her pew and came down from his throne to place the palm in her hand—a most precious token of God’s favor and the approval of the Church. 

Knowing that her rich and noble family would never agree with her decision, when the day was over and all in her home were asleep, St. Clare, still dressed in her finery, took a trusted companion and abandoned her secure world in Assisi. She met St. Francis and his brothers at the little Church of St. Mary of the Angels outside the city walls. 

There St. Francis cut her hair, the ancient sign of a woman’s spousal consecration to Christ, and gave her the simple brown habit of poverty and penance along with the veil of chastity.  From then on, St. Clare would be united with the person and mission of Jesus, the suffering and risen Redeemer.

At each Poor Clare investiture, we reenact this dramatic scene in a ceremonial fashion, for we are each daughters of St. Clare.  We dress in a fine dress, only to exchange it most joyfully for the Poor Clare habit.  And since we assume that the “palm” St. Clare was given on Palm Sunday was most likely an olive branch (olive trees being much more common in Assisi than palm trees), we each also hold an olive branch.  Our hair too is cut in a most poignant act of self-giving.  We exchange our woman’s glory for the glory of the Cross and the beauty of belonging to Him.

I will not be posting until after Easter, so may I wish one and all a most blessed Holy Week and a glorious Easter celebration!  May we follow the exhortation of St. Clare:  “Gaze upon Him (Jesus), consider Him, contemplate Him, and desire to imitate Him”.  And may all discerning a vocation have the same courage as St. Clare to follow it!