Sunday, February 11, 2018

Loved Even Unto Death


            Quite recently, the Lord gave me a great gift, which is to know that I am loved even unto death. This is not just to say that Jesus loved me so much that He died for me, but also that He loves me so much to let me die in a thousand little ways because only this will bring me my heart's desire: Heaven.

Now here is the reality: we have to die before we get to Heaven. This is as true physically as it is spiritually; for every time we die to ourselves and allow the Lord to raise us up again, we are a little closer to Heaven. In realizing all of this, I have come to understand that I am loved even unto death. I am very resistant to this of course because dying is painful and not something I want to do, but my Beloved loves me so much that He allows me to die many times during the day, to the point that in frustration I wish I could have a break from what seems like an endless cycle. Oh but He loves me too much to allow me to miss a moment to be closer to Him.

There was a while when I thought that love was mostly service, and that in serving we show love best. Indeed I looked at my sweet Jesus washing the feet of His disciples and saw love, and this is not wrong, but there is something missing if this is the only love we show. There is something beyond choosing to do the dishes or bringing in the groceries.

 I turn my attention to other ways that Jesus loved. “He turned around and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as humans do'.” This was a powerful act of love on Jesus’ part, because love is also suffering, it’s also dying. How it must have hurt Peter to be accused of being “Satan” by his best friend, all because he didn’t want his friend to suffer, he wanted him to be upheld and defended. But this was an act of love for Jesus because He didn’t want his friend to see only through human eyes, He wanted him to see with the eyes of Heaven. And when Jesus would allow himself to be nailed to a tree He would reveal love through the eyes of Heaven. It is the challenge to something greater that Jesus presents to Peter and so many others, because even though He knows it will mean many little deaths and suffering for them, He loves them so much that He wants them to embrace the opportunity to grow closer to the Father. The reward of the Resurrection is greater than the horror of the Passion and the grave.

There are so many little opportunities to spiritually die to oneself during the day, not getting the dessert you really want, passing up something you enjoy so that someone else can enjoy it instead, etc. All of these mortifications can seem like little deaths, but in my own life I find that the real deaths are the little things that I don’t choose and don’t expect. This might be a change of schedule, not being able to help with something as planned, playing the game you don’t like, or keeping from saying something the way you prefer to say it. And then there is always the case of apologizing when you find yourself in the wrong, which is in some ways a death, but actually is the first light of the resurrection, which hurts because you must go from darkness to light, but which soon proves to reveal a beauty that you couldn’t anticipate when in the grave.

I have found that I am loved even unto death, as through my sisters the Lord pushes me to never stop running the race, and when I am tired He still uses them to push me harder. Oh, what a blessing to have my sisters who love me enough to not let me tire, and to call me beyond myself relentlessly! Indeed I thought I loved them because I embraced these deaths for them, but how much it means to know that they love me so much that they let me die and don’t let me miss an opportunity for it. They want Heaven for me, and I want it for them, so why would I let them settle for comfort even for a moment. Or take away a chance when they might grow in one way or another? Yes it hurts but I would love them less if I didn’t let them suffer and die, for only by suffering, dying, and rising with the Lord will we be closer to Heaven. And this is true for any relationship fueled by love, because true love does not let the beloved limit themself by the measure of men, but by the measure of Heaven itself.

Love. Yes Christ loved us to the cross, and we too are to love to the cross, but also, like Mary, we are meant to accompany those we love to the cross, not keeping them from it, but in true love challenging them to it. Thank you to my dear Sisters who love me too much to let me settle for anything less than the love of Heaven, I pray only that I may love you so much as to push you there as well.

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes!
God's will be done.
With Mary in the Eucharist.
Sr.Lourdes R.B.Furnells

Saturday, January 27, 2018

"Why are you persecuting Me?"


Praised be Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament now and for ever! Amen!

"He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'  He said, 'Who are you, sir?'  The reply came, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.'" (Acts 9:4-5)

The Conversion of St. Paul: such a powerful feast day for the Church!  St. Paul gives me hope for my own conversion and journey to heaven.  The readings for this feast day bring me back to a Christology lecture last semester that really struck me.  (We take classes at St. Mary Seminary & Graduate School of Theology.)

In this class, we discussed a section of a book called Knowing Jesus by James Alison.  I remember vividly our professor passionately saying, "You know Jesus because He is the one you are trying to persecute!"  There was a deep silence that filled the room after he said this.  In that moment in class, I felt as if I had fallen to the ground and had to face the question, "Who are you persecuting?"  Alison's approach to knowing Jesus is indeed Pauline in that he says the way to know Jesus initially is by knowing Him in the one you are trying to persecute.  More often I identify with being persecuted for being Christian, but I fail to recognize that, in my weakness, I persecute my own brothers and sisters, and this is hard to admit.  Facing the question, "Who are you persecuting?" was and still is difficult for me because there is an answer that I do not want to confess.  I bring this question to prayer quite often and ask for the grace of humility and honesty in order to answer this question.  In the silence of God, the answer comes to my heart in such pain: "My Sisters."
Those closest to me are the ones I persecute, and it is through them and in them that I will know Jesus.  My Beloved dwells in each of my beautifully created Sisters, and in my weakness, I persecute Jesus in them, and thus, I also persecute them.  Yet, there is a sweetness to this awareness - God's Mercy.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, I recognize that I am the persecutor of my own Sisters.  I do not desire to be but many times I am, but this gives rise to moments of repentance and deeper acceptance of God's Love for me.  The Gospel calls us to love our persecutors as well.  I am called to love the persecutors of my Sisters, and since that includes me, I must learn to love myself, to be merciful to self.  Community life isn't all roses, but it is always filled with grace and love.  I am called to love my Sisters as Christ loves them, but sometimes it takes seeing how I am not loving them as I should in order to grow deeper in my love for each of my Sisters.  The Way is not comfortable, but it promises us salvation...heaven!

This may not be our favorite way of knowing Jesus, but I do think it is necessary because we need to surrender these dark spots of our lives to the one who is Light - Jesus Christ.  If we don't, we will fool ourselves in thinking we are perfect Christians and no longer need God.  Actually, we'd be quite the contrary.

My brothers and sisters, I desire that you may know and love Jesus.  My prayer for us is to be open to the voice that calls out to us to face our shadows with Him who redeems us.  Do not be afraid to listen to the voice of God and in turn, to respond to Him by totally giving your whole life.  Remain in the Heart of the Trinity and never abandon His gaze.  You have the capacity to love and to be loved.  Trust in God always.
My Sisters and I commend you to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
Please keep my Sisters and me in your prayers.

With Mary in the Eucharist,
Your little, poor sister,
Sr. Kathryne Lopez

"For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.  Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God [that is] with me." 
(1 Corinthians 15:9-10)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Pierced by Love


Image result for someone getting pierced in the heart with a lance

Closed off from love, I didn't need the pain
Once or twice was enough and it was all in vain
Time starts to pass, before you know it you're frozen
But something happened for the very first time with you
My heart melted to the ground, found something true
And everyone's looking round thinking I'm going crazy
But I don't care what they say, I'm in love with you
They try to pull me away, but they don't know the truth
My heart's crippled by the vein that I keep on closing
You cut me open and I
Keep bleeding
Keep, keep bleeding love
You cut me open
Trying hard not to hear, but they talk so loud
Their piercing sounds fill my ears, try to fill me with doubt
Yet I know that their goal is to keep me from falling
But nothing's greater than the risk that comes with your embrace
And in this world of loneliness, I see your face
Yet everyone around me thinks that I'm going crazy
Maybe, maybe
But I don't care what they say, I'm in love with you
They try to pull me away, but they don't know the truth
My heart's crippled by the vein that I keep on closing
You cut me open and I
Keep bleeding
Keep, keep bleeding love
You cut me open
And it's draining all of me
Though they find it hard to believe
I'll be wearing these scars for everyone to see
But I don't care what they say, I'm in love with you
They try to pull me away, but they don't know the truth
My heart's crippled by the vein that I keep on closing
You cut me open and I

Keep bleeding
Keep, keep bleeding love

- Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis

I am in the midst of realizing how much this song is my life. Yet, I am no longer living my own life as I did in former days, but truly it is the life of Christ being lived in me; for He first bled for love of me and so now I bleed for love of Him. Indeed, this is my only desire, to allow Christ to be manifested in me, incarnated in my person, so that just as His entire life was an act of worship to the Father, so too is my entire life made into an act of worship unto Him and His glory...

But I'll tell you straight up though, this bleeding heart no joke is BEYOND PAINFUL. There is no other way to explain how I feel than to compare it to my heart being stabbed with a lance repeatedly and then having my heart torn open, and stretched beyond reasonable capacity. And the more I reflect on this I think about how I felt before it all started and I realize that I had been feeling like gold in a furnace for quite sometime now. Clearly then, that was preparatory fire to make my heart of stone soft enough to be pierced now with this Lance of Love. 

When I am tempted to try and close up this heart wound, by putting up a wall against the Lance, or by numbing the pain by distracting myself from it, I am not at peace with myself and I simply cannot go on doing either. I actually begin to yearn for my heart to be pierced. I begin to remember that I freely have chosen to give my heart to my Love, and that for love of Him I do not wish to take it back from I must not go back on my word... and truly I don't mean to go back on my word. yeah, it really is true what the saints say: the pain is sweet; to suffer for my Love is pure joy... I could not and would not endure such pain if it were not for Love and if it were not for the fact that Love is worth it. HOW PARADOXICAL IS THAT!!! It doesn't make sense to us. We don't like pain. We run away from pain. But I promise you, this pain is VERY necessary.  


Because it causes three things to happen:
1) It removes all the junk inside your heart, all that nastiness and all those lies you think about yourself, all the misconceptions you have about others that you didn't even realize you thought you had because you thought you were omniscient and omnipresent and all that jazz, etc. 
All that stuff oozes out like poison being drawn out from a wound. You realize that you have been set free from chains that kept you in dark bondage, that kept you from realizing what true love is all about. 

2) It reveals you to yourself as a creature that was made with the capacity to infinitely receive others into your heart. Now that all that stuff that was in there before is gone, and as you continue to feel your heart being stretched past natural limits towards supernatural limits it is simultaneously filled with a countless number of souls to guard, to guide, to pray for, to love, to carry in solidarity. Their pain becomes your pain and you see yourself being more than just sympathetic or even empathetic but rather compassionate; your heart suffers with the hearts of others, for others, on their behalf. 

3) It makes you ready for what's next: God has great plans for us, plans for our joy and not for our despair. We must trust Him! He is good and His deeds are good! 

So yes, Leona is a true prophet in this song. Every single word in this song speaks truth. I invite you to mediate with these lyrics and I pray that you will not be afraid to allow your own heart to be pierced by Love.  God bless you. 

In the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, 
Sr. Yvelyne Bernard 
Second Year Novice 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

In the Waiting, in the Struggle...He is There


“The Lord will fight for you; you have only to keep still.” Exodus 14:14

Praised be Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, now and forever. Amen. These past few weeks have been quite a rollercoaster. On August 14, Sr. April Marie Josefina (we received permission to add a saint name to our baptismal name) and I made our first profession of vows. It was a beautiful evening where I truly felt the love and prayers of the family God has given me. I am still adjusting to the black veil, the added name, and all the new adventures!

You are probably familiar with the saying, “When you make plans, God laughs.” This is still very true in religious life. Two other Sisters and me had plans of being in our new location in Jacksonville, FL this past weekend…but Hurricane Irma decided to go to FL first. Long story short, we are in a waiting period. I have and am learning a lot in the waiting.

First, in all honesty, I am struggling in the waiting! Not having a specific, consistent apostolate and with every day being so different, I have felt all over the place. Yet, deep down, I know that this is where God wants me­­––in the struggle. In the midst of this, Jesus’ Sacred Heart also keeps coming up in prayer. Ironically, the parish and school where we are going to in FL is named after the Sacred Heart. Instead of avoiding this struggle, I have been bringing it up in prayer and questioning why His Heart keeps coming up.

Honest dialogue in prayer is something I have come to grow in. I tell God FROM my thoughts, feelings, and desires, and not just about them, as if they were separate from me. Having a background in counseling is helpful with identifying some of these things, but to enter into what is usually painful, takes a lot of courage. Thankfully we are not expected to do this alone! This is where we have to let God into our innermost being.

In prayer, then, I am being challenged to go deeper…in the waiting. This has been coming up for a while, and I figured that once I professed vows, that would be it! Not so much. Yes, professing vows was a huge step, but now He wants more. This desire of Jesus was confirmed by my spiritual director when he also challenged me to go deeper and to be immersed in the Trinity. Not long after that intense challenge, I reread an article that I really like and something really pierced me:

…God wants to enter and possess and abide within the core of our humanity. When we fall in love with the Crucified we receive what all lovers receive: the deepest reality of the beloved, the heart. The heart of Christ, astoundingly, is also shared with those who would rest against it. This heart is communication with the Father, and this communication is the Holy Spirit, and so in allowing Christ to see us, to behold us, to love us, we receive the Holy Trinity.
To receive Jesus’ Heart, to be immersed in the Trinity, means that I must allow Jesus to SEE me, to BEHOLD me, to LOVE me…especially in the waiting. It is really only in letting Him truly love me that I am able to truly love others. Everything I “do” must and should flow from this constant communion of Heart speaking/listening to heart.
I will now close with some words of wisdom from my favorite saint, St Francis of Assisi:
“Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves, that He Who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally!”
Please pray for me and my Sisters in this time of waiting! Know that I am praying for you too.
-Sr. K.M.Chiara, HMSS

Monday, August 7, 2017

Not Your Typical Proposal

"All suffering contributes in one way or another to our happiness" (Power of Silence, p. 88).

Imagine me on an 8-day silent retreat to conclude a not so typical 'cloistered' novitiate year.  As I stared into the sky marveling at the beauty of the setting sun, I caught a glimpse of a hot air balloon and began to think:  If I do commit my life to Jesus, I will never be able to ride in one.  I mourned this loss, saddened at a missed experience but my heart was at peace.

We are NEVER too far from His Mercy!
My dear brothers and sisters, God has miraculously converted my heart to a deep realization of His love for me.  I didn't believe He could love my weaknesses, yet He was safeguarding what I thought I had lost until He knew He could return it to me.  This pilgrimage has not been without painful confrontation with my own poverty of spirit but He has led me to an oasis of beauty which is His pierced feet.  Oh the beauty of these feet (I know not all will agree with me) but allow me to bare my sole..get it?!?!

God has tangibly made Himself present, in the midst of suffering and experiences of joy, always confirming that I was following the Father's will even in what I was living seemed to look to be a desert of nothingness.  To live in the freedom in which you don't know the result but you know you are being led is humbling and truly without words.

Brothers and sisters, the feet I kiss every morning and night walked a road that He now is asking me to follow whole-heartedly.  I too will fall on the dusty path, be kicked, mocked, and misunderstood for choosing to live in His image.  I freely choose such a life.  I recoil from the thought of joining my Beloved on the cross, but it is His invitation to help redeem souls that I cannot resist.  If my hidden prayers and hopefully silent offerings of pains can help a wandering sheep return to the Father's pasture, as I have, then I will daily say 'YES' until He calls me Home.

This path to conversion is my journey to holiness.  I beg you to pray for all souls the Lord is beckoning to kiss His pierced feet and join Him in a relationship as a victim of love through priesthood, religious life or the consecrated single life.  (Married couples, I need your witness of love to better live my consecration, so please know you are not forgotten, you too are victims of love!)  Ask God what grace He wishes to bless you with and then respond to the Father's unique call.  For me, courage, patient endurance, and child-like simplicity will be daily virtues I will fail at but always strive to live more fully!

Believe in His love!  He delights in you not because you are successful at what you do but because He has chosen you as His beloved one; His daughter, His son!  Relish in this truth and live in the promise that He remains with us always!  May the knowledge of my humble prayers offer you the strength you need to tune your ears to the voice of the Good Shepherd calling you by name.

Will you follow me to His feet?

Hide me in Your wounds Lord Jesus, bathe me in Your blood, and heal me, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen!

Hidden in the wounds of Christ, I remain your sister,
See you in the Eucharist,

~Sr. Marianne  :O)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Perfect Love Casts Out All Fear

May God give you His peace!

A few days ago, Sr. April Marie and I returned to Cleveland after spending a week helping with a Totus Tuus (“Totally Yours,” from St. JPII) camp in South Dakota. This camp was a vocational camp for middle school girls, but also included high school girl leaders. The camp was hosted by the Diocese of Rapid City at their Terra Sancta retreat center ( There were 25 religious sisters from about 13 different communities (including Sr. April and myself) helping with this camp. Talk about funsies with nunsies!

The theme for this camp came from 1 John 4:18: Perfect love casts out all fear. This verse just happened to be the verse given to me by my spiritual director during Lent. Right before the Lenten season began I was struggling with a deeply rooted fear about my upcoming religious profession of vows. Basically, I was afraid that Jesus was not pleased with me. I experienced tremendous healing during that time as I realized that I have to let perfect Love cast out whatever fear was preventing me from going forward. I owe a lot to the loving support of my sisters and to the gentle encouragement my spiritual director has given me. From all this awareness, I learned that I cannot do anything on my own (John 5:30) and that I have to let God love me!

Anyways, after learning that the theme was 1 John 4:18, I felt that God was challenging me to live out all that I learned during Lent and to share this with others. Each volunteering community was also given an activity or talk to lead during the camp. For us, we were asked to give a talk/activity for the high school leaders about spiritual mothers as leaders, and we were also asked to lead 3 rounds of a talk/activity for the middle school campers about the life of St. Philomena and overcoming the fear of being unlovable.

Very briefly, St. Philomena was an early Church martyr. She was the age of most of the middle school girls at this Totus Tuus camp when she was killed for refusing to marry the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Her refusal came from the fact that she was consecrated to God. Her story is unique in that she was tortured and miraculously healed multiple times before she finally died. Her testimony won many converts to Christianity. How was she able to withstand the horror she endured? My theory is that she knew and believed that she was loved by God and she was able to love Him in return to the end. This is something we are all called to today!

When I asked each group at the Totus Tuus Camp, “Who here struggles with the fear of being unloved/unlovable?” almost every hand (including those of the sisters) went up. The Holy Spirit prompted me to talk about being rooted in an authentic relationship with God. Just like any relationship, they take work! We make time to be with our family and friends, we reach out to our loved ones, and we listen to them when they want to share something personal. How much more is this with God! We are challenged to make time to get to know Him (prayer), to vulnerably share our hearts with Him, and to LISTEN to Him!

All of us at some point have been hurt by others, but so often this gets projected on God. God is love (1 John 4:8) and He is always wanting to give Himself completely to us…but He also doesn’t force Himself on anyone­­­––that wouldn’t be love! The ball is in our court, so to speak, to receive the total gift of Himself. By receiving His love, we are then challenged to reciprocate (remember, this is a relationship!) by making a gift of our very selves. This is often where the fear of being unloved/unlovable creeps in.

“What will happen to me if I give myself to Him…?” “How can God love me if I…?” The Enemy does not want us to be in a relationship with God, so he does everything he can to make us believe the lie that we are unloved/unlovable. We become captives of this fear when we believe the lies of the Enemy.

The interesting thing about overcoming this particular fear is that we have to let ourselves be loved by Love Himself! In this way, Perfect Love literally casts out all fear! I can say that this is true because this is something I have experienced myself. May God help you to let yourself be truly loved so that He can cast out all of your fears!

Please pray for me and be assured of my prayers for you!

Love always from your Sister,
Sr. Katie

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Hundredfold

When first beginning to discern religious life in my junior year at the University of Florida, one of the things that made it very hard to even accept the fact that I needed to discern this vocation, was the thought that it would mean leaving my friends and family behind.  
The Lord had given me my family, and constantly reminded me to care for them, and to be present to them. My friends were also a gift from the Lord, despite their having very different world views compared to mine. It had been clear to me all of my life that I was meant to be with them, to show them the love that God gives. I took very seriously the idea that as a Catholic, my way of acting, my choices, and my behavior should reflect the love and mercy that Christ poured out on the Cross. When the thought of religious life entered my mind though, I feared that it was an option that would make my parents lose their daughter, and my friends lose the only face they had to put to Catholicism (outside of the image which the media tried to feed them). With time, as I began to make Catholic friends, I soon began to see them also as people I would lose. This time it seeming like a greater loss for me than for them. 
I began to see parting with those I loved as being the necessary sacrifice that the Lord asks of anyone He calls.The desire to be with Him was too strong, and too urgent to ignore, and I had to have faith that He would provide for them, and me, the graces necessary to part from each other. Little by little, my family began to support me in my discernment through insisting that I make whatever sacrifices the Lord asked, that nothing else mattered. This was a motivating push which gave me the courage to go to the gospel, and recall all those passages where Jesus says, “Come follow me,” and the listener drops everything and just goes (Mark 1:16-20) and then of the rich man who is told to give away all his possessions (Mark 10: 17-22). All these became readings to remind me that it is a radical trust, that I did not understand, but that I had to respond with in order to become who He meant me to be.
By the time I entered, ten months ago, I had heard plenty of times, and had the intellectual understanding of the fact that in entering religious life I was not abandoning my family or my friends, but rather I would love them in a new way. What this would look like I did not know, but I trusted that God would make it so. In His Divine Providence, He has heard the cries of His lowly servant, and answered with gentle and unfailing love. I have not felt the pain of separation from friends or family, from this I have been saved, not because I do not love them, or because I love them more from a distance, but because I never left them and they never left me.
In the gift of the Eucharist it is revealed to me that I am united to all those in my life, as He is in me and I am in Him, and all of creation has been claimed by His love, whether or not they acknowledge it. Even in my dreams this is made evident, as I would find myself waking up often having dreamt with particular friends or family members, dreams in which I would sit and simply talk with them to see how they were doing and offer my prayers, and sometimes receive particular prayer requests from them. This often meant waking up feeling as though I had not slept at all, but rather had just been back in Gainesville, or in Tampa, or in Puerto Rico. I call these my mini home visits, but really they are beautiful opportunities, through which the Lord shows me that I have not left anyone behind, for in having Him I have everyone, even those who do not know Him.
This is the love that God gives and offers His children, a love that in Him brings us to be joined with all those we have known. It allows me to love more, and to love in a new way, yes, but not because of distance, but because of an indescribable closeness. The closer we are to God the closer we invariably are to everyone else. The more time I spend gazing at my Beloved, and letting Him gaze at me, the clearer it becomes that I have given Him everyone, and He has not taken them away, but instead has given them back to me a hundredfold.

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