Sunday, October 22, 2017

Pierced by Love

V.J.E

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 Him...so I must not go back on my word... and truly I don't mean to go back on my word. 

...so 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.  

Why???

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

VJE

“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 (http://terrasancta.org). 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


V.J.E
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.




Thursday, March 2, 2017

Return to the Father

V.J.E.

"Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart." (Joel 2:12)

On the first day of Lent (Ash Wednesday), we heard these words of hope.  We, the Church, are being asked "to return to [the Lord] with [our] whole heart" with the God-given hope that even now is not too late.  So, "do not delay turning back to the Lord, do not put it off day after day" (Sirach 5:7).  The season of Lent is not about what we are doing, but rather, about relationship.

No matter where we are in the spiritual life, we are being asked to deepen our relationship with God.   In the Gospel, Jesus gives instruction about giving alms, praying, and fasting. He emphasizes doing all these things "in secret" or in a hidden manner.  Notice that Jesus teaches us that all that we do is directed to the Father "who sees in secret," "who sees what is hidden."

These verses throughout the years always gave me the impression that we must hide, that we must be alone where no one will see us.  It is true, we are being called to be hidden in humility and charity in our actions, but the Word shed light on something different to me this time.  In every instruction to be "in secret," or "hidden," we are always with the Father.  We are not alone!  I think we can take our relationship with God for granted to the point that we turn our backs to Him, not necessarily because we want Him out of our lives, but maybe because we think we don't need God all the time, or that He doesn't need to be involved in everything.  Yet, Jesus, by His whole life, shows us that our lives - every iota - must be offered to the Father.  It is through Jesus Christ that we are invited to do so.

The Word revealed to me something about my own relationship with God: I was hiding from Him. Sure, in the convent, there's nowhere to hide or runaway to, but in the monastery of my heart, there are places to run and hide from God.  Really, God is always with us and sees us always, but He waits with divine patience for us to recognize His glory and to let His light shine upon our souls.  Jesus tells us to hide our actions from worldly recognition, but then in turn, He teaches us not to hide from the Father!  I was running away from the invitation to "be with Him" (Mark 3:14).  By God's grace, and with the help of my spiritual guides, I am choosing to accept Jesus' invitation, but with no idea of what He has in store for me, but I know this journey can only be one of Mercy and Love.  I ask that you may pray for my increase in trust in God's loving will and to embrace it!

This Lent, ask God where He wants you to grow in your relationship with Him.  Be open and receptive to the response God wants to give you.  Maybe He wants you to grow in your relationship with Him as His son/daughter, brother/sister, or even as His most trustworthy friend.  Whatever or wherever that may be, then don't forget to ask God how He wants you to grow.  God desires to share with us His secrets, but are we willing to give him a listening ear and a "listening heart?" Whether you have your "plans" for Lent already or still waiting for your Lenten plans to be revealed, choose to do everything with God and for God.  He wants to be beside you not above you.  God dwells in you.  Don't hide from God, return to Him.

Here are a few practical ways to cultivate your relationship with God:
  •  Lectio divina (Divine Reading)
    • Encounter God in Sacred Scripture.  A good place to start is with the daily Mass readings.  Let God speak to you.  Each day a word or phrase may be given to you to receive and pray with.  Let the Word penetrate your life.
  • Attend daily Mass & go to Reconcilation
    • Sunday Mass is a must so if you don't already go to Mass every Sunday, start now. Prepare yourself to be a tabernacle of Christ by going to the sacrament of Reconciliation. Through this sacrament, we allow God to immerse us in Mercy and to reconcile us to Himself through the forgiveness of our sins. Do not be afraid!  The Eucharist is the center of our lives, so celebrating the Eucharist more frequently can only help us grow in virtue and God's grace. Jesus Christ is our source and our strength, so receive His whole life in the Eucharist!  The more we open ourselves to receiving the whole Christ, the more we are able to surrender our lives completely to the Father.
  • Spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament
    • Find out if your parish has Adoration during the week.  Whether Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is exposed or remains in the tabernacle, spending time with Him is essential for our lives.  Start with 10 minutes a day or an hour a week, half hour before Sunday Mass, whatever routine you start, commit to it and cherish this time.  As a friend used to say, "Don't make time for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, fight for it!"
  • Silence
    • Silence is vital in our relationship with God especially in our noisy world.  We aren't just talking about external silence, but also internal.  Silence allows us to be open to hearing God's voice, and hopefully to respond in total surrender.  Again, spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament is a good place to enter into silence, but if you are unable to go to a church every day, find a place in your home where you can enter into this sacred silence.  See this place as an extension of the church. 
  • Mary & the saints
    • As we grow in our relationship with God, we inevitably will grow in our relationships with Mary and the saints.  In my experience, saint friends choose us more than we choose them all in God's design because He knows we need them.  Ask for saints' intercession, but I will say, when you ask for a saint's intercession, it won't make life easier, but it will make you holier.

Remember, we are never meant to travel this journey alone.  So make sure you participate in the life of your parish community,  Ask God who He desires you to journey with.  Pray about having a spiritual director or confidant that you can confide in about what God is doing in your soul.  Don't forget, God is always with you.  He will never give up on you.

With Mary in the Eucharist,
Sr. Kathryne Lopez

"Believe that He loves you.  He wants to help you Himself in the struggles which you must undergo.  Believe in His Love, His exceeding Love." (St. Elizabeth of the Trinity)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

An Examination of Conscience for Any Gamer

VJE

This is a note to all my video gamer Catholics.

Recently a child asked me, “Is playing Call of Duty a sin?” My response, as someone who grew up playing video games with my brother and who is now in formation to be a Sister in a religious congregation, is as follows:
Now personally I was more of a fighter game kind of girl; Soul Calibur was my relaxation and venting method. Nonetheless, the idea is the same. The game in itself is not a sin, but consider: Is your inclination because of the game sinful? Take a moment and evaluate yourself.
When you play the game do you:
-Get frustrated more easily at people around you?
-Do you get angry more easily?
-Are you impatient or irritable when others approach you?
- Are you disrespectful to your parents?
-Does playing the game keep you from being present to others?
Again, playing the game is not a sin. However, has playing the game led you to sin?
Another thing I wanted to touch on was: When do you know the game is your “god”? My dear gamers when you start seeking consolation, peace, joy, and even love in a videogame, then you have made it your god. Now I often would play games to vent or to relax, and to a point this can be healthy, but when you start to think that it is only in playing video games that you can get this then maybe it’s time to step back and seek something less temporary and more eternal. The game is your god when you cry for it. When you think only about it. When you are still thinking about tactics to get to the next level instead of being present to the people in your life. It is then that the game is  “god”, and that is a sin. No matter how real the game graphics may look there is a power button to that world, but this world is infinitely different and the love and fulfillment that one gains from relationships in this world is infinitely more valuable. Particularly, the love, joy, consolation, and peace given by always ordering God first in our hearts is eternally more valuable. It is the difference between the water that leaves you thirsting and the living water that once you drink, you never thirst again.



If you were to put a remote in my hands, my giddy gamer self would still come out ready to button-mash the final battle, to my opponents’ great annoyance. The game itself is not the sin, but if I react to the game with sin, be it in my actions, my character, my thoughts, or my lack of action, then I have allowed myself to be led into sin. We have to be responsible gamers, ready to put the remote down when we are at risk of losing self-control, and ready to press the power button when we honor the game as God. We must remember always that the real goal of our lives is union with Christ who gives us the eternal love, peace, consolation, and joy that the game can only provide for the moment we are playing and winning.

God's will be done,
Lourdes
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