Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Poverty in Friendships


"The Eucharist destroys distance."
Words of wisdom spoken by the retreat director of my pre-novitiate retreat.

It has been almost two months since I entered the novitiate, and God has not skipped a beat in deepening my love for Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  This first year of novitiate is what is called the "canonical year."  Canon Law 652 states:
"Novices are to be led to cultivate human and Christian virtues; through prayer and self-denial they are to be introduced to a fuller way of perfection; they are to be taught to contemplate the mystery of salvation and to read and meditate on the Sacred Scriptures; they are to be prepared to cultivate the worship of God in the Sacred Liturgy; they are to learn a manner of leading a life consecrated to God and humanity in Christ through the evangelical counsels; they are to be instructed regarding the character and spirit, the purpose and discipline, the history and life of the institute; and they are to be imbued with love for the Church and its sacred pastors."  
In other words, the novitiate is the foundation of our formation as religious.  The words of Canon Law 652 are beautiful, but how do directors of formation put this into practice?  Well, in many ways, but one main aspect is the removal of worldly distractions, and this is done simply by separation from the world.  As a novice, I freely chose to be here and to enter into this way of life, and the institute discerned God's will likewise, so in no way am I being held in the convent against my free will.  God is drawing me closer and deeper into His Most Sacred  Heart, and I am choosing to respond to His generous invitation.

Our formators do their best to remove all obstacles that prevent us novices from centering our life on God, but we must detach from the worldly things that we have clung onto and brought into the convent with us.  In my little experience, I have realized that we are attached to more things than we are aware of, but God slowly sheds light upon these things so as not to overwhelm us because He is Mercy.  Most of our attachments are to things that are good, but our desire for them is disordered.  To my surprise, one of my attachments that came to light was friendships.  I knew I would miss my friends, but my concern was how to further cultivate my existing friendships.  I even found myself worrying if I would even make new friends now that I had entered into this way of life.  How do Sisters maintain friendships with friends outside of the convent?  All I knew was constant verbal communication and hanging out, but these have been stripped from me, so I asked God, "How do You want me to do this?"  I found my answer in adoration, in the Blessed Sacrament.

My spiritual director has this "catch phrase" that has stuck with me: "We detach from something in order to attach to something else."  God is asking me to detach from my idea of friendships in order to attach to the friendship of the Holy Trinity.  I have been led to reflect on the poverty that exists in friendships particularly in my life as a sister.  Sure, the number of real friends I have may be low to the world, but where I actually feel the poverty is in the event of not being able to hang out or talk to them whenever I want.  As a novice, I have chosen to renounce the right to direct my life, and that includes the luxury of communicating with my friends to my heart's content.  Yet, this poverty actually leads to richness in my friendships, a richness that is still being revealed to me.

The hugs, the laughs, the conversations, the quality time coffee dates, the group meals, the random phone calls and text messages, and even the simple smile-to-smile exchange in the silence - all have been taken away from me.  But Our Lord, the God of the Impossible, gives me so much more.  My secret is found in the Most Holy Trinity hidden in the Holy Eucharist.  St. Elizabeth of the Trinity (my saint best friend and sister), in the confines of Carmel in Dijon, France, saw the Holy Trinity in the Eucharist as a "meeting place" or "rendez-vous" with those whom she loved and held close to her heart.  Through her intercession, I have come to experience this reality.  It is in the Most Blessed Sacrament that I know I am near those whom I love most. The deeper I hide in the Eucharist, the closer I am to you.  The Eucharist destroys distance.  Jesus Christ embraces you, speaks with you, and remains with you because you carry the Eucharist, and I do everything with my Beloved, so I can embrace you, speak with you, and be with you by the grace of our Most Intimate Friend.  As Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, we are called "to become Eucharist."  That manifests itself differently and beautifully in each Sister.  "To become Eucharist" affects every part of our lives and inevitably leads to total transformation of the human person, including our relationships.  God "is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us" (Eph 3:20).

I have come to recognize more deeply that our relationships are truly poor when they are not grounded in Christ Jesus.  Words cannot describe how God has led me closer in my relationships with others, but I do know that it is real.  As my relationship with God deepens, so too do my relationships with others deepen.  This growth in the love of God affects my relationships with my Sisters in a way only God could have designed.  His grace is always effective and at work whether we perceive it or not.  My love and prayers for my friends are beyond feelings and mere human words because of Jesus Christ.  My words must be His Word, and the Word is transforming.  No one encounters the Word and is left unchanged.  This is my prayer, that we constantly be Christ to each other, and emulate the friendship of the Holy Trinity - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
My friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, those I love dearly, let us continue to follow and do God's will for the sake of the love of God.  If we are who we are meant to be, we are offering adoration to God together as one.

Please pray for me (and all my Sisters) that I may continue to grow in love for God and others in the Eucharist.  I am confident that you are with me, and I am with you because the Holy Trinity dwells in us (1 Cor 3:16).  May the Kingdom of God flourish within us and through us.
See you in the Eucharist with our most Loving Mother Mary,

Sr. Kathryne
Ephesians 4:1-7

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Your Life Will Be Demanded From You

Our faith demands our life--different depending on one's stage in life, yet just as crucial regardless of its specificity.  This word 'demand' requires from us an obligation, a responsibility, a duty that must be fulfilled.  Everyone--baptized or not, Christian or not, young or not--needs to discern how we are being called to put into practice the Truths we proclaim.  So, what then do we believe?  Have I succumb to the lies that I must be self-sufficient and trust only in me, myself and I?  Do I believe that this world is all I have and so I will do what I have to in order to succeed according to the world's standard?  Or do I trust in God, in the Supernatural Being that existed before me and will exist after me?  An abandonment to Divine Providence must be accepted here:  one consents all control to Him who knows our every need and want, and will satisfy us; He will fulfill us, He will bless us in abundance.  If that level of faith is what I hold as my foundation then I have nothing to fear--my free will is upheld because our Merciful Lord 'heals as He wounds' (my mind is blown every time I pray these words--Friday Daytime Prayer Ant. 3, Week II).

God loves us so much that He chose to partake in our flesh and blood so that we may share in His Divnity.  He accepted death willingly, so that we, who though so undeserving, may have eternal life.  When you love, you sacrifice, you suffer, you live for the other.  This comes at a cost to us; yet when authentic, it doesn't compare to the joy received (not always tangibly felt) but known in the depths of one's soul.  If we live what we proclaim, then the demand we are invited to take ownership of is nothing less than counter-cultural.  I have to 'labor' in virtue.  When I want to give up, I must fight.  When pain has gripped my every bone, I choose to offer the ache (which is very real) for another.  I never compromise what I know is true.

Yet we live in a broken world (which really only means we are constantly reminded of our humble need for a Savior and that we are not it).  Every moment is not always going to be to our liking.  Decisions might be made that we disagree with or that may even oppose some of the previous statements of belief which we claimed as foundational.  Our life is even more demanded of us at this point.  If I am confronted with opposition, I can't quit and concede to falsity.  I reject those lies which seem to challenge me, but I remain firm and confident that Who I live to serve and love is:  with me, guiding me, protecting me, directing me, sustaining me.  I keep trusting especially when all feelings of emotional consolation have left and actively wait in hope.

My brothers and sisters, no matter the present situation in your life, in the world, at your job--your life is being demanded from you.  Are you willing to put forth the effort and live with an intensity beyond understanding.  We will not comprehend the why to every what, but can we willingly choose the present even though everything seems unknown.  God delights in our striving, so fall into His arms, close your eyes and rest assured that you are loved, you are His, and He will NEVER let you go!  I told my sister the other day, sometimes God throws us up in the air and plays catch with us, but we always come back down right into His extended arms of love.
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