Saturday, February 6, 2010
Poor Clare Visit (Journal)
I wrote this shortly after my visit to the Poor Clares. I spent the first week of January 2010 with them, and this week was sufficient to convince me of the next step I should take in my vocation. Because those seeking a vocation often ask "how do you know?" I think it is fitting to offer this section of my private journal for the sake of those dear friends who may also one day find a vocation as a spouse of Christ. Enjoy:
I just returned from one of the best experiences in my life. I won’t go into details about how each day progressed… but I do wish to explain in depth the development of my discernment.
I arrived on a Sunday afternoon and, after a brief conversation with Mother Abbess, I settled in. That night at Matins I knelt in the chapel listening to the sisters chanting the Divine Office. “No,” I said to myself, “this is not it. I must keep looking. How I wish I could go home, now that I know that I could never have a vocation here… but I suppose I will make the best of my long retreat.” As always on my first night away from home, I slept fitfully through the night and struggled to awake the next morning.
Monday was characterized by an extremely intense nervousness. My mind was in turmoil and I could not calm it; prayer and openness of heart only served to increase the burning fear, if it was fear. Eucharistic Adoration intensified my feeling to such an extent that I do not know how much longer I could have taken it. I shivered and trembled and teared without while within I was heated with the constant beating of questions, concerns, worries, and feelings. I met with Mother Abbess and Mother Vicaress that day and was not pleased with my own communication. I felt that I was facing the terrible reality of my own inability to control myself and all my weaknesses. Monday passed into another night, more difficult than the first.
Tuesday morning passed by and I was beginning to calm down some. I came to the point that I was able to observe the life of the Poor Clares objectively. It must be understood that I had arrived with the intention of pursuing the Benedictine life at St. Emma’s unless I should receive a revelation that I’m called to the Poor Clare way of life during my stay. I was reading books about the Poor Clare “purpose” and faithfully questioning Mother Abbess and Mother Vicaress. The major discovery I came to on this day was that I “could” be called to this life and that “living out of God’s hands” in holy poverty appealed to me much more strongly than the Benedictine’s self sufficiency. I went to bed that night, not completely calmed, but comfortably and with the intention of asking Him at Adoration the next day.
We are often warned never to place a time on God. In other words, He is generally very picky about when He tells us something. At the same time, if one asks with the constant belief that He “might not answer,” then it is difficult to realize the moment He does answer. I walked into the chapel the next morning for Mass determined to learn something during my Adoration hour. Mass was beautiful, perhaps I realized the beauty more than most Masses.
You may not be familiar with the “visions of my soul” so characteristic of my journal entries. I won’t go into detail about what this is, so I will only say that it is based on the “spiritual oneness” that one experiences with Christ after receiving Him in the Holy Eucharist. I have always felt that the images which may appear in our minds shortly after are simple little messages from Jesus. In this case, the image was one of St. Clare sitting in small throne. I was kneeling at her knee and she was teaching me. With each of her words I could perceive Jesus Himself within her, so that it was Him who directed me through her.
Mass ended and I had Adoration directly afterwards. I just asked Him if my vocation is to join this monastery. He didn’t say no, instead He gave me a powerful feeling of peace, joy, contentment, and love. I had received my answer. I did not need to ask again, but I did and I could hear the angel’s whisper “yes.” I could feel Him telling me that He loved me… and whispering that I was “His princess and His beautiful choice.” I sat and smoothed my light blue skirt laces, frills, and beads. The rest of that hour was beauty itself as I left my thoughts and simply enjoyed the peace and love of my Lord on the Alter.
When I next talked to Mother Abbess I tried to speak very calmly about… other things. When it was nearly time to go, she finally asked me how my discernment had progressed from yesterday. I started very carefully outlining my intentions when I came, what I had learned… determined to reveal it to her in such a way that she would think me sane and responsible. Unfortunately my joy and excitement overtook me and I blurted out “Mother, I KNOW I’m called here”. She believed me! We spent the next days discussing it.
I will not describe the rest of my stay… my eagerness to call my family, my temporary homesickness, my happiness at meeting some of the sisters and the current postulant, my extreme joy when discussing my entrance, the painstaking process of going through all the formalities I would need to do, and finally my hesitation to leave such a lovely place where I would spend my life. I do however wish to comment on some of the things which happened after.
The gift of a religious vocation is a very great and humbling thing. Once one receives such an obvious calling as I did, so much understanding flows into one’s mind that it overwhelms it. While I was reading my books, I began to understand just how wonderful the life of a Poor Clare really is. During my talks with Mother Abbess and Mother Vicaress I began to speak as if I was born to be a Poor Clare and nothing else. Suddenly hints from my past life flooded into my mind. To go into detail now would require at least a two page dissertation of the Poor Clare privilege.
Perhaps the surest sign that I have been given this gift is my patience. Yes, I am very eager to join… and yet, I remember the first 30 years of Christ’s life, His following of the Jewish religion, and His forty days in the desert. I am willing to do this right and wait for God’s angel to whisper to Mother Clare “I want her now, she is ready.” A year feels like a long time, and yet… I want to be made to wait, I want to be purified by temptation, and I want to show Him that I am willing to curb my own strong will for His sake. I intend to make this year sweet preparation for the greatest ecstasy and deepest suffering that I will encounter in the convent.
They say good things don’t last… but Heaven is eternal and love perseveres in spite of, even grows in the midst of suffering. Surely there is no greater gift that I could receive than Heaven on earth through this union with my crucified and suffering Jesus.