Trust in Him

Monday, April 26, 2010

Vocation Day at Bethlehem Monastery

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dear Friends,

I have decided to record the events of this trip, knowing how often I have berated myself for not having kept such a record. First, I shall explain that I left Friday 23rd and returned home Tuesday 27th. I traveled by train, and kind benefactors picked me up and took me to and from the stations. It was a very long weekend, but this journal is specifically meant to record the vocation day hosted by the Monastery... which took place on Saturday 24th.

I was, admittedly, very nervous about my first train ride. After attending Mass Friday morning I mounted a train for the first time, and was pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness and comfortable accommodations on the train. I gazed at the sky above the trees for at time, simply enjoying the gentle movement of the train. Then I drew out my rosary and recited the sorrowful mysteries... my heart experienced a pleasant peace. When my rosary was finished I leaned happily back against my chair, eyes closed, and told myself a story about missionaries and Indians (one of my favorites). Then, I spent the remainder of the trip composing a letter to Postulant Sara at the Monastery. The rocking of the train made writing rather difficult, but I was satisfied when I was finished. I then located some scrap paper, (the back of a document I no longer needed), and drew her two pictures: one of the Infant of Prague adored by angels and men; and the other of Mary, flanked on one side by two angels kneeling before an empty cradle and a third angel holding the Infant in his arms, and on the other side by two angels before the empty Cross, the third above still holding the Infant. When the letter was finished I folded it up and awaited the train's arrival in the station.

The woman who drove me from the station to the Monastery told me a story about St. John Vianney that is worth sharing. She told me how the holy priest, on his death bed, burst into tears at his final communion. Those around him questioned his tears, telling him that he had served God well on earth and would now see him in heaven. "But," said the priest, "this is the last time I will ever receive Jesus into my human body." It reminded me that if the angels could be jealous of us, it is because we receive the Lord into our bodies. It reminded me that this is the greatest love which, if we fully understood it, would cause us to die from awe. We must never take the gift of the Eucharist for granted.

My arrival at the Monastery was a joyful one. Today is Mother Clare's Profession Day, a reason for many smiles. I now await the blessing of Compline and a peaceful night at the Monastery.

Saturday April 24, 2010--Poor Clare Vocation Day

Dear Friends,

In Monastic life, the earliest hours of the morning are spent in silence, reading, prayer, and meditation. Finding my way back to my room after breakfast, I picked up a book about Celine, Therese's Sister, and was inspired with some thoughts about the little way.

Sometimes the greatest trials are those we do not ask for... As aspiring saints, we may yearn for martyrdom and trials in which to show our love, and instead receive long life and joy. But even grace and happiness we must offer earnestly for God. He is not a God of suffering and tears... at the end of our trials on earth, when we have been fully purified, our love will be offered in a way that surpasses joy and suffering alike. If we truly love Him, we will offer Him everything, good and bad, as our only way of giving Him pleasure. Humility, faith, simplicity, and fortitude, backed by intense love, are virtues which foster God's Supreme Goodness and Love as first and foremost in our lives. These, the virtues of spiritual childhood, give us the incentive to spend each moment earnestly loving and serving God. If our life is thus His, as are our hearts, then we become a living expression of Christ, accepting both gifts and sacrifices unconditionally. This, my friends, is the way of saints.

How can I begin to describe the rest of today? The many wonderful friends, conversations, experiences, and meditations make it hard for me to decide where to begin. I suppose I must begin, as all things do, with Mass. Father's homily at Mass and talk at Benediction began and ended the day with a very strong call to follow Christ. Father, a priest of only three months, spoke movingly of God's call to every heart to serve Him in some vocation. He spoke of how some are called, in a very special way, to be Christ's alone... and that these chosen few are given a taste of the eternal plan that will be fulfilled in heaven. This deeper union, this call to come away and be alone with Him for the sake of His people, is precious and requires careful discernment and faith filled response. God, like a truly loving Father, tells us to be not afraid, to trust Him, and to follow wherever He leads. For He will bring us safely to the pastures where we will tend His sheep under His watchful eye.

The sisters had organized three presentations to begin the day. Each presentation was conducted VERY well... these Poor Clares know how to communicate their spirituality that is both extremely moving and simply practical. The first talk, given by Mother Vicaress Therese, focused on the vow of enclosure and the hidden apostolate of the Poor Clares. The next talk followed closely on this topic and was given by Postulant Sara. This talk, indeed, was my favorite. She used the Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes to illustrate how Poor Clares are called to come away with Christ in an intimate manner, and then to minister to others with Him; just as the apostles ministered to the needs of the people by passing out the miraculous bread, so too do Poor Clares use supernatural means to give to those in need far and near. The third and final talk, given by Mother Abbess Clare, focused on the vow of Chastity. She spoke about how the unique vocation to chastity fulfills our need of intimacy with Christ directly, rather than through the person of a spouse. By espousing herself to Christ, a Poor Clare proclaims something beyond the natural vocation of man and woman that lasts into eternity.

I will not relate the events of the rest of the day. Lunch, prayer, and question and answer periods followed with served to make the day very successful. I hope and pray that many were strengthened in their vocations through it.

Monday April 26, 2010

Dear Friends,

I am embarking on a couple days which will, no doubt, prove exhausting. It is a fitting end, I suppose, to such an edifying, peaceful, and joy filled weekend. I failed to record many of my thoughts when they were fresh in my mind, and there is so much about this weekend that I long to tell you. Therefore, this final portion of my journal will be strangely disorganized... simply a series of meditations and things that I have learned.

The life of a Poor Clare is a life of Faith. She rarely sees the good that she does, and in her day to day prayers and sacrifices she is moved only by the faith that God will use her to help others. It is a lonely life... a woman never loses her natural urge to be a wife, and have children, for it is to this purpose that she was created. The silence among sisters and the inability to go and acquire acquaintances leaves the Poor Clare in dire need of finding every need fulfilled in Christ. Thus, Christ becomes her every thought and her constant companion. She lives to speak to Him, sees Him in everything, and desires Him with a desire that will never be fully nourished until she is united to Him in Heaven. Such is the way of a Poor Clare's journey to holiness... and it is a bittersweet journey. For in every suffering and spiritual trial, Christ comes nearer to her.

It takes great courage to answer the call of God. A Poor Clare's interior difficulties, and temptations, are only intensified by the enclosure. The life of penance and prayer is difficult, to say the least, and yet, she has such a deep confidence in Jesus, the promise of Heaven, and His mercy in using her efforts to help others that she is moved to embrace the trials with something of heroism. She clings to this confidence and embraces every cross with joy, never allowing herself to sour with sorrow, but instead showing immeasurable happiness and gratitude for the smallest joy to the greatest suffering, for each bring her closer to the Beloved.

Jesus has decided from the beginning of time who should be set aside to serve Him wholly and entirely... it is a rare vocation, but happy are those who are given the grace to live it! Indeed, while other vocations are just as full of trials and just as fulfilling as that of the enclosure, no other vocation boasts such absorbed intimacy and enhanced spirituality as the vocation to the religious life. For such extraordinary love, and such purpose filling each moment, mirrors the vocation of Christ Himself. For Christ chose to pour our every drop of His Blood for the sake of love! His every energy was used with an intensity of this love surpassing even folly. No person was worthy of this love, nor could any return it so unconditionally, yet Jesus loved even the poorest of them, even the professed sinner received the gift of His Divine Heart. The Poor Clare vocation returns life for life, everything for everything. She gives to God her nothingness, and receives His everything.

Much of my weekend has been absorbed in studying the doctrine of spiritual childhood, which I long to follow completely. The Theresian Doctrine of spiritual childhood both disposes of the responsibilities of prideful arrogance and gains the responsibility of loving God. He is not an easy Lover! One can rely entirely on God's mercy, but if one so much as sips from the cup of this Divine Love he is moved to embrace the most heroic strides at holiness. His love, absorbing him and drowning him in self surrender surpassing folly, moves him to give everything to God and intensifies his desire to be good. The doctrine of spiritual childhood is, therefore, very intricate and borders on the supernatural. It is indeed difficult to serve God, because satisfaction is not readily seen, but if we reach out in humility to the greatness of perfection and utter service, we can have confidence in God's graciousness in surpassing infinitely all that we have given and desired to give Him in His gift of Himself to us.

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