Life after Epiphany


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Sometimes I think my most intense moments are lived in my car… (JGL 6)

Ever heard that song “Woke Up in America” by Matt Maher?

That song has been a little bit of a personal theme song, given my American convent adventure…  and the fact that Australia, as an island nation, is basically a rock in the middle of the ocean (even though technically it is NOT the rock to which Matt Maher was referring!).

So many of the lyrics just truly resonate with me! I really did wake up in America for the love of God, for something bigger than myself!

Tonight as I was driving along and rocking out to the song, though, I was struck by the fact that the preposition TO could also work there… instead of FOR. I woke up in America TO the love of God: my unique encounter with Him woke me up to the reality that His particular and personal love for me is deep beyond my comprehension… I woke up to this reality in such a way that it is far more than “head knowledge” now. Somehow this has become a lived reality for me, something that finally embarked upon that massive journey from my head to my heart, covered the distance and started to take root there.

I woke up in America TO something bigger than myself. I was confronted by the dreadful extent of my own selfishness. In my pride, I was scandalised by my own weakness. But living in community has a way of opening one’s heart to love others… slowly, almost against your will at first… until one sees that there is a world out there of people who need to be loved, people for whom I could be the instrument of God’s own love. Once again, what had been head knowledge started to penetrate my rocky heart.

I guess perhaps the impact of this is lost somewhat in the telling, but I was simply overwhelmed with gratitude for the incredible gift of my time there. Sometimes I get bogged down in the grief of the loss that came with leaving my Community, and the surprising extent to which the adjustment of resettling into lay life has been so very arduous. On this particular occasion, however, I was engulfed with an awareness of what an amazing blessing had been given me.

I think back upon that time, and I realise that it was about as far from “one size fits all” formation that you could get. There were particular experiences and lessons that my peers did not receive – experiences and lessons that were gifted only to me, custom-designed for my formation and salvation. I am sure that the reverse is also true. A gift… a delightfully personal gift… one that continues to form me.

As for Matt Maher – he makes FANTASTIC driving music. I sing, I dance at the traffic lights, I drum-beat the steering wheel… I must look like a lunatic! But the whole thing is a prayer 🙂 Mostly, its just time enjoyed singing praise… but every now and then there is a moment of significance, a moment of discovery, a moment of gratitude.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good! His love endures for ever!

– – – – – – –

NB: JGL = Journal of God’s Love
What IS the Journal of God’s Love?


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Getting real about my confusion… (JGL 5)

So its been 4 months and 1 week since I did my Audrey Hepburn impersonation.

Have you ever watched The Nun’s Story?

**SPOILER ALERT!!**

In the closing scene Hepburn (Sr. Luke) goes into a little room near the back door of the convent in which she has lived. Changing into some simple clothes, she removes her habit and veil for the last time, revealing a mess of closely cropped hair and a combination of fear and excitement that is palpable.

Her solitude in this scene is confronting. Her goodbyes have already been said, without demonstration, without delays. She steps out the back door and it is all over.

Similarly, I went into a small room to remove my habit and veil for the last time, donning simple, comfortable clothes and partaking of a hearty meal (it was breakfast time) to prepare for the long trip  had ahead of me. Alone, in silence. Well, not really alone – the Lord was with me. I was blessed also that, when I had eaten and changed and emerged from this little room, I had companions for my journey. My novice mistress and a dear friend of mine accompanied me to the airport, helped me get organized, and stayed with me right up until the sign “Passengers only beyond this point” jumped out at me, taunting me, as I took that final step away from the life I had known.

Lets not over-dramatize this. I had not, like Hepburn’s character, lived the life for 20+ years. I had been a novice, I was in my second year of religious life, and I had not yet made vows. It is, however, quite remarkable how quickly that place and that life became my home, and how difficult it has been to let go.

When I left, I had absolute clarity  that although God had called me to live religious life for a time, that He was not calling me to make vows. That clarity was necessary, for without it I would not have been able to make the decision to leave. It was a beautiful mercy, that for that time I was able to see so clearly, for the Truth truly did make me free. I chose freely my path and did so with complete trust that the steadfast love of God would persist and that He smiled upon my desire to please Him in what I was doing. Although the FEELING of certainty is failing me these days, my intellectual capacity to choose to trust the Father who keeps His promises remains. I still trust in the clarity I was given at the time the decision was to be made and acted upon.

Nevertheless, for all that I choose to continue trusting, I still have a mess of feelings and confusion with which to contend. That disconnect between my head and my heart is causing disconcerting unease.

#1 gripe with the outside world? THERE’S NO SILENCE!! It really drives me nuts 😉

I live in a large family and it is unreasonable and uncharitable to lock myself away from them during normal living hours. I steal a few hours of silent, alone time in the wee small hours when I can, when I know its not going to make me an absolute zombie at work the next day.

But then there’s the question of how I use the little silence that I manage to procure whilst the world snores.

In the convent, the times and places of silence were designed to help me to be recollected in the Lord, to make every bit of time possible a meeting place with Him. It was prayer time!

Here? I know instinctively that I need the silence… but I get lost in my own thoughts so often and tend to run away from being alone with Him.

What am I afraid of?

I don’t want to let my intimacy with the Lord slip away into the night. My relationship with Him means everything to me. And yet even to cry out the words of Psalm 22 seems misplaced here – for it is not GOD who is doing the abandoning.

My God, my God, don’t let me abandon You! Help me to be faithful! Help me respond to Your grace!

Those times we would sit together in the chapel, and I would imagine we were walking together in the garden in the cool of the day? I long for those twilight “walks” again!

Teach me how to love You, how to abide with You, out here in the world since it seems that THIS and not the inside of a cloister is where You want me to be.

Meanwhile… I give thanks to the Lord amidst this confusion. I know that even this crazy time of being unsettled is itself a gift in the broader context of my salvation. A gift of providence from the Father who knows exactly what I need to ensure that one day I dwell with Him in Heaven.

Even in this whirlwind, I am experiencing God’s love.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good! His love endures for ever!

– – – – – – –

NB: JGL = Journal of God’s Love
What IS the Journal of God’s Love?


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give thanks to the Lord for He is good… (JGL 4)

… His love endures forever! I experienced God’s love this past week:

  • a difficult but fruitful conversation with my Dad
  • in a productive and reassuring meeting with my PhD supervisor
  • in the enjoyment of a beautiful view of the harbour one clear, sunny morning during the drive into work
  • in a renewed appreciation of God’s mercy to me
  • in receiving reassurance about my the positive state of my Dad’s health
  • in the arrival of another Mother’s Day where both of my grandmothers as well as my mother are all alive and around; I am so thankful for these beautiful women in my life!

– – – – – – –

NB: JGL = Journal of God’s Love
What IS the Journal of God’s Love?


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give thanks to the Lord for He is good… (JGL 3)

… His love endures forever! I experienced God’s love this past week:

  • in the Father’s Providential gift of a new job
  • in time with my beautiful niece an nephews over the Easter Octave
  • in some beautiful, prayerful Masses throughout the Easter Octave
  • in the reception of Communion AFTER Mass one day last week when I had been unable to partake during the Mass due to having missed observing the 1 hour fast by about 10 minutes – Blessed be God in the gift of the generous priest who stayed back to ensure I could still receive our Lord!
  • in some wonderful quality time on Skype with a dear friend who lives on the other side of the world 🙂
  • in the terrifyingly beautiful sky yesterday afternoon during the strangest storm I’ve ever seen. Made for extremely dangerous driving conditions, during which the Lord kept me safe
  • in some financial relief from an anonymous benefactor as I settle back into lay life; she requested that her gift of money in an envelope be delivered to me with the message “its from Our Lady” – what a beautiful person this benefactor must be, and what a relationship with the Lord and His Mother she must have!
  • in a timely and inspiring homily
  • in a good amount of quiet to counter-balance the time spent with people over Easter

– – – – – – –

NB: JGL = Journal of God’s Love
What IS the Journal of God’s Love?


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give thanks to the Lord for He is good… (JGL 2)

… His love endures forever! I experienced God’s love these past few days:

  • in getting to visit both my maternal and my paternal grandparents all in the same week!
  • in some quality time with my Godmother and my cousin TheChef
  • in a pleasant, sunshiny drive up the north coast
  • in a reunion with old friends from school and the opportunity to see how their families have grown
  • in a suprise visit from my brother, SeminarianA
  • with the good news that my cousin, SeminarianB, is settling well into seminary life

– – – – – – –

NB: JGL = Journal of God’s Love
What IS the Journal of God’s Love?


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give thanks to the Lord for He is good… (JGL 1)

… His love endures forever! I experienced God’s love today:

  • in a wonderful trans-Pacific conversation with a dear friend
  • in the warmth of the cheery sun as I drove along the motorway
  • in the company of another dear friend
  • in a coffee well-made and well-presented
  • in delicious vegetarian fettucine for lunch
  • in a well-poured beer enjoyed outside in a sunny, breezy spot
  • in an exciting idea
  • in a suprise visit from two friends and the opportunity to take them with me to mass and benediction
  • in a cup of tea my dad made for me when he didn’t realize I was hoping for coffee… I enjoyed the tea because dad made it!
  • in the silence I’m enjoying right now
  • in reading and re-reading a beautiful poem written for me by my friend

– – – – – – –

NB: JGL = Journal of God’s Love
What IS the Journal of God’s Love?


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journal of God’s Love

In 2009, bouncing about the blogosphere, I read that the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI recommended to all the faithful the idea of an interior “Journal of God’s Love,” i.e. the frequent recollection of ones experiences of God’s Love in daily life.

tugwell_livingwithGod_bookjacketThe notion seems in keeping with an idea discussed by Fr. Simon Tugwell O.P. in his book Prayer:Living With God (1975). Tugwell speaks of the need to build a sense of “Catholic Memory” to facilitate an interior attitude of prayer; it was one of a few key ingredients to a healthy prayer life that he proposed, along with creating ‘space’ to pray.

The problem, as Tugwell presents it:

Somehow we must find a way of remembering God that does not work in fits and starts, but that will actually last through the day; kind of fundamental rememberance of God that will affect our heart, and allow our most unpremeditated and spontaneous behaviour to be transformed, as it were, at the root…

In his discussion, he presents as helpful a consideration of the sin of our first parents that led to the Fall as the misappropriation of knowledge. Tugwell’s aim is not to oversimplify the fall, simply to examine one aspect from which he then seeks to draw some conclusions that are useful to fostering the relationship with God that Christ restored through His Incarnation and Paschal Mystery.

Tugwell goes on to caution that “our minds are at least as capable of running away with us as our legs and emotions are,” proposing that the way to prevent this from sabotaging our relationship with God is to seek knowledge that is good, knowledge that is wholesome, to…

…allow the Lord to get hold of us at the level of what the Bible calls the heart, below the level of contrivance…We shall become involved with God in spite of ourselves, there will be something in us undermining our self-built edifice of conceit and self-will, so that it will not be quite so easy for us to go on forgetting God and His commands and promises at every critical moment.

We need to allow the knowledge that God wants to give us to penetrate, to be absorbed and made a part of our very deepest selves. The tool that He has given us with which to accomplish this is the memory – an impressionable power of the faculty of the intellect that can be shaped for good or ill.

What shapes our memory? Our experiences, both real and imagined, sensory and emotional.

For a sanguine like me, experiences are intense, but in many cases the impressions left in my memory tend to be short-lived. For someone like me to build “Catholic Memory” requires  sustained exposure and absorbption of the works of the great contributors to Catholic culture over the centuries – the likes of Augustine, Catherine of Siena, Aquinas, More, Erasmus, Dante, Teresa of Avila, Newman, Chesterton, John Paul II, Benedict XVI… and so many more.

Yet none of this takes the place of the effort of the repetitive exercise of pondering God’s works, God’s goodness, God’s providence. The Scripture is the primary source of God’s work in the history of His people, and the lives of the saints complement this nicely, demonstrating the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in our midst now that the Son has returned to the Father. Time to sit and meditate upon these things is a must.

But what about me? Isn’t this about my personal relationship with God?

Let’s add to Scripture, then, God’s work in MY life. How often do I stop to consider that, to thank Him for it? Keeping a “Journal of God’s Love”, to record and revisit God’s goodness in my everyday interactions and duties… I think the Holy Father might be onto something!

I’m going to try it.