Life after Epiphany


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If you have left religious life…

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 4.57.30 pm… do you feel a little lost, or a little alone?

Please allow me to share with you a little of my own baby steps in this area, and tell you about a wonderful service you might find helpful as you take the time and space you need to re-adjust.

When I returned to the world, even though there was a real peace in the knowledge that leaving was what He was asking of me, I still felt the weight of a very radical life change. I had moved half way around the world, had no income or means, and was completely dependent on the goodness of others for several months. I felt a little isolated, too; there just isn’t any kind of experience analogous to living and leaving religious life. It was something I need to explore and talk about in order to process it and adjust to the “new normal”, but with whom could I discuss it?

I tried to talk with family and friends. They wanted so badly to help, to comfort, to assist with the adjustment, and did what they could; yet I needed something they were not equipped to give. I needed to speak with someone who had lived something similar to what I had lived. I needed someone who on some level could understand the experience, because it was a shared experience.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .””

― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Lewis knew what he was talking about!!!

Friendship is so important through life’s ups and downs, but often the type of friendship that helps most is the very type Lewis defines here. Re-connecting with a few very dear friends who had also entered and left was the very best thing that could happen to me. We lived in different timezones, but somehow we managed to organise times for Skype calls where we could enjoy each other’s company, reminisce a little and support each other through our respective adjustments. Shared experience, a great deal of gentleness with each other  and some quality time… and all of a sudden I was experiencing healing. The Lord was working through these wonderful women and drawing me closer to Himself all the while!

Then my need for this fellowship encountered an extraordinary blessing: the Leonie’s Longing ministry. Leonie’s Longing are a not-for-profit based in the United States, but with a global reach. As far as officially who they are, I’ll let their own “about” page do the talking on that. But I WILL tell you what I have experienced.

When I first contacted Leonie’s Longing I was tentative, afraid, even. I did not share particularly personal information – my heart was hurting and I needed badly to protect it. I gave only those essential facts, the bare minimum of what I needed to convey to be able to receive whatever assistance they could offer. A member of their team of volunteers responded so gently and simply. There was no pressure to respond again, but I did… after a little time had passed. I was still so afraid, so it took a little while before I was ready to reach out again and continue the conversation. Over a period of many months an occasional email went back and forth, but that was all because it was about as much as I could deal with. Each time what was offered was real support and a willing ear, accompanied by respect for my privacy and patience with my fear. Reading the various blog posts of many young women who had similar experiences to my own… but seeing it all through their eyes… was SO HELPFUL. Occasionally, even I now write the odd post here or there for their blog, in my own little effort to give back just a little bit, because I am so very grateful for the support and the sense of community I have found through them. I’d love to be able to help others in the same way… to “pay it forward”, so to speak.

So if you are looking for prayer support, for fellowship… even practical support in your area, you may find this ministry helpful like I did. May the Lord bless, comfort and provide for each of you as you adjust to life out in the world again.

Follow @LeoniesLonging on Twitter

Find Leonie’s Longing on Facebook

Leonie’s Longing Website


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when eyes fail to meet…

Doesn’t it drive you nuts when you’re being served by a store assistant or a fast food attendant and they’re saying the words you’d typically expected to hear, but they’re not even LOOKING at you? They’re saying “have a nice day” but they’re already thinking of the next order they’ve got to fill and looking in the direction of their next task.

Have you ever walked into the Church, sat down, stared into space in the general direction of the Tabernacle, and… well… not even engaged with the Lord before you realise that you’re out of time and you need to get on with your day?

So much of my prayer over recent months has been like that. My new years resolution – my ONLY new years resolution – is all about prayer. I intend to be faithful to a daily time of prayer, and I intend to do whatever I can to be truly present to He who is omnipresent during that time.

Whatever happens then isn’t up to me… and I trust Him entirely!


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Sonnet of Self-Dedication

Otherwise entitled: “Prayer of a Postulant.” This was written during my Postulant year – but the themes hold true even out here in lay life. Perhaps even more than at the time of writing.

– – – – –

King of the deep, Lord of the storm
Command mine raging heart be still
To ponder Your Incarnate form
To contemplate Your holy will.

Now stir me up with zeal for souls
and send me out to push the plough
To run t’ward the Eternal Goal
Then live the Everlasting Now.

Yet in my weakness, Lord, I fall
Please help me humbly stand again
Would that for love of You, my all
Be in Your service wholly spent.

Saviour, King, Beloved, Friend:
Totus Tuus, till my life’s end.

– – – – –

(A dusty sketch from October 2011)


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charity begins at home… Pope encouraging grassroots change

We saw major steps in ecumenism and cultural interchange with Pope Benedict XVI. This movement on the “big picture” was truly beautiful and enriching for the Church.

It certainly seems as though we are now receiving enrichment of a different kind; Pope Francis in his preaching and in his public messages to date seems to be honing in on the individual and his/her relationship with God.

Pope Francis’ recent Twitter feed is my case in point:

pontifextwitterfeed

And most recently: “Never speak poorly of others.”

These tweets are all short extracts taken from recent homilies and addresses. Each speaks to an aspect of one’s personal relationship with Christ and the nature of how that relationship expresses itself in relationship with others. It is the encounter with Christ that is important! Pope Francis is inviting each one of us to take a good look at ourselves, to stand as we are before the Lord and to receive His love and mercy and seek to live out the love we have received. His messages are simple but important…  and potentially very powerful in their effect, if we take them to heart.

Its almost like Pope Francis is acting as a personal spiritual director to every single individual in the Church throughout the world! How amazing that such a thing is even possible! Changing hearts. This can only be done by the Holy Spirit. It seems that He is working through our Holy Father in this way… we need to open ourselves up to these graces!

Both the “big picture” and the “grassroots growth” need attention. Each of us needs a shepherd to help lead us to Christ as individuals, and we also as the People of God, as a Church, need a shepherd. Both men are different, and the Holy Spirit has given each individual holding the Office of Pope a different task. Isn’t encouraging to see that all of us are being well tended?


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turn on the ignition!

image

A lot of us are sitting in the driveway in beautiful cars, tanks full of gas, oil in the crankshaft, fluid in the radiator… and we’re sitting there saying “I wish I could go places!”

Turn on the ignition!

Listening to a talk on “Fanning the Flame of Faith” by Alex Jones, I was struck by this remark that he made. How impotent we make ourselves!!

We are so blessed in the Catholic Church to have all we need. We have the Truth, revealed to us in the twofold deposit of faith in both Scripture and Tradition. We have the Sacraments. We have the Saints to show us how the Lord can be followed in every circumstance. We have the Blessed Mother to intercede for us to her Son. We have the Blessed Trinity dwelling within us by virtue of our Baptism… but none of us can benefit from these things or help others to benefit from them if we don’t turn on the ignition!

What is the ignition?

Well.. next time you hear one of our Protestant brothers or sisters talking about a personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, DO NOT ROLL YOUR EYES and assume that this is buzz-word rhetoric. Our brothers and sisters in other denominations of Christianity differ with us in some very crucial ways, but on this point they are 100% correct.

You and I – each one of us – needs a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The ENCOUNTER with Christ is the spark that is ignited when the starter engine turns. The starter engine is the movement of Actual Grace – the Holy Spirit at work. Turning on the ignition, then, is surely represented in the action of begging the Lord for receptivity to grace.

The Mother General of the Community to which I used to belong once said to me that the first task of the New Evangelization is RECEPTIVITY TO GRACE. As a religious Novice, cloistered away from what one would generally consider the “mission field” of the New Evangelization, this made a profound impact on me. We need to RECEIVE from the Lord so that we can give to others. We have nothing, NOTHING, without Him. He asks us to give generously, but He first gives that we may then give to others! The life of a Novice is prayer, domestic work and prayer, study and prayer, more prayer. That prayer is less a talkative prayer and more a listening prayer. That prayer is receptivity in action. As a Novice, I was uniquely placed in the privileged position of being able to contribute authentically to the apostolate of my Community by being receptive to grace.

I often think of St. Paul, and the years that passed between his conversion and the beginning of his missionary journeys. Paul needed to be formed and strengthened in the Lord. He needed to receive before He could give.

Now, the Lord has called me away from religious life, but not before teaching me why He called me to that life in the first place. He wanted to give me something precious. The cloistered environment on the other side of the world were precisely the lengths to which He went to enable me to receive the gift He wanted to give to me. Here, out in the world again, I need to concern myself with sharing this with others. Giving myself to others is limited in its usefulness, for I am nothing and He is all. No – I want to give CHRIST to others! Paul tells us “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

Crucial lesson from this: the receptivity cannot stop! My time in cloister is behind me now. But to live a life of effective, authentic service to His People out of love for Him, even as a lay person, requires fidelity to prayer in that inner cell that my patroness, St. Catherine of Siena, teaches us all about. Every day I need to turn on that ignition again, I need to beg the Lord for receptivity to grace and then I need to spend time in prayer with Him, receiving Him that I may share Him with others.

We can really go places. The Lord wants to take us there! So turn on the ignition and see what wonders He works in you!


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attributing motives to others: just another way we fool ourselves

imageI was reading a blog that I follow (and generally enjoy) and the blogger was speaking about trolling, and how anytime a particular angle was used with respect to the topic in which he was interested, it must surely be a troll post. As someone who, once upon a time when I had much less life experience, held the very position to which he objected, I know that the expression of this (however misguided I now know it to have been) was never intended as trolling. Perhaps it LOOKED that way, but it was not.

This got me to thinking about how easy it is to fall into the trap of assuming we know another’s purpose for a given word or deed. Happens all the time… In business (e.g. “He can’t change that term in the contract at the 11th hour, he’s dragged his feet up until now… He’s trying to sabotage this deal!!”) or in personal life (e.g. “She said that after all I’ve done for her? She must still be after revenge for xyz..”)

When I was a Novice, my Novice Mistress quoted an older Sister in the Community with the following wisdom:

Always give others the benefit of the doubt in assuming good intentions… if not good judgement!

It is so easy to get worked up on an interior level about a fabricated imitation of reality that reflects to us our fears in a situation far more than it reflects the objective reality. Psychologists such as Reeder have done studies that show how the tendency to do this arises with bias because of opposing views… His research is interesting and HE is an expert whereas I am not, but I’d hazard the suggestion that fear is truly what causes this behaviour. Fear would be the substance to which the opposing view was an accident, or at least, a trigger.

If you look at the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, you will see in annotation 22 an exhortation to extend the benefit of the doubt to others as a benchmark of basic civility. That this is included in this work, however, demonstrates that it is about more than playing nice with others… It is a crucial part of spiritual theology and has a direct bearing on our interior peace and the quality of our relationship with God.

Imagine a tightly wound ball made from rubber bands… when we get caught up in others’ motives and what they might think of us, something inside of us gets wound up just like that ball… But instead of rubber bands, it’s a complicated entanglement of pride and fear. This image is another piece of wisdom I owe to my old Novice Mistress.

Truth needs to enter in. Really, if we allow ourselves to get worked up about imagined motives on the part of another, well, we’re fooling ourselves. We allow our reasoning to become compromised by the fallacy “ad hominem” and as such allow our view of the other to become poisoned. This is how relationships degenerate toward discord. Surely if we are going to hold an unfavorable opinion of someone we want it to be informed by truth, by what can be apprehended from objective reality, as opposed to emotional supposition, self-lie and the tangled mess of pride and fear?

If there is not enough fact to go upon then integrity is required to be able to admit to ourselves that we just don’t know why that person did or said what she did. And from there? Trust. We need to trust in the good intentions of others until their intentions are proven to be otherwise. The jaded person who employs cynicism about others as a defense mechanism doesn’t protect himself from deceit.

Perhaps he won’t be fooled by others. But he’ll be fooled by himself and he’ll have cheated himself of happiness.


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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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receiving mercy, learning to relate

Controversial as it may be initially to hear this from a sincere Catholic, I REALLY love the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. In a qualified way.

Before I continue, let me clarify that I concur with all who claim that the portrayal of Christ is not one that can be taken seriously as an accurate representation of Christ. JCS portrays a very human Christ and neglects any treatment of His Divinity. This could be interpreted as implicit denial of the Divinity of Christ, the beginnings of an excursion into the realms of Arianism. However, strictly speaking, to arrive at such a conclusion is a blatant non sequitur. The only explicit denial of Christ’s Divinity comes from Judas, the traitor, who is portrayed in the musical as a troubled dissident amidst the ranks of the Twelve with a political agenda. As in all art, perspective in Rock Opera is important and any analysis or review that manages to avoid the charge of superficiality will take perspective into account. Christ has two natures – human AND Divine. Quite simply, JCS considers the humanity of Christ; in that it is essentially an artistic work, it does not aim for historical or theological accuracy as to a complete representation of the person of Christ. The only categorical conclusion that holds from the absence of treatment of Christ’s Divinity is that this is outside of the scope of consideration for this piece of art. Thus, to suggest that enjoyment of the show is tantamount to endorsement of Christological heresy (a charge that has been levelled at me in the past) is not a logically tenable position.

What has all of this to do with mercy and relationship, you ask?

An answer to this depends upon the realization that JCS is not a story about Jesus at all. The name of the show is unfortunate and misleading, really… well, not entirely. I guess the name of the show is part of the satirical treatment of the hero-worship that society directs toward the modern-day celebrity. Thats definitely packed in there, and perhaps it was more central to the original intention of Rice and Lloyd Webber than I’m acknowledging. A great deal of social commentary is built into the show, of particular relevance to the original 1971 audience, and of historical relevance to the audiences that have followed up to our own time and beyond. But none of this is the point.

What I am getting at is that the meat and potatoes of the show is contained within the several parallel subplots that each examine the encounter with Christ of a different character. The accurate representation of each character, again, is not what the show is aiming for. Rather, each encounter and the portrayal of its character is a “what-if?” exercise. The character is more a type than a person, one that is portable through time and space. The viewer is invited to enter into each “what-if” story, to really consider the emotions and circumstances of each encounter, and to apply it to his own experience. The show isn’t about who Jesus is. The show is about who I as a viewer am in relation to Jesus.

NOW we’re ready to talk about mercy and relationship.

Continue reading


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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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from an age ago…

seasons change

does the sun resent the clouds, when they come out to play?
for the sun needs to vacate its playground in the sky sometimes;
and as it does and the aspect changes,
the sky weeps.

i listened, anticipating the answer, in hope.
anticipation perhaps obscured His response?

will he resent my choice, if i go another way?
no tears, i hope – not him, nor me
nor that tug inside that they oft accompany.

i pray the truth will make us free.

– – – – –

                                (A dusty sketch from Friday, 1 December, 2009)