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

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Leonie’s Longing Website

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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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turn on the ignition!

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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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the saga is unfinished but the battle is already won: Ephesians 6:11-19 and what the Greek tells us

Some Context

 
This passage in Ephesians is St. Paul’s answer to Isaiah. Isaiah 59 speaks of the alienation between man and God caused by sins such as dishonesty, injustice, violence, contrivance, denial of the Lord… the picture he paints as a result of the alienation is one of the blind stumbling in the dark (Is 59:9-10) at which time the Lord will come and will

put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation upon his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in fury as a mantle.

Is 59:17

Isaiah speaks of how the Lord will come and bring justice to those who have done evil, and they shall fear Him, and they shall see His glory. He tells us:

And he will come to Zion as Redeemer, to those in Jacob who turn from their transgression, says the Lord. And as for me, my covenant with them , says the Lord: my spirit which is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your children, or out of the mouth of your children’s children, says the Lord, from this time forth and for evermore.

Is 59:20-21

Isaiah illustrates the victory of the Lord over the darkness he describes in verses 9 and 10 when he describes the Lord’s coming as the rising of the sun (Is 59:19) and it is this total victory that makes the covenant described above possible.

Paul’s Answer

11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  14 Stand, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  15 and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; 16 besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.  17  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,  19  and also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel

Paul challenges the people of Ephesus to put on the armor worn by the Lord in Is 59. Paul frames his text within a battle against principalities, powers, the world rulers of this present darkness (referencing Is 59:9). He asks each Christian to equip himself for battle and to fight with these tools in order to withstand the wiles of the devil, and to quench his evil darts. He shows his reader that this is the way for him to begin living the covenant that Isaiah records the Lord making in chapter 59, where the Spirit is upon him and that the words of the Lord are being given him.

Where the Greek gets interesting

Verse 11 is enough to give me chills, and here’s why.

11 Put on the πανοπλιαν of God, that you may be able to stand against the μεθοδειας of the devil.

The two words of interest are πανοπλιαν (transliteration: panoplian) which literally means “whole armor” and εθοδειας (transliteration: methodeias) which means wiles/tricks. So far, so good… so what? At this point its all about the word selection Paul has made, and the word he chose NOT to use.

The pan prefix at the beginning of the word for “whole armor” is the part of the word that translates to “whole” (think panorama, pantheism, etc.)
eph_languageNotes
In biblical Greek, there are two words for wiles/tricks. One of the words is the one that Paul chose to use in this text, i.e. methodeias. The other word with the same basic meaning is πανουργια (panourgia.) Notice the inclusion of the prefix pan in the word that Paul chose not to use.

Why is this important? Paul is trying to illustrate that the battle is uneven… no, that its already won! God provides whole armor, complete protection. The devil doesn’t have a complete arsenal of tricks to throw at us, the kind of tricks that would match up to whole armor. This is highly encouraging!

Put on, then, the whole armor of God. Christ came, the Dawn of Compassion that broke among us, the Rising Sun that vanquished the rulers of this present darkness. He came, He fought and He won. We who follow Him are still playing our part, we are still fighting in the name of His victory as the saga of time and space plays out to its conclusion. If we fulfil our part of the covenant of the Lord by wearing His armor, quenching the darts of the evil one, praying at all times in the Spirit, keeping alert, persevering and making supplication for each other… so too will the Lord keep His promise to us – the Spirit will be upon us and His Word will always be with us. We will abide in Him and He will abide in us, participating in the Trinitarian Life that is the birthright of those adopted sons of God who were born to new life in baptism.