Some of you may remember that I used to have a project called The Vocation Operation, aimed at providing resources for those discerning a religious vocation that I ran with a friend. We both ended up busy and the blog fell by the wayside but I’ve decided that I want to start it up again. I’ve moved the blog and am working on developing the resources we had and want to change and add a few things. So if you’re discerning a religous vocation or just interested, please stop by and see what we’ve got – more will be added soon!
So I already blogged about the new pope but I am still just filled with the same joy I felt when the white smoke came up. I was at the bus stop this morning just thinking to myself “we have a pope! we have a pope!” I do not remember the last conclave. I was about 14 and it wasn’t something that crossed my mind particularly. I was Catholic, but I was not practicing. I do remember watching the funeral of Bl. Pope John Paul II on television, but not much more than that. So this is a new experience for me.
One of the things that struck me the most was the emotional reaction to the white smoke. We didn’t know who the new pope was, but at the same time I was filled with love for this yet unknown person. I was chatting with some friends online at the time and we were all just saying “we love you Papa”. The crowds cheering, “viva il Papa” before we’d even seen him. When the announcement was made and then when Pope Francis appeared to us for the first time, there truly was this sense of deep love for him. I’d never even heard his name until then but he already held a special place in my heart.
It was unexpected. But a very humble man appeared before us. Clearly moved by the weight of the office given to him, he came before a world that was waiting for him. And before he gave the blessing, he asked us to pray for him and he bowed in silence. It seems like such a simple gesture, but it was so deeply profound at the same time. He stood there not as a proud leader, but as a humble servant. He is known for taking public transport and on the day of his election, he refused the car that was ready from him and took the bus with the cardinals. His humility is so striking that in just a few days I have seen people refer to him as Francis the Humble.
Let us continue to pray for Pope Francis, that the Holy Spirit may continue to guide him and the Church.
I am so excited. I’m watching the live feed right now and just waiting for our new pope to emerge. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was this excited. I’m watching the Swiss guard now and just waiting and there are so many emotions. I squealed out loud when I saw the white smoke. I’d gone to the store and was desperately hoping I wouldn’t miss it and it came just as I got back. The joy and the excitement and the nerves.
And the announcement has been made…Pope Francis! It’s strange how someone I know next to nothing about can hold such a dear place in my heart. It must be such a profound moment, to stand there and know how many people are watching you and have been waiting for you. Hearing his speech and his blessing, it’s just so beautiful.
Pope Francis I. I have been so full of joy since the announcement was made. He strikes me as a very humble man, and all account I have heard of him have only cemented this impression. The way he asked us to pray for him, humility really was the biggest thing that struck me about him.
God Bless Pope Francis!
First things first, I apologise for being terrible at blogging recently. BUT my thesis was due this week so naturally that was my focus. Now that it is done (yay!) I can get back to blogging. I have a few posts in my drafts but they are ones that require actual thought and planning as opposed to my usual ramblings.
Secondly, the conclave starts on Tuesday (tomorrow!). So get praying! If you haven’t already, also adopt a cardinal. You sign up and are randomly assigned a cardinal that you then pray for. And then if your cardinal is elected you can feel awesome (just kidding…sort of). Also, what happens if you can’t be glued to your television all day, or you live somewhere in a super different time zone to Rome and are asleep and miss the announcement! Being English, I don’t quite have the latter problem but there is a site called Pope Alarm that will email you, or if you are in the US text you, when the white smoke appears so you can be watching for “Habemus Papam!” I think this is a genius idea for those of you who are far away from Rome. I, however, will spend all my waking hours watching EWTN because Rome is only like an hour ahead. And of course don’t forget to pray for the conclave and our new pope!
And now the actual post.
So recently I was on old forum-type website I used to be very active on but only really log in now to keep my account alive. It was a big part of my life for a long time and it’s one of those things that I’d feel sad if I just let it die. It’s not a Christian site, but there are various groups and I was part of mostly Catholic or Christian groups. This was when I was a teenager and was starting to get more into the faith and was in RCIA and everything. I kept it very separate from my real life and in a way I developed two separate identities: the person I was in my real life, and the person I was online. I remember these girls who talked about nothing but Jesus and their church camp or whatever and were all these cookie-cutter copies of each other. There was this attitude that in order to be a “good Christian” you had to fit this ideal where there was no sense of personality and individuality. So for a long time I maintained this identity as a “Good Christian Girl” online, but in my real life I was a different person. For a long time I thought in order to be a “good Catholic” you somehow had to suppress yourself.
A while ago I saw someone (non-Catholic at the time now reconciled to the Church, praise God) say that they had a great admiration for St. Therese and if we were all like her then they’d be a Catholic. This comment made me think back to that idea that there is some mould that we must all fit into in order to be a “good Catholic”. Of course St. Therese was a great and holy woman, but she was also an individual. We try to emulate the saints in their holiness, not in their personality. It took me a long time to realise that I could be a Catholic and still be myself. I don’t need to talk about Christ every single second for Him to be the centre of my life. God made us as individuals and it’s okay to embrace that.
So unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, the Holy Father has resigned. I admit I was completely shocked and didn’t believe it for a minute until I checked another news site to make sure. It’s kind of sunk in now, but even when I first heard it the one thing I felt in my heart was that the Holy Father would not have made this decision lightly and unless he truly felt it was the best choice for the Church and in keeping with the will of God. I also felt assured that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide the Church, as always, and guide the cardinals as they choose the next successor of Peter. Some of the reactions from Catholics I know have disappointed me. The Holy Father is not quitting. He is not giving up. His resignation is an act of humility and of ultimate trust in the Lord. He has no desire to stop serving the Church, he is acknowledging that he can serve her better by allowing a new shepherd to take his place.
I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
A friend of mine is fundraising for her entrance to religious life, which will hopefully be this summer. She hopes to enter the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa. Visit her Facebook page for more information, she will have donation links up soon.
Monday (21st January) was the feast of St. Agnes. Since she is my favourite saint, I decided to go to the cathedral to pray after class. I wasn’t really intending to stay for Mass, but I was caught up in my prayers and before I knew it Mass had started. On occasion rather than the normal daily Mass there will be a requiem Mass, and normally I would have checked the noticeboard to see if anything was going on but because I hadn’t intended to stay I hadn’t done so. For the most part those attending were the regular daily Mass goes, and maybe half a dozen family members of the deceased. It took me by surprise and at first completely freaked me out. While I have never been afraid of death, I have always been uncomfortable about it. Grief is not an emotion I cope well with and my instinct was to leave. But I couldn’t do that, it would have been obvious. So I stayed put.
It really made me think about the end of this life, and the next. I have been struggling recently, and it has really helped me put things back in perspective. This life is not for our enjoyment, our pleasure, our flights of fancy. It does not end at death. It is a preparation for the next life, the glorious kingdom of heaven. We are not looking to death, we are looking beyond death to the new life that Christ gained for us. I had lost sight of that, and I was reminded of it at that requiem Mass. Where do I want to go when I die? Do I want to be in the kingdom of God? Of course! I cannot say that my struggles have been wiped away, but it has helped me remember why I even try to follow the will of God. It is His will that will lead me to His kingdom, not mine. I think my dear St. Agnes was watching out for me that day and interceding for me.
On a slightly related note, today is the feast of St. Agnes’ foster sister (she was the daughter of Agnes’ wet nurse), St. Emerentiana. She was a catechumen and went to pray at her sister’s grave a few days after her death. When a group of pagans approached she told them she was Agnes’ sister and professed that she too was a Christian and the crowd stoned her to death. Somehow she has always impressed me. How easy it would have been to turn away from her faith after her sister’s martyrdom! How easy it would have been to deny her sister and her faith! But she saw the faith of Agnes, the faith that she refused to deny and died for, and followed in her footsteps. Agnes may well have been an inspiration for her initial conversion, we obviously do not know that. But we do know that the two sisters are in God’s kingdom, where they both share in His glorious vision.
This is the second part of my favourite saints, you can read the first part here.
Saint Augustine of Hippo
Saint Augustine and Saint Monica, Ary Scheffer
Saint Augustine is famous for having said “God grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” I have read some small sections of his Confessions and can honestly say it is one of the most beautiful writings I have come across. It is harrowing, and perhaps not for the faint-hearted, but nonetheless his life captured me. As with other saints I have talked about, it was his conversion that inspired me. The way he once lived his life and the way he lived in Christ were so totally apart from each other.
Interestingly, Saint Augustine was greatly influenced and actually baptised by the next saint on this list.
Saint Ambrose of Milan
Mosaic of Saint Ambrose
I have mentioned Saint Ambrose a few times before. I had a dream of taking him as my patron at my clothing, since I was confirmed on his feast day (Funny Coincidences). His appointment as Bishop was something he faced with great reluctance and tried to hide. But he did in the end give himself over to the will of God and I think that is something that speaks to me. To me he is a reminder that we cannot run from the will of God, and that we cannot hide from Him.
Saint Joan of Arc
Painting ca. 1845
The reason I love Saint Joan is simply because of one quote from during her trial. She was asked the question “Do you know whether or not you are in God’s grace?” The question was designed to trick her, but her response was beautiful. “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.” Something about that response just captures me. It speaks of her great love for God, of her humility, of her trust in the Lord.
Photograph of Saint Bernadette
One of my dreams is to go to Lourdes. I remember first hearing about her when I was in RCIA and was just completely taken aback. I had heard of Marian apparitions before of course but never really appreciated them before. A simple little girl was graced with a vision of the Blessed Mother herself. What an incredible and beautiful gift! She helped bring me closer to our Blessed Mother, so for that she will always be special to me.
WordPress has a nifty little feature when creating posts that I am trying now for the first time. You click the words Inspire Me and it comes up with something for you to blog about. It came up with this little question for me and so I thought I’d give it a shot.
What was the one experience that completely changed your life? What happened? How did it change your life?
I have spent days trying to figure this one out and there was only one thing I could think of. To put it simply, the one experience that completely changed my life was my joining the Catholic Church. I’ve written about it a bit before (here) so I won’t go into the long-winded explanation. To summarise, I was an unbaptised Anglican and by chance ended up at a Catholic school and decided at 8 years old that my heart lay in the Catholic Church. So four years later I was baptised in the Catholic Church, and I have not looked back.
To put it simply, it has changed everything. My faith has shaped the person I am, the decisions I make, the beliefs I hold, the very way that I choose to live my life. My faith is who I am, and so permeates every part of my life. Nothing else could ever have changed my life to totally, so completely and so radically. And not only did it change my life, but it continues to change my life, as I grow in my relationship with the Lord.
How appropriate a choice of topic for a new year!
A few days ago Mother Mistress sent me a very sweet email. I told her about my concerns with my confusion about my desire to return as opposed to whether it is God’s will for me to return. I also mentioned my thought of staying in their retreat house at some point in the new year and she agreed that was a good idea.
I’m still not sure that I’m called to religious life at this point in time, but I do also want to be sure. I did love St. Cecilia’s and I feel right now that religious life is my will, not the will of God. The thought of not being called to the religious life saddens me, but if I am not called then I can accept that.
In the end, I know that whatever God has planned for me is greater than I can possibly imagine.
I haven’t posted much recently, and the reason for that is that I’ve been struggling. I have this same problem in that I need to go to Reconciliation, but I just can’t. I don’t feel contrite. I realise how awful that as, and it’s tearing at me but I’m just not. I want to be, I really want to be. And I suppose that’s something but it’s not enough. It’s getting better though, I can feel that pain in my soul from being separated from God and recently I haven’t felt that so I can only hope.
I feel like I’m in mourning. Most women who discern the religious life mourn marriage and children. I never had, I never mourned those things. For me, those were not sacrifices. Very little felt like a sacrifice, if I am honest. It might have done further down the line but to me I was always so ready to give things up. I grew up moving a lot, you couldn’t be attached to people or things too much or at least be able to cope with giving things up. For me the greatest cross was my family’s pain, but I knew that was only temporary and would be replaced with a hundred times more joy. Marriage and children were not something I ever mourned. They were what I had always wanted for my life, but when I felt called to religious life I was able to instantly let it go.
I’m not letting go. I don’t know why but this time I’m mourning. I’m mourning the loss of St. Cecilia’s, of the abbey and the choir and the cells and the garden and my beautiful sisters. I’m crying as I type this, that’s how much I’m mourning. I loved it so much there that I wonder if I’m wrong about not being called, but I can’t tell if it’s because of my will or God’s will. I have been thinking of going back to St. Cecilia’s in the new year, not for a live-in but make a retreat on the outside. I feel this need to go back, even just to stay on the outside.
I’m just so confused right now. I’m still thinking of finding a spiritual director because I could do with something, anything right now.