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It was just about a year ago that I moved to my new home, a house I share with my mother. It’s a lovely house, in a suburb. There’s really nothing to dislike about it. But it’s been a pretty big adjustment for me, having lived in the city center for a number of years. I have a much longer commute to work and to the Dominican priory. I had to find, and join, a different parish. I feel out of place as an unmarried women living among young families. Even when I’ve found activities and events that interest me and that are close to home, I haven’t been able to get out and do things because I get home late in the evening. Or, in many cases, the activities of interest occur during the work week, during work hours.
For many months, I’ve been sort of drifting along, going through motions, without ever having the slightest sense that I belong where I am, that it is really my home. I’ve given in sometimes to discouragement, discontent, loneliness, frustration, anxiety–most of which I’ve tried to cure by just closing myself up in my room with a video game or television show. Naturally, this only increased my isolation, so that I fell into a downward spiral of depression. In trying to numb or distract myself, I also stopped putting God at the center of my life. I became lax in my prayer and religious obligations.
Fortunately, I did have the sense to go to Confession and dust myself off to try again. And fortunately, I also had Lent approaching quickly, and a new focus and purpose to put myself to. Of course, God and His grace are what have seen me through most of all.
So I started praying every day, several times a day:
Lord, please just help me settle down and be more at home here. Help me find ways to become part of this new community and my new parish. Help me find ways to contribute and form new relationships. I trust that you have planted me here for a reason. Whether or not that reason becomes clear to me, please help me to accept my new place and to flourish.
I can’t say that I’ve had any remarkable epiphanies. I can’t say anything has progressed. I definitely can’t say that I’ve discovered the reason for my being where I am. But at least I have my faith and am clinging closer to God’s side once more–and that always makes life so much richer. As part of my Lenten discipline, I am going to keep praying that prayer, along with all my other prayers and observances, and I’m not going to let myself give in to impatience or distrust. I know that the feelings will come, and the temptation to entertain them will be strong. But I’m not going to give in.
So, yesterday morning, as I was going about my business of getting ready for work, I turned one of the music channels on to help get my blood pumping. And this song came on: “Home” by Phillip Phillips. A song I’d heard before but never paid too much attention to. But this time, for whatever reason, I found myself really listening to the lyrics:
Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble—it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you’re not alone
‘Cause I’m gonna make this place your home
It was one of those amazing, unexpected moments when words strike you and move you and seem to have been meant just for you. And you wonder: how did I not hear this before? I know that many people would just shrug it off as a coincidence, nothing important. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there’s no such thing as a coincidence–not in the sense of something unimportant and accidental. So, my spirit has been very uplifted! And I feel sure that my prayer to be more at home has been heard and will be answered.
But, you know, feel free to add your own prayers for me! :)
Greetings, dear readers! It’s been so long, and I apologize for that. Honestly, time has just gotten away from me. I often feel like this year has only just begun. But no! We are now in the midst of Spring (in this hemisphere at least) and the glorious season of Easter, springtime of the soul! So, first thing: I want to wish a joyful and blessed Easter to all of you! :D
As usual, I have been prompted by my friends and your fellow readers that I am overdue for a blog post and an update.
Not too much has changed, but the changes there have been have been quite significant. I am recently moved into a new apartment in a different part of town. I also have a new relationship with a wonderful gentleman. As you can imagine, these new circumstances have brought great joy and freshness to my life! I feel like I have finally closed an old chapter in my story and entered into an entirely new one.
I was starting to think this would never happen. It seemed like a wild fantasy, something impossible and out of reach. I yearned for it so greatly, and the yearning seemed completely ineffective and futile. I felt I would be consigned to the same place for the rest of my life. But it did happen. As gradually and delicately and naturally as a new bud opening in Spring it happened. Without my realizing it, it was happening for quite some time, until the full glory of it struck me.
The natural seasons happen much the same way, don’t they? They change over time until one day you are struck by the fact that it is Spring or Summer or Autumn or Winter. It should come as no surprise; these changes happen every single year. And yet each season is always new and extraordinary, even if we may only appreciate it for a moment.
Thinking of nature’s splendor brings to mind a very dear and special person–and this is another recent change to my life: the recent passing of Father Edward Mathias “Matt” Robinson, O.P., the spiritual director of my local Lay Dominican community. He lived to the ripe old age of 97, and will always rank as one of the most knowledgeable and wise people I have ever known, learned in the natural sciences as well as theology, philosophy, and spiritual matters–much like the patron of our local priory, St. Albert the Great! He was also known as the patriarch of the local pro-life movement. I highly recommend his online work, Fetal Life and Abortion: Human Personhood at Conception which appeals to human reason through philosophy and natural science to demonstrate the personhood and right to life of fetuses from the moment of conception. There is also a brief obituary posted there currently.
April has also brought the second anniversary of my father’s passing. Grief does strange things to time. Sometimes it feels much longer than two years, while sometimes it feels like just yesterday. The one thing that is constant is my missing him. I know he is still near to me, but there’s nothing to replace the sound of his voice or the warmth of his hand enclosing mine. How lonely life is sometimes! This too is a season that must run its natural course. I know that’s exactly what he would tell me.
And of course, I have plenty of people and things to which to devote myself in the here and now. In every time, we must be faithful to the present, so that is what I am trying to do!
I hope you all are doing well, and keep you in my prayers as always. God bless you!
My Catholic ladies’ book club is reading Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation this month. I have mixed feelings about the book, but it does include some good thoughts, including some that I have found very helpful with the Lenten Lesson. One of the best I’ve come across so far is this:
Be content that you are not yet a saint, even though you realize that the only thing worth living for is sanctity. Then you will be satisfied to let God lead you to sanctity by paths that you cannot understand. You will travel in darkness in which you will no longer be concerned with yourself and no longer compare yourself with other men.
That encapsulates the Lenten Lesson quite well. Namely:
1. To acknowledge that I am on a journey and in a process; I’m not there yet
2. To allow God to lead me, with more trust and less resistance
3. To not be so concerned with myself; to be less self-centered
4. To not always compare myself with other people; to be authentically myself, the person God created me to be
To a large extent, I feel like I need to find myself, and to be myself. And in order to do that, I need to be closer to God. That’s another thing Merton talks about in this book: how we come to know ourselves through knowing God and shedding lots of false conceptions of ourselves. I think that is very true for me.
Over the past several years, God has deconstructed and reconstructed me. And rather than trust Him, I have also attempted to reconstruct myself as I see fit. It has only distracted and confused me. It has come to nothing. Right now, I need to get to know how God has reconstructed me. I need to explore and grow into the new structure He has given me. I need to fulfill His vision of me. I need to be a peace with myself, to feel more comfortable with myself.
I have been feeling rather in the dark. At times I feel like the only thing I can do is put one foot in front of the other… inhale and exhale… and keep praying, even if I don’t feel like it.
Also today, a friend and reader “coincidentally” sent me an excerpt from Thomas Keating’s Intimacy with God:
At this point, the initial graces that were given to our rational faculties and emotions are withdrawn–a classic experience in the spiritual journey known as “the dark night of sense.” Our enthusiasm for various devotional practices and activities disappears because God no longer gives the grace that works through the levels of reason and emotion. God, too, seems to withdraw, to our great distress or consternation. Instead of being present during our time of prayer, God seems not to show up anymore; it feels as if God could not care less. This is especially painful if the former relationship was very satisfying, exciting, or consoling. The thought rises, “God has abandoned me!” When the dryness is extreme, Lectio Divina is like reading the telephone book and spiritual exercises are just a bore. We are irritable and discouraged because the light of our life has gone out. It took so many years to find God and now God has gone away. There is a constant temptation to think we have done something wrong, but we can’t figure out what it was. Our tendency is to project onto God the way we would feel in a similar deteriorating relationship with another human being, namely, hopeless. This judgment is most unfair to God. At this point a lot of people throw in the towel and decide, “The spiritual journey is not for me.”
As the transition to the next layer takes place, there may be a discouraging sense that all is ending, and in a sense, it is the end of our world: But our world is not the world; it is just one of them. God cannot possibly go away. It is true, our relationship with God, if we deliberately walk away, can be injured for a while, but God does not really leave us. If God did, we would just disappear or turn into a grease spot, since God is the very life of our being.
Creation is ongoing. What God has done in this situation is simply to “go downstairs” to a more intimate place on the spiral staircase, where he is waiting for us to join him at a new level of maturity and trust. If we are very quiet in the night of sense, St. John of the Cross writes, we may notice a delicate sense of peace and may even begin to enjoy the more substantial food of pure faith. As we let go of the level on which we formerly found satisfaction, we move to a deeper level of faith, which is far more reliable and much more strengthening for the journey.
I do feel like I need to quieten myself and delve deeper. I said recently that I feel like I am at some kind of turning point, some kind of break-though point. I feel a great deal of tension, a small touch of trepidation, and also excitement–the latter being a small testament that I do know that God wills wonderful things for me and for all of us if we just follow His lead. I know the rewards of taking the plunge into deeper spiritual waters. I know that “delicate sense of peace” that blooms from spiritual perseverance.
But there is still so much mystery and uncertainty. No two lessons are exactly the same. Knowing the good results doesn’t necessarily calm one’s nerves. It still demands submission and a willingness to just… let… go. It still demands a leap of faith, with the understanding that God might allow us to plummet and tumble and madly flap our arms for a while before He catches us. I know that feeling too!
I still feel like I’m clinging to the cliff, peering into the chasm. But I feel more and more like letting go. If it will bring me nearer to God, and make me more myself, then I just have to do it.