Los Angeles Retreat on God’s Love for the New Year on Jan 7

Thank you for your patience with me as I return from my trip to Illinois and catch up with a few urgent projects. For the beginning of the New Year, I will be in Los Angeles for meetings with our sisters, and I am taking that opportunity to offer a retreat day at our Pauline Book & Media Center in Culver City, CA, on Saturday, January 7th. Retreat will be followed by Mass at our chapel at 4 PM.

A day of retreat is a wonderful way to re-discover and rejoice in the gift of God’s love and to allow his love to transform us. Abiding in his love enables us to discern God’s will for us in this new year, and once again align our will with God’s. If you live in the Los Angeles area, this is a marvelous way to start the year.

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Prayers for #Discernment

The Annunciation

The Annunciation

The past few weeks, I keep running into some wonderful prayers for discernment, so I thought I’d share them here:

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has a lovely collection of Prayers for Discernment from a variety of Catholic spiritual traditions (Francis of Assisi, Carmelite, and one of my personal favorites by St. Thomas More).

The USCCB site has over 40 prayers for vocations, as well as another page with some excellent resources on discerning one’s vocation.

The Archdiocese of Boston has a short selection of prayers for discerning one’s vocation, including one written by our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, and another beautiful prayer written by another Daughter of St. Paul, Sr. Nancy Michael Usselmann, FSP

IgnatianSpirituality.com has many wonderful resources on discernment, but this is a page that I frequently send people to: it is a list of prayers by St. Ignatius of Loyola and other Jesuits. There are many wonderful prayers here–not all about discernment–but most of them reference seeking to know or follow God’s will in some way.

Finally, I’ll close with a short prayer for discernment that I wrote when I was vocation director,  and which is included in our Discern It! App for discerning vocations:

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Prayer To Surrender to Love

After last week’s very personal post about my journey to greater trust in the Lord, I thought I would share this prayer of surrender from my journal.

By Artotem [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Prayer To Surrender to Love

Loving God, You know me intimately:

my fears,

my inability to trust You,

my grasping for those things over which I have no control,

my blindness to the reality of Your love and Your presence,

my stubbornness in never trusting the experience of Your love that You continuously shower on me.

I am a mess of contradictions: I want to witness to You,  while emotionally I am locked into overwhelming fear.

In Your time, in Your way, free me!

Let Your Presence fill my prison until its bars burst open

Let Your Love give wings to my desperate heart

Let Your Gentleness soothe my ego’s frantic efforts to control

Let Your Truth root my fluttering doubts

Let Your Light show my faltering feet the Way

Let Your Banquet nourish my weakness into Life

Let Your Faithfulness encompass and embrace me until…

     I am transformed from a being bound by Fear

          into a being transformed by Love. 

Jesus Master, my Way, my Truth, and my Life, I trust in You!

* * *

These are some classic, beautiful prayers of surrender and trust in  the Lord by some of the saints:

Suscipe by St. Ignatius of Loyola

Prayer of Abandon by Bl. Charles de Foucald

An Act of Oblation by St. Francis de Sales

Photo by Artotem [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

#Discernment Essential: Ongoing Conversion (or Letting God Break Through—a Sister’s Ongoing Conversion Story)

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The view from my outdoor “prayer nook” during my 8 day retreat

I was gifted with a beautiful annual retreat in July, and I also felt very privileged to carry all your intentions “with me” on the retreat. You continue to be in my prayers.

One of the challenges in discerning God’s will for our lives is making sure that we are open to his will. I came face to face with my own resistance to God’s invitation to me during this retreat.

* * *

For a long time, I’ve known that the Lord has been inviting me to trust him more. And I have been working at it and praying about it. I even thought I was growing in trust. But I wasn’t really wholehearted in my efforts or my prayers because, to be honest, his invitation scared me.

For many years, I have trusted the Lord in many ways and about many things. But for some time now, the Lord’s invitation to me has been to go deeper, to entrust to him everything, even those things that I have been holding back. And that has just seemed too hard. So in the past few years I’d prayed about it superficially, occasionally asked for the gift of greater trust and greater fortitude, but mostly…ignored it. I think I allowed fear to harden my heart.

God is unfailingly good, understanding, tender, gentle, and patient with me. Instead of forcing the issue, or giving up on me, he simply continued to work in my life in other ways. But the invitation was there, waiting…and he knew it and I gradually grew more and more aware of it. I started realizing that, when I wasn’t trusting the Lord with these things in my life, I would try to control them instead. (As if I could! ) I was reminded of the New Serenity Prayer that Father James Martin, SJ, wrote a few years back. Sometimes the only form of control I had was to worry about them.

During retreat God allowed me to experience a moment of extreme weakness. Perhaps he did it so that I would remember anew how very weak and fragile I am. It was very uncomfortable to recognize my littleness and fragility in the light of my efforts to control everything around me. But I think I needed this discomfort for my eyes to be opened, and God allowed it for this reason. None of the situations I was worried about were in my control. Wouldn’t it make more sense to entrust them to the God whom I have to come to know as tender, loving, gentle, and faithful—the God who could do something about them? Who probably already was doing something about them?

IMAG0883At a most beautiful moment in prayer, one in which I was simply pouring out my heart to God, God gave me the gift of being able to make that act of trust right then and there. With that act of trust came a great sense of peace and a sense of being loved by the Lord.

Of course, my act of trust was not, is not, a one-time act. It’s ongoing. My trust in the Lord can be renewed every day, every hour, and—in very difficult situations—every minute, if need be.

* * *

In coming back to this blog, I wonder if I have emphasized enough how important it is to be truly open to God’s will for us, an openness which requires living in ongoing conversion! I can make every effort to discern God’s will, but if I’m not listening, if I’m not open, or if I allow fear, grief,  pain, anger, or anything else to blind me, I can completely miss the loving invitation that God is holding out to me in this very moment.

Since I’ve returned to my daily life, I’ve been blessed to renew my trust in my Beloved Master many times. This is one of my favorite acts of trust, found in the journal of Blessed James Alberione. I encourage you to entrust yourself to the Lord frequently on your discernment journey:

I trust in You, Sacred Heart of my Master!

Mary as Model of #Discernment, Vocation & Mission

The devotion to Mary, Queen of the Apostles, is one of the oldest devotions to Mary in the Church. One of our sisters recently let me know about a youtube video of the song, Queen of Apostles, composed and sung by Nancy Krebs, which beautifully offers reflections and prayers about two key events in Mary’s life associated with this particular title of Mary.

A key in discerning and living our vocation is devotion to Mary. Devotion to Mary as our Queen of Apostles is more than asking Mary to help us discover and carry out the mission God has entrusted to us. It also means entrusting ourselves and our spiritual journey to her. It means imitating Mary in how she shared her Son with the world, taking on her attitudes of humility, of receptivity to God (especially her docility to the Holy Spirit),  her obedience to God’s Word, and her union with her Son in his mission. If we entrust every effort that we make and everyone whom we seek to serve to Mary’s motherly care, all our efforts will be blessed.

Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouve, on her blog Thomas for Today, posted an introductory reflection on this ancient devotion: Mary and the Holy Spirit.

#Discerning in Every Day Life: We are in God’s hands as he shapes us

Photo: Sr. Mary Emmanuel Alves, FSP. © Daughters of St. Paul

Photo: Sr. Mary Emmanuel Alves, FSP. © Daughters of St. Paul

Then the word of the Lord came to me:
“O house of Israel,
can I not do with you as this potter has done? says the Lord.
Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”

I love this morning’s reading from Jeremiah 18:1-6. It fits so well with the themes of my prayer this week: creativity, being open to the Lord working in me and through me, and allowing the Lord to take the lead in all the aspects of my life: spiritually,  in my relationships, in my efforts to communicate, in the apostolate of sharing the Word.

As the fruit of my recent annual retreat, I’ve been praying for the grace to live in the present moment. It’s so easy for me to get lost in my plans and to forget that it’s God’s plan that I want to be living fully. It’s not really possible for me to discern God’s will, however, if I am not living in the present moment, taking one day, one hour, one minute at a time. Because God speaks to us and works in us in the present moment.

Our Blessed Mother Mary was an expert in living in the present moment. While I was in Rome for the Apostolic Mysticism Seminar, several of the speakers–all Pauline priests–spoke of how Mary was completely docile to the work of the Holy Spirit. We know this simply by her response at the Annunciation.

The conclusion of my every meditation this week has been prayer to Mary, specifically asking her for the grace of this openness and availability to God, not just in the big occasions of my life, but at every moment. So I pray to her with my favorite title, calling on her as my Mother and Queen, the Queen of every apostle, to teach me how to be aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and to be receptive to his nudges, his whispers, his inner direction.

Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us!

Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us!

A final note: Summer has become a bit of a chaotic time for me to fit in regular posts. Responses to the last couple of questions about vocational discernment are almost lined up and ready to post. I also have been reflecting/praying/living some profound moments of discernment in every day life, which I hope to share with you soon. Thank you for your patience with me, as my posting schedule has become a bit irregular.

Send Me Your Intentions & I Will Pray for You on My Retreat

Forest Path2

Retreats are wonderful, mysterious journeys where we allow the Divine Master to lead us…even when we don’t know where He is leading us!

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve blogged, and partly that’s because I was preparing to be away for two weeks. This Monday, July 11th, I will begin my annual eight-day retreat. (Some day I need to tweet a retreat…wouldn’t that be awesome to follow a nun’s progress on an eight-day retreat? Retreats are such mysterious and amazing encounters with the Lord. Maybe next year.)

So I will be offline for another two weeks, but I’d like to bring you with me. Send me your specific intentions–or even just send me your name–and I will bring your individual intentions to the Lord while I’m on retreat.

Inspiring Vocation Story from a Daughter of Saint Paul

I’m delighted to share with you this lovely vocation story of Sr. Maria Kim, FSP, who recently made her perpetual profession in the Daughters of Saint Paul. Not only is she very open about the steps of her discernment, but there are “tips” and feedback from other young women who  witnessed Sr. Maria Kim’s perpetual profession while discerning religious life.

As you enjoy her inspiring story, pray for young people discerning their vocations, that they may have the same openness and joy to Christ’s call of love.

#Discernment: Is the Vow of Chastity Too Hard To Live?

In the responses to the poll about obstacles to considering priestly or religious life, the obstacles that came up repeatedly were the vows.  Although we looked at them briefly in the post about religious life, I thought that perhaps sharing some personal experience of living these vows could show the beauty and value of consecrated life.

Religious life is meant to be a life directed towards a closer following of Christ—carrying the cross with Jesus here on earth, trusting in God’s loving providence to draw us closer to himself, both here and in eternity. Every vocation has its call to sacrifice and heroism, but the constancy of the sacrifices in religious life have led some to call it  “a slow martyrdom.” That has less to do with the conspicuous sacrifices of the vows, and more to do with laying down lives in service to others. It’s the vows that give religious the freedom to love with an undivided heart.

“Celibacy is too hard.”

Celibacy is hard. I don’t deny it. Every human being is created for the intimacy of spousal love, and celibacy is giving up the physical expression of spousal love. Renouncing the physical intimacy of sex for the sake of Christ and his kingdom is a real sacrifice. Celibacy means not having the unconditional support of one’s spouse, nor having someone in your life who is always there for you. Celibacy (or consecrated chastity as it is often called) means times of loneliness.

However, celibacy doesn’t mean giving up all emotions and relationships. It  mean that our exclusive relationship is with God. So the wise celibate is attentive to nurturing meaningful relationships with other people in his or her life—with family, community, and friends—so that they remain emotionally healthy and can rely on a certain level of human companionship. For me personally, sharing life with my sisters in community is one of my greatest joys and supports in living religious life and the vows.  

IMG_0590What does it mean to have an exclusive relationship with God? It means that the “Someone” whom we go to first, the One is always there for us, the One to whom we give ourselves completely, is God.  As we grow in our exclusive relationship with God, we find ourselves falling more and more deeply in love with him: we rely always more on him, becoming more aware of his presence in the tiny details of our day; our desire to do God’s will and to serve God’s people always more deepens; and our love continually grows. A special intimacy develops between us and God.

For priests and men religious, the “spouse” is the Church. For women religious, our spouse is Christ himself. For both men and women religious, spousal love is expressed primarily in loving all of God’s children, and especially Christ in his members, the Church.

One key aspect of spousal love is fruitfulness. Just as married love is to be open to the creation of new life, so the love of religious and priestly life is to be fruitful, as spiritual fathers and mothers of God’s People. This spiritual parenthood is expressed in countless ways.

I was recently at a faith sharing with a number of other Catholic women who were talking about the joys and challenges of being married. I’m sure they just thought I was listening, but I added my comment in the end—a comment that I borrowed from Sr. Helena Burns. “My Spouse is perfect. The only problem is that, when we disagree about something, he’s always right.”

Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, called chastity the greatest love. I think part of what he meant by that is that our spouse is the perfect Lover; but perhaps he also meant that chastity is a very self-sacrificing love, with fewer tangible rewards here on earth. For me, chastity is a treasure that keeps my gaze and my attention focused exactly where it should be: on God and his People.