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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Love Never Fails

*Note: Images from the Twilight Saga were all lifted from Google.
               No copyright infringement intended.



I woke up after an hour's rest...

I couldn't bring myself to write, draw, make music much less do my usual spiritual readings. My blog was devoid of inspiration...  

I took a momentary vacation from some friends...


Midnight, I hooked into music and waited until my thoughts cleared out...


Love Never Fails
~Brandon Heath~
-------------------------------------

He came quietly into my life at the time I was 'ready to receive' love ~ 


To care means first of all to empty our own cup and to allow the other to come close to us.
  ~ Henri Nouwen~

He took me out of the frenetic world I lived in and brought me to his heart....

I felt my pulse come alive ~ 

Inside his heart resided
             ~ the ONE I loved!

I followed the rhythm of his heart beat...

My soul learned to breathe....





We mirrored each other in so many ways...

I loved children, he worked with the old and forgotten...

We both took extra miles for the people we served...

but most importantly,
we shared Christ's love...





Together, we were a team...




I knew God will take him to another place one day...


The threat of 'loneliness' surfaced....                     
Truth:     

"When your love is truly giving and receiving, those whom you love will not leave your heart even when they depart from you."

~ Henri Nouwen ~

It's still a long way for me to understand the path leading to the Cross but

         

     It takes reality to truly descend .... 
and teach the value of trusting the Lord...


of giving up everything I held in my mind to be true...

~ Halt ~


 
 I was led to a place of solitude ~ where all my images of God have been broken. 

God sends friends not to fulfill our desires, longings nor inner cravings for attention...

if they compete with Jesus,
they become idols...

God sends them to manifest  His love and to make His presence felt.

Where there was once words, 
He replaced with silence but...
but
The Light within continues to glow...




"Even profound than love is faith,
FAITH  IN LOVE."
~ Fr. Henri Boulad ~
All is Grace: God and the Mystery of Time

He is a part of me!

Death, sickness, suffering lured their way inside my abode... 

but I echo his words..."Jesus is always present within you."

Nothing can separate us from God's love.
(cf Rom 8,38)

My eyes were opened to other people suffering the same way...


Jesus showed me the way through the desert...
to embrace it fully as His own ....

"In the very place where we are most alone,
we discover that we are deeply connected to others 
through God's grace."
~ Henri Nouwen~
The Essential Henri Nouwen

Yes,
never apart...
but together,
along with the others


til we meet 
'again'

in Heaven...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Step 3: Stay In Love ~ On Spiritual Friendship

photo (used with permission) courtesy of Raising Ecstasy 

*I write this on the occasion of St. Teresa of Avila, 'our' favorite saint...

Close your eyes

"Wait..." he told me as I began to pray...

"Breathe love first..." I breathed him...

"Slow down..."  and I placed my hand on his chest to take the rhythm of his heart beat...

------------------------------------


A few months ago, my good friend in the Purpose Driven Life sessions, challenged me to finish one drawing I had since 2010... he, like the others, was so eager to see me committing myself to a man... 

I looked at my Vision Board and saw a bride and a bridegroom on the right, a family, and a mother holding a child. I've always had conflict with my desires for I never have fully felt the 'need' to have someone at the moment.

"Please... please don't start drawing Jesus. You've already come out of the convent... Draw a man you've dreamed of becoming your husband in the future..." my PDL friend chided. 

I knew in my heart what I have asked Jesus for.





---------------------------------------
Fall in Love

To see Jesus face-to-face...
To encounter Him in a personal manner...
and to experience real love... ~ these were my deepest desires.

Jesus gave me a spiritual companion...

There was a shift from the love I first came to know in this world ~ from looking at each other to fixing our gaze at the face of Jesus on the Cross.

"In a spiritual friendship, there is no possession at all."
~Ronda Chervin, Spiritual Friendship: Darkness and Light, 34~

The only time my spiritual companion looked at my direction was when he asked me to pray with him at specific hours in the morning and evening.

With the time difference we had, he reminded me of the importance of holding the world together through prayer. I slept, he worked and vice versa... and we met each other at our hours of prayer.


I never thought such friendship could exist between two persons especially in this age.

At those hours when I read and opened Facebook or worked early morning as soon as I woke up, he took me out to pray the rosary and we prayed Lauds/Vespers together. 

He directed me to the 'hidden life' and re-arranged ALL my schedules. He never spoke of earthly things but of the life that awaits us with Christ where, he said, we shall meet one day. He allowed me to re-experience religious life especially my novitiate years. 

"... in friendship are joined honor and charm, truth and joy, sweeetness and goodwill, affection and action. And all these take their beginnings from Christ, advance through Christ and are perfected in Christ. ... And thus, friend cleaving to friend in the spirit of Christ, is made with Christ but one heart and one soul ..."~Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship 1977:74-75, 2:20-21

I knew in my heart, this wasn't an angel but Jesus Himself visiting me through this person. 

To him, I was Jesus' white rose in the garden of love which the Bridegroom asked him to tend and take care of while he was around.

Donald Nicholl in his book Holiness wrote, 
"everyone needs a soul-friend, someone who loves you so much that he will never allow you to stray from the path of holiness..."
~excerpts lifted from Ronda Chervin, Spiritual friendship: Light and Darkness, 45~

I was moved to tears because of the purity this friendship brought.

I remembered, how at the time of my Ignatian retreat, the fear of relating with others especially with the opposite sex surfaced. I thought by not relating with men at all, I was living a chaste life.

My friend taught me to love fearlessly ~ to love LOVE Himself not just the person giving it. It is in this way that love is purified and perfected by Christ.

Stay in Love

Our moments together intensified when he said he awaits the new life ahead of him after ten years of commitment to the Lord.  There will come a time when he has to be assigned to another place and our meetings will be less or come to an end. 

In a dream I had, I spoke with Jesus and asked Him why, "Why in such a short time? Why leave?"

And Jesus in that dream brought me to His Mother. And showed me three phases of His life: His birth, death and resurrection. 


In all those occasions, Mary was there. She didn't understand everything from the Annunciation to His death. A sword pierced Her heart (Luke 2,35). But She stood there for Him at the foot of the Cross. And at the Resurrection, at Mary's death, He took Her with Him to Paradise.

I related this to my spiritual companion and he told me that Jesus and Mama Mary are 'twin souls ~ twin hearts." 

"What is beautiful about union in friendship is that such times of greater distance will be accepted, no matter how painful, for the friends could find each other in prayer where the apex of each soul is in touch with Christ."
~Ronda Chervin, Spiritual Friendship: Darkness and Light, 48


And this will be my role to him, to stand by him until Jesus' revelations take place ~ to gently and quietly offer him to God, Who is the Author and Source of this friendship.
And he told me, in return, he'll be Jesus' burnt offering ~ and his prayers will be offered to the world in dire need of them.

"It is lovely to be able to love on earth as one loves in Heaven." 
~ Intro to the Devout Life III, 19

Yes, a friendship that will last for all eternity... truly a glimpse of Heaven ~ 
Love at the springtime of my life.

So to that precious friend who has accompanied me spiritually these months ~ 
"We are united in prayers and in love in Jesus."

And I thank the Lord for this wonderful surprise He has brought into my life...
~anima gemella~

I think of you...



with LOVE...


---
Further readings:

Spiritual Friendship by Aelred of Rievaulx
How to Develop Spiritual Friendships by Mary de Turris Poust







Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Awakening our Soul

It has been several weeks now since I started noticing how "positive" people are around me...


At one of the conventions I attended a few Saturdays ago, I helped out at the registration area where I immediately identified this 'beautiful soul' among the crowd ~ a vibrant guy ~ a new face ~ who kept on coming back to our desk to ask for the VIPs so he could assist them. We were not formally introduced until dinner time ~he was the recently hired Coalition coordinator~ but even before that, I was very eager to know his 'story.'

He had only one arm.

Apparently from the bone structure, the deformity was not inborn but was caused by an accident early 2000 New Year. What really caught my attention was his oozing confidence. It was the careful attention he gave each one of us that made him extraordinary ~ and here I was thinking, how could he give so much when he lacks a hand? 

He nourishes his "hidden life" with Christ and ministers to people like him. 

I remember an incident before I left the convent, at my days of depression. I overheard a comment a volunteer made, which until now clearly rings on my mind ~'NOW, I know it serves a purpose' ~ thank you. 

"Look at her [referring to me], she's complete yet incomplete at the same time." 

Complete with all the faculties the Lord has given me ~ rich in talents the world can benefit from ~ and yet I dis-abled my mind, closed my heart and hands and stifled my growth. In short, when I stopped giving, I ceased living...

My hands were full. I was holding on to security. Then the Lord said, "Let go, let go!" And when I finally did, He worked on me full time.

You see, change doesn't happen in a day, a month, not even a year. Time is relative to God. An experience should touch one's heart, break it open ~ to awaken the soul!

"The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph."
~ Mr. Mendez, a line from The Butterfly Circus ~

We might find ourselves crippled, not necessarily by a deformity, a gene defect, a freaking accident, but by our own prison cells ~ FEAR, strict rules, narrow-minded parents, culture, religion, beliefs, inordinate attachments, judgment of other people. 


We were all born with wings:

"BREAK FREE and LEARN TO FLY!"

... everything in its proper time ...

in God's perfect time...

*Kindly spend time to watch this.*

“The work of the eyes is done. 
Go now and do the heart - 
work on the images imprisoned within you.”

~Rainier Maria Rilke~

  God will always find all the means for us to open our doors to Him... 
listen to that voice that says, 

"You are precious in My eyes,
and honored, 
and 
I love you."

~Isaiah 43,4~


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Unveiled: Why I left. When should you?


"We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can 
- namely, surrender our will and fulfill God's will in us."
~St. Teresa of Avila


When first asked by my friend Vishnu to write about the second phase of my life (transition from convent life to the world outside), I was a bit hesitant to share. I needed to find ‘peace’ within me in order to do that. 

If you read my journey to the religious life previously, Unveiled: My Life and Lessons as a Nun, you know my faith journey and spiritual life lessons. Today, I want to share with you why I left my old life as a “nun.”

Why I entered

I received my dispensation of vows from Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.

Nobody dared ask me this personally but relatives, friends and neighbours went to talk to my mom when they all saw me ‘without’ the habit.

To explain why I left, you must know why I entered the convent in the first place.

I was filled with idealism and concepts of God, vocation to love, service and what religious life is all about ~ but it entails much much more than that since what should be formed first and foremost is the heart.

I had chosen the Franciscan road out of romantic notions of poverty, devoid of knowledge of community life.

Finally, I realized that I had entered religious life not to serve God, but to hide from myself.

I was challenged and confused with my personal relationships. I feared work life and
had apprehension over my career. My poor self-esteem was exposed and  I doubted my ability to survive in my community.

The pressures great, the choices unlimited.  

An escape was necessary.

Why I left

It’s hard to admit this now to you but I left my life to escape from my world as I knew it.

Sadly, to escape from myself.

Instead of staying to work through my life’s dilemmas, choices and relationships, I thought I would find comfort and freedom in the religious order. I wrongly believed the convent would liberate me from the struggles of my daily life.

Over some time, I came to realize that I was carrying myself, not Jesus, in the mission field. I slowly came to terms with why I had entered and why I must leave despite the disappointment and pain I would cause to those dearest to me.

I realized that the journey to holiness is a grace that needs our cooperation. And in my case, cooperation to fulfill God’s plan was outside religious life.

I realized that I need not force myself into doing something that is contrary to my happiness.

As my spiritual companion puts it, the Lord wants our happiness whether that be with Him as a religious or outside as a lay.

When should you leave

It doesn’t matter what situation you find yourself in life. You may find yourself in circumstances which no longer serve you.

You may have your awakening
[earthquake and crisis] at the most inconvenient times. God may be telling you to move on. To leave the structures.

With my story as the backdrop, I share with you 5 signs you should know when it’s time for you to leave behind your vocation, your dream, your relationship, your fear, your insecurities.

1.     When you feel the need to be true to yourself.

I realized that I had been afraid of other people, especially the opposite sex. Afraid of relationships, afraid of heartbreak and afraid of the pain which came when relationships evolved.
 
You will find that hiding behind the veil of what you’re afraid might be scary and unpleasant but you still have to let go. If you decided to let go, you evolve through the pain and change and come out stronger. 

If you face your fears, you might find pain, but you'll also find your strength.

It is a very humbling and liberating experience to accept the truth.

Once you decide to be true to yourself, you'll no longer compromise your mental health or emotional well-being. Your heart [desire] and mind [will] will be aligned.

2. When you need to face your fears. 

One of the main reasons, I did not decide on leaving immediately was fear ~ of the future. How would I fare outside? I was already in my thirties and I felt inadequate.

Since I have been out now for some time, I can assure you that with God’s guidance, all will turn out well for you. Your worst fears won’t materialize.

You might stumble and take some time to stand on your feet but you will stand. You will find new opportunities, more suitable employment, more fitting partners.

3.    When you need to confront the unknown. 

There are two roads one follows in decision making:The road to trust the process that will lead to discovery and reality or the road back to despair and dependency.  

I constantly chose certainty which led to despair. It took me several months more to finally tell my superiors that I wish to leave the religious life.

While no one likes what the unknown may offer, the unknown is filled with possibility and will allow you to live your essence, your true self.

4.    When you need to stand up for your life.

I didn’t wish to take full responsibility so I waited for my superiors to decide but that did not happen. The decision, despite the presence of a spiritual guide, was mine to take. 


Life will not give you the easy way out. You will have to choose affirmatively to change your situation. You might have to do something you’ve never done before; take responsibility for your choices and decisions.

You may have to turn back on your culture or your family. You may have to turn back to everything you know but in the process, you will become who you were meant to be.

5.    The need to grow. 

I wish I had this mind when I entered and I wish I had removed the blocks as easily as I do now. At the time of entering the convent and for most of my time there, I feared coming to terms with the reality that I wasn’t meant to be there. I was fearful of my true intentions because my true intentions would have forced me to leave.

You may have a nagging feeling about what you should do in life but you have to do it when the time is right for you.

When you decide to leave what no longer serves you, you have gone through the process of coming to take that big step. That act of faith and the readiness to act is growth.

Growth is nothing but God’s grace along your journey for self-understanding and awareness.


My life began anew when I left the convent. While I had entered the convent for all the wrong reasons, I know I left for all the right ones. Inside, I was hiding from myself and Christ. Outside, I was ready to be who I truly am and give myself completely to Him.

I have learned to see Christ everywhere. I could still love Him here outside through the people I meet in my workplace and in the streets.

I have let go of the habit but not the heart of a missionary for which I will always be.

I return all the blessings and graces I receive each and everyday ~ new insights and learnings ~ to God.

Leaving is never easy when you have so much uncertainty and fear to face but it is the path we must travel through to live our divine purpose.  

What must you do today? What are you ready to leave behind? Where must you go? 


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Word of Hope for World Suicide Prevention Day 2013



I write this on behalf of friends who, for years, have waited for me to break my silence over  depression (my own, several years ago) and the suicide and death of a friend whom I cared for so much. 

April 2012, Holy Thursday, while the Last Supper and Washing of the Feet was being re-enacted, I looked at the altar of our church. Four years before that, a man shot himself in front of that altar ~ the church was desecrated and was closed for several weeks.

I was in N. Africa when that incident happened and most of the stories in our place were recounted by my mother. I 'knew' how my mom 'felt' when I asked her about it.

That very night, I received several calls from India, but every time I took them, they dropped instantly that I had to wait early the next day to find out what happened. I knew it was an emergency call. I opened my FB and was greeted by several messages from **'s daughter telling me to pick up the phone. I wrote her back and told her the lines were not functioning well. I communicated with ** through email and she told me our soul sister died ~ how? She committed suicide...


The incident was caught on tv and another soul friend saw it. I asked two friends living in different parts of India to confirm the news but they have not heard of it. I didn't wish to spend Good Friday on the net but I stayed because several people started asking me why there's RIP posted on my friend's Facebook page.  Another good friend asked us not to sensationalize the news and  warned me to be careful in case an investigation starts. 

I, admittedly, lost a bit of my peace. For five full days, I was wide awake.


Depression  
While reading the theme on this year's World Suicide Prevention Day, my reflections revolved around the suffering of a mental illness ~ depression ~ as a factor in committing suicide.

1) I was not aware my friend was suffering from depression nor was I aware that she took anti-depressants. In all our conversations, I found strength in her words especially knowing that she took care of her little daughter ~ she never verbalized plans of doing this.

2) Yes, she had problems which she openly shared with us, but we didn't know that these problems affected her so much that she'd take her own life. 

I felt a turmoil inside ~ it disturbed me much that I was with her all the time and yet I really never knew what bothered her and 'why.'

Was I so self-absorbed with Sam's loss that I was never able to truly listen to her? In fact, it was she who was consoling me around that time.

-----
Flashback a little more, in 2007 and 2008: I had depression at the last months I was in the convent.  

It is true what is written in the 'brochure' ~ 'knowledge is NOT enough to combat stigma." Negative attitudes do not help neither...

For the most part, it was 'fear,' lack of knowledge, negative attitude that prevented some sisters to understand what I underwent. For some, it was a locked idea on me 'acting it up' so I would have a good reason to leave.

I have given up to despair ~ for me, it was time to cease being strong. I need 'other people.'

For your information:

1) Depression doesn't happen in a day ~ it's a period of six months. ADL(Activities of Daily Living) cease. Chemical imbalance occurs and delusion happens.

2) With the delusions are suicide ideations. *I understood from this point, that my friend had been suffering for a time and found no way out.

3) Consult a psychiatrist not a psychologist in cases of depression. Medicines are needed to correct the imbalances that occur. *Usually, the person appears hyper in the evening and couldn't sleep. 

4) Stay with the person. Be really patient. *I'm sorry but I have not found this in my former community. It was only my mom who was extremely patient with me. I remember shouting at Belle, who was just around 4 at that time, to stay away from me but she never left me. My mom knew that I couldn't resist being with kids and she thought Belle could reach out. *She did and I am forever grateful to my niece.

------
But aside from all these medical help, I found healing in love.

The stigma was there: going to a shrink, visiting a psychiatrist, taking meds ~ I felt unloveable at that time. I felt unworthy, I couldn't work at that period ~ I thank God for my parents who were really there for me. *I remember they'd let me sleep with them. My mom would hug me often. She's a real saint.

Grace found me and it allowed me to experience God in a real way. It took me several years to be converted but that earthquake ~ crisis moment ~ provided me much strength and hope to walk through this life again.

*I prayed had my friend waited* ~ if all those who died this way ~ just waited...  
Crisis is an opportunity to grow.

At this point, it would also be good to raise the question of funds and projects in the government to help in this area. If we just take a look around, there are many suffering from this and money is needed to sustain medical assistance for a person to fully recuperate.

In our families and communities, our own friends ~ give time and 'listen' to what is not being said ~ to what appears to be invisible. 

And for those who feel faint hearted and weak ~ Coraggio! (Courage) ~ you are never alone in your struggles. 

Choose life! 

------

I would like to thank my BS (Beautiful Soul), Corinne Rodrigues
who has invited me to write about this. She has been one of my pillars of strength. Forever grateful!

You may check out the other links on World Suicide Prevention Day 2013 at Write Tribe.

I would also like to thank Casey Bee whose blog has been a great platform for those undergoing grief. Thank you Casey for journeying with me.


We offer our soul sister's soul to Jesus and His Divine Mercy 
May she rest in peace.
And we pray for her family.





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