Living in the Two Hearts

My Spiritual Insights and Musings


Part 2b:  Religious Life Novice

In Religious Life there are certain rules and expectations that one aught to have and must follow.  The first, and I think the most important, is the learning to live in the classroom of Silence.  Whenever and wherever you go within the Mother House you practice both interior and exterior silence.  Now, in the chapel and during prayer times this is a “no brainer”.  But when you are alone in your room or downstairs during break times, this practice seems a bit strange.  I was a very chatty person in that I could not maintain silence, not even in my room.  I always had to have noise, be it my voice, the radio or the TV (back home), noise seemed like a necessity.  I think this is true for most of us, yes?  How noisy is your house?  Your car?  Your workplace?  We are surrounded by noise.  This is only fully realized when you “exit…noise, stage left. ”

Not confident that I could handle the silence, I kept contraband, i.e. my music!  That’s right, ya’ll,  I kept, in my room, for the first two weeks, my diskman and CD’s.  Boy did God have something to say about that!!!  I, being “stupidly stubborn and hard headed”, really gave God no choice but to go to great and humiliating lengths to convict me of my wrongdoing – I was being disobedient to the foundational rules.  I finally broke down into tears of great sorrow and remorse one afternoon in front of all the Sisters and had to leave recreation.

One of the professed sisters came after me and soon discovered the root of my outburst.  She understood, however, and together we went to Mother and I turned over my player and music, expressing again my disappointment in myself for my behavior.  Mother understood and had me place my name on the inside of the container of CDs, promising me that if I should ever have to leave, I will receive the CDs back.  From that very moment on, life became exceptionally peaceful and I began to flourish in the company of my Lord and my fellow Sisters.

When September came I was in full swing with life at the Motherhouse, and somehow had managed to learn to love the silence that I was surrounded in.  Mind you, there was plenty of conversation during recreation and meals that were decided as recreation meals.  And today, I relish silence so much that I have NO TV at home and rarely listen to the radio in my car.  I prefer that constant communication that I learned while in Religious Life to the noise of this world.  God also does a fine job of keeping me “in touch” with what is going on in the world without my being overwhelmed by the mass media and their opinions, but I digress…again…if you haven’t already discovered this is a repeated pattern of mine… 😉

When October arrived, two wonderful events arrived with it.  One, my birthday, which happens to fall on the same day as, Two, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi.  The Dominican’s love St. Francis almost as much as they love their founder, St. Dominic.

Both he and Francis were called at the same time to renew AND rebuild Christ’s Church.  Legend has it that they both met each other for the first and last time when Francis went to Rome to have his Rule approved by the current Pope.  In Assisi, Italy, you can see that story relayed on a fresco in the upper Basilica de San Francisco.

So St. Francis’ feast day is celebrated with great rejoicing, and that meant that Francis and I were to share the celebration.  Mother often referred to me as their Franciscan called by Father Dominic to bring the spirit of Francis among the Sisters.  🙂

The entire month was one big celebration for me.  Besides having my birthday celebrated on the same day as Francis’ feast day, I also was treated to a handmaid birthday card or two or three or four or more each day for the rest of the month.  They were everywhere!  In my duty closet, under my door, in my study books, in my cubby hole, in my mail box, at my chair in refectory, and even in my kneeler in the old chapel (the Sisters have since built a new Chapel with choir stalls, one for each Sister…check it out!).

It was the most amazing month of birth that I have ever experienced!  Never had I been so loved upon with such sincerity and concern.  So much so that when November came I was not prepared for what happened next…

Ouch, God!  This hurts!

Around the beginning of November, I had begun to notice a change occurring within me.  I had suddenly become very sensitive to everything that was said to me, good or bad.  By the halfway point of the month, words were beginning to be physically painful to me and actually caused a great deal of debilitation in that I would become physically unable to participate in recreation – especially if it was going for a walk.  I would be excused from these excursions and retire with either a splitting migraine headache or excessive dizziness, where in both instances I could barely walk.

I couldn’t understand it.  Suddenly I began to hate! being where I was. I became so suspicious of every glance, look, and comment made that it was amazing I didn’t withdrawal into myself completely.  I did not realize at the time that God was doing an extraordinary thing within me, He was beginning the process of healing me completely, beginning from within and moving outward.

At the same time I had exchanged out my spiritual reading book for chapel with Louis de Montfort’s book, The True Devotion To Mary.  I had begun to read it, not fully understanding what I read, and certainly not realizing that God was calling me into a much closer union with Him through the Immaculate Heart of His Mother, Mary.  The revelation of this truth did not become clear until early December.

By this time I was almost a “walking puddle of jello”, that avoided company as much as possible and occupied her time with private walks, scripture reading, journaling, and service needs of the community.  The only time I could be in full community was when I would volunteer to help set-up for special events, or decorate for dinners, or whatever was needed in volunteers.  This way I allowed the Holy Spirit to “take over” by providing the energy to greet, serve, and share God’s Love with those whom I couldn’t stand to be around.

The sensitivity to words, looks, and actions had grown to a point that tears would begin to flow out of sheer pain whenever anyone had any kind of contact with me.  About this time Mother had also become aware of it and asked me into her office to talk about what was going on.  The conversation was insightful and loving.  She could sense that I was, in fact, deeply wounded and probably had been this way since childhood.  I told her this was true, but without any details since I could not contain the pain it caused.  Mother then suggested that maybe she could see if counseling would be available and could possibly help me.  She would try and find something local so that I could go for the appointments, as if going to an ordinary doctor’s appointment, and still have life within the community.  I said I would like that very much.

In the mean time, Mother suggested that I talk with one of the Professed Sisters who knew a little something about the matter of counseling, to maybe help relieve some of this pain that I held inside.  So once a week, I would talk with Sr. Maria Faustina (did ya’ll catch that name? Divinge Mercy, anyone? ), about anything and everything.  I didn’t take more that two visits, however, for Sister and I to realize that counseling was more than needed, and the sooner the better!

Backtrack a little…

Remember how I had found that book by St. Louis de Monfort, and how I was reading but not really understanding what I was reading?  At the same time that Mother had discovered my difficulties, God revealed to me what I was reading and what His plan was with my reading it.  I was to make myself available to the Handmaid of the Lord and become her handmaid, and thus serve the Lord God through His Mother, making her in a very real way, my Mother, too.

I looked ahead and discovered that the consecration must be made on a Marian Feast Day, and that a Solemnity was preferable.  Thankfully, one of the greatest solemnities was coming up on Jan 1st, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  PERFECT!

I was well on my way to making the consecration and that date fell perfectly into place!  Now that I understood, I began to read with enthusiasm and careful study.  I even typed up the prayers and formulas I would need when making my consecration.  Foresight also had me type up a sort of schedule so that if others should want to do this consecration they would have a guide to help them.

It was only a week away from the 1st of January when God reached out to me in the most extraordinary way.  Once a month the Sisters have perpetual adoration that goes for 24hours.  I’m a definite “night person”, so I took the 10pm hour.  There are two sisters per hour (or even half hour), and their kneelers and chairs are placed right in front of the Monstrance containing Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist.  Other sisters could come in at any time, but they occupied the seats and kneelers on the sides of the chapel.

The Extraordinary :

I was kneeling and just adoring my Lord when suddenly the room began to become a blur.  The other Sisters and chairs and things began to fade from sight.  A mist then filled the room and I began to notice that the Monstrance was coming towards me or I was moving toward it… as this occurred, the Eucharist became larger and brighter until it was no longer a Host, but the Lord Jesus Himself !  Standing before me He took my hand and said, “Anne, I want to show you how I see you.”  He then led me over to a oblong mirror that would reflect a whole person.  Standing there I gasped!  I could see my hair, my arms, and my legs, but where a torso and face should have been there was instead one large, gaping, infected and festering wound.  It was horrible!

Oozing fluid and puss, it was no wonder that everything said to me hurt so much!!!  There was nothing to protect this wound, all the walls built up over the years had been stripped.  I was left with nothing, vulnerable and hurting.  Jesus then look intently at me and said, “I will heal this wound with the balm of My LoveYou must Trust in MeI will heal you.”  I could not speak.  By this time I was crying too much to utter a single sound.  All I could do was nod my head and stare at what I saw of me in that mirror.

Suddenly the room began to come back into perspective.  I was placed back at my spot, tears were still streaming down my face at a phenomenal rate (I thought so anyway), and when I became fully aware of my surroundings I noticed that the Sister to my left had changed.  Realizing that time had passed, I made my final thanks and left my post for the next Sister, who had been patiently waiting.  It was sometime later that the Sister who began that hour with me relayed to me that she tried to get my attention but to no avail.  She said I seemed to be in some sort of trance, and there was nothing she could do to disturb me from it.  I just smiled and said I was okay and that everything was fine.

In the moments of private reflection that followed that event, things began to make sense, connections were made, and hope was made manifest.  For many weeks the Sister who cleaned the Chapel everyday teased me that I was sneaking in food, for there was always a small pile of very fine flakes under my chair after every community prayer time.  I myself finally witnessed this when I had the chapel duty and found that same pile.  Prior to that extraordinary moment, though, I never saw it, and I attributed her teasing as just being mean – remember the wound that was me?  But those fine, white in color, flakes were my defenses being stripped by God so that He, and He alone, could heal my wounded self with the balm of His Love.

On January 1st, I made my consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary and became forever her child, her handmaid in the service of Our Risen Lord.  Mother allowed me time in the Chapel after Mass that evening to do so.  The only ones in attendance were myself, Mother Mary, Brother Jesus, God the Father and Holy Spirit, many Saints and a whole slew of Angelic Hosts!  As we all have a guardian Angel, Mother Mary also gave me some extra Angels for the journey ahead.  Today, they are very much a part of my life, assisting me in a number of daily tasks, always available to “keep me on track” and on the path of righteousness.  I can’t begin to tell you the number of times they prevented my death from the schemes of the enemy!  Truly undeserving am I, I could not have picked out a finer crew of Angelic companions on this journey towards heaven!  But again, I digress… 🙂

After I made this commitment to God, things began to visibly change within me and with the Sisters.  I knew I could not remain much longer in their company, for God had not provided the much needed counseling, thus allowing me to stay within the community.  It wasn’t until the postulants were sent to Washington, D.C. for the March for Life, that God made it perfectly clear what His plan was.

The Wyoming girl (me), used to long drives became the driver to this event and loved the freedom it gave!  We drove straight through the night, made one stop at Sr. Maria Faustina’s home parish for a visit and also stopped at the school to say “hi” to her mom.  Then another sister drove into Washington D.C. so that I could sleep for a little while…which really didn’t happen.  Too much noise (excitement about the trip), and too much light (it’s now day time), prevented me from more than an hour or two in repose.

We arrived tired and hungry and God immediately took care of us.  Also during this trip, I had decided I needed major help discerning correctly that which God wanted me to do next.  So I made a petition during the journey, “Lord, just keep one door open.  I’m too stupid and too blind to pick the right door.  I want to do Your Will… just one door, Lord, please just one door.”  As it turned out, two other Sisters were praying the exact same petition for me, including Mother Assumpta!

The night before the march, God gave me the answer I had asked for.  At first it took me quite by surprise, and I asked Him if I had heard right.  The answer came with even more clarity.  I was returning to Colorado for counseling.  What about Religious Life?  Would I get to return after counseling?  No answer.  One step at a time, Anne, one step at a time.  Remember, I had completely forgotten the “dream” that I experienced before entrance day.  As far as I was concerned, I’d get the counseling God desired for me and then return to Religious Life as soon as possible!  I think God must have chuckled at me when I had made that decision without consulting Him. 😉

I drove the Sisters and myself back to Ann Arbor, just as I had driven us to D.C. and again straight through the night, arriving just in time for Mass at 6:30am.  None of us were able to keep our eyes open, so as soon as we received the Eucharist, some of the professed Sisters helped us to our rooms for a full day of quiet and SLEEP!  Each of us had ear plugs, water, and a snack waiting for us in our rooms so that we wouldn’t have to go too far when we woke up.  I don’t think any of us appeared until dinner time.  It was a recreational dinner so that we could share our stories with the Sisters who sat around us.

The next day that I went to speak with Sr Maria Faustina and tell her what I had prayed and the answer I had received.  It was during this meeting that I found out who the first Sister was who prayed the same petition as me.  When I asked her what her answer was, I was amazed that it was the same as mine.  Immediately we went to see Mother, and this is when I learned that, she too, had prayed and had received the same answer.  The third sister turned out to be Sr Joseph Andrew, and I discovered this as I was leaving for the airport several days later.

Returning to Colorado was not what I had expected.  Returning to the same location as my family, the root of the abuse and wounds seemed a bit unreasonable.  I was in complete tears when I called to inform them I would need someone to pick me up at the airport, and I was in complete tears for several days after my arrival there.

The evening before I left, Mother had gathered all the Sisters in the Novitiate together so that I could make the formal announcement.  Until that time I had to remain quiet on the subject, telling no one, though a couple of the postulants which I was close to knew changes were coming.  Anywhoo, that night was an amazing time!  Full of laughter and tears, prayers and stories, and the Sisters were all supportive and promised prayers for my journey.  When it was finished, Mother pulled me aside and told me it was “the best leaving we have ever had.”

Leaving was hard, much harder than when I had left Colorado for the community.  These women had become my family, even if temporarily.  I was truly going to miss them!  But God was in charge, and He had a plan.  I had to TRUST IN HIM.  He promised He would see me through this and bring HEALING and LOVE to my wounded soul.  If anything, God is ALWAYS faithful and He ALWAYS fulfills His promises!

On to Part 3


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