Saturday, August 17, 2013

I Once Was Lost But Now I've Found...

Yes, the lyrics to "Amazing Grace," with an obvious twist in the wording. You see, from June of 2005 when I made the decision to leave the convent, already suffering from PTSD, until this summer of 2013, my purpose in life seemed lost. Through those eight years of personal growth and much needed therapy, I regained focus on my vocation to serve by helping people - in general. Not being one with a lot of money, I held fundraisers of all sorts: rosaries for missions, toys for children in poverty, etc. Fortunately, with discernment and guidance through prayer, I found myself working again in the medical field. I recently received my Medical Receptionist certification and currently work with Scribes STAT implementing the new EPIC medical software at Peace Health in Bellingham, WA. But as we are all called to serve, and helping people anyway I can (even and especially when I give away my possessions to someone in need) is my life's focus, I still felt I needed a more specific purpose.

Only this year has it come to light what God made good of my brokenness. My experience at the convent wasn't for naught - in fact, it became a great insight for those still in the convent as to bringing to light serious issues that needed to be addressed, and they were (as far as I know from correspondence with several contacts, including the Mother General of the order). Then, a year or two ago, God brought to light how my pain and suffering didn't just help the sisters I left behind. My recovery and personal/spiritual growth from the pain enabled me to help a dying man with Alzheimer's disease to make peace with his past because he went through a similar experience in the seminary. As much as he talked to his family, even though it progressed to the point that he could no longer recount the exact stories, the sentences and thoughts that came to mind that he shared with me opened a door. I was able to relate to him, to what he had gone through and suffered, in a way NO OTHER PERSON COULD HAVE. To be honest, I didn't connect those dots at the time, but after he died only a month and a half after I met him, God answered my prayer by connecting those dots for me. I was concerned about employment, and I was this man's assistant home care aide (his primary HCA was his wife, a retired Hospice RN). Why did God give me all these temporary jobs when my family and I needed a steady income? It was because God was working through me - I was His tool help people in ways not many other people could.

Again, this has been made evident in the most recent happenings with a relative of mine suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder (aka Multiple Personality Disorder). Every pain, every emotion - I could relate to her and began to help her where everyone else around her could not even understand. It's the emotional trauma I'm referring to: the despair, the suicidal thoughts, the overwhelming feeling of fear and loneliness despite being with other people... The experience from my disorders became for me a tool to help her when no one else could relate.  While others still consider mental illness a stigma, God turned my problems from stumbling blocks to stepping stones so I could make use of my suffering. "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for His body, that is, the church." (Col. 1:24) If you would have asked me five years ago where I pictured myself, it wasn't doing this. This is God's work - it just happens. I leave myself open to the working of the Holy Spirit to help others anyway I can and this is what God is doing with me BECAUSE of all I've been through! Like any other human being, I cannot predict the future as to what will happen next, but I can testify that God DOES make good come out of evil. I never would have predicted this could've happened, the way I've been able to help other people the way I do. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Gal. 2:20) What an awesome God we have, who takes care of us in every way to the smallest detail, even numbering the hairs on our heads! Open yourself to the Holy Spirit by giving God control of your life in everything, and watch the wonders He does for those He loves.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Power of the Miraculous Medal

I have been a member of the Association of the Miraculous Medal (AMM) for over a year now, but it wasn't until recently that I started wearing a miraculous medal. I had received two medals when I first joined the AMM as a perpetual member, but it wasn't until I joined the AMM Monthly Giving Club and received a sterling silver one when I began wearing it regularly. For over 7 years, I have suffered from PTSD, Panic Disorder, and depression. I could not explain - I could not put into words my suffering from the thoughts of despair and pain (even suicidal thoughts) that would plague my waking hours nearly everyday. I found support in prayers, my family, my therapist - but no matter what I tried to get rid of these thoughts or just push them aside away from any consideration the moment they came to me, they would keep coming back.
When I began to wear the Miraculous Medal, blessed at the shrine of the AMM, that I began to notice the thoughts were gone - they no longer plagued me. As well as the absence of those thoughts, my whole being - mind, body, and soul - felt uplifted... For the first time in years, I felt like a normal person again. But even more than that: I felt the hope and love of God in and around me. No matter how bad the day had been, I had peace. Not peace in the mere absence of affliction, but a harmony by being in union with God. I had no idea such a blessing would be given to me, and I can't find the words to express my gratitude for it, but praised be Jesus and Mary! So many I know who suffer from similar afflictions I have sent medals and hope they make use of them. I continue to buy Miraculous medals to distribute freely.
I want those who read this to remember my testimony, for their sake or for the sake of a friend or family member who is suffering. Both the Association of the Miraculous Medal and the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal give a free medal to anyone who wishes to have one. Just go to their websites to sign up for one or to have one mailed to someone in need.

AMM: (go to the bottom of the page and click the blue medal link)

Thank you for taking the time to read this and God bless you!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fighting the Darkness

As soon as I began to type this post, the electricity in my house went off and on like the blitz. I've written before on the power of the rosary as a sacramental, and now I wish to share with you the amazing power of the Miraculous Medal. 
As the history of the medal is committed to my memory and easily found on the Internet, I'll bypass that and relate only what has come to light in my own life regarding the use of the Miraculous Medal. Ever since we owned this house from the time it was built about 16 years ago, we have had some areas within the house which we referred to as dark portals. You would feel very uncomfortable around these portals, and from these areas of darkness certain members of my family experienced supernatural encounters from 'the other side.' Many blessings, holy water, and blessed salt helped to purify these dark areas from our midst, but one room in particular was afflicted. It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I tried something new. In the aforementioned room, I used push pins and placed blessed green scapulars around the room on the walls. There have been no uncomfortable feelings or indications of darkness since. But for some time, I have been fighting with a dark presence in my room that comes and goes. For a while I experienced relief by placing a green scapular on the side table closest to its usual appearance. But it came back, and feeling lost for all things tried - holy water, blessed salt, holy oil, an Agnus Dei, saint relics, etc. - I knew I had to get it out of my room but the question of how remained. Here enters the Miraculous Medal.
I have been a member of the Association of the Miraculous Medal for almost a year now, and recently received my regular newsletter from the AMM about members' stories of the miracles of the Miraculous Medal. I read all kinds of things in the newsletter, but the most moving story was of how one woman was cured very recently with a Miraculous Medal. Although I always had one such medal handy, I hadn't worn one until recently when my metabolic pruritis miraculously subsided. After a year of intense affliction, I could wear my religious medals again around my neck. I noticed that when I wore the little Miraculous medal I had, the darkness shifted away from me if I approached it. After praying, I was giving to understand that this darkness in my room was the demon that afflicted me mentally for almost a decade, and it could no longer afflict me from inside as I now wore the medal. However, that didn't prevent it from trying. Since going into my room at evening time or night was becoming an ordeal, I prayed for help and heard a gentle, peaceful voice tell me to put a blessed Miraculous Medal on my desk. I wondered if it would indeed rid me forever of the demonic darkness as other sacramentals had not worked, but I was determined to try. I found one my mother had kept and placed it on the desk in determined faith. Indeed, it worked! I've not had any problems since; the room is as peaceful as a lovely summer's day.
A friend of mine who is more active than myself in Catholic causes repeatedly has told me the story of how he got a 'New Age' shop to be closed down a little border town of British Columbia, Canada. He was very outspoken against the false religion this shop encouraged and therefore was not welcome around that particular shopping area. But when the sidewalk was being redone and the new concrete was being poured, he had elderly friends that he gave blessed Miraculous Medals to which they dropped into the areas to be cemented and into the cement itself while reciting the rosary. After the new sidewalk was in, that shop closed within a month for lack of business.
These old traditions we have, the old sacramentals of the Miraculous Medal, pictures of the Sacred Heart, scapulars - there are many who think them 'outdated' or just plain unappealing. But wonders will happen if you open your heart to try using sacramentals out of love for God in order to grow closer to Him. Just when you think "that old thing" was a periodic religious fad now replaced by newer devotions like the Divine Mercy chaplet, you're in for a major news update. The news of an amazing miracle from "some old devotion" will cause you to reassess your opinion of such matters, after the words "I didn't know those still worked!" ejaculate from your mouth.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Putting on the Armor of God

It's been a long time since the rites of my investiture as a novice, but some things keep coming back to mind that I'd like to share with you: the symbolism of holy garb. You can read the Bible verse about the armor of God here: But while even though experience has taught me that "the habit does not make the nun," there is still the silent testimony to the Gospel in her appearance. While I no longer wear the habit, I do observe specific private devotions.

For instance, in the investiture of a novice, each piece of the habit is symbolically significant in regards to the aforementioned Bible verse (see link). Depending on the order, 'the belt of truth' is a symbol of the virtuous practice of chastity or of all of the vows the nuns take. They silently renew them when they put the belts on every day. The helmet of salvation is the veil - perhaps a bit of a stretch to a lay person, but by a nun wearing a veil, she acknowledges her sharing in the salvific suffering of Christ's body, the Church. The shield of faith, the shoes of the Gospel of peace, and the sword of the Spirit take on different representations depending on the religious order, but more or less along the lines of prayer and the practice of virtues. The breastplate of righteousness depends on the religious order. If the order requires it's professed members to only wear a cross or crucifix, that would be the breastplate. However, if the order requires a full habit with scapular and crucifix like mine did, the scapular would be the breastplate and the cross/crucifix would be the shield of faith. But as it has been a long time, the symbolism of the scapular and cross/crucifix meanings could be reversed.

Why am I posting this? Well, just recently - last Sunday it was - while at Mass I heard God speaking to me to wear the cord of St. Philomena in order to preserve my chastity. And so when I get up in the morning and put it on, I say the required prayer and put it on. It's a simple little prayer, and important to me as I am what you might call a dedicated (but not consecrated) virgin. It goes as follows: "St. Philomena, pray for me to obtain purity of mind and heart which leads to the perfect love of God." And so I have one aspect of religious decorum left, not counting my daily rosary and many chaplets, or the Little Office of the Virgin Mary. If you would like more information, I would recommend this website:

Why decide to share this with you when I've put my convent days behind me? Perhaps it was the woman in the local Christian store I encountered yesterday who vocalized her disdain for Catholics, not realizing that what she was looking at, an ICTHUS bumper sticker. The ICTHUS was a symbol of the early Christian faith was long established before any church schisms occurred. It saddens me to know how judgemental people are within the Christian faith, no matter what denomination. Perhaps, like my Aunt Sandy and cousin Keal, she had a very bad encounter of people who were professed Catholics. Truth be told, when she saw the decade rosary on my wrist, she went to another part of the store and I really had no idea what to say to her or approach her about her dislike for Catholics or the practice of the Catholic faith. I know the best thing I can do is pray - and do what I love:  teaching people about history. Not just U.S. History which I majored in in university but Christian history as well, especially our early roots and what we have in common. For example, many years ago I had dinner at a friend's house with her family. While I consented to join hands in prayer before the meal (they were Baptists), I made the sign of the cross when we finished. The stepmother asked me why I did that, why Catholics do that? At the time, I could not articulate an answer beyond "that was what I was taught." But did you know making the sign of the cross comes from early Christian practice, an idea stemmed from the New Testament? St. Paul said "We proclaim Christ crucified" and stated "May I never boast except in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ." As Christians, we bear witness to Christ by acknowledging our faith in a simple but profound gesture. We profess Christianity by admitting we are weak and need a Savior, and that we are saved through Christ crucified and risen. That is what the cross stands for in Christian doctrine. So, as Christians, go forth and preach Christ crucified, and if necessary, use words (St. Francis of Assisi).

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Well, sales in March were ok; things went much better in April. I gave away three items to my parish's "Hidden Treasures" Fundraiser - things that were old stock. I don't know why, but I have this need to have two full pages of items at all times, so when I get a sale, I quickly try to produce something to fill the gap. It's just a hobby - so I'm told.
Things have been very VERY stressful lately: mom had major sinus surgery and contracted a virus while recovering, dad contract job expires in July and we're all wondering where and if the next one will come, Will's health is still off and on... I'm finishing up a 54 day novena of the rosary for the good health and welfare of my family, yet it seems our fates reflect the fluctuation of the stock market - you never know how one day will begin or how it will end.
I know we're in God's hands. I'm trying to pace myself to not let the anxiety get to me, but I'm doing a poor job of it. Heaven help us! Does anyone know the answer to the age-old question "Can I save me from myself?" Jesus, help me to not worry about tomorrow or today - just help me get through it!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Perspective & Reflection

After my last therapy session for Easter PTSD with Colleen (my therapist), I was inspired once again to write a book about my experiences - but not about the convent years. A book about how I went about recovering from losing that which I held more dear than my life's breath. I've spent time reflecting, perhaps unnecessarily breast-beating myself about my own inadequacies, on my true state of wretchedness in being unworthy to be Christ's bride... I came to the realization, as all saints have, that all are unworthy and wretched. I entered a "discommunity" - a dysfunctional one of broken women struggling who were with their own problems. It was I who had presumed, that when God called me to serve, that He wanted me there my whole life. But instead, I was a sacrificial victim only for a time - God knew how much I could handle. He made me a missionary to them instead of pagan lands. I know, as He has very evidently demonstrated, that He has plans for me, for my whole life, outside the convent or cloister.
I used to see things in black and white...I've changed a lot and there's always room for growth. I asked my darling Granny to write me 'encouragement letters' during Lent, and she has done. A few days ago, she sent me a clipping from her parish bulletin. I wish to share it with you:

A Lenten Prayer: How to Fast by Lisa Terneus

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling within them
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on trust.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; feast on nonviolence.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on truths that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

Gentle God, during this season of fasting and feasting, gift us with Your Presence, so we can be gifts to others in carrying out your work.

Wherever you are, Lisa Terneus, thank you for sharing this inspiring prayer that brings us to reflect face to face with the Truth!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Morning Ramblings

Almost done with Winter Quarter at Bellingham Technical College (BTC), thank goodness! For the first time in days, I woke up to feed the dogs on time this morning. I said good morning to Annabelle, my African violet. Yes, I talk to my plant. I love that little violet - those fuzzy leaves... I used to be on the fence about tree hugging, but I can safely say I'm just nutty and sentimental. I used to have names for all my airplants, but when I'd lose one, or another would have pups (lol, that's what they call baby tillandsia plants) I would lose track of what names I had for them. I finally got my betta, an iridescent yellow/blue Delta betta I named Rainbow Flutterby, to eat dried bloodworms. At first, I just called him Flutterby after Fluttershy on MLP Series 6, but I wanted his name to reflect tribute to his iridescence so I added Rainbow. Took weeks to name that fish. No original names of mine seemed to fit him. Got another teddy bear in an after-Valentine's Day sale: white with pink nose, ears - named him Luvs but sometimes call him Minky because he's so soft. I need to vacuum today and get the piled up recycle outside to the bins, but I'm moving slow this morning.

I can honestly say that this Lent has had the life changing impact I hoped it would. It's also left me with a lot of questions with no answers. The more I read St. Faustina's Diary of Divine Mercy, the more I wonder about how I lost my vocation to be a nun. God's grace is infinite, and an experience such as St. Faustina's does show how much God loves us and wants to give us graces - that we can overcome any trials with Him. So what went wrong with my religious life? I was young - too young; not enough social experience or spiritual guidance to know what to do in the situations I found myself facing at the convent. I've forgiven many times over the ones who hurt me, and have prayed they'd forgive me even though I don't hear from any of them anymore. I can't change what happened, and for the life of me after what I went through, I do not want to go through that again. I'd rather be single and lonely than be a nun/religious sister again. I have no ardor, no all-consuming love for Jesus to do that again. Yes, it's selfish but I was burned bad, and once burned/bitten, twice shy. My family and I have been watching "Foyle's War," and watching the soldiers come home with PTSD really shed light on the sacrifices and trials my family went through when I came home in the state I was in...but I had nowhere else to go.

I was told, and I have related this several times, by a friend of mine who is a mystic - a saint only time will discover - that God revealed to Him after much prayer for my healing that I did great good for the order and those nuns, and my being there was a blessing for them. I wanted that - I loved them like family, even if I was treated worse than crap at times. I still love them. Honestly, I think I did leave my heart in San Diego. I wonder about going back sometimes, if only for love of them to do what I can to help by sacrificing my life for their well-being (spiritual and physical). For all my wondering though, I know I am not a welcome candidate or a viable one, having Panic Disorder. The one thing I wonder about most is did I do right by me? I was a fool to rush in to university studies, getting a bachelor's in US History. History fascinates me, but the degree is no good in this economy. I got it all on grants. Now, as I look back, I could have used that grant money for the real career studies I'm taking at BTC. But I just couldn't face the PTSD at that time. I had some close calls, and I needed something to distract me that I could focus on to dull the heart-shattering pain I lived with everyday. So now I have several thousands in federal loans to repay, a therapist for all her good intentions is hesitant to help me until she gets paid, a brother I don't know anymore, another sibling who calls the kettle black, a godmother who has disowned me, and...never mind. For all the issues we have with each other, I love them all very much. The one thing I hope in is one truly selfless friend I have outside my family and parents who love me with all their being. For me, that is enough to get through life on when you add a filial relationship with God to it.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Religion On the Radio....

I had the radio on while I was driving to a doctor's appointment yesterday, and one station I tuned into had a guy talking about religion. Well, what he thought religion was, anyway. He said some study had been done recently where people of different faiths had participated in a sociology experiment of personal interaction. He said that when the other person did not know the faith of the person they were paired with, the majority of people in the study tended to be more reserved when it came to responding to requests for help and generosity in general. The flip side of the study, where the people paired up were allowed to know what faith the other person was/believed/practiced, showed that when the people knew that the person they interacted with was of the same faith they were, they were more generous/likely to be generous and responsive to that person's needs or circumstances. He went on to comment, "Isn't this the opposite of what religion is supposed to be?"

Traditionally, religion by definition is the service and worship of a deity or spirit. But when it comes to the practice of religion there is quite often a discrepancy, and I can understand what this man on the radio was trying to say. In his talk, religion is not distinguished from devotion to a religious faith on a personal level and the wider applied social practice of religious beliefs. It's the old argument of works without faith, and simultaneously works without love. For Christians, God is Love, and so then Love is our faith, and true to this man's point, a person's religious beliefs, practices, and attitudes should be properly reflected in social interaction without regard to another person's background or beliefs. But, this is true only in so far as Christianity is concerned.

Now I may get called on that statement, as other faiths may in doctrine express a similar practice of charity to some degree, but I cannot speak for people of other faiths. I have not seen the integrated expression of faith to the extent that 'they'll know we are Christians by our love' (as the old hymn says) from Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, etc. However, I personally know people of other faiths who would put most so-called Christians to shame in their care and concern of a stranger. It's embarrassing but necessary to get called on the carpet about practicing what we preach. I thought about writing my parish priest about this, but with Easter and First Communion and Confirmation all coming up so soon, I know he's busy and overwhelmed. All I'm trying to say is that while one person professes their faith, without corresponding demonstration of that faith in attitude and practice, they are a liar and will (in my religious belief) stand before God and answer for it when there time comes. Thank God, however, for the practice of Divine Mercy.

As St. Paul said, Christ's death for the sins of the many, of the whole human race, was nothing less than an act of God because who would die innocently in the place of a guilty person? Granted it is conceivable that a person might die for a righteous man as Scripture states, but would you lay down your life for a criminal? I would.

You see, it is my religious belief that if I was in a situation where I could push a person who had wronged me grievously out of the way of an oncoming bus in time to save their life but risk losing mine, I must do so. For my Catholic faith requires me to lay down my life in that situation as Christ Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. Knowing God would look with mercy on me for such an act and that my soul would not be lost, it is better for me to die than the other person who may not be in a state of grace. This is a person from whom God wishes repentance and love, and by laying down my life, I Love, with a capital L. That person has been spared, given time as God desires quite clearly in Scripture, to turn aside from evil ways and come back to Him with all their heart. The same goes for facing an attacker with a knife or gun. We have lots of guns, but only in the defense of another person's life for whom I was responsible (say my nephews, a friend, a neighbor, a school-age child), would I even consider using a weapon in defense. One, because I am responsible for my brothers and sisters who are defenseless, and two, I know not what state their own souls are in. Truly, I say 'consider' because I know that by using a gun or another weapon, I risk killing the offender even though my intention would be to merely disable them from doing any harm. But to take up and carry and a gun "Harry" style ultimately boils down to mere self-preservation, which is not in accordance with my faith. Even in self-defense, by whipping out a handgun if and when provoked and using it I may have allowed the devil to take that person's soul to hell. And no feeling or emotion justifies rendering judgement that the person 'deserved' to die, or it was 'better' that they die. Think about it - long and hard. That, Charlie Brown, is what Divine Mercy is all about.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Truth Can Set You Free

It is through this Winter Quarter at school I am learning more than ever the practice of the virtues of my faith. About two weeks ago, when my dad was helping me with an assignment for my online computer class that I was struggling with, his advice on dealing with the difficulties was candid. By candid, I mean honest and open. Without criticism, he pointed out that my instructor was challenging me and not putting me down in her comments about my work. It was he that pointed out that I put up defensive barriers under criticism or feeling criticized, or in anything I view as conflictual.

The first few years after I came home from the convent, 7.5 years ago, I was under the illusion that I was truly humble. Well, humility may have been there, but with PTSD I could not and did not recognize that my reactions and behavior sprang from traumatic shock as I tried with great difficulty to readjust to my new life. Others in my family have pointed out the impact my coming home in such a state had on them. Until recently in dealing with a cousin's personal and family problems I did not grasp or understand the deep impact it really had on them. When I realized how much I affected them in my mannerisms, what I said or didn't say, and how my behavior upset them at times causing flares of frustration, anger, and pain just as I experienced as I was trying to help my cousin deal with her own problems... It was so overwhelming to feel I imposed so much on people who were there for me and promised their assistance how and whenever I needed it. I had tried to limit 'imposing' on their kindness, but in retrospect, I realized just how far people could tolerate out-of-control anxiety on a constant basis. When I learned the truth firsthand, I realized within me was the seed of humility, but the compost pile of garbage from my past piled on top of it had hindered its growth. After all those years of 'service' to come home with nothing but emotional baggage - and then to realize all those years of service were so flawed in practice, it was a wonder that any good came of them at all. And I realize that only God could take something like that and turn it into good when you place it in His hands.

As I have been pondering what to give up or sacrifice for Lent, it has been a spiritual journey of insight since I began thinking about it a month ago. Lent begins early this year, in the middle of February. By the end of this past week, I thought giving up Facebook this year (again) would be good, as I desired to offer to God all spare time I wasted on frivolous online activities. Then it occurred to me that I spend as much time on YouTube, and it would be just as beneficial to give that up as well. As I prayed about it more and more and focused on trying to do what God wants rather than what is convenient for me, a thought came to me today about Divine Mercy. I had tried in the past to read the book "Divne Mercy in my Soul" by St. Faustina, but was unable to due to PTSD - I could not get past the convent life within the book let alone in my own psyche. But recent events transpired that my dad lent me his copy, telling me that much consolation was to be found in it. And so I began to read bits of it, non-sequentially and with great hesitation. But true enough, I found the consolation I had sought. In prayer I was made to understand that in undertaking the sacrifices of giving up my online leisure activities, I would undertake the study of Divine Mercy and the practice of it towards my fellow human beings. This meant not only a change in daily activities and regimen, but a whole change in my way of thinking and behavior patterns. For by myself, this is impossible - but with God's grace and an open and contrite heart, it is entirely possible. To practice Divine Mercy would mean to learn and practice humility, true obedience to God, and pure Christian love and compassion. Up to this point, I had masked the practice of these virtues with naivety, passive-aggressive behavior, and empathy.

Even as I wait for Lent to begin by the calendar of the Church, I am reading a little more of St. Faustina's diary. It's one thing to hear the coined phrase that 'psychologically we all wear masks' - it's another thing entirely to not only realize personally how and when we do so but to take off that mask and see what's really underneath. And yes, to make the step of not throwing that mask back on because we are frightened by what we see but to keep it off to watch the change we want to made in ourselves... That is a big step indeed, spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. I want people to see God in me and that can only happen if I open myself up to the truth of who and what I am and do. By embracing the truth, I hope in the Lord to be set free of my false self and illusions, and in doing so to become a truer image of God.

Friday, February 1, 2013

February 2013

February is often remember for the past: Black History month, President's Day, birthdays...and some other significant holidays like Groundhog's Day and Valentine's Day. I'm sentimental about Valentine's Day; not quite a romantic, but it means more to me than it ever did in all the years of my life. It's one thing to grow up giving out cards in class to every peer in my class, especially when I detested them - finding the appropriate thing to say was never easy. It's another thing to be grown up now and not have a special sweetheart to appreciate the day all the more. True love, pure love...bliss and happiness. At least for me I can still celebrate it somewhat because February is the anniversary day that I got my scottie Giacomo in 2005. He's six years old - middle aged now, and I find myself wanting to spend ever more time with him because I don't know how long God will let me have him. As a devoted dog lover and avid supporter of rescue groups, everyday pictures of malnourished dogs, abused and neglected dogs makes me wonder about the state of our society on its most primal level. I sent a card of sympathy to former President George W. Bush on the loss of his scottie, Barney. As I read through poems of pet loss, the reality that I would be there someday began to disconcert me. I have put out some personal decorations for Valentine's Day that suit my taste - mostly pinks. Ask me today whether I'd rather snuggle with a teddy bear or my dog, I more and more finding myself looking for my little snookie-wookums (Momo - the dog). It won't be lonely Valentine's Day - albeit the first day of Lent after Ash Wednesday. I'll have my scotty dog to snuggle even without flowers, cards, or chocolates. And I am eternally grateful to God for bringing Momo into my life.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Celebrate A Day Each Month

Since this year has started out so much better for me than last year, I look for any occasion to rejoice in God's grace and love. I'm not talking about partying as in drinking or tail-gating, but praising God for all the blessings He gives, both great and small. The ordinary miracles in our lives, like the sun rising every morning, azure skies, friends...all of these are worth celebrating. In the convent, we praised God with prayers known as the Office of the Hours seven times a day. I have my own routine now, after being out for seven and a half years. I got to thinking of the blessings that each patron saint of mine obtains for me. And so I will start with the Infant Jesus of Prague.

It is not so much the actual statue but the devotion that drew me closer to Him while I was just 17. The original statue is miraculous, but despite all the jeweled robes I do not find it attractive. The real inspiration was the visions and inner locutions of a certain Carmelite monk who rescued the statue (gifted to them by a princess) after the monastery was raided and sacked. I can't remember his name, but you can easily look it up. He was very devoted to the Infant Jesus who assumed our nature to make us adopted children of God. Many times it is said with great gratitude that 'the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.' The poor monk, on recovering the statue from a pile of rubble, saw that the hands of the statue were broken off. He appealed to his superior to get the statue repaired but there were too many other repairs that needed to be made. So he prayed to the Infant Jesus and heard an inner voice reply "The more you honor Me, the more I will honor you." So the monk prayed to the Infant to provide the money since there was no earthly recourse. Mysterious donations of large sums of money began to appear by the statue in the chapel, and finally a sculptor was commissioned to restore the hands of the Infant. After that, miracles of healing, conversions, and solutions to impossible problems began occurring so much that the Catholic Church sanctioned the Infant Jesus of Prague as a patron of the Carmelite Order. And His powers are not limited to them alone.

Such persistence, even doggedness, to promote devotion by one monk for the Infant of Prague gained the monastery a great many blessings, both spiritual and temporal. From the monastery, the devotion spread throughout the order and so throughout the world. When He said 'the more you honor Me, the more I will honor you,' He meant it. Despite a lot of bad memories from the convent, that was one thing they never were able to deprive me of, this devotion which gained for me increasingly greater confidence in God's Almighty power. And everyday I pray a prayer, chaplet, written, or heart whispering, to the Infant to continue to provide for me and my family financially and economically. And I have learned that the amount of devotion showed reflects very much in the blessings bestowed. Whether it is money with which to pay the bills or Divine Intervention that keeps a roof over our heads and our cars running, the Infant Jesus of Prague always comes through. You have only to ask, and it will be given unto you.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Patron Saints

When I was just 13 going on 14, we had moved to Washington state from North Dakota. We decided to choose to go to church in Canada in a little border town just 15 minutes from where we lived. When we were settled in and I went to CCD/Sunday School, I came to find out that the diocese of Vancouver, B.C. Canada confirms their CCD students at the end of my school year which was 7th grade. I had six months to prepare and choose a patron saint. I really didn't have much time to consider all options, but I've heard my fellow Catholics say that you don't pick the saint - they pick you. Well, that seemed to be the case with me, for while I was going through books on saints, I came across Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha. She was Native American, a little-known and unusual saint back then for me. My family has deep Chiricahua heritage, as well as influence of Navajo, Hopi, and Lakota Sioux cultures from where we had previously lived and from tribal-registered friends. So I chose St. Kateri because of that book that fell into my hands.

I kept close to her for the rest of my teenage years in prayer and spirituality and even was allowed the privilege to assume her name for my religious name when I became a Carmelite nun. A year after my confirmation, she appeared to me in a dream - a dream that despite trying to awake from I remained in to receive a message. We went through various social settings I was familiar with together, and found myself in a canoe, paddling around and occasionally encountering groups of people (cliques, really). Though I tried to greet them, they ignored me. Several times this happened and St. Kateri turned to me, opening her mouth as if to say something but something stopped her. It was not until returned to the beginning spot where I first encountered her in the dream and we disembarked from the canoe that she did speak. She said "I will be with you always." And so the dream ended. I kept close to her as a religious, but after I developed PTSD from the dysfunctional convent I was in and later left after five and a half years I did my best to forget my association with her name or devotion. So many times I was asked why I chose Kateri as my religious name since I 'wasn't a Native American'. I tried to explain the spiritual bond but it never sank through those nuns' thick skulls. After everything that had happened at the convent and as I tried to recover, I kept trying to believe that allowing her in my life was more of an interest...something stronger than a whim, but not truly a bond. I repeated over and over "Sr. Kateri Marie is dead" to repress/bypass the associated trauma. But we did have a spiritual bond, even if over the past nine years I haven't been as committed as I was initially.

This year, more than ever, I came to appreciate my name saint, St. Genevieve. It had to to with my recovery from PTSD and medieval depictions portraying her with an angel, chasing away a demon with a candle. This held significant importance for me, because my relationship with Jesus as His disciple, bride or friend, centered around Christ the Light of the World. In fact, this was the religious title I took when I was allowed to make my first vows as a nun. Sr. Kateri Marie of Christ the Light. Christmas was my favorite holiday, but Easter meant so much more to me (as it properly should). The rituals of Easter vigil were the highlight of my year, every year - except Easter 2003...but I won't discuss those details now. On St. Genevieve's feast day, January 3, I spent that particular day more than ever considering my vocation, and strongly wishing I still had that Agnus Dei I entered the convent with. It means more to me than ever before, and though I know I gave it as a gift to someone who needed it, I wished I still had it. Fortunately, I was able to obtain another within a few days of her feast this year.

Then I began to think of all my other special patron saints. St. Jude, who has been as reliable as the Blessed Virgin Mary in answering my prayers, I entrusted my technical college training success to with Our Lady of Grace. St. Dymphna, patron of my sanity; St. Philomena, patron of purity and children of Mary; St. Anthony of Padua, St. Rocce, Bl. JP II, St. Raphael the archangel, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, and St. Juan Diego had joined my personal treasury of saints with St. Joseph, St. Therese, my Guardian Angel, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Michael, the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague, and Rose Prince of the Carrier Nation since I returned from the convent. I never knew that I had so many friends. But after my experience in the convent with St. Kateri, I have learned an important lesson: whether they reach out a hand in friendship and patronage first, or you turn to them in your hour of need, never neglect them. More importantly, don't take them for granted. Remember to thank God for sending them into your life, as He does every person you meet. As for our heavenly brothers and sister in Christ, thank them constantly for their presence and support, even if you don't always feel it.