Ah, that Heroic Minute

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Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a fixed time, without yielding a single minute to laziness. If, with God’s help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day. … The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and… up! The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body.

-St. Josemaria Escriva

As you might have gathered, I am working once again on practicing the Heroic Minute. Yesterday, I woke up from my Sunday Afternoon Nap (it’s a new tradition for me . . . I never used to take naps. But Sunday seems the perfect time. It’s kind of nice.) and drowsily grabbed The Catholic Girl’s Guide (shock) from my nightstand and opened to his ‘rule of life.’ The first line? “Rise at a fixed hour.”

Point taken.

So yes, my renewed effort to practice the Heroic Minute started this morning; getting up at a fixed time (I hope to gradually get up earlier; today it was a not-brilliant, not-terrible 6:40am), showering, putting on tennis shoes (for some reason, this action subconsciously tells me I have to get up and get to work), offering my morning prayers, grabbing a large plastic cup of water (I never drink enough water. Sigh.), and stepping out onto our back deck, into the gorgeous early morning tranquility of my family’s mountainside home. Breathing in the fresh air; soaking up the quiet, the wind, watching the leaves glitter and pulse in the rising sunlight. Petting our poor lovelorn dogs who are always frantic for attention. Contemplating the day ahead. Starting my laundry. In essence, conquering myself right away.

It’s so very strange how this one choice to get up immediately, even when I don’t have to, has a pretty profound effect on my emotional and spiritual disposition. It grants me an epiphany: Oh! I CAN actually deny myself after all!

Ahem. (If my dear Guardian Angel possessed eyes, he would be rolling them.)

And it always seems to make it a hundred times easier to do the right thing during the day, if I drag my sluggish self out of bed first thing, without pausing, hesitating, whining, whimpering, groaning, moaning, rolling over, sighing, studiously weighing the pros and cons of denying or granting myself a few more minutes of sleep (as if I can do anything intelligently or clearly the moment I wake up), pitying my poor tired body–or as St. Josemaria put it, “yielding a single minute to laziness.”

Wonders.

I’ve done this before, you see–kept myself to a schedule, getting up at a set time, denying myself right off the bat, etc.–even though my current life as a young woman at home doesn’t technically require it. I’m always up by the Sarasota Mass at 8am, but that’s no feat of heroics, especially if I’m following along in my pajamas.

And eventually, it always happens: I am very slowly, very gently, very sweetly and kindly convinced by my flesh (and, no doubt, other tempters) that getting up at a fixed time is not at all important. I need my sleep. I don’t need to be proud and insist on getting up at a fixed time when my state in life doesn’t require it. I should be humble, and . . . and . . . ah, this pillow is so comfortable. Doesn’t a morning in pajamas sound lovely?

And, eventually, after weeks or months go by, I begin to wonder: why, exactly, am I suddenly finding it so hard to be zealous, cheerful and disciplined about doing what I ought to do? Why am I finding it so much harder to be regular and fervent in prayer, charitable to others, temperate in self-entertainment and eating, disciplined in caring for my health, humble about my appearance, thorough in my tasks . . . ?

Hmm. How very, very puzzling.

A few days ago, my sister and I were discussing with some friends an exhortation found in the “Subjects for Daily Meditation” of the 1962 Missal, in the context of preparedness for death. This exhortation is a trumpet that should awaken me, a (hapless) soldier in the Church Militant, and rouse me to my feet each morning: ready, willing, and alert to do God’s work, for the salvation of my soul.

Remember, Christian soul, that thou hast this day, and every day of thy life:
God to glorify
Jesus to imitate
The Angels and Saints to invoke
A soul to save
A body to mortify
Sins to expiate
Virtues to acquire
Hell to avoid
Heaven to gain
Eternity to prepare for
Time to profit by
Neighbors to edify
The world to despise
Devils to combat
Passions to subdue
Death perhaps to suffer
And Judgment to undergo

With all this in mind . . . it seems I actually have every reason to be rising early, promptly, and faithfully. Who knew?

So here I go again. I’ll be keeping my tennis shoes close to bed from now on.

Here are three good articles about practicing the Heroic Minute:

http://catholicexchange.com/responding-heroic-minute

http://catholicexchange.com/how-to-start-your-day-in-holiness

http://catholicexchange.com/rise-shine-5-reasons-get-early-morning

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Mulierem fortem quis inveniet? {Who shall find a valiant woman?}

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But some of the Israelites continued to love and to serve the Lord in humility and detachment from the world, for they knew that the Saviour would come to free men from the oppressor within their own hearts.

It was from these pure families that, by His grace, God developed and guided the ancestors of His future Mother. They were extremely simple and devout persons, very gentle and peace-loving and charitable. Out of love for God, they always lived a very mortified life. Often the married couples practiced continence over long periods of time, particularly during holy seasons, for their highest ideal was to raise saintly children who in turn would contribute toward bringing salvation to the world. They lived in small rural communities, and they did not engage in business. They worked on the land and tended flocks of sheep; they also had gardens and orchards. They were very conscientious in fulfilling their religious duties. Whenever they had to go to Jerusalem to offer their sacrifices in the Temple, they prepared themselves by prayer and fasting and penance. When traveling, they always helped as best they could any sick persons or paupers whom they met. And because they led such an austere and detached life, these good people had to endure the scorn of many of the other Jews.

Thus Mary’s grandparents inherited from their ancestors a love of humility, chastity, mortification and the simple life. Her mother, St. Ann, and father, St. Joachim, were the very finest products of this long line of pure and holy servants of God.

The Life of Mary as Seen By the Mystics (compiled by Raphael Brown)

* * *

Today is St. Anne’s feast, and it ends the nine-day novena in her honor. There is a real peace and expectancy, even gratitude, that settles over the soul at the completion of a novena, isn’t there? I remember, as a seventeen-year-old, praying what was probably my first novena to her with the intention of asking her to find my future husband. Or maybe begging would be the better word . . . On the final day, I practically skipped into the nave of our old parish with my eyes absolutely peeled for the sudden appearance of “Him.” (I don’t think he was there 😉 )

And now, three years later, I’m finding myself at the end of a full circle: at the end of another novena to dear St. Anne. My sister and I prayed the final prayers last night, and woke up with smiles and exclamations of, “Happy feast day!” before settling down to the Mass in her honor.

But not it’s not the “end” I would have expected three years ago. Three years ago, I probably would have anticipated something like engagement by now, in answer to my novena to St. Anne. But this end . . . it’s infinitely better.

It’s called peace. It’s called the rose.

These three years have been both a very long and very short time for me. They charted me growing out of childhood; they wrote the beginning of an unexpected story, its middle and its end; they were suffused with joy, difficulty, sometimes confusion and pain, much learning and slow transformation into what I hope is a better, more God-honoring woman than I used to be.

I admit that the strength of my devotion to St. Anne depended on how close I thought I was to marriage, depending on the place I stood and how the climate was looking, during those three years. Eventually my prayers to her fell dormant, when I retreated into discernment and questioned as to whether I was I even called to marriage at all. I don’t think it was a conscious omission as much as it was the state of my life not inspiring me, or reminding me, to pray to her. Either way . . . I wish I had prayed to her more.

As the three years wore on, and I entered into this last year of my Latin Mass “love story” and my discernment, while I didn’t pray to St. Anne regularly, I began to learn so much. It was as if streams of truth were being poured into my thirsty heart. So much about what the Sacrament of Marriage means; so much about how the Sacrament must be lived in order to achieve the sanctification of the spouses and their children; so much about the role of the wife, in particular, and what she should be to her husband. So much about what I needed to be, if I were called to that state. It was all being poured over my soul . . . and now, I can’t help but realize that it had to be due, at least in part, to St. Anne’s intercession for me. Help me find my future husband, I’d begged her as a seventeen-year-old. But how could I be actually ready to find my future husband if there was still so incredibly much I needed to learn, as a girl growing into a woman, about marriage and the duties of holy Catholic spousal life; if there was still so much in my heart that needed correction and illumination, so many preconceived notions that needed to be replaced with Christ’s Truth, before I could proceed to embrace the Sacrament, if God were calling me to it?

* * *

From the Catechism of the Council of Trent:

The more easily to preserve the holy state (of marriage) from dissensions, the duties of husband and wife as inculcated by St. Paul and by the Prince of the Apostles must be explained.

Duties of a Husband: It is the duty of the husband to treat his wife generously and honorably. It should not be forgotten that Eve was called by Adam “his companion.” “The woman,” he says, “whom thou gavest me as a companion.” (Gen. 3:12). Hence it was, according to the opinion of some of the holy Fathers, that she was formed not from the feet but from the side of man; as, on the other hand, she was not formed from his head, in order to give her to understand that it was not hers to command but to obey her husband.

The husband should also be constantly occupied in some honest pursuit with a view to provide necessaries for the support of his family and to avoid idleness, the root of almost every vice.

He is also to keep all his family in order, to correct their morals, and see that they faithfully discharge their duties.

Duties of a Wife: On the other hand, the duties of a wife are thus summed up by the Prince of the Apostles:Let wives be subject to their husbands: that if  any believe not the word, they may be won without the word by the conversation of the wives, considering your chaste conversation with fear. Let not their adorning be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel: but the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God. For after this manner heretofore the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.” (1 Peter 3:1)

To train their children in the practice of virtue and to pay particular attention to their domestic concerns should also be especial objects of their attention. The wife should love to remain at home, unless compelled by necessity to go out; and she should never presume to leave home without her husband’s consent.

Again, and in this the conjugal union chiefly consists, let wives never forget that next to God they are to love their husbands, to esteem them above all others, yielding to them in all things not inconsistent with Christian piety, a willing and ready obedience.

* * *

As this past year wore on, my sister and I discovered the devotion to St. Raphael. He was and is such a great consolation, and devotion to him really did capture my heart; but at the same time, I came to where I was practicing this devotion with constant caveats and ifs, because I was afraid of desiring Marriage to the point where I would stop desiring the will of God.

And so, nine short days ago, I began my novena to St. Anne. My intention was that I would just know and do the will of God in my life. No specifics, all simplicity.

As I was praying the novena, a good friend lent my sister Woman in Love by Katie Hartfiel–a beautiful love story, but most importantly, a Catholic vocational story. (I haven’t read all of the book, but I watched the Hartfiels on Life on the Rock several years ago and so I know the factual plotline 🙂 )

In the past, I’d been familiar with the concept of writing letters to one’s “husband to be” as a way of praying for him daily and uniting with him in spiritual love and faithfulness, even before you knew who, precisely, he was. Over the past few years, I’d tried it myself, several different times. But it was stilted and uncomfortable. I felt unrecognizable in the words I was penning down, and I would stop after a letter or two. I lacked clarity; I lacked healing; I lacked knowledge of what I was desiring.

Until this novena.

Let me know and do the will of God in my life, I asked the mother of my most Blessed Mother. Let me know.

The seventh day of the novena, I was sitting on my bed, Catholic Girls’ Guide in my hands, and I was in tears, not because I was feeling depressed or discouraged, but because I felt so overwhelmed with the love I ached to give as I contemplated possibly being married and having children.

On the eighth day of the novena, I observed my sister writing her own Woman in Love letters in a notebook. (Ironically enough, it was the notebook I’d bought to write my letters in, months before, the practice of which I abandoned shortly thereafter. 🙂 ) Even as I recollected my failed attempts, I felt moved to try one more time. I found looseleaf paper and a pen . . . and the words poured and poured. I’m not sure I can describe it well. But I was myself; I was earnest; my heart was alive and full of clarity and hope. I felt I was able to at last unite my new desires for holiness, for pleasing God and doing His will, with my long-held desires for Marriage (my rose), for a husband, for children. I felt as though I was beginning to know.

Yesterday, the final day of novena . . . I sat down and wrote “The Rose” itself. It was as if the last clouds had cleared; it was an epiphany, of sorts. At the end of my novena, I’d been given the gift of clarity to see that I should be giving my Lord what I have–and not emptiness. I saw that giving Him my desire for Marriage as an actual gift was not closing myself to His will; but rather, it meant trusting Him all the more with my life, my future, my salvation.

The relief and joy was palpable; it was a moment of true grace. I feel I can now embrace whatever God’s will is for my life, and also yet embrace my hope for the Sacrament of Marriage wholeheartedly, and to pray for my future husband, as I believe now there is one. There is no longer a contradiction between my two desires.

So, needless to say, my devotion to St. Anne is renewed. I began praying to her as a girl who knew very little about the things I wanted; and I’ve come back to her again as a young woman who’s learned much through her often unnoticed intercession, and through the work she has done to bring me to her daughter in Total Consecration. She has, indeed, taught me what it means to be a valiant woman, and what I must do to pursue that end. Without my even knowing it, she has taught me about holy marriage; she has helped the rose of my desire for Marriage to grow into something more pleasing to God. While I have still so far to go, I have learned more modesty, more submission, the value of prayer, more joy, more authentic femininity, more domesticity, more trust. I feel the need to thank her for that.

And so how could today’s Epistle have brought me anything other than joy and delight, as I contemplated the mother of my Mother, all she has done, and all she has yet to do for me?

Who shall find a valiant woman? Far and from the uttermost coasts is the price of her. The heart of her husband trusteth in her, and he shall have no need of spoils. She will render him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. She hath sought wool and flax, and hath wrought by the counsel of her hands. She is like the merchant’s ship, she bringeth her bread from afar. And she hath risen in the night, and given a prey to her household, and victuals to her maidens. She hath considered a field, and bought it: with the fruit of her hand she hath planted a vineyard. She hath girded her loins with strength, and hath strengthened her arm. She hath tasted and seen that her traffic is good: her lamp shall not be put out in the night. She hath put out her hand to strong things, and her fingers have taken hold of the spindle. She hath opened her hand to the needy, and stretched out her hands to the poor. She shall not fear for her house in the cold of snow: for all her domestics are clothed with double garments. She hath made for herself clothing of tapestry: fine linen and purple is her covering. Her husband is honorable in the gates, when he sitteth among the senators of the land. She made fine linen and sold it, and delivered a girdle to the Chanaanite. Strength and beauty are her clothing, and she shall laugh in the latter day. She hath opened her mouth to wisdom, and the law of clemency is on her tongue. She hath looked well to the paths of her house, and hath not eaten her bread idle. Her children rose up, and called her blessed: her husband, and he praised her. Many daughters have gathered together riches: thou hast surpassed them all. Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: the woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands: and let her works praise her in the gates.

Proverbs 31: 10-31

The Rose (or, Desires and Analogies)

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McTurk’s eyes, so like a monkey’s, Philippa had often thought, brilliant in his wizened face, expressive, oddly sad, holding prescience of things far beyond himself, looked at her through the grille and must have seen her distress. Philippa’s usually pale face had a spot of color on either cheek, her eyes, usually so level, were looking down, her fingers, usually quiet under her scapular, were drumming on the sill. McTurk put his hand through the grille and stilled them.

. . . “I will learn,” said Philippa. “I shall hold my tongue, keep myself back, efface my meddlesome self–this me.”

“You can’t,” said McTurk.

“Why not?”

“For the simple reason they will never let you. To deny your gifts would be cheating. We can overcome our second natures, my dear, but not our first . . .”

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden

Last night, as I was trying to fall asleep with a mild headache (due to my helplessly restless mind!), I asked Our Lord and Our Lady to give me some light. Light to see. Lately, in this period of “living in the quiet,” so many thoughts and questions have been flowing through my mind, to God and to myself, about life and discernment, my natural desires, my true needs, my vocation, my abandonment to God and lack thereof, my holiness and lack thereof–everything. I’ve been writing about these thoughts so frequently; and, like every person, each day finds me a little older, a little different, and a little closer to eternity. I’m not remaining the same. Sometimes it feels difficult to keep up with my own words; or to make my words keep up with me.

So last night, you see, I was asking Our Lord and Our Lady to mercifully send an analogy floating into my mind. I love analogies. They help me think more clearly, see things more simply, like a child. Analogies to do with the Faith are my spiritual “aha!” moments. I most certainly am one of the reasons Our Lord condescended to speak in parables . . . otherwise I’d be constantly squinting about things.

As nearly everyone who knows me, or who reads this blog, has ascertained, in my heart I desire marriage and motherhood very, very much. And the desire is just not abating. What has changed in me, over the course of time and thanks in no small part to my experience of the Latin Mass, is my desire for God’s will in my life, and I attempted to share this in my most recent article on 1P5.

Entrust yourself completely to My will saying, “Not as I want, but according to Your will, O God, let it be done unto me.”

-Our Lord to Saint Faustina, Diary, 1487

I am young, obviously, and not an expert on anything to do with the spiritual life, with the Faith, with loving God . . . not with anything. (Except the best kinds of chocolate, and the best film moments in The Lord of the Rings. I’ll claim a little expertise there.) And so I pray; I think; I write; I read; I pray some more; I speak to those who know far more than I do; I speak to those who are in the same place as I am; I try to continually be open to God’s will, to be constantly united to Him in a spirit of love and prayer (ha! How often I fail at that on a normal day!) and I oscillate between various modes of trying to show Him that I do want His will to be done in my life, which surely must make Him smile with infinite, paternal love.

Everything I’ve written to do with God’s will, I believe in with all my heart. The complete surrender of oneself and all one’s desires to God, the complete openness to, and desire of, His will, is the narrow, rocky path that every Saint traveled up on their sojourn to heaven. It’s the one I’m trying to follow in my own clumsy fashion.

But last night, I was beginning to realize that I, in my interior life, had been sometimes mistaking authentically surrendering myself and my desires to God’s will *with* striving mightily not to think about these desires of mine and to simply give God an empty heart until He tells me, for sure, what my vocation is, and enables me to do it.

I guess it’s rather a fine line. But striving to squelch my desires in an effort to leave myself completely open to God’s will was becoming increasingly difficult to do. To put it mildly. Because whenever I would feel incapable of not thinking about how much I truly desire to be a wife and mother . . . I would be confronted with the thought that I might not be desiring God’s will so much after all. This became something of a slightly torturous impasse, which led me to where I was last night, in bed, praying for light and for an analogy.

Put your heart aside. Duty comes first. But when fulfilling your duty, put your heart into it. It helps.

-St. Josemaria Escriva

I think I fell asleep while praying. Earlier this morning, I woke up with the same thoughts circulating; I rose, dressed, said my morning prayers, got ready to stream the FSSP’s daily Mass with the rest of the family. Today, in the Old Calendar, is the feast of St. James and the commemoration of St. Christopher. I stuck bookmarks into my Missal (because I stubbornly don’t want to move my ribbons), knelt, and prayed as Mass began.

And, for whatever reason, I began thinking of St. Therese, and flowers.

There is a moment in the wonderful film Therese (starring Lindsay Younce), where she has just left Rome and returned to her family’s house, having been unable to obtain permission to enter the Carmelites, even after her audience with the Pope. She is lying in bed, looking wistfully at a picture book of St. Joan of Arc. In her narration, which punctuates the film, she then remarks, “I never gave up hope that God would grant me my desires.”

Something about the childlike trust of her statement pierced through the clouds and filled my heart, this morning while praying along with the Mass.

I want to give God all of me. That is, after all, what being a Saint means–you have given yourself completely to God, without holding anything back, for love of Him. Now, for reasons of His own, God saw fit to allow me to grow up with these fervent desires in my heart. I have prayed so much that I’ll know and do His will in my life; and so far, He has permitted these desires for marriage and motherhood to not only remain, but to be purified, to strengthen, to flower. I am drawn to the Sacrament of Marriage because it was instituted by Christ to beget life, to bring new precious souls into His kingdom, and so that the spouses can offer one another love, loyalty, encouragement and mutual assistance through this vale of tears; they help one another to become saints.

These desires are part of me. I am open to changing. But, in this context, I can’t change myself; Our Good Lord would have to change me, if that’s what He wanted. And so, with this in mind, I am not really giving God all of me if I attempt to give Him my heart, empty of these longings.

I do not want to spend my time praying for things I want, so to speak; every time I pray, I want to tell God that I desire His will, and not my own; but at the same time, I can’t hide some of my deepest desires from Him in prayer. I shouldn’t! He is my Father, my Creator, my first and last Lover. I exist because of His love for me.

Whatever God wants.

-St. Gianna Molla

As I thought of St. Therese during the early part of Mass this morning, I was presented with the similarity of desires to flowers. (And I apologize to the male readership of this blog. I may have just lost you 😀 ) The desire for the Sacrament of Marriage is a good desire. Even if, for whatever reason, it is not God’s will for me, it is something good.

So let’s call my desire for Marriage a rose, growing up since childhood in my heart. I didn’t truly know the full beauty of this rose, and so my desires to keep the rose and eventually receive a whole bouquet of them certainly weren’t perfect. But over time, my mind and heart have learned more from God, have become clearer and purer through His grace, and the rose is growing and unfolding in me, under the sight of God, daily. This rose is a desire for something good, something beautiful; it fills my heart with a fragrance that brings me both spiritual joy and longing.

When God asks me to give Him everything I am, He isn’t asking me to first tear the rose from my heart, trample it or hide it, and to give Him an empty heart in case He should wish to plant in my heart another flower–a desire for a different vocation. He is too tender for that. He is simply asking me to show Him the rose, in all its beauty and its potential; and to offer it as a gift, whole and entire, to Him. He is asking me to open my heart and show Him the rose in all trust and vulnerability. He alone can take it away from me, and give me either a hundredfold of what I desire, a bouquet of roses–or something different; something better.

He alone knows what He wants of me. But I realize now that my very desire for the Sacrament of Marriage can be a made into a gift to Him; not a sacrifice to be burned up, to be torn away, but a beautiful gift, a flower–a gift that exists and puts off fragrance, instead of the gift of forced emptiness and me constantly saying in tones of muted distress, “I’m waiting! I’m waiting! Tell me!”

So from now on, I give Him the rose. I show it to Him with excitement, with love and with hope. Like a child. And if He gently takes it from me and instead presents me with the lily of perfect chastity, I’ll rejoice. I see now that that’s all He’s asking of me for today. I want to give Him everything–and this rose, this desire for Marriage, has become deeply a part of me. It’s His, either to transform or to allow to remain. It’s highly possible this rose is the sign of my vocation, and the thought of that brings me delight and peace beyond words. I can’t describe, or even begin to imagine, the utter joy and peace of soul I will feel if He gives me a good, holy husband and beautiful children. Sometimes just contemplating this brings me to tears–and they’re tears of wonder and joy. Not of pain or even loneliness or impatience. Just wonder and joy and fullness.

But even if this vocation is not what He has in mind, I trust Him. I thank Him for the rose, for the desire, for the gift. I accept the present moment with all my heart, and I look forward to the future He has written for me with gratitude. My heart is ready.

For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of affliction, to give you an end and patience. And you shall call upon me, and you shall go: and you shall pray to me, and I will hear you. You shall seek me, and shall find me: when you shall seek me with all your heart.

-Jeremias 29: 11-13

More Than Anything (a Woman at Home Post)

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What is time? It has been given
That we may work and merit heaven

Anonymous

Well, I turn 21 next month (at this point, I’m contemplating occasionally drinking a little wine if I like it, but I’m not feeling very adventurous yet 😛 ); I’m not in school, not away from home, not in a relationship, not actively feeling called to pursue the religious life. Presently, my whole life (or maybe, my interior life would be the better phrase) feels enveloped in this huge cloud of quiet. On the outside, I have some pet projects and obligations I keep busy with; I have wonderful friends whose company I just love; and am blessed with the most beautiful family and a life that offers no lack of color, variety and opportunity to find God and clumsily grow in virtue. On the inside, though . . . it’s quiet.

And it’s the holy Faith that keeps me alive to these beauties surrounding me, and the beauties that are still yet to come. I could have nothing at all, except Our Lord’s Church, her liturgy and her Sacraments–and I firmly believe, I know with all my heart I would still have everything to live for.

I find this time of my life humorous, in a way, because a few years ago I was convinced I’d already been through this exact phase and that I knew God’s will for me. Well! How very little I knew–and how little I still know now. At eighteen, I honestly had been through nothing but a phase of contemplating my personal desires, praying that the things I wanted to happen would happen, and arriving at the conclusion that I knew God’s will. That’s not quite the same thing.

Maybe I should call this present phase living in the quiet. In many ways, I feel I have been through various bouts of high waves, sometimes storms, in one way or another, but particularly over the past few years. They certainly were all part of God’s designs for my soul; and even in my cloudy, limited perception, I can see that they have been transformative on me in many respects. I’ve arrived at the point where I barely recognize the child, the girl, the young woman I used to be, before this all happened. In some ways, it’s a really strange point to be at. This isn’t to say I don’t have the same struggles and flaws that I’ve always had (ah, if only!), but rather, I’m in awe at the grace of God, and how He has enabled me (especially through Our Lady’s intercession) over the past year to see life more clearly, in particular the end and purpose of life more clearly . . .  and, at last, to be quiet.

I think it just may be part of growing up. I asked my mom something to that effect a few nights ago while doing dishes after supper. (Washing dishes with your mom or a loved one present in the kitchen is a wonderful way to unload your weary mind and may save you psychologists’ bills.) Have you ever felt . . . different? Like you’re not who you used to be, and you don’t exactly enjoy reflecting on how you used to be, but you’re grateful for where God has brought you now?

Like all mothers, she knowingly said, Of course.

Living in the quiet has meant, for me, being showered with grace to where I am enabled to earnestly say, “Do what You want with me, when You want it of me.” And then to be still: to not be afraid of whatever it is He’ll ask: but, perhaps even more importantly, to not be afraid of the silence indicating He is not going to ask me yet, but for now is content, for His own mysterious but perfect purposes, with where I am–a young woman at home.

One of my most favorite passages from the side notes in the 1962 Missal speaks of Holy Communion in this way:

We should open our will to Jesus Christ as we open our lips to receive Him, leaving Him free to act in us and accepting in advance everything His grace will ask us to become. We consume the Sacred Host, asking that we be consumed by His Divinity. We receive Him physically, that He might receive us divinely into His sacred activity, and transform our life and action and desires into His.

We should receive Him as the Blessed Virgin received Him at the Annunciation, concerned only with leaving Him free to act, with a will to conform to His will for the Redemption of the world.

Now, living in the quiet doesn’t make my waiting always easy or effortless, or even painless for me. I desire so much to know God’s will for me and to enter into my vocation: my specific path, my soul’s joy, my crucible and my ladder for Heaven. I’ve experienced a lifelong interior tug towards marriage and family; I’ve been given a strongly maternal heart that craves babies and loves the company of children; I find myself naturally desiring the leadership, love, and assistance (both temporal and spiritual) of a good husband; I dearly love the thought of being a mother in the home, schooling my children, making my family’s home a church in miniature through prayer and traditions . . . but as good as these things are, I’m prepared to surrender these ‘wants’ of mine if God asks me to, and to go down the road to a vocation that doesn’t initially satisfy my first desires, though it most certainly will be most conducive to my eternal salvation (which is what I want more than anything!).

In fact, yesterday I was reading Fr. Lasance’s thoughts on the unmarried, virginal life in the world. He was speaking in the context of young women who desired life in the convent, or the married state, but for whatever reason weren’t able to fulfill those desires, and so were consigned by God’s will to living a secular, chaste life alone. His words struck me as being incredibly perceptive and wise.

It is no small trial for her, and many a secret tear does she shed because God has seen fit to refuse her the object of her ardent desires. Ought she on this account to be disconsolate? Certainly not; for God orders all things for the best. But why did He implant a longing {…} in her heart if this longing was never to be satisfied? It is plain that He acts thus in order to increase her merits. To find herself obliged to relinquish all hope of attaining the desired goal is the greatest and most painful of sacrifices. If she makes this sacrifice for the love of God, resigning herself to His will in a spirit of childlike submission, and striving to serve Him faithfully {…}, how great is the store of merit she lays up for herself in eternity!

Now, I’ll be honest. As unbelievably hard as it was once for me to be open to the religious life–to be open to being alone in the world, all my life? That was ten times as unthinkable and made me shudder with plain dread.

But now . . . God has helped me to see, quite plainly, that Heaven is all that matters in the end. Traditional Church teaching is clear and true: any state of life will not do for any soul, nor is it a matter of little consequence which state we enter into. If we follow our own will instead of God’s in deciding our state in life (whether it’s consecrated, married, or virginal in the world), we endanger our salvation, because God has fashioned us, has searched and known us, and He has ordained, in His wisdom, which individual path is best for the salvation of our individual souls.

So, much as I might be tempted to, I can’t shudder with dread, even at the thought of being single for the rest of my life. Do I anticipate this being God’s will for me? Well . . . not currently 🙂 But it might be. What matters is that I want His will more than anything. What matters is that I spread my hands, open and empty, before Him every day, and offer my life to Him without any reservation. What matters is that I am malleable, willing, soft and fresh in His palms. What matters is that I tell Him (as often as I think of it) that I’m ready whenever He is, and that I’m happy with whatever He wants.

One thing I’ve learned: the more I think about what I want, the less at peace I am. The more I pray for the things I personally desire (even if they’re good things; actually, especially if they’re good things), the less open I am for the better things He desires. The more I contemplate my invisible future with anxiety, longing, or impatience, the less receptive I am to His grace for the present moment, for my present sanctification. I can’t serve two Masters: my will and His will. I can’t simultaneously pray, Dear Lord, this is what I really, really, REALLY want to happen in my life . . . butThywillbedoneofcourse. Amen. It isn’t a prayer; it’s a contradiction, and it erodes my interior foundation, my charity and my self-surrender.

So again, I’m so very grateful for this period of living in the quiet. I’m grateful for the grace I’ve been given of largely letting go of my own desires. Yes, there are hard days; I fail, and I never have perfectly good intentions in anything I do. But those hard days are given to me so that my merits might increase, my desires might be purified. My failures and sins are opportunities for me to return to God with a humbled and contrite heart, so that He can embrace me in His Fatherly arms and give me renewed strength for the combat here below.

And so whether there’s a wonderful young man somewhere who God sees would make a spot-on husband for me one day; whether there’s a convent full of beautiful nuns with an empty place awaiting my arrival; whether there’s a small house in the world where I will eventually live out a virginal life of charity, kindness, and service to others . . . in the words of St. Gianna Molla, Whatever God wants. And that’s enough for me; it’s enough for all of us.

(Woman at Home Series: 1234)