Rooted & Grounded in Charity, Vol. 6: How did you know marriage was your vocation?

Charity

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Friday, October 10th, 2008 . . . I am thinking . . . about how it would be to be married and have kids . . .

Nearly ten years ago, I wrote this down on a sheet of daybook prompts. I was twelve. I can assure you that my hopes to be married had begun long before that day, though.

Growing up, I was absolutely, always, undoubtedly the girl of typical feminine fiber who adored romance and wanted marriage and babies, amen, from the time I was old enough to think about it with relative seriousness (and old enough to have desperate crushes, too, but that’s a story coming up in a moment . . . blush).

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Lena (who has a beautiful story of her ongoing vocational journey, by the way) was the one who continuously thought about being a nun. She pen-pal-ed with a nun (God rest her soul!). When we were children, she would garb herself in bedsheets and would have loved to live outside in a hut, Rose-of-Lima style.

This line of thinking never appealed to me. Marriage and babies, please.

From ages 11-14, roughly speaking, I had a few successive crushes on several altar boys/parishioners at our then-current parish. Some of them lasted for a good year or two (or three). One crush in particular was tall, dark, and handsome, approximately four years older than me, and totally fatal to my glasses-wearing self. It was the real deal. Although, more or less, I genuinely was striving to grow in faith and love of God . . . shallowly speaking, he was the reason I went to Mass.

Maybe he would look at me this time . . . Lena nicknamed him Abraham Lincoln. Maybe it was because he was tall.

One winter Sunday, while all the parish kids were streaming outside after finishing PSR classes, my dad (with whom I was standing) and his dad were casually chewing the fat about where our respective families got Christmas trees. Before I knew it, he walked up and listened quietly on the conversation, offering the name of the place when his dad couldn’t remember. I nearly died with ecstasy. It was the closest thing to a conversation I ever had with him.

‘Twas not meant to be, of course (thank Heavens . . . no one remotely compares to The Dash!!!) but during that time, all I did was daydream about Mrs.-hood. And attempt to be productive with my life by writing stories, in which, of course, heroes and heroines fell in love.

Around the time I was fifteen or so, I sobered a little and realized I needed to stop frittering away my time (and heartstrings) on crushes and instead be at peace with where I was in life. I still wanted to be married more than anything, but I was striving to be reasonable. After all, I was fifteen, and by that time it had clicked that indulging in imaginative crushes were at least remote occasions of sin at that point in my young teenaged life, so for prudence’s sake, I should cease and desist.

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Me at 18! Yikes, flashback!!!

We moved homes, changed parishes, proceeded on with life. I finished high school at 17 and prayed a novena to St. Anne that she would help me find my future husband. Because, after all, I was done with school for the foreseeable future and about to turn the legal marrying age. There were a few decent fellows (one was noticeably devout and my age) at our current parish, plus the possibility that some handsome stranger would walk in for Mass one day. It was perfect timing.

I entered my first courtship (although it was missing some key factors of courtship I now know to be essential; it wasn’t our fault, we just didn’t know!) when I was 18; it was long-distance with a good young man, but ended when I was 20. Just like any relationship, it is heartbreaking to have something like that end after the investment of time and heart with another person. I made a lot of mistakes. Looking back, I see with undeniable clarity how very, very much I had to learn–God knew this!

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Me at 19

During that time, I totally consecrated to Our Lady. Immediately afterwards, I went through a period of regrouping, journaling, prayer–all the things that are perhaps natural to do in that situation. It felt like everything I thought I knew was turned upside down–in the sense that you come home after a long journey, and are tired and stunned to silence and just need to think.

This was when I went through what I consider intentional vocational discernment.

Up until then, I’d known what I wanted. But I hadn’t been silent. I hadn’t unclenched my fists. I’d been consumed with the desire to be married and to be a mother. I’d been inwardly terrified that maybe God would be calling me to the religious life instead.

In the summer of 2017, I wrote in an article that was published at OnePeterFive:

When I was a teenager, and when it came to considering the state of life to which God was calling me, I had strong, gripping hopes and dreams for what I wanted to do – but an even stronger, more gripping fear of letting my soul be silent. A fear of simply listening.

In my own imperfect way, I loved God and the Catholic Faith and was trying to grow in holiness…but I was, nevertheless, terrified of letting my soul be still, to the point where I could let go of my desires and wait to hear Our Lord’s voice telling me His designs for me. That might have required me giving up everything I wanted (that is, marriage and motherhood in the home). And that felt physically impossible for me at the time.

If I ever sensed a type of spiritual silence descending on me (whether it was in Adoration, at Mass, or in bed), I would panic and chase it away. I was so immersed in this fear of God’s will that, now, I can only imagine how worn and unhappy I must have been, without even realizing it.

I desire you to be a consecrated virgin. I ask you to be a nun for My sake. Fantasies of hearing those phrases ring out clearly in my soul were paralyzing. If I felt “a silence” coming, I would immediately begin convincing myself – “I’ve always wanted to be a good wife and mother. That means God gave me the desire from the beginning – that means it’s my vocation.” Essentially, I had my spiritual hands clapped over my spiritual ears.

That description is unfortunately very accurate. I was afraid. Terrified that I wasn’t meant to be married.

Being introduced to the Latin Mass, particularly Low Mass where silence reigns for much of the time, brought me into a “courtship” with silence and with liturgical awe of God. It was something of a gradual process, but my fears eventually died down and I began trying, on a regular basis, to make acts of perfect surrender to God’s Will. I can’t recall if I’d ever previously done something like that in the context of my vocation. Time and time again, I renewed my efforts to, in prayer, completely let go of what I wanted my vocation to be, and to tell Our Lord that all I wanted was what He wanted.

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Me at 20

I still had the same desires to be married, although they were calmer and softer (for lack of better words). I still noticed and thought about some great Catholic guys I knew. But I also took time, for example, to go out and thoughtfully look at the website for the Nuns at Ephesus and read about their spirituality. It was beautiful and entirely different from anything I’d considered before. I didn’t feel an urging to explore beyond that, but I made these kinds of deliberate acts to combat my old terrors of Anything Other than Marriage. In my mind, I termed this period of a few months as “living in the quiet.”

Now granted, I didn’t go and visit any communities; not because I felt repulsed by the idea, but because opportunities didn’t really open up, nor did I feel a strong stirring to go. I spoke to a priest about my journey over the past few months, including my desires for marriage, and he encouraged me to bring all my desires to God and prayer, to trust Him like a Father, and to be at peace. During this time, I was praying to St. Raphael for my future husband, but I also wondered if I should stifle any desire for marriage altogether so as to truly give God my interior silence as part of my discernment.

This brought me back around to another novena to St. Anne . . . already, it was summer again. I wrote a post here called The Rose (Or, Desires and Analogies), which was a pivotal “diary entry” in which I tried to express myself and my calmer, still existing desires for marriage, as well as my desire to give God my total “vocational openness”; and immediately after that, I also wrote about my novena to St. Anne and what happened on the last day:

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.

It was at this point that I was able to indeed embrace the hope of marriage as my vocation, having finally gone through the silence and surrender. My love and perception of marriage as a vocation was purified and distilled in a way it had never been before. Although my courtship with The Dash has matured me in ways I couldn’t have anticipated, that time of “living in the quiet” and coming to these realizations through God’s grace was a time of unique and intense maturation that will always stand out to me.

And it was during these formational weeks that I first met The Dash and began spending time with him (and began gently, happily falling in love with him). The timing was something only Our Lord can achieve!

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And so, now I’m here.

The Dash and I have been blessed in our courtship for over a year, and Our Lord has used this wonderful man in so many ways to enrich, improve, and support the woman I’m still becoming. He truly is my best friend and I’m immeasurably blessed by his heart and his virtues every day ❤

18-21 were chiaroscuro years; up and down, adventurous, intensely formative. To be 22 and to have been blessed with the graces necessary to make that surrender and then be showered with gifts beyond my imagination . . . it’s a sweet and precious place to be!

However, the surrender doesn’t stop. I’ve learned that, just because I made acts of surrender way back when, I’m not exonerated from the need to do so now, in countless situations. Just because I’m peacefully assured that I am being called to marriage doesn’t mean I’m still not asked for daily vocational surrender. Surrender in the little things; surrender of my selfishness. Sometimes that is far harder to do than just surrender my ideas about my vocation!

One of my favorite quotes from St. Faustina’s Diary (Our Lord is the one speaking) sits on top of my desk, and has done for years:

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

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A recent haircut . . . it doesn’t happen often, so a picture was in order 😉

I pray that I will be able to surrender to the Will of God more perfectly with each day that passes, especially now as I wait to enter the vocation of marriage. Again, it is a sweet place to be.

Sig

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Robin Nest Lane Chapel Veils

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Happy feast of St. Bartholomew!

On a whim, I stopped by Robin Nest Lane yesterday and unexpectedly learned that this talented mother who has been making lovely chapel veils for at least six years is selling out her shop and, in her own words, “closing down permanently to be able to devote more time to my precious family.” That’s so beautiful! God bless her!

Image from Robin Nest Lane

We Donellan girls own several veils from Robin Nest Lane (I wear mine every Sunday!) and highly recommend them. They are lovely and feminine, the sewn-in clips making them very easy to wear.

Currently, she’s running a 20% sale on all remaining veils (except the specialty Trinity veils), so if you’re at all interested, please do go support her! (I admit I just went and purchased one last veil, for future use 😉 )

Her shop is linked on my sidebar 🙂

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St. Augustine’s Prayer of Love to Christ

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This morning, while reading True Devotion to Mary over breakfast, I came across St. Louis de Montfort’s translation of a prayer to Christ by St. Augustine.

Thou art Christ, my holy Father, my tender God, my great King, my good Shepherd, my one Master, my best Helper, my most Beautiful and my Beloved, my living Bread, my Priest for ever, my Leader to my country, my true Light, my holy Sweetness, my straight Way, my excellent Wisdom, my pure Simplicity, my pacific Harmony, my whole Guard, my good Portion, my everlasting Salvation.

Christ Jesus, sweet Lord, why have I ever loved, why in my whole life have I ever desired, any thing except Thee, Jesus my God? Where was I, when I was not in Thy mind with Thee? Now from this time forth, do ye, all my desires, grow hot, and flow out upon the Lord Jesus; run,–ye have been tardy so far; hasten whither ye are going; seek whom ye are seeking. O Jesus, may he who loves Thee not be anathema; may he who loves Thee not be filled with bitterness!

O sweet Jesus, may every good feeling that is fitted for Thy praise love Thee, delight in Thee, admire Thee, God of my heart, and my Portion! Christ Jesus, may my heart faint away in spirit, and mayest Thou be my life within me! May the live coal of Thy love grow hot within my spirit, and break forth into a perfect fire; may it burn incessantly on the altar of my heart; may it glow in my innermost being; may it blaze in hidden recesses of my soul; and in the day of my consummation may I be found consummated with Thee! Amen.

St. Louis writes, “Charity . . . is the accomplishment of the whole law.” Charity: love of God for His own sake, and love of others for His sake. Thinking on this forces me to acknowledge the (fairly unbelievable) ease in which I sail through most days, without really trying to grow in the virtue charity. It’s overwhelming to consider how many technically “good things” I do . . . yet with, most likely, imperfect or self-serving motives I’m barely conscious of. How many things, really, do I do with consistency, solely because I love God?

O My God! I love Thee above all things with my whole heart and soul, because Thou art all good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for love of Thee. I forgive all who have injured me, and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured.

Charity simplifies and clarifies everything. On the surface, life can seem so complicated–but the recurring answer is that charity is life’s only true aim. Without it, everything is wasted. With it, every action is suffused with meaning. How to climb out of the disorienting swamp of self-love and imperfect motives? That seems to be the great question. The natural answer is to love something or someone more than oneself, and not for the sake of oneself. The Divine answer is the virtue of charity: or, in other words, the Cross.

So here’s to that! May we all strive to live in the virtue of charity better today than we did yesterday! 🙂

Sig

Reparation

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A most blessed feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to you all!

Let us come with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and may find grace in seasonable aid.

-INTROIT

Today, some are beginning a 40-day period of reparation (the movement #SackclothandAshes) in response to the most recent outbreak of terrible scandal in our holy Mother Church. This period extends through all of September, the month of Our Lady of Sorrows. I definitely want to spend these next forty days offering various acts of fasting, as well prayers of reparation. I’m going to try and pray this particular chaplet daily:

Reparation

Our priests need our prayers more than we can begin to conceive. The Devil desires their ruin with unimaginable power and malice, because they sustain the Church and stand in the person of Christ. Our faithful priests suffer deeply from scandals and need our ongoing prayers for strength and protection; the gravely fallen ones need our fervent prayers for immediate justice and profound conversion. Those who have unimaginably suffered need our strongest and most compassionate prayers for consolation and healing.

Let’s confide all these things to the most Immaculate Heart of Mary–she is the Mother of the Church, the Mother of the Clergy, the Mother of all who suffer.

I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits . . . They that work by me shall not sin.

-ECCLUS. 24

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Valiance

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)

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It’s a very different season of life in contrast to those I’ve ever been before. Last year, I posted on the feast of St. Anne, and how amusing and amazing it is to go back and read over something you’ve written a year (or more) ago and marvel how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same!

On a similar whim, I flipped through an old journal, attempting to find something from July 26th of a previous year. 2014 (I was 17 at the time!) reads as follows:

I promised to journal. Now I have done it. Life has been rolling delightfully along with music & fiction & recording & website & more fiction & more music. And other serendipity. Tonight is “chess night with Mr. Wemmick”  – or, rather, LOTR with Lena. So tally ho!!! End.

Not too much about St. Anne. Alas. (I have always been a horrid journaler. Not that I needed to tell you that.)

This season of life, this time of courtship, has given me so much: so much joy and beauty and grace! But it’s also asked much (“to whom much is given, much is expected”)–it’s asked for what I’m increasingly realizing to be valiance. Not that I’m a valiant person by any means . . . but I’m having to strive for that, all the same.

Valiant:

  • boldly courageous; brave; stout-hearted: a valiant soldier.
  • marked by or showing bravery or valor; heroic: to make a valiant effort.
  • worthy; excellent.

As you may have gathered from an earlier blog post, I’m in the middle of a 54-day Rosary Novena to Our Lady of Pompeii for numerous private intentions. (Currently I’m on day 22 . . . and even though it takes effort some days, it’s amazingly beautiful and a total gift to whoever prays it!)

But of course, I still had to make time for St. Anne’s novena. And for whatever reason, while I had a few people I wanted to pray for specifically, my main intention for this novena surfaced as, “That St. Anne would intercede for me, and obtain the necessary graces for me to grow in all the feminine virtues, but especially the ones I most stand in need of in this courtship.” Not that I had particularly anything in mind . . . but as the way it often happens with novenas (and prayers in general), my prayers were actually answered. (Gasp!)

Current faults (that I’d been mostly blind to) and corresponding virtues to strive for were, by the end of the novena, illuminated in my mind–and the path ahead was made clear to me. Humbling but beautiful . . . you know the routine. I am so grateful for this, and for good St. Anne’s intercession! (I suppose the prayers you pray for self-knowledge are the prayers answered more quickly than any others!)

I’ll be turning 22 before long . . . but although I guess one could say I might possess some nice qualities and some relative maturity (like so many other people!) . . . becoming a valiant woman is an end still very much in need of attaining. Worthy and excellent. Brave and stout-hearted. Daily doing battle against the world, the flesh and the Devil with virtue and with strength.

St. Anne, pray for us that we may grow in all the virtues, especially those most needed in our current state in life!

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 . . . 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.

God bless you all, and a very happy feast of St. Anne! 🙂

Sig