Deus in adjutorium meam intende!
What an incredible (extended) weekend I had at the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph! Thank you Jesus for this wonderful time that I had to spend in prayer and thanksgiving with my future sisters. I am so happy to announce to you my friends, yesterday Mother Mary Augustine and Novice Mistress Sr. Mary Norbert send me home with my official letter of acceptance – which read that my entrance date is set for August 28th, 2013. The feast of our holy father St. Augustine! Praise the Lord.
The snow was fresh on the ground during my drive up to the monastery, and I was blessed with an exceptionally beautiful (albeit cold) few days in the mountains. On Friday two of my closest friends (who are also discerning their vocations to the priesthood, marriage and religious life… pray for them!) arrived to spend 2 days in the quiet of the mountains with me. We were graced also by the presence of another young gentleman who has been accepted into formation for the priesthood at St. Michael’s Abbey – our Norbertine brothers in Orange County! We had wonderful conversations about the incredible love of Christ and the great call to religious life – among many other great topics. He will be entering the abbey just one day before my entrance date… what a blessing to meet one of my future confreres before we both enter the order!
These guys. These are my brothers.
My friends and I had a little time for silence as well as attending the regular communal prayers and mass with the sisters, and we spent one chilly morning tucked into the living room of the guest house, listening to a recorded talk about the holy life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati – who is becoming dearer to me every day as I pray for his intercession during my marathon training. He became a saint and died in 24 short years. Such an inspiration for us young people today! Without becoming a priest and before having the opportunity to enter into a holy marriage, Bl. Pier Giorgio spent his whole life becoming a saint. There is no excuse to waste our youth making “mistakes” that we’ll regret someday my friends! Now is not the time to be reckless, now is the time to strive for perfection in the Lord.
On Sunday I went for my long “run” – 11mi up and down the mountainside along the monastery property and Tehachapi Mountain Camp. Okay so it was more a “trot downhill/ powerhike uphill” sort of endeavor. But by the grace of God I got the mileage in. However it definitely was not a well thought-out move to run for such a long time (about 5.5mi) on a decline – of which my aggravated Achilles tendon is hard proof. I’ve taken the last two days off to try and let it heal up a bit and will be hitting the concrete again this evening. Please pray that I don’t incur a major injury on my road to the marathon! Needless to say I won’t be doing any more long runs in the mountains, but I am thankful that the Lord allowed me the resolve to finish this week’s.
On Monday Mother Mary Augustine allowed me back into the cloister (where I’m not always allowed to go… and there are many places still off limits for me) to help work on the new convent building. The sisters have been working very hard over the last month, trying to get tile laid, furniture built and moved in, and put all the finishing touches on the building so that they can move in ASAP. The original plan was for them to be settled in November 2012, but weather has put some delays on construction. Please hold off on the snow for now Mr. Weatherman! I helped Sr. Mary Stephen (one of the original 5 sisters) and Sr. Mary Michael finish building a bed for one of the cells. I learned how to cut, sand, wax and varnish wood. This goes without saying, but clearly these sisters have stronger faith than I do… for trusting me to do all of those things without supervision! Praise the Lord I don’t think I messed up too badly.
I helped Sr. Mary Stephen take a closet up to the new novitiate wing on the second floor, which is beautiful and nearly finished! It is the only wing in the building which has a view of the inner courtyard down below. What a blessing to take a walk through the hall that, God willing, I will be calling my new home come autumn. It’s amazing to see just how much work the sisters are doing on the construction of the building themselves. This community is still in its fledgling years. I think that someday when I am old and gray – being rolled down the halls of the monastery in my wheelchair (for the Lord knows just what kind of affect all these years of running will have on my joints in decades to come…) – I will have a great appreciation for this privilege God has granted me – witnessing firsthand the physical labor and dedication being poured out by these first 26 sisters into the community’s foundation. I don’t know who will sleep in the two beds I helped finish… but if either of them turns out to be no good, then please Lord let it be me!!
At the suggestion of my spiritual director I have been reading St. Teresa of Jesus’ The Way of Perfection in these first couple weeks of Lent. It has been a wonderful companion as I continue on my journey to the marathon, to the monastery, and through this penitent liturgical season – attempting each and every day to delve more deeply into the Glory of our Lord’s love, in prayer and meditation on His life and Passion. This book was written for her 12 daughters in the cloister, and I think it’s a must-read for anyone with a view toward entering contemplative life. It has given me some wonderful insight into the life of a cloistered nun – encompassing everything from instructing nuns on the grace that can come from perseverance in prayer, to describing the inevitable trials that result in abandoning one’s life to the authority of the Lord – and of the prioress. Thank God for such a wonderful work of literature to help prepare me for what life might be like as a contemplative.
How fitting too –as we move further into the penitence of Lent and I am learning more about solitude, silence and sacrifice – that our beloved Pope Benedict XVI should give his final Angelus as Supreme Pontiff, assuring us of the importance of a life of deep prayer:
“Dear Brothers and sisters, this Word of God I feel in a particular way towards me, at this moment in my life. The Lord is calling me to "climb the mount," and to devote myself to meditation, reflection and prayer. However, this does not mean abandoning the Church, but rather, if God has requested this of me, it is so that I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done up until now…”
Words cannot describe the way I feel in this last day of my Holy Father’s pontificate. For though I hardly knew him, he has truly been I my Holy Father. I was too young to appreciate the Great Bl. Pope John Paul II, and I will enter a life separated from the world soon after the next pope is elected. It was during the rule of Pope Benedict XVI that I fell head over heels in love with the Lord and His Church. It was over these past eight years that I have been reassured over and over again that I dwell within the body of Christ, in the fullness of the Truth as a catholic. And it has been through his tireless effort to continue the work of Bl. JPII in fostering true faith in young people – as well as leading the charge in bringing the Church back to its beautiful and rich heritage – that the Lord has led me to discover my vocation, for which I will be eternally grateful.
Tomorrow my heart will be briefly broken in a moment of mourning as we say goodbye to our dear pope, but will be followed immediately by such incredible rejoicing as we celebrate and pray for the election of our new Shepherd! May the Lord place His loving hands securely around our cardinals as they undertake their monumental task over the next couple of weeks.
I ask for your continued prayers as my fundraising efforts move forward. I have had several people contact me who are interested in helping in one way or another. While the meter at www.gofundme.com/litanyrun hasn’t moved in a little over a week, I understand that this effort will be slow-going in the beginning. But I trust that the Good Lord will give me the grace to raise this money in His perfect timing. If you are able to sponsor me for Litany Run, please do so as soon as you are able and, God willing, others will follow your holy example!
May the peace of Christ be with you, the Lord bless you abundantly, and the Holy Spirit guide you to become a saint.