Monday, April 22, 2013

It's days like today

It's days like today when I am truly grateful for the wonderful education I've had over the last couple of years. For the last few days I've been experiencing a bit of Achilles Tendonitis. But thankfully my time int the world of fitness gave me a decent background in being able to understand the absolute necessity for recovery time, and just how to stay in marathon shape while I recover.  I still own enough fitness equipment to be able to perform strength alternatives to stay in marathon shape while letting my feet heal up. It also helps that my wonderful parents decided to install a pool into their backyard some 12 or so years ago, so that I can swim as an alternative to running. After a few seconds of pondering imminent death by hypothermia... my body got used to the chilly mid-April water and I was fine. I should be good to be back on the road tomorrow, which is wonderful - because I'm doing an interview with the county newspaper and they'll be getting a few shots of me doing my training run for the day. Please pray that it goes well!

These flowers brought the
Divine Mercy to mind.

Late Sunday evening I returned home from a beautiful weekend trip to St. Michael's Abbey - home to the Norbertine fathers who founded the community of nuns I'll be joining. What a blessing that they're only about 20 minutes away from where a dear friend lives in Orange County. I was able to spend most of Saturday praying at the Abbey and talking with several of the priests and novices, and also had time for a lovely little trip to the mission in San Juan Capistrano, where I prayed for the intentions of all my sponsors. I visited this mission once before - about a year and a half ago. It is probably my favorite one (thought I haven't visited them all... and very much hope to visit a few more before entering.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out whilst listening to an audio recording for this particular area of the mission (a small chapel dedicated to St. Peregrine), that they have daily mass at 7am! I will be attending mass there the friday before I run my marathon. What a blessing!
Where I prayed and left many of your prayer intentions with St. Peregrine, especially those who have asked for prayers for cancer sufferers. 

At St. Michael's Abbey the novice master Fr. Ambrose Criste, O.Praem. was so generous in showing me around the non-cloistered areas of the Abbey, and obtaining permission for me to have dinner with the priests. Oh how honored I was after dinner, that Father Abbot Eugene Hayes, O.Praem.  - the superior of the Abbey - introduced himself to me and made me feel very welcome. Soon after that I met Fr. Thomas Nelson, O.Praem. - who is the director of the Institute on Religious Life. He also allowed me to speak to the entire community of Third Order Norbertines, novices and affiliates at their monthly meeting on Sunday. How wonderful to now have so many names and faces of the Norbertine family in Orange County in my mind! Now when I enter, I will be able to remember these beautiful and holy people's faces when I pray for them.

It was actually a surprise to me when I found out the Third Order would be having their monthly meeting the same weekend I was visiting. Even more of a delightful surprise during their holy hour to see their Juniors (children of Third Order parents who are prepared to take the next step in entering the Third Order for themselves - they seemed just shy of being teenagers, from what I could tell...) approach the altar to be vested with the White Scapular. But more than I can express, what a grace to be invited by Fr. Gregory, to approach the altar with them and receive the scapular myself! 

I must admit I was a little shocked when, after the first few lines of the formal vestation prayer, Fr. Gregory paused and told the entire community how it had just occurred to him that there were future Norbertine canonesses in the room. From my seat in pew at the very back of the church, I knew that he was prompted to say this by seeing me there, but I thought he would stop at the suggestion that any of the young, unmarried women and girls present should discern a vocation to the religious life. That suggestion was immediately followed, however, by his announcing that there was a current aspirant to the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph present in the church, and then inviting me up to the altar with the Juniors. Perhaps some of the people there thought this had been previously arranged... but it hadn't! I actually didn't know they were planning to have a holy hour until just ten minutes before it happened, and was going to be fully satisfied with the opportunity to spend some time in the presence of Our Lord exposed on the altar. But He had something even more special in mind.

I happened to end up kneeling directly in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the center of the altar, and  This spontaneous invitation for me to participate in the vestation of the White Scapular meant more to me than Fr. Gregory will know... unless he reads this post :). I have actually been wanting to begin wearing a scapular for several months, but have never been presented with an occasion to have one blessed or felt particularly compelled to seek out such an occasion. But again, it is no surprise that God's timing is perfect. Fr. Gregory approached each of us who were kneeling before the altar, placed a scapular around each person's neck, laid his hands on our heads and said the following:

"Receive, Sister, this white scapular, in order that you may clothe yourself with a greater increase of God's grace, and that you may be worthy to walk in white with the Lamb, Who liveth and reigneth with God the Father in unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end."

Except that when he got to me, after the word "Lamb" he added the words, "as your spouse one day." And I got a nice healthy dose of reality and grace all rolled into one. You see, the reality that I will someday be a consecrated bride of Christ in one of the most ancient religious orders in existence... comes in waves. Being called into the Order of Premontre is rare, beautiful, demanding, and is accepted with consideration of an incredible amount of responsibility. As Canons and Canonesses Regular,  the members of my future order are charged with the responsibility of keeping the Divine Office throughout the entire day - praying for the salvation of souls. St. Faustina, in her Diary, writes that the Lord said to her that on the day of judgement He is going to require many souls of her. She took this to mean that if she were to carry out the Lord's request, she would be held accountable for many souls who were otherwise unable to recognize and accept the Mercy of God. This is what is asked of contemplatives. 

By accepting the Lord's invitation into the Order of Premontre, I would be accepting the responsibility of striving to pray without ceasing - for the salvation of my Christian family in the world, as well as those who do not know God or have rejected Him. This is what it means to be a bride of Christ. If we are to follow the Church's teaching on marriage and the essential functions of a family - we know that it is the responsibility of each person in a marriage to work unceasingly for the good of their spouse. To continually die to themselves and sacrifice much with a view toward fostering holiness in each other. My Lord has already done, and continues everyday to do what is best for me, and may He save me from any future occasion of suggesting that I do not have every reason to express my gratitude - through living a life of self-denial for the salvation of souls and for His Glory. 

The scapular is an outer sign of an inner devotion, (well actually, if you wear it correctly it's not really supposed to be an outer sign for others to see), and the time will come when I will have to remove it in favor of a larger one :). But upon receiving it I truly felt a certain wave of the Holy Spirit rush over me as I entered, even in a small way, into solidarity with the Norbertine community - both lay and religious. I feel closer to them now. 

As an update on my finances - praise the Lord I am now down to $41,945!!  I was able to raise $260 over the last five days and, as promised, will be sending $85 of that to the Hern family of northern California - whose little boy was hurt during the attack at the Boston Marathon. I don't have an update on his health status yet, but I assure you I will post about it here when I do. Thank you so much to everyone who was able to pray for my effort to contribute to this cause and help his family. Perhaps I can convince a lovely grandparent to donate $15 and make Litany Run's gift to the Herns an even $100 :). 

I am now TWELVE DAYS AWAY from the OC Marathon, and getting really excited! Please please please share my story with EVERYONE you can today. I have had people of all different backgrounds give to Litany Run so far... Catholics, other Christians, agnostics, some Jewish brothers and sisters, people who have fallen away from any faith at all... and even self-proclaimed atheists! Praise God... you never know just who is going to feel called to help. Thank you for your continued prayers, my friends. Please know that I am keeping you locked even more tightly into my prayers as the race draws closer. God bless you! 

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