Indeed this week has been a tremendous blessing for so many young catholics. If you have been following the events in Rio de Janeiro, (which I'm sure you have), you know what I mean. Saturday afternoon I was in the middle of finishing up some online shopping - getting items I need for my entrance which I can't find in stores anywhere around here - when I realized they were in the middle of the vigil with Pope Francis at that very moment! I quickly clicked over to the live streaming and was able to participate in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and benediction with our Holy Father. This was such a grace for me, my friends! For it was this very event that I missed seeing in Madrid two years ago. While Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was inside Quatro Vientos Aerodrome telling close to two million young people how important it was that they be open to religious vocations, I was locked outside with my group and the Sisters of Life - singing vespers in the rain and receiving interior confirmation that the Lord did indeed wish for me to discern my vocation. To be able to participate in this World Youth Day's final adoration meant so much to me since it was, God willing, the last WYD I will ever have the chance to participate in at all. This does not make me sad, my brother and sisters! The Good Lord opened my heart to His will for me through this blessed event, and I am so thankful that I have been able to attend two World Youth Days (I went to Cologne in 2005). But throughout this day I have been reflecting on the intention I had to attend Rio and whether or not I regret not having been able to go. The answer is of course - not at all!
There is such a true peace and excitement in my heart about the prospect of entering the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph in just 31 days... that I sincerely do not have any regrets about things I will not have experienced when I leave the world. Of course there are still countless things in the world that would be wonderful to experience and that I do desire very much. Of course it would have been amazing to go to Rio and once again stand among so many young people whose hearts are on fire for God and who are passionately embracing the New Evangelization. But The Lord gave me to be more than satisfied experiencing this event from my home. I honestly think I received joy just as abundantly as if I had been there - simply adoring Him from the screen of my computer, in my own little corner, in my own little room. Perhaps more.
I am very thankful for this burden of my student debt, for it has given me now two years to grow in spiritual maturity (of which I still have only a miniscule amount - in fact barely any at all...). As I now place all my trust in the Lord and prepare to enter in exactly one month, even though my debt is still quite substantial, it is becoming increasingly clear how necessary it was for me to have these two years to detach from the world - enough that the life experiences I will never have I now embrace as opportunities to grow in virtue. It is amazing how preparing to leave all things familiar can open up your eyes to so much potential in present situations that will probably never be realized. But it is also amazing that gifts, talents and love, offered and returned directly to the Lord from whom they come, will sanctify the sinner and lift the soul to greatest heights when this is done in secret. "But Mary treasured all these things, and pondered them in her heart." Contrary to popular belief, unrealized worldly potential may be just what the doctor ordered. For instance, have you ever walked past the baby cribs inside Target in search of laundry bags - simultaneously realizing that you will never shop for a baby crib and feeling surprisingly sad about it, wondering what your daughter might have looked like, wondering who the heck your husband would have been since you seem to be envisioning this product of the marital act inside your brains, and receiving from God the consolation that any peace and happiness you may have enjoyed in earthly motherhood will be exponentially increased as, with time, you allow Him to realize and make manifest your spiritual motherhood? I have.
It is in moments like these - recognizing the goodness that God has given us in the world and the holiness that can come from it all, while at the same time being able to embrace that I have been invited to venture onto the straighter, narrower, more direct and more perfect path - that I am learning to find the greatest happiness, and highest degrees of both patience and anticipation for the day I will enter my community. People keep asking me what I want to DO during these final few weeks in the world and whether it might not be a better idea to wait another year. Or two years. Or become an active sister. Or... get married and have babies! Don't I want to travel? Go skydiving? See my favorite band in concert? I should spend every day for the rest of the month at all-you-can-eat buffets! Don't I regret never having gone to Rome or the Holy Land? Walking the Way of St. James? Won't I be sad about missing so many weddings and baptisms? Who is going to organize First Friday adoration from now on? What about the children??!
The truth is, friends, that stuff is all awesome and you can become a saint through any and all of it. Ok well maybe the all-you-can-eat-buffet might not be the most sanctifying thing. But anyway, it is all just stuff and everything pales in comparison to the prospect of becoming one of Christ's chosen brides. Two years ago I would have been singing a different song and if I had entered a convent at that time I might have regretted not doing a lot of things in the world. Thank You God for giving me this time to begin understanding how much more You have planned for me in hidden life.
Would it have been cool to be in Rio? Heck yes. But do I have any regrets? Not a one.
Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary - Week 1 Day 3
Examples Inviting Repentance
And there were present, at that very time, some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answering, said to them: Think you that these Galileans were sinners above all the men of Galilee, because they suffered such things? No, I say to you: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower fell in Siloe, and slew them: think you, that they also were debtors above all the men that dwelt in Jerusalem? No, I say to you; but except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish.
True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Nos. 81 and 82
We Need Mary in order to Die to Ourselves
Secondly, in order to empty ourselves of self, we must die daily to ourselves. This involves our renouncing what the powers of the soul and the senses of the body incline us to do. We must see as if we did not see, hear as if we did not hear and use the things of this world as if we did not use them. This is what St. Paul calls "dying daily". Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain and does not bear any good fruit. If we do not die to self and if our holiest devotions do not lead us to this necessary and fruitful death, we shall not bear fruit of any worth and our devotions will cease to be profitable. All our good works will be tainted by self-love and self-will so that our greatest sacrifices and our best actions will be unacceptable to God. Consequently when we come to die we shall find ourselves devoid of virtue and merit and discover that we do not possess even one spark of that pure love which God shares only with those who have died to themselves and whose life is hidden with Jesus Christ in him.
Thirdly, we must choose among all the devotions to the Blessed Virgin the one which will lead us more surely to this dying to self. This devotion will be the best and the most sanctifying for us.