Coming in through the doors of the enclosure for the first time, I wanted to be open.
But at the same time not really open…
I was still trying to convince myself that I’d come for this time of trial and experience to put this ‘niggling’ to bed. I’d find that it wasn’t for me and get back to my life as an apostolic Religious Sister in peace.
But it was God who had the last laugh…!
For a long time I’d been feeling a deep pull to contemplative life. I’d prayed about it, discussed it in Spiritual Direction and with my superiors and all that remained was to try it…to test it. And so here I was ready to ‘come and see’.
I’d done my homework coming in. Read lots about the history, spirituality, charism of the Order… daily rhythm. I’d had chats with the Prioress and Formator and even before I came in if I’m truly honest with myself, I knew that this was a better ‘fit’ for me. The place where I could live ever deeper in God’s irresistible draw to Himself that had marked me from my teens. But it was something that I hadn’t read about or heard about that opened my mind and heart. That brought down the barriers.
On the very first day I was disarmed by the unexpected. At our 3 o’clock prayer in the afternoon, we stretch out our arms like the Lord on the Cross while the 33 bells are rung and bring to Him in prayer all who are dying (and people die in so many ways both during and at the end of their life). This truly poignant moment caught me off guard and it was filled with great intensity for me. In some way the Lord revealed to me something of what it would mean for me to be a Redemptoristine. To intercede for our broken world, to be a living memorial of Christ the Redeemer…of His Love. Each day I unpack that experience a little more as I grow deeper into the life. Into Him who is Life.
So often we think of God’s Will as something that is imposed. Something God wants because He knows best. Because He has a plan. And He does… But it took acknowledging to God and to myself, that I wanted it too, to open my heart. I can still remember vividly sitting one morning before the tabernacle, before anyone else was up and cautiously murmuring to the Lord “I think I want this…” and knowing in my heart that it was right for me. Knowing that it was ‘mine for the taking’ - if I wanted! Knowing that this life fulfilled the deep longing of my heart.
With my defences down, with my mind and heart open, the experience became one of the most beautiful of my life.
What I experienced was freedom. Love. Joy. A sense of being fully myself.
The life was so incredibly normal and I seemed to fit into it as though I had always been here. In the days and weeks that followed the Lord continued to confirm for me in an extraordinary way that this was my home. This was where all the pieces of my life fell into place in deep harmony. It was the place where I could grow in love and service. In selfgiving. It was so clear to me that ours is a life for the world. A life given.
All the seeds planted in my heart along the course of my life began to bloom for me.
This experience gave me the courage to make the huge jump from the Congregation I had been part of to our monastery and community. A very significant change that wasn’t and hasn’t been without its challenges but each day the Lord moves and urges me to grow ever deeper in that freedom, love and joy I glimpsed. And I can’t thank Him enough.