A few years ago I came across a poem I wrote in high school.
The topic was, “If you were a pilgrim in ‘The Canterbury Tales,’ what would be said of you?”
As a 15-year-old girl, I did not write about career aspirations or goals. I simply wrote that I had fallen madly in love with the man of my dreams and that was who I was. How telling.
Being raised in a large Catholic family, I was blest to be brought up in the faith, and feel God’s love for me through my parents and siblings. As a youth, though, I quickly realized that my peers didn’t think much of God, and definitely not as the center of their lives. Keeping my faith separate from school and friends allowed me not to feel different but inside I knew I was different, because of Him. God gave me a chance to forge my identity with His by starting a Christian prayer group at my public high school, through the invitation of a friend. That experience confirmed in me that not only was He a part of me, but the most important part of me, no matter what anyone thought. I knew I wanted to grow stronger in that conviction so I choose a Catholic University to attend.
University brought its own challenges, and my focus on the Lord shifted to my quest for fun, achievement, and popularity, leaving me tired and thirsting for something more. My second year I was able to travel abroad in Europe and being surrounded by so much beauty and mystery captivated me.
The more I saw and experienced, though, the more I felt a growing restlessness. Everything I encountered was just a tease because I began to realize that I did not merely want to behold the beauty and goodness that the world was offering, I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted in. This was the first time I thought about religious, simply because it was so radical, to give up everything, to be completely single hearted!
Back in the states, though I quickly fell back into many of the distractions that I previous fell prey to, and one of my friends who I knew from the campus pro-life club, asked me to join her on a weekend visit to the Sisters of Life. I agreed reluctantly and was surprised how joyful and normal the sisters were. They were so fully alive, so happy and yet they were pursuing nothing that I was. As much as my heartfelt drawn to their way of life I didn’t know how to reconcile my desire for marriage and a family, which left me struggling inside. After graduation I took a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestla, in which a special intention of what I should do with my life. Upon arrival at the Cathedral, after three weeks of hiking and anticipation, I see two Sisters of Life a few pews in front of me at the noon mass. They were on pilgrimage and only there for the same 24 hours I was there! It was just a little nudge from God that he was listening to my prayers.
Back home in Connecticut I was working for Catholic Charities and soon followed a desire that had been stirring in my heart for the last few years … and so I went back to school to become a nurse. All the while, I had been living a faith filled life yet I was afraid to seek what the Lord was asking of me, and in my prayers I was scared to let my heart listen to Him. I had made a mental checklist of all
the things I desired that I thought would make me happy, and feel at peace. The car I wanted, the town I wanted to live in, the nurse I wanted to be, the guy I wanted to be with, even the volunteering I wanted to be involved with, were all on there. But as I was able to ‘check’ things off, I found myself still thirsty, and even more restless. What was wrong?
One night coming home from the hospital, I found myself exhausted but so upset that everything seemed to be going my way, but my heart was Without thinking I burst into tears and reminded God of each and every one of my desires unsatisfied just in case He forgot. And then one by one I gave them over to Him, telling Him that I was done trying to my life. I wasn’t happy, and at least if I did what He wanted, He’d be happy. It was the first time orchestrate I could remember my heart being completely still. With the desires I held on to so tightly stripped away, I felt a quiet inside so deep that I never remember feeling before. And then, with striking clarity, I heard Him speak to me in my heart, “I want you for Myself’. There was no mistaking it, especially because there was nothing to distract me in that moment. Still feeling life utterly emptied and betrayed by my heart, I told Him yes. As much as I had thought about religious life in the past, I knew this time there would be no turning back.
The weeks and months that followed I felt like I was skydiving, and I didn’t care what happened. The freedom and peace I experienced made me realize that truly seeking to live the of God is life giving. I wanted to shout out on my rooftop that I was finally alive! The struggle that I will had grown accustomed for the previous years was gone and I felt like the world opened up to me! And like the sweetest of all gentlemen, Jesus opened all the doors for me. He showed me right to back to the Sisters of Life, and even took care of all my expenses (loans) so that I could love Him here!
When I think about how God has led me here, in own mind I picture myself running towards the One who has captured my heart. It was only when I reached Him that looked around to see where I was, and who was around I me. I was here with the Sisters of Life, and in my mind, it is really that simple. I still desire to be that same pilgrim of my high school poem, whose only concern was to live in love. Striving not to reach Canterbury, but Heaven.