Closing in to the end of the year rather rapidly (a bit like Christmas, suddenly it’s there, completely unexpected – every year anew 😀 ), so let’s do a run down, because this year was certainly intense, especially on the spiritual level, and my personal updates have been rather scarce during the last months:
* unexpectedly (finally!) found a new job after looking for one for a long time. Actually, it got surprisingly easy once I finally understood where to look/in which field.
* after that, once life became finally more peaceful again, I obviously reached the next level (yeah, I’m starting to compare my spiritual life to a computer game. Whenever I finally managed to master one level, the next one is already waiting) and started to feel the first pangs of a special kind of urging and prompting and just a feeling that there could, just maybe, be more.
Of course, being me, I tried to ignore it at first, but, like all the previous times, these feelings refused to vanished and became more pressing instead.
I finally talked to my spiritual director. More than once. Very intense talks followed by just as intense prayers (and talks and prayers, and… you get the drift), trying to understand and to see where these feelings could lead me, what God was trying to tell me.
As the feelings grew stronger and clearer, we went – just in time – on our pilgrimage, above question in my backpack. These three weeks on the road/by foot was another highly intense time, but once we reached Assisi, I knew that my feelings were right and that I should look deeper into them. I was also certain that my path would continue to be Franciscan (of course) and it definitely shouldn’t be a contemplative order, because, well, that wouldn’t be me.
Once back, more intense talks followed, and from August on, I visited the first three sisters’ communities, which were recommended to me, all within the Franciscan tradition, each with a different focus. With the first visit I just knew that I was finally on the right track. Not the right community, but it was definitely the right direction/way of life, the kind of life I was/am burning for. The last of the three communities was pretty much perfect for me.
However, there was a fourth recommendation, which was a mostly contemplative community in tradition of St. Clare (not the poor Clares, but they developed from them). I was very reluctant to go there and kept asking why my spiritual director recommended them to me. We are talking about the person who has known me since my first contact with the Catholic church, who has accompanied me for the past years and knows me very well.
I had so many reasons not to waste my time visiting them, but he told me that they were “different” than the Poor Clares and that I should just take a look at them, if only to be certain that I am on the right track.
And he had very powerful help from above. Getting a date with them was easy (and for one whole week, which was a scary idea), I got vacation without trouble and just everything worked so smoothly, it became quite obvious that I was supposed to visit them.
Which I did.
One week later, I wanted to do anything but leave the place. I love how they are contemplative, yet also open, I love the hour of adoration each and every day, the closeness to God, the wonderful, rich spirituality, how really everything they do is focused on God, the liturgy of the hours with them, the silence, the work, the “desert-days”, their involvement with the parish, the… just everything.
The time there made me realize very powerfully (even clearer than before) just how much I want this life. I want to live for God alone. I don’t want anything else anymore.
I think, I could safely consider myself flashed after the week there and just waited for it to finally wear off again, so that I could return to my life, fully, in mind and heart and action. Three months later, I’m still waiting for that to happen. I’m here, yet not really. I am doing what is necessary (and doing it well), but my heart and my soul are not here anymore and just want to return to what they were allowed to discover. The longing has only grown stronger since then, to the point that I will be back with them in February and start my candidature.
It will be a bit different than usually, since I can’t take off months to live with them, but I will use my vacation days to be there and live with them for some days and weeks.
A part of me still worries that maybe I was mistaken and they will turn out to be bad (for me) and so break my heart, and another part worries that they could continue to be perfect, that the longing to be there, to live that kind of life, which I never considered for myself (and I always claimed that I would know myself – hah!), will only grow stronger.
It’s exhilarating and beautiful and scary and I can’t wait to be back there in 35 days!
And then… well, we have to see what 2017 brings. There are still things I need to take care of first before following up on the candidature, like my marriage (I started the unpleasant process of declaring matrimonial nullity – which is highly unpleasant. Nothing like every painful aspect of your life – childhood to marriage/now – being dragged onto the light and being dissected. If my motivation would be anything less than God and my relationship with him, I wouldn’t even have made it to this point) and finally getting my finances in order.
I’m not worried about the second, it will only take time and willpower, but the first one is really hard on me. The thought that I’m going through this painful process and then getting told “no” is just not very nice. But God brought me here and if religious life in that way is what he wants me to do, it will work out somehow.
But yes, it was a highly intense year and I’m just very grateful for the people who accompanied me and helped me along.
And I’m infinitely grateful to God, for what he has shown me, for these feelings, this special longing for more, the burning desire within me. (though, when I talked with a friend of my inability to really live in the present, I jokingly said that this was not what I signed up for when I said “yes” during my conversion :D)
But God has patience and humour. And he loves irony. Otherwise, I would never have fallen so hard for this community and their spirituality.
So: Have a beautiful, blessed new year and let 2017 be filled with happiness, satisfaction, joy, health and joy!