Years before finding Carmel, my Christian witness was rather lukewarm, with one foot solidly in the world and the other not so firmly planted in the Kingdom of God. I was heavily self-dependent, carrying the weight of some unresolved issues around sin, while being overly judgmental of others, full of advice and self-righteous. The duality of my life was a real problem which separated me from finding my true potential in Christ. I knew change was needed, but I tended to kick the can to true conversion until a more convenient time. My prayer life was weak at best. I was too busy and too immersed in the world of possessing things and impressing others, while trying to give the appearance of having it together in my spiritual life.
At my core, I always had a disposition toward Christ, knowing that His grace and mercy were boundless, and Jesus awaited my decision to make Him the focus of my life. I believe He nudged me along, as I would experience feelings of emptiness and uncomfortable pangs of conscience, making the status quo difficult to maintain. This discomfort sparked me to move in a new direction. It was in 2013 that I found some encouragement in the warm hospitality of the faith community of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Lithia Springs, GA. I attended 7:00 PM Mass during the week at St. John’s, which was near the hospital where I worked, and I quickly connected with some of the parishioners, who invited me to join a Tuesday evening Bible Study group. I began to reflect more on the Scripture readings and started writing impressions and lessons in my first Sunday reflections. It wasn’t long before I rediscovered the saints, including St. Therese of Lisieux, and learned of the smaller brown scapular, which I purchased from a Catholic bookstore, and had blessed by a priest on the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Over time, as I became ready, Jesus pulled me closer to Him, and eventually to Carmel.
Back to the present: Having now completed almost two years of Phase II formation as a Third Order Carmelite, I am preparing to take my temporary profession of promises this spring. God willing, I will have an opportunity to go deeper into my spiritual vocation, formally promising “to observe the Carmelite Way of Life as a Lay Carmelite for a period of discernment lasting three years”. (From Carmel’s Call – the formation manual for Lay Carmelites)
For me, this upcoming milestone is a call to holiness, requiring me to continually take stock of my life, removing any remaining obstacles preventing me from seeing the face of Christ in all that I do. Being in a state of grace is very important to me, knowing that the evil one, Satan, is always waiting just around the corner, ready to trip me up if he can, particularly if I begin to think it’s all about me and my potential in this faith journey. If fact, it’s all about grace through the love of Christ which sustains us and gives us direction.
We all face the struggle of coming to terms with our interior life, visible but to ourselves and to God. Ongoing alignment with the person that others see and the inner person which God sees, is critical. This interior work never ends, so steadfastness is important, in getting back up quickly when we fall down, confessing our sins, receiving the Eucharist, and always practicing vacare Deo, making sacred space available for God in silence, so that through prayer, meditation and contemplation, we can change our lives for the better, discerning God’s plan, day by day.
Have a Blessed Week!