As I was growing up, I used to think that I was pretty devout and religious. All the external actions I was doing such as attending Mass on Sundays and Saturdays, Holy hour every Tuesday, and daily Mass on my days of vacation made me feel like I was pretty religious. However, I felt far from free in doing all these things.
I felt forced, always annoyed and resistant to my mom’s call to go to Mass. If anything I went because I feared that sinning would guarantee my trip to Hell if I were to die at any moment. What was my view of God? I just thought he was some supreme being that created the world, left it to run its course based on the laws he set, and didn’t communicate in any way with me nor anybody on this earth. He was distant, a policeman that kept tally marks on the sins I committed and beyond my reach. Therefore, communicating with God seemed pointless.
I didn’t think he cared enough to answer. The only time that I actually spoke to him was when I was in desperate need, when I was scared, when I had to pray for someone’s death, and most of all, when I was angry about the struggles I would have. Communication between me and God was limited to angry complaints, asking for favors, asking for help. As long as I was happy, when life was going good, God didn’t hear from me. And let me tell you, in my eyes, I had a lot going for me in high school. I was an A student, talented, amiable, beautiful, and had a handsome boyfriend. As long as I was happy, I had no complaints to tell God and turning to God was unnecessary.
College time came and my sense of independence really started to take full force when I started to go to UC Berkeley away from home. I was free from my mom’s nagging voice every weekend to wake up for Mass. I could go to Mass any time I wanted or even miss it if I wanted to. I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Freedom was at the tip of my fingers. No one was there to condemn me, no one was there to tell me to do otherwise. Mass after a year seemed pointless and I stopped going altogether.
Once in a while, I would feel my conscience pricking and would go to Confession and try to go to Mass again, but after a week or two, I’d fall into my pattern of leaving my faith behind. During these times of distancing myself from God, I didn’t try to fight temptations and allowed myself to fall into sin. Soon sinful habits in my life became acceptable and normal because everyone else around me seemed to live in ways that went against God’s laws and they looked happy.
I felt like everything was going well in my life until I graduated. All the things that made me feel happy such as close friendships, my relationship with my boyfriend, and career path - took a turn. I felt abandoned and alone when my friends moved back home and found their place in the world. I felt like something was still missing in my long term relationship and I broke it off when the question of settling down became more serious. Lastly, I felt unsure about my career path that I had spent 4 years pursuing. All of these things all of a sudden seemed temporal, unfulfilling. In my crisis, I only knew to turn to God to complain. One morning, out of anger and despair, I questioned God, “What do you want from me?!”, not really expecting any response or real answer. But in the silence of dawn, a clear thought had entered my mind, “Nun”...
In the chaos of my mind, in the depths of my heart, I knew that this thought did not come
from me, but must have been from God. It was only fitting that in my despair and vulnerable state that God was able to finally come through when I turned to him. Frantic for a clearer explanation, I jumped out of bed to google search “consecrated life” and clicked on a random site from the links that populated the page. There on the webpage, I read a question that was on my heart, “Why me?” and continued to read the answer that followed. It was scripture from Isaiah that came alive in my heart and ears for the first time. “Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you...” (Is 43:4).
I heard God speak to me for the first time and the words, “I love you...” won me over in my
brokenness. I was between grace and sin; hope and despair; life and death; light and darkness. Yet, as God’s grace drew me in, even sin, despair, and darkness were seen as gift because I would not have recognized the depth of God’s love without such pain and faults.
In the moment between grace and despair, I was touched by Love which took me as I was - sinner. I had a vision of Christ Crucified upon the cross and felt a personal participation in nailing Him to the cross. Yet, God took it upon Himself to take my offenses for love of me. I could not help but feel contrite and was drawn to surrender my whole life and to say yes to my vocation as a religious.
“My deepest vocation,” as Father Henri Nouwen says, “is to be a witness to the glimpses of
God I have been allowed to catch.” I feel drawn to be a witness of God’s compassion, forgiveness, and resurrection. I pray that my daily living continues to be a sign of God’s Love I have been privileged to experience. Moved to daily conversion, I ask for the grace of fidelity to the Love with which I have been given.