Tuesday, April 3, 2012

God is Nothing but Mercy and Love.....and He Asks You to Be Yourself!

A little more than one hundred years ago, a young French woman asked to join the Daughters of Charity. She was absolutely sure this was her vocation but she was mysteriously turned down. We don't know the circumstances but we do know that she was told that maybe marriage was her vocation instead. Was she heartbroken? Did she swallow what the Sisters told her as if it were a bitter pill or did it lead to a deeper discernment of that piece of her vocation?

We don't know all that but we do know the Sisters turned out to be right. Because that French woman was Zelie Guerin....soon to be Zelie Martin. That name ring a bell? It could be because she's a Blessed in the Church or maybe because she was the mother of St. Therese of Lisieux.

I have been reading a lot about St Therese lately and you would think that the Daughters of Charity or the Vincentian spirituality would have nothing to do with this cloistered Carmelite saint. At least that's what I thought...but I was wrong. Zelie was turned down by the Daughters but Louis, her husband, was active in the St Vincent de Paul Society . The two of them would bring their daughters along when they would visit the poor...there's no way of knowing but these visits to the poor may have come from these exposures to Vincentian spirituality.

A recent conversation with a friend led me to reflect that exposure and love of the Vincentian spirituality doesn't mean that a person is called to be a Vincentian priest or a Daughter of Charity.  I think St Vincent called for his spirituality to be for everyone...and even if God doesn't call us to those specific communities, if we have a love for his spirituality, we will practice it in our everyday lives - whether we're married, single or a Carmelite. Even St Therese admits that her parents were a huge part of her religious formation and led to her entering the Carmelite convent. So I think Therese carried with her a small part of Vincentian spirituality as well.

But that connection to Vincentian spirituality isn't why I wrote this, although it was an interesting find. I wrote this because as I read more and more about St Therese's "Little Way" spirituality, I realize that it is one specifically pertinent to those of us in formation. "The Little Way", as best described in the book Maurice and Therese, is not just accepting who we are, but wanting to be who we are, gifts, faults and all. For those of us in formation, it's important to remember that we are being formed but we're still who we are and we should remain so....and that's okay. In fact, it's more than okay. It's wonderful, even beautiful. Because if we don't stay true to ourselves, not only will it be painful but no good changes would come about in the community, no new gifts found, no new ways of thinking. Granted, that doesn't mean we can't improve ourselves, but, as I wrote before, part of "vocation" is fully being who you are. And more than a hundred years ago, a cloistered Carmelite nun preached that simply by being who she was.

And I think we - those who aren't Carmelites, who aren't cloistered, those who aren't even nuns - have a lot to learn from this great saint. She showed us that God isn't asking us to be perfect - He's asking us to be ourselves because we are a wonderful creation of His. Be yourself and don't be ashamed of it!

We have been trained in the habit of looking at our dark side, our ugliness, and not at the purifying Sun, Light of Light, which He is, who changes the dust that we are into pure gold. We think about examining ourselves, yet we do not think, before the examination, during the examination, and after the examination, to plunge ourselves, with all our miseries, into the consuming and transforming furnace of His Heart, which is open to us through a humble act of confidence.  
- St Therese of Lisieux

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