May the Heart of Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament be praised, adored, and loved with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even until the end of time. Amen.
This is not meant to be a theological paper, but this 3-part series of posts required me to do some outside research (because I am a nerd) to further illustrate a specific topic that has been both continuously coming up in prayer and coming to life in my everyday experiences. I am a big-picture person, so organizing my thoughts and finding appropriate texts that coincide with what God has been sharing with me was a fun challenge. In future posts, I will probably be coming back to what I write here since, in my humble opinion, it is a fairly important topic.
These are the documents I will be quoting from and their respective abbreviations. You should read these in your “free time” because they will drop kick you in your soul:
BVM – “The Blessed Virgin Mary’s Role in the Celibate Priest’s Spousal and Paternal Love,” Monsignor John Cihak, Ignatius Insight (July, 2009)
DC – Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love), Pope Benedict XVI (December, 2005)
MD – Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women), Pope John Paul II (August, 1988)
This mysterious topic that I have been alluding to above is the call to love through spiritual parenthood and the centrality of the Eucharist and a devotion to Mary. Yeah, not an easy topic to write about. Jesus has been lovingly demolishing me in my daily holy hour (my community has daily Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament) in regards to the reality of spiritual fatherhood and motherhood. I have encountered many people who are afraid of truly discerning a religious vocation because they have this idea that priests and nuns “give up” being fathers and mothers. This is not the case at all. Throughout this post, I will share some reflections from my own life because I used to be one of those people who was not open to discerning a religious vocation.
I was born into a cradle-Catholic family and I attended Catholic school from 6th grade – 12th grade, but I somehow missed that pretty important reality of Jesus being fully present in the Eucharist! It is definitely because of God’s grace and mercy that I can say that I cannot think of a time in my life where I did not believe in God’s existence, but that was really all I understood. I was not aware of how much God loved me until it was reflected to me through one of His priests.
About halfway through college at the University of Florida, family “stuff” began to happen and the only place where I felt any peace was at the church, which was conveniently across the street from campus. I would go to the church at random times and just sit in one of the pews and stare at the crucifix. I knew that God was out there somewhere, but I felt that He did not understand the loneliness and pain I was feeling. We do not necessarily need to use words when we pray. I cannot recall saying much to God during that time, yet, He answered my unspoken prayers and knew what I needed.
…our thoughts go to all the suffering women in the world, suffering either physically or morally. In this suffering a woman’s sensitivity plays a role, even though she often succeeds in resisting suffering better than a man. It is difficult to enumerate these sufferings; it is difficult to call them all by name. We may recall her maternal care for her children, especially when they fall sick or fall into bad ways; the death of those most dear to her; the loneliness of mothers forgotten by their grown up children; the loneliness of widows; the sufferings of women who struggle alone to make a living; and women who have been wronged or exploited. Then there are the sufferings of consciences as a result of sin, which has wounded the woman’s human or maternal dignity: the wounds of consciences which do not heal easily. With these sufferings too we must place ourselves at the foot of the Cross. (JPII, MD 19)
*St. JPII said exactly what I was feeling and was somehow led to do. The theme of the Cross with Jesus, Mary, and St. John will be recurring as I continue with my reflection*
You know those people who always happen to be at the right place at the right time? For me, this person was a priest. Just about every time I was about to cross the line from desolation to straight-up despair, this particular priest would somehow find me. It was also very hard for me to hide my sadness from this priest. I hate crying, but apparently my “puppy-eyes,” as he would call them, would always give me away. When I was found, he would know all the right things to say and do, which made me comfortable to share how I was really was. There are many personal examples I can give, but I would rather direct your heart to the image of the Good Shepherd. Here, I will even provide you with an image off of Google:
See how that sad, little lamb (probably with “puppy-eyes”) ran off and got stuck in the thornbush off of a giant cliff? Yeah, that was me. Many times. I’m sure many of you can relate. Do you also see how Jesus is risking His life to save this little lamb? He is reaching for this little lamb and the little lamb is trying to move towards Him. There is a reason why Jesus used this image in one of His most famous parables (Luke 15:1-6). There is a reason why priests are called to be shepherds.
The image of the Good Shepherd did not mean very much to me until one seemingly normal day from my undergrad years, which ended up becoming a turning point for me: I was invited to help decorate the church for Christmas over the break (since my family lived in Gainesville). When my ride came to pick me up after a few hours of decorating, I went to tell this priest that I had to go home, he then looked at me rather seriously and asked, “Am I not father enough for you?”
To be continued….
Katie McCloskey, Postulant