May God give you His peace!
A few days ago, Sr. April Marie and I returned to Cleveland after spending a week helping with a Totus Tuus (“Totally Yours,” from St. JPII) camp in South Dakota. This camp was a vocational camp for middle school girls, but also included high school girl leaders. The camp was hosted by the Diocese of Rapid City at their Terra Sancta retreat center (http://terrasancta.org). There were 25 religious sisters from about 13 different communities (including Sr. April and myself) helping with this camp. Talk about funsies with nunsies!
The theme for this camp came from 1 John 4:18: Perfect love casts out all fear. This verse just happened to be the verse given to me by my spiritual director during Lent. Right before the Lenten season began I was struggling with a deeply rooted fear about my upcoming religious profession of vows. Basically, I was afraid that Jesus was not pleased with me. I experienced tremendous healing during that time as I realized that I have to let perfect Love cast out whatever fear was preventing me from going forward. I owe a lot to the loving support of my sisters and to the gentle encouragement my spiritual director has given me. From all this awareness, I learned that I cannot do anything on my own (John 5:30) and that I have to let God love me!
Anyways, after learning that the theme was 1 John 4:18, I felt that God was challenging me to live out all that I learned during Lent and to share this with others. Each volunteering community was also given an activity or talk to lead during the camp. For us, we were asked to give a talk/activity for the high school leaders about spiritual mothers as leaders, and we were also asked to lead 3 rounds of a talk/activity for the middle school campers about the life of St. Philomena and overcoming the fear of being unlovable.
Very briefly, St. Philomena was an early Church martyr. She was the age of most of the middle school girls at this Totus Tuus camp when she was killed for refusing to marry the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Her refusal came from the fact that she was consecrated to God. Her story is unique in that she was tortured and miraculously healed multiple times before she finally died. Her testimony won many converts to Christianity. How was she able to withstand the horror she endured? My theory is that she knew and believed that she was loved by God and she was able to love Him in return to the end. This is something we are all called to today!
When I asked each group at the Totus Tuus Camp, “Who here struggles with the fear of being unloved/unlovable?” almost every hand (including those of the sisters) went up. The Holy Spirit prompted me to talk about being rooted in an authentic relationship with God. Just like any relationship, they take work! We make time to be with our family and friends, we reach out to our loved ones, and we listen to them when they want to share something personal. How much more is this with God! We are challenged to make time to get to know Him (prayer), to vulnerably share our hearts with Him, and to LISTEN to Him!
All of us at some point have been hurt by others, but so often this gets projected on God. God is love (1 John 4:8) and He is always wanting to give Himself completely to us…but He also doesn’t force Himself on anyone––that wouldn’t be love! The ball is in our court, so to speak, to receive the total gift of Himself. By receiving His love, we are then challenged to reciprocate (remember, this is a relationship!) by making a gift of our very selves. This is often where the fear of being unloved/unlovable creeps in.
“What will happen to me if I give myself to Him…?” “How can God love me if I…?” The Enemy does not want us to be in a relationship with God, so he does everything he can to make us believe the lie that we are unloved/unlovable. We become captives of this fear when we believe the lies of the Enemy.
The interesting thing about overcoming this particular fear is that we have to let ourselves be loved by Love Himself! In this way, Perfect Love literally casts out all fear! I can say that this is true because this is something I have experienced myself. May God help you to let yourself be truly loved so that He can cast out all of your fears!
Please pray for me and be assured of my prayers for you!
Love always from your Sister,