By Lenora Grimaud

Unconditional love does not mean that we love evil as well as good. God does not love us because we are sinners, but, in spite of our sins. It is impossible to love evil. Unconditional love is seeing the good—seeing God in those who do evil things—in our enemies. It is seeing our self in them. God see’s his self in us because we are made in his image and likeness. Unless we see some good in our enemies we cannot love them. Our love is not authentic love, but merely condescension or pity. God calls us to love our enemies. Only through the grace of God can we love our enemies and those who do evil. Only through the grace of God can we see the image of God in those who do evil. This is the same grace that Mother Teresa had, that enabled her to see Christ in all those she came in contact with. This is the grace that we need to ask the Lord to give us. When we are willing to forgive our enemies, the Lord will give us the grace to love them.

Unconditional love is the kind of love that God has for all of humanity. Scripture says, It is not easy to die even for a good man—though of course for someone really worthy, a man might be prepared to die—but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:7-8.
We can grow into the fullness of the image of God—like the Saints—or we can develop a deformed image of God. But, whole or deformed, God will never stop loving us.



By Lenora Grimaud

What is this “Eucharist,” this bread from heaven that we receive when the Community of believers gather together? Jesus never abandoned us. God is with us. From the time of the Resurrection and after the Ascension, Jesus is as present with us—body, blood, soul, and divinity—as he was when he walked the streets of Jerusalem in his resurrected body. This he promised—this he has done. Bread cannot become God, but God can become bread. The Incarnation is on-going, and continues on in the Eucharist.

One of the Commandments tells us: Thou shall not take the name of the Lord, thy God in vain.” To do so, is sin and fractures the soul of all humanity. If this is so destructive to the relationship between God and mankind, how much more so when we receive the very body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Lord, in vain.

To receive our Lord in the Eucharist without being aware of what we are receiving is to receive him in vain, and to bring down condemnation upon ourselves. As St. Paul warns the Community of believers—the Body of Christ: “Everyone is to recollect himself before eating this bread and drinking this cup; because a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the Body is eating and drinking his own condemnation. In fact that is why many of you are weak and ill and some of you have died.” (1Cor.11:28-30).

Jesus is not only fully with us, fully human, fully divine, and fully alive in the Eucharist—he is also fully with us, fully human, fully divine, and fully alive in the Community of Believers—the Body of Christ. Who is this “Body of Christ?” It is all those gathered together as one body through their union with Jesus Christ. This is the whole Church, together with the Communion of Saints in heaven. One individual believer is not the Body of Christ—but, the whole Church, forming, one loaf, as scripture says: “though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.” (1Cor.10:17).

Not only is it important to recollect ourselves before we receive the Eucharist, it is equally important for the Church to be in communion with one-another. If we are not in union with the whole body of Christ through love, we are outside the Body of Christ.

St. Paul tells us: “If we live by the truth and in love we shall grow in all ways into Christ, who is the head by whom the whole body is fitted and joined together, every joint adding its own strength, for each separate part to work according to its function. So the body grows until it has built itself up, in love.” (Eph.4:15-16).

It doesn’t matter whether we are a small household of believers, or a large Cathedral filled with believers, the whole “body of Christ” is present when we come together to celebrate Eucharist. Jesus said: “For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.”

(Mat.18:20). Jesus also taught: “On that day you will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.” (John 14:20).

Not only is it important that we believe—recognize—that the Eucharist is, in fact, Jesus Christ, we also must realize that the Community of believers is also Jesus Christ. Whatever we do to one-another, we do to Jesus Christ. Since Jesus is the Son of God and loves everyone, we also must love everyone—even our enemies.
John tells us: “Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love . . . We are to love, then, because he loved us first. Anyone who says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, is a liar, since a man who does not love the brother that he can see cannot love God, whom he has never seen. So this is the commandment that he has given us, that anyone who loves God must also love his brother.” (1John 4:8, 19-21).
It is not only our “brother” that we are called to love, Jesus also calls us to love our enemy. Love makes no distinction—it is all-inclusive. God is the Father of all. Jesus said: “But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mat.5:44).

Whenever we sin—whenever we fail to love—we are cut off from the “Body of Christ.” When we sin, we reject Christ. When we reject Christ, we cannot remain in him. Our membership in the Community of believers becomes a “pretense.” It is like the “Judas kiss.” We take the name of the Lord in vain. To be a Christian—to be a follower of Jesus—is to take his Name. We bring down condemnation upon ourselves, when we fail to love.

Jesus tells us: “So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering.” (Mat.5:23). Jesus also said: “And when you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too. But if you do not forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive your failings either.” (Mark 11:25-26).

Whenever we gather together for Eucharist, we are living out the parable of the Wedding Feast that Jesus taught in Mat. 22:1-14. Eucharist, foreshadows the final consummation of the marriage between Christ and the Church—the Bride of Christ—which will bring about the Messianic Age. As the parable tells us, it is no small matter to attend the wedding without wearing a wedding garment (Mat.22:11-14). The wedding garment symbolizes “the good deeds of the saints.” (Rev.19:18).

When we gather together to celebrate Eucharist, we gather together to “worship God in Spirit and truth” (John 4:23). It is a time when believers come into union with one-another, and with God, through our union with Jesus Christ in the body of Christ and in the Eucharist. It is a time when we are made one, and continually being formed into the fullness of Jesus Christ. As St. Paul says: “In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself” (Eph.4:13). This perfect Man, is the whole body of Christ—not any one individual.

When we become the perfect Man, Jesus Christ will be made visible to the whole world, and our Lord will return in glory.

Eucharist is a time for spiritual fellowship—not “party time.” As St. Paul said: “Anyone who is hungry should eat at home, and then your meeting will not bring your condemnation” (1Cor.11:34).

Eucharist is a time when our eyes are fixed on God, not on ourselves or one-another; a time of reverence and awe; a time to be still and listen. It is not a time for entertainment. There is a time for everything, and Eucharist is God’s time to draw us into intimacy with him—if we are so disposed.

It is impossible to be in Christ if we hate the Church, or any part of the Church. This includes the Popes, past and present; the bishops, priests, and Religious; and every single member of the Church. It includes every Christian of every Denomination; it includes liberals, conservatives, fundamentalists, new age enthusiasts, and even those who have lost their faith or left the Church. It is impossible to be in Christ if we hate any member of any Religion, as well as unbelievers, agnostics, and atheists.

So then, to sum up: When we come together for Eucharist, we must recognize that we are the body of Christ—that we represent Jesus in all that we think, say, and do; we must acknowledge our sins and have true contrition; we must be reconciled with all and forgive everyone; we must recognize Jesus Christ in the Eucharist; and we must be prepared and open to receive the Lord and to enter into union with him.

An Alternative to Eastern Mysticism for Catholics

By Lenora Grimaud

Many Catholics have turned to Yoga and Transcendental Meditation for, what they believe to be, a more fulfilling and enlightening form of prayer than traditional Christian prayer. Both of these forms of meditation lead a person into an altered state of consciousness. Of course, alcohol, drugs, sex, exercise, hypnosis, jogging, fasting, breathing manipulation, and various forms of divination can also lead a person into an altered state of consciousness. An altered state of consciousness is not the criteria for authentic prayer.

I remember when I was young—the first time I tried drinking alcohol at a party with friends. I came home very inebriated. My father was waiting up for me. He said to me: “If you want to drink, there is no way I can stop you. You will find a way to drink no matter what I do. But, I want you to remember this.

When you are inebriated, (altered state of consciousness) you have so self control, or free will. You are at the mercy of your passions and the passions of others. You do things you would never do if you were in your right mind.” My father spoke from experience. Well, that was enough to make me want to refrain from drinking, (at that time in my life) and, I was not even aware that there were unfriendly spiritual forces that could take control of me, in addition to my lower passions and the passions of others.

There is only one state of altered consciousness that is truly safe, and that is the one that is the result of grace—contemplative prayer. There is no method or practice that one can use in order to enter into contemplative prayer. It is initiated by the Holy Spirit. Its purpose is union with God.

In this state, one is centered on God, alone—before, during, and after. It is a state of God consciousness. By God, I mean the one true God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The intention of the person is single-minded—to praise and worship God, to glorify God. The person desires union with God, motivated only by the love of God coming from the Holy Spirit.

Yoga and TM are intended for union with “no thing”—nothing. It is a state that is “self” conscious, not God conscious. It is self induced, and really a form of escape from ones self into a void—nothingness—especially for Christians. Its purpose is not to worship God, or to glorify God; but merely an attempt to transform ones self—self transcendence.

Christian spiritual masters, such as the Saints, tell us that there are some things we can do in order to dispose ourselves for this grace of contemplation—union with God. First, we need to turn away from sin—to be in a “state of grace.” We need to receive the Holy Spirit—the grace of Baptism and Confirmation. We need to develop an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, acknowledging him as our Lord.

We need to acquire the virtues of obedience, humility, and the fear of the Lord—true devotion. We also need to abandon ourselves to the will of God—to have complete trust in God’s will and to desire it in all things. Lastly, we need to pray—to turn to the Lord in prayer, giving him our full attention. The rest is all up to God. If it is for our good, the Lord will grant us this grace.
The document, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, makes this suggestion: Helping people in their spiritual search by offering them proven techniques and experience of real prayer could open a dialogue with them which would reveal the riches of Christian tradition, and perhaps clarify a great deal about New Age in the process. (Pages 91-92).

With this in mind, I offer the words and experience of St. Jane De Chantal. She was a wife and mother who, after her husband’s death, became a religious. She lived at the turn of the Seventeenth Century. She was also a great mystic and spiritual director. Jane longed to find a way to both uncompromisingly abandon herself to her religious impulses while still caring for the needs of her children and her extended family.

Along with St. Francis De Sales, she founded a congregation for women who felt drawn to a life of religious commitment but who were not sufficiently young, robust, or free of family ties to enter one of the austere reformed women’s communities or were not attracted to the physical austerity of these houses or to the lukewarm religiosity of the older lax religious orders. They were women called to great intimacy with God who would realize a community of true charity among themselves. With graciousness, gentleness, and tender concern they were to lead each other to pure love of God.

Women who had completed the novitiate were to express their love of God to neighbor by making visits to the poor and infirm in the surrounding neighborhood. There was also provision made for a limited number of laywomen to come within the community for brief periods of refreshment and retreat.

As to their charism of prayer, Jane is quoted as saying: The great method of prayer is to have no method at all. When the Holy Spirit has taken possession of the person who prays, it does as it pleases without any more need for rules or methods. The soul must be in God’s hands like clay in the hands of a potter so that he might fashion all sorts of parts. Or the soul must be like soft wax to receive a seal’s impression, or like a blank tablet upon which the Holy Spirit can write the divine will.

If, going to prayer, one can become pure capacity for receiving the spirit of God, that will suffice for any method. Prayer must happen by grace not by artfulness. Go to prayer by faith, remain there in hope and go out only by charity which requires simply that one act and suffer. She also says: I have recognized that the almost universal attraction of the daughters of the Visitation is to a very simple practice of the presence of God effected by a total abandonment of themselves to Holy Providence.

St. Jane De Chantal has much more to say about prayer which would be of great interest to anyone that feels they are drawn to contemplation. Our Lord is very generous with his gifts and graces. He gives lavishly to those who have a great desire for holiness, to love God with their whole being, and want to serve him by loving others and building the kingdom of God on earth.
Contemplation enables them to do this. Otherwise, there really is no need for such an extraordinary grace. It would be wasted on us. Contemplation enables us to lay down our life, out of love, for others.

I would recommend for further reading, “Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal Letters of Spiritual Direction” from THE CLASSICS OF WESTERN SPIRITUALITY.


By Lenora Grimaud

One day, someone remarked to me that miracles happen every day, right under our noses, but we fail to recognize them. It often happens that very ordinary and natural experiences that happen to people turn out to be miracles. They are miracles because, through them, God produces extraordinary, or supernatural, changes in the people who experience these events.

For instance, a man with a hardened heart who has blocked his relationship with God because he is unable to forgive someone who hurt him, may find himself in a place where the Word of God is preached in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit, and suddenly that Word penetrates his hardened heart and he is able to forgive and to receive God’s love in a way that radically transforms him. This is a miracle.
I believe that there are also visible, supernatural miracles that occur everyday, right under our noses, but we fail to recognize them because we do not expect to see miracles in our times. For example, we could walk down the street and pass a close relative that we have not seen for years, and not recognize them because we don’t expect to see them in that place and time. Perhaps, this was the disciples’ experience of Jesus on the road to Emmaus.
I recall a miracle that I witnessed many years ago. I was part of a non-denominational charismatic prayer group—I was the only Catholic in the group. I felt very close to these women and shared wonderful fellowship with them. One of the women, the leader of the group, was a special inspiration to me. Her relationship with the Lord was very deep, and she seemed to have all the fruits of the Holy Spirit. After awhile, she challenged me on some of my Catholic beliefs, especially in regards to the Eucharist, the Pope, and the Saints.

I was very defensive at first, and found myself reacting by trying to convince her of the validity of my beliefs. She would gently say, “Just take it to the Lord in prayer”—convinced that the Lord would show me the error of my ways.

I did take it to prayer. I experienced a lot of turmoil and struggle. I always believed that the Eucharist was a very important means of grace in order for us to grow in holiness. But, she didn’t partake in the Eucharist, and she seemed to be much holier than I was. I found myself faced with doubts about my faith. I began to think that maybe the Eucharist wasn’t as important as I thought it was—or—she wasn’t as holy as I thought she was. One minute I was judging her and looking for faults in her, and the next minute I was doubting my own beliefs.
It was a very painful and difficult struggle.
I felt so confused. Finally, with many tears, I cried out to the Lord and told him that all this was beyond my understanding—I prayed that He would not let me doubt or reject any gifts He gave to me, especially my faith in the Eucharist, and that I would continue to love my friend and not judge her. I turned it over to God, and believed that He would straighten everything out for me because He knew my will was good. I felt peace.
The next day I went to Mass. Our Chaplain had a particular problem with controlling his anger. Before mass started, he would always set out a plate for unconsecrated hosts—for those who wanted to receive Communion. He did this because he did not want to consecrate too many hosts and wanted to have enough. Invariably, people would forget to put a host on the plate and then come to Communion—he would have to break the hosts in halves or quarters. This made him furious. This particular day was the same. He was so angry throughout the Mass.
I put my hand on his shoulder and he pulled away in anger.
After the Mass, he came to me and said, “you are going to have to pray for me—I get so angry when this happens and I can’t control myself—I feel like such a hypocrite saying the Mass while being so angry.”

I told him I would pray for him. In the meantime, we were preparing to go on a pilgrimage to Rome. There were about 15 people from our parish going, including our Chaplain. When we got to Rome, our priest prepared to say the Mass for us in the little chapel over the tomb of St. Peter. Father started by asking us how many wanted to receive communion.

He counted out the hosts. After he began the Mass, and other people--not in our group—saw that there was a Mass going on, they began to pack into that little chapel. After communion, I said to my husband, “the Lord multiplied the hosts!” My husband said, “No, I didn’t go because I didn’t think there would be enough, and others probably didn’t go either.”

I said, “No, the Lord multiplied the hosts!”

After Mass, our priest came up to my husband and myself and said, “You don’t have to believe this, but—I counted out 15 hosts to consecrate, and at communion time, I broke 5 in half—then, I got angry and thought to myself, if there isn’t enough, they can just go without. There were at least 60 people that came up for communion and I had exactly enough for everyone.

I think the Lord is trying to tell me that all those who come to me hungry, will not go away empty.” The priest was healed of this problem of anger—it no longer bothered him if there was not enough hosts.

Two days later, my husband and I went to Sunday Mass at St. Peters on our own. Every altar in the Basilica was packed with people. Finally, I saw two young priests carrying a ciborium. I told my husband, “lets follow them—they must be going to say mass.”

They found an empty altar and began to prepare for Mass. They were American. People began to gather around the altar, and the young priest asked, “How many would like to receive communion?”

Then he counted out the hosts. After he began the Mass, more people arrived and packed around the altar. When the young priest got to his homily, he seemed to trip over his words—nothing came out right.

I thought to myself, “I’ll bet this is his first Mass.” It just seemed to me as though the priest looked up to God and said, “Why did you ever choose me?”

This priest also ended up with exactly enough hosts for everyone who came up to receive. This time, my husband recognized the miracle and acknowledged that the Lord had multiplied the hosts. The next day, our group—led by our priest—went on a tour of the North American Seminary. Suddenly, our priest came running up to us—he had been talking to one of the priests who were at the Mass that my husband and I had gone to the day before.
Our priest said, “You’ll never believe what happened! I was talking to that young priest, and he said that his friend was saying his first Mass at St. Peters’ the day before, and the Lord multiplied the hosts. I told him that the same thing happened to me.”

As far as I know, no one other than my husband, myself, and the priests that celebrated the Masses, noticed these miracles. In both of these miracles of multiplication of the hosts, the priests experienced spiritual healing—which was the greater miracle.

It amazed me that these miracles could take place right under our noses—with so many people present—yet, only a few of us were able to see it. Not only were the priests healed, but I also experienced a healing. It was as though scales fell from my eyes. I realized that the Eucharist is a gift, and my faith in it is a gift.

I realized how powerful a gift this is to those who have faith. At the same time, I realized that the Lord meets everyone where they are at—that He will use any means He can to give grace to those who believe in Him. I realized that my friend could become holy—become a great saint—as long as she is faithful to what the Lord gives to her—with or without the Eucharist. My healing was from the effects of dualism—a black and white, either, or mentality.

The best interpretation of the word “heresy” that I have heard is: “Heresy is when one truth is so magnified that it excludes another.”

When I returned home, I was able to love and accept my friends without giving up my own faith or beliefs. In fact, my devotion to the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist was increased a hundred fold.

“A Patchwork Quilt, ” A life journey by Lenora Grimaud


I was born in 1942, the eldest of four. My father was Polish and my mother was Hungarian. In 1964, I married Lowell Grimaud, an AF Career Officer. In 1979, he was ordained a Deacon in the Catholic Church, as well. After 24 years of marriage, we were divorced in 1988.

I am the mother of four adult children and grandmother of 12. In 1994, I became a Candidate for the Sisters of St. Clare and entered the Congregation in 1995. After nine years, before final vows, I left the Order and returned home to my family. I moved to the desert in May, 2004. As I look back over my life, I realize that my life is a series of beginnings and endings. Sometimes it seems as though I have lived many and varied lifetimes. My spiritual journey is a series of distinct and separate paths that have been patched together like a patchwork quilt, forming what is beginning to look like one whole covering. This paper is just a glimpse of some of those “patches.”

The God of My Youth:

When I was a young girl preparing for my Confirmation, I was introduced to some of the lives of the Saints. I heard them say that the Lord was calling everyone to be a Saint, and that all we had to do was to say “yes” and God would do the rest. I can remember how excited I got. I was filled with joy, as though I had just discovered a hidden treasure. I wanted to love God with that same kind of love I saw in the Saints, and to be loved by God as they were. I ran off by myself to pray, and said, “Here I am, Lord, make me a Saint. I want to belong to you and to serve you.”

Later, I reflected, “well, if it was that easy, than why doesn’t everyone want to be a Saint?” I concluded that, perhaps, I have to become worthy first, perfect, before I could be a servant of God. (I remember asking the Lord, “Does this mean I have to become a Nun? I want to be a mother and have twelve children”). But, after trying and failing to attain instant holiness, I soon gave up believing that God was calling me to be a Saint. Instead, I decided I would prepare myself to be the perfect wife and mother. I would be a virgin, a pure and untouched gift for the man I would marry (I was very idealistic at that time, and my ideals were somewhat superficial).

When I was 18, I became pregnant as a result of “date rape.” In my distress, I turned to God for help. I prayed, “Lord, how did this happen? Did I, somehow, bring this on myself? Is this pregnancy a punishment? What do you want to teach me through this? What is your will for me?” God heard my prayer, and revealed to me that the child in my womb was a gift, not a punishment. God came to me in a dream, and I heard the words, “Jeremiah is coming, Jeremiah is coming.” I did not fully understand the meaning of the dream, at the time, but never forgot it.

When I awoke, I knew with conviction that God is love, that all life is a gift, and that God had a purpose for this child. I was healed of many of the affects that normally are associated with rape, and was actually able to rejoice in what had happened to me. I gave birth to a son and named him Daniel. When he was born he almost died because the cord was wrapped around his neck, but the Doctor was able to loose him from the cord and delivered him with forceps. Praise God! (Over 20 years later, Daniel entered Religious Life and was given a new name, “Jeremiah.” Webster’s Dictionary defines Jeremiah as meaning: “literally, loosed from the cord; or saved from the womb).”

The God of My Conversion:

Even after this experience, however, I still did not have a personal relationship with Jesus. My faith was more of an “Old Testament” faith. When my son was 2 yrs. old, I married a man who became a career AF Officer. While he was in Vietnam, I once again, turned my attention to God, seeking his will with all my heart. Again, the Lord came to my aid and revealed his love to me. I began to reflect that all my life I went to God when I needed something, but what did God want from me? I realized that if anyone asked me why I was a Christian, why I believed or loved God, who Jesus is for me, I wouldn’t know what to say. I felt like I knew him in my heart, but I did not know him with my mind or understanding.

My husband returned from Vietnam and we were sent to England. I went to the Priest to see if he had an adult catechism class. I wanted to learn all I could about Jesus and about the Church. The priest said, “No,” but he needed catechism teachers and said that I could learn while I taught. And, I did. My search continued, however. Eventually, it led me to a prayer group of non-Catholics. It was the beginning of the Charismatic Renewal in all the Churches. These women challenged many of my beliefs and introduced me to scripture. This challenge was a painful, difficult struggle because it called me to change and to grow. I had to let go of my preconceived ideas about God and become as a little child again.

Finally, not wanting to resist the Holy Spirit in any way, I prayed, “Lord, I want you to be Lord of my life, I want only your will, and I want to serve you, if I need this Baptism of the Holy Spirit in order to serve you, than let it be done.” Then, in the presence of these women, while listening to a testimony on a tape, and inwardly praying for my mother, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. With no warning, I began to weep profusely, for about 15 minutes. It was more like a Baptism of tears. This was followed by great joy, and the gift of “tongues.” Actually, I felt like I just had to sing or I would burst, but I didn’t know any songs. So, I simply began singing in “tongues.”

I literally fell in love with Jesus, and delighted in reading scripture. I saw the Word of God as love letters from God, and read it as though it was written to me, personally. Scripture brought me even closer to my own Catholic Church, and I turned to the lives of the Saints for inspiration. I was so full that I had to empty myself to make room for more. I began writing letters to God, to Jesus, pouring out my soul to him—my thoughts, feelings, life experiences, loves, dreams, desires, insights, questions, beliefs and so forth. God became the center of my life.

All I wanted to do was to pray, read Scripture, and care for my family, but I soon discovered that the Lord does not give his gifts for us alone. I didn’t want to be a leader and was terrified of speaking to a group of people, but even more afraid to resist the Holy Spirit. Many doors began to open for me to witness to the Lord. Time and time again, I found myself having to step out in faith, doing things that had been unthinkable or impossible for me before, trusting in the Holy Spirit to be my power and strength. Once again, I discovered that God really is calling everyone to be a Saint, and he doesn’t wait for us to become holy or perfect, first. He calls us while we are sinners, and transforms us as he uses us. This was only the beginning of a long journey that has led to many deaths and resurrections in my life – to joy and sorrow, to loss and gifts, and to failures and successes.

Many years ago, I made a retreat in Gloucester, Massachusetts. It was like a little bit of heaven, with one side of the estate hugging the cliffs on the ocean’s edge, and the other side nestled amongst trees and woods, with duck ponds here and there. I went for a walk shortly after my arrival, to a nearby country store. The clerk asked me where I was from. I told her that I was staying at the retreat house down the road. She began talking about the beauty of the area, and the change in the weather. She said they never had fog and mist like this before, but lately it had been foggy, day and night. She hoped it wouldn’t hide the beauty for me.

On the way back, I stopped and sat on the rocks looking out onto the ocean. It was hazy because of the fog and I could barely see anything. I thought of the scripture: “Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.” (1Cor.13:12).

When I got back to the retreat it was time for lunch. I looked outside at the ocean. It was pretty clear, and a sight to behold. Then, the fog rolled in again and the view was gone. I thought to myself, it’s not in our power to lift the fog and to bring the vision or view into focus. Only the Lord can do that! Praise God for the fog! But, sometimes we can change positions and go where there is a clearing, and see for a little while. Then the fog comes in again, unless the Lord wills differently.

It seems to me, as I look back on my life, that I was born into a foggy world. My vision of God and of his kingdom was limited and veiled. I didn’t expect more or look for more because this was the only world I knew. I was like a child born blind, or at least with only partial vision – a little like the man Jesus healed: “The man, who was beginning to see, replied, ‘I can see people; they look like trees to me, but they are walking about.’ The he laid his hands on the man’s eyes again and he saw clearly; he was cured, and he could see everything plainly and distinctly.” (Mark 8; 22-26).

However, at various times throughout my youth, it seemed that the fog would lift and I would see clearly the beauty of God’s love and his kingdom. These were brief moments, and then the fog would roll back in again. The memory of these brief glimpses of the majesty of God’s love awoke a desire within me to find it once again. I did not know what it was that I was seeking or where to find it, but I knew that if I saw it again I would recognize it. I would know it.

Suddenly, one day I finally “found him whom my heart loved” and I wanted to cling to him and never let him go. “I held him fast, nor would I let him go till I had brought him into my mother’s house, into the room of her who conceived me.” (Song of Songs Ch. 3:4). I was baptized in the Holy Spirit, and it seemed as though I was born again, becoming a true, committed, daughter of the Church. At this time, I was an adult of 28 and living in England. The Lord showered me with many blessings and I enjoyed the favor of his presence for many years. He nurtured me with the Scriptures and wrote his Word upon my heart. I knew what it was to live in the light. It was all God’s doing. It was as though I fell asleep and awoke in the Kingdom of God. I could see clearly his will and took my delight in his love. Jesus said: “I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark; he will have the light of life.” Also, “As long as the day lasts I must carry out the work of the one who sent me; the night will soon be here when no one can work. As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12; 9:4-5).

On August 30, 1978, I was praying with two sisters in Christ. I received a prophecy from the Lord, but resisted speaking it out. I was not sure that it was really from God because I didn’t fully understand it. However, the words would not leave me, so after praying I finally spoke out the words in prophecy: “You are the Handmaids of the Lord! You shall be known over all the earth as the “Handmaids of the Lord.” After I spoke this out, I thought, “How shall this be done, Lord, for I am a married woman?”

I knew the Lord would not have me leave my husband and children to enter or begin a religious order. This is why I was troubled at first, wondering if this could really be of God and why He would call me. But, afterwards I was content to just wait and leave it to God. I didn’t know how or when, but, I believed this to be a part of his plan for us. My friends were filled with joy, hoping that it would come to be. I thought of Mary and her response: “How shall this be done, for I am a virgin?” God called a virgin to be a mother, the mother of His only Son. Now, is he calling a mother to be a virgin? “Nothing is impossible for God!” Even though this call seemed to point to a religious order or institution, I reflected that it may mean that I am to be a Handmaid of the Lord as a married woman, being a handmaid to my husband, so I tucked this prophecy away in my heart. Today, 29 years later, these words still ring in my ears.
The God of My Defeat:

This was my world for 16 years. Then, just as suddenly as I had fallen asleep and awoke in the Kingdom of God, I again fell asleep and awoke in the world of darkness. I was blind, and knew I was blind. I did not know how I got to this place or state. I knew I was blind because I had once been able to see clearly. I could not even describe what I had once been able to see. I no longer knew the will of God. I was tossed back and forth, unable to discern good from evil. I was in a darker state than I was when I was first born. I seemed to have lost my joy; I lost the favor of the awareness of the Lord’s presence. I was like one in exile, wandering aimlessly in the dark with no home to go to. I wondered--Did I bring this on myself? Where did I go wrong? What was my sin? Was I experiencing the “dark night of the soul?”

As I reflect back to what proceeded this fall from grace, I realize that I had begun to long for the consolations of God more than for the God of consolations. I was aware of this, at the time, and tried to resist it but it was still there. This was a time when I really needed spiritual direction, but I didn’t have the time or opportunity to look for it. I had gotten too busy. My need and desire to be loved became stronger than my desire to love. This was also a time of testing for me – spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Moment by moment I was faced with new changes (as well as the “change of life”), new deaths, and one crisis after another with my family. Several people referred to me as Job’s counterpart. My family was wounded and took all my time, energy and attention. My husband was overcome by his fear of failure and need to succeed. He was preoccupied with his ambitions. Our family had two major moves within a year. The second resulted in my husband accepting a military transfer 3,000 miles away from us, for three years.

I was left behind with the children, to sell our home and relocate in San Diego, where we planned to retire. This move left me without a Church Community, and brought my ministry in the Church to a halt. The Church was my major source of strength and support, apart from my relationship with God. However, the seeds of corruption took root within my soul way before this last move. More and more, I had been turning to wine to relieve my stress and escape my problems. This also affected my prayer life and ability to be present to the Lord or to hear Him. I didn’t know where to go for help. I felt alone and helpless. I could no longer help myself, let alone my children. I felt abandoned by God, but I knew he didn’t abandon me; I must have abandoned him, but, how?

I called out to the Lord, but was too burnt out to hear him. Although I know he never left my side, I couldn’t feel his presence. I broke down in tears, crying out to the Lord, afraid I was on the verge of a breakdown. Every part of my body heaved with emotion, like a violent earthquake. Finally, the Lord broke through my darkness and led me to go for a complete physical and help to quit drinking. I went into an inpatient recovery program, and from the first day I felt free of all responsibilities, as well as a need for alcohol. I told myself, if I died today they would all have to learn to manage without me, and I let go of everything. I was reborn again, but this time it was as though I had “spiritual amnesia.” On the outside I looked better and healthier than I ever had. But, I was still blind, still in darkness. I still had a lot of questions and no answers. I still did not know where I was going. I continued to call upon God to deliver me, but I found myself drifting away from the Church and Jesus, as well. I forgot that he was the light, as I became more involved in AA, college and self-help groups. I wanted to incarnate Jesus into a real man that I could relate with on a human level, and so, without realizing it Jesus was no longer the Lord of my life. The one saving grace was that I prayed daily for God’s will to be done, in earnest, even though I was unable to perceive his will – and I knew that, as well. Though I knew I was blind, I knew that God’s will was my salvation; God’s will was perfect good and I still wanted that.

After my recovery from alcohol, I determined that since I could not see I would just follow my heart and see where it would take me. I would allow myself to embrace whatever my heart desired. I did not know what else to do. I continued to pray for God’s will, and never wanted to do anything that would offend God, but I could not discern between the voice of the Lord and all the voices of the world. In my own defense, I would have to say that my decision was more an act of trust in God than of presumption. However, I was not free of presumption. The problem, I discovered later, was that my heart had become corrupt without the light of Jesus, his teachings, and the Church. I did not discover this until the light, Jesus, returned and I returned to him – “for God is greater than our hearts and all is known to him.” (1John3:20). I had to learn, once again, that God is greater than my heart; that my heart was not the light, and without the light it would lead me to sin and darkness.

At this same time in my life, I had begun to listen to false teachings – to buy into the world’s philosophy. I bought the lie that wholeness was more important than holiness—that it could be attained without holiness—and the world’s view of wholeness is to be “healthy, wealthy, and wise.” I bought the lie that harmonious and fulfilling relationships with people were more important than my relationship with God—union with God. I bought the lie that it was better to save my life than to lay it down for the Kingdom of God—I forgot that my life on earth is only a pilgrimage, not my final destination. I bought the lie that my happiness was my responsibility and something to seek, rather than the fruit of the Kingdom of God. I bought the lie that an ideal marriage to a man would be more fulfilling than a mystical marriage to Christ. I bought the lie that God was not really calling me to be a Saint—life is about “finding one’s bliss.” I bought the lie that somewhere my ideal soul mate was waiting for me, a man made in the image and likeness of God, who would be all things to me, and I gave up on my marriage. I bought the lie that marriage is not “until death do us part,” and my marriage ended in divorce. I bought the lie that I was somehow immune from Satan and evil spirits, and dabbled in the occult, seeing parapsychology as part of science. I bought the lie that in order to become fully human I needed to develop my full sexual potential as a woman, and was given over to lust. I bought the lie that self-realization was more important than salvation. I did not totally embrace these lies, but, neither did I reject them, and this added to my confusion and darkness.

Now, I can see how I had become blind! Jesus said: “So, stay awake; because you do not know the day when your master is coming. You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house. Therefore, you, too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Mat. 24:42-44). I had fallen asleep! I had begun to take the light for granted; to take my salvation for granted. I had begun to believe that I had “arrived.” I had lost the fear of the Lord. Like Eve, in the Garden of Eden, I took my eyes off of Jesus. My curiosity caused me to “meddle in things beyond my understanding” (Si.3:21-26). I began to trust in my own understanding instead of the Commandments and the Church. I turned my ear to the world and began to doubt God’s Word. Confusion set in. Like the blind man in Mark’s Gospel, I wandered away from my home (the Church) and got lost in the village (the world). After the blind man was healed, “Jesus sent him home, saying, Do not even go into the village.” (Mark 8:26).

Psychology, Humanism, and AA became my Religion and Church Community. The Commandments and the teachings of Christ no longer seemed relevant for modern times. The Church was no longer a light for me because I had made my home in darkness. I began to see the world as the true Church. It seemed as though the world had outgrown the need for the Church and for a savior. Jesus, “the Word that was made flesh and dwelt amongst us” (John 1:14) -- the God who became man, died and rose from the dead -- the Son of God who now has a glorified human body -- was also no longer relevant. The world replaced Jesus with the Cosmic Christ, who, they claim, dwells within all mankind, regardless of whether we are for or against Jesus, the God-Man. They claim that “Christ” is the Son of God, not Jesus Christ, and that we are all “Christ.” This was what the world told me, and I half believed it. I began to run after one illusion after another. Fortunately, each one dissipated as I drew near, like a mirage in the desert. I was left confused and bewildered, stumbling and falling in the dark, seeking to reclaim the meaning of my life, the meaning of all life. I followed my heart but it didn’t lead to truth or new life, because it was no longer illumined by the true light.

Eventually, I came to realize that I was blinded by sin. When Satan appeared to Adam and Eve in the Garden, he suggested to them that God lied to them—that he didn’t want them to be free. That suggestion wouldn’t have worked with me. Instead, Satan told me that the Church lied to me—that God wants me to be free but the Church doesn’t—that the Church is not God. As long as I believed that something was a sin and would cut me off from the life of God, I could not willingly do it, and if I did, I would experience great sorrow and grief. First, I had to persuade myself that what I was tempted to do was not really a sin—it was natural—it was good. It was merely some humans within the Church that said it was bad. This is called rationalization. This was the beginning of Apostasy and opened me to all kinds of false teaching.

Looking back over the road that I traveled, it’s easy to see why I was so blind, and remained blind for so long. During that time I seldom went to Church, I did not receive the Sacraments, I stopped reading scripture, and I didn’t have a spiritual director or small faith community. I didn’t give up prayer, altogether, but it was limited. I had forgotten that I needed these means of grace to do God’s will and to see.
The God of My Return:

Throughout this time of exile, there were moments when the Lord broke through like a clearing in the fog. These moments kept me from death, but I had not found my way back. All I could do was wait for the Lord to come and rescue me, like the lost sheep in the Gospel of John. There was nothing I could do (as far as I could see) to get back what I had lost. All I could do was wait upon God, and trust that his love was greater than my sins; that he would not let the good work he began in me be for naught.

After 3 ½ years of exile, the Lord took pity on me. One evening, I decided to go to a local Parish Renewal. I remained until the end of the session but nothing moved me, so I did not plan to return the next evening. Two days later, I was sitting outside the hospital where I worked, taking a break, when a priest walked up and began to talk to me. He was one of the priests giving the Parish Renewal. After talking for an hour, telling him all the statistics of my life, he invited me to come back. I went back. Still, nothing moved me, but each day the priest would invite me back again. By the end of the week when this priest spoke to me, a forgotten and abandoned desire to serve the Lord began to surface in me, and I remembered why I was born; the meaning of my life.

The priest said that if I ever needed to talk, he would be available. I took him up on his invitation and began going to him for spiritual direction. I had spiritual amnesia, but, as he kept prompting me to share my life and to reflect on the Sunday Readings, sharing my insights with him, the light began to come back. It was only gradual, at first, like the blind man in Mark’s Gospel, who mistook people for trees. But, the Word of God began to soften and refashion my heart, leaving his imprint within, and the Holy Spirit began to remind me of all that Jesus taught me before I fell away.

At this same time when I had met this priest, I encountered Jesus in the sick. I was given a tour of a new wing in the hospital for patients in a permanently vegetative state. Most of the patients were in various stages of comatose. One man was a victim of ALS and could only move the muscles in his eyes. The nurses could only communicate with him through the use of an Alphabet Card. As the Social Worker briefed me on the history of each patient, I was moved to tears and filled with the desire to know them, to communicate with them, and to touch them. When I came to Ron Duffy, the man with ALS, I experienced the suffering Jesus and began to weep. For the next couple years I visited these patients everyday in my free time and whenever I could get away from my own job, which was in Insurance Verification and Admitting. I became very close to Ron and he taught me how to communicate with him using the alphabet card. It was truly a contemplative experience of union with God every time I was with him. I discovered that he was a devout Catholic and had memorized all the Psalms. I brought him all my prayer requests, prayed with him and read scripture to him. He was the “poorest” man I ever knew. Mentally, he was alert, and physically, he could feel everything, yet he could not move a single muscle in his body except for his eyes. Like an infant, he was totally dependent on others for all his needs, even his need to communicate with others. He was a true martyr who was transformed by the Cross. Ron taught me the meaning and the necessity of accepting the cross in my life, of how much I take for granted, and that the “Kingdom of God” is not Utopia, but transformation through faith, hope, and love. He was in this state for many years, yet he was filled with faith, hope, and love and eagerly awaited heaven – where he is today.

My trust in the Lord was not in vain. Once again, He became my savior and delivered me from darkness. He showed me that all sin begins with believing a lie, and that the truth would set me free. Jesus is the Truth. I learned that a foolish heart is a distracted heart, seeking wisdom without the light of truth. The Lord rescued me from my foolish heart and instilled his truth within me, making my heart steadfast to him, once again.

Satan had his way to sift me like wheat, but Jesus prayed for me, that my faith would not fail (Luke 22:31). I never lost faith in God’s unconditional and relentless love for me. I never stopped believing that whatever “good” is, whatever “truth” is, whatever “love” is – God is; that his will is “perfect joy.” As St. Paul says in Romans, “We know that by turning everything to their good God cooperates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose.” (Rom.8:28). I can’t go back and undo the past, but God can bring good out of it. He can redeem all my failures and sin and make me a better person, and my life more meaningful than it would have been had I never sinned. God is a part of every experience in my life, even the darkness cannot separate Him from me, and he weaves it all together into the fabric of a new life.

As I returned to the Church, more and more, I began wondering what God wanted me to do. One weekend, my son and I went to a Benedictine Monastery in the desert for a retreat. I went into the Church to pray. I didn’t know where to begin. The scripture came to me: “Unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” So, I imagined myself as a small child sitting by a lake, crying. Jesus walked up and tried to cheer me up. But, I would not be consoled. Then he took me by the hand and we went to feed some ducks on the lake. Then he put me on his shoulders and we went to feed a horse. I looked the horse straight in the eye, and somehow in that glance I knew the horse and the horse knew me. The horse gently ate the food from out of my opened hands. Suddenly, the lake before us became a lake of fire. I was frightened. Jesus said, “We have to cross over the lake. My kingdom is on the other side. Do not be afraid. I will carry you. You will not be harmed.” I clung to his neck, crying, “No, please don’t make me go.” I could feel the smoke in my eyes, and feel the heat from the flames, but Jesus carried me and I was unharmed. When we got to the other side, and Jesus put me down, I was a mature woman again. Before I could see what it was like on the other side, Jesus said: “Now you must go back. There are many more who are waiting to cross over. You must tell them not to be afraid—to trust in me—that I will carry them.”

I recalled a prophetic letter that the Lord had given me in 1978, before all my trials began. I had shared it with my prayer group, at that time, and the discernment was that the prophecy was an anointed word of the Lord. There were many confirmations, as well, coming even from the International level of the Charismatic Renewal. It was as though the prophetic letter I had received for God’s people was already fulfilled in my own life.

I recalled the words: I have not come to condemn you, I have come to prepare you. I want you to be ready for what is to come. In the past you have celebrated the Lenten Season by choosing your own deserts, your own sacrifices and fasts. But, a Lenten Season is coming upon the world of which no man has any control. I am leading you into a desert that you did not choose. I am preparing you for a time of glory, for victory. Trust me! Follow me! If you love me and love one another, the desert cannot hurt you. You will be victorious and through you I will save the world…Do not rely on any of the supports you have had in the past. I am going to strip you of everything you depend on now so that you will depend only on me. For my power is strongest in weakness. I will pour out all the gifts of my Spirit and when you are completely empty you will be able to fully yield to my Spirit and my power will be manifest in you and through you.

Once again, I began to think about God’s call to me—to be a Handmaid of the Lord. At first, I attempted to be reconciled with my former spouse but he was not willing. My spiritual director suggested I apply for an annulment. I found it hard to believe that the Church would grant me an annulment. When they did, it enabled me to put the past behind me and to go forth in my life. My spiritual director frequently referred to me as the “religious woman of the future.” I began to wonder what the religious woman of today is like, and wondered if the Lord was calling me to religious life. In spite of my fears about my age, health, divorce, etc., I began a discernment process to determine if the Lord was calling me. I was led to the Sisters of St. Clare. When I read St. Clare’s letters, I felt that at last I was home. She signed all her letters as “the Handmaid of the Lord, and Handmaid of the Handmaids.”

At the time, my age, health, divorce, and family were not obstacles for me with the Sisters of St. Clare, and they eagerly accepted me. But, after nine years, and a new administration, I was refused for final vows with the Order and had to return home. I had requested to take final vows, so their decision took me by complete surprise. I was not willing to leave, so my last year was spent in Ireland and my vocation was “put to the test” in very dramatic ways.

Finally, I realized that the Lord was saying: “This door is closed and I am preparing a new place for you.” Sr. Briege McKenna, after fighting for my vocation to no avail, told me that after she prayed, the Lord told her that my family needs me and that I should get involved with Magnificat. I returned home to my family and to look for a place to live. The Lord led me into the desert. I only knew one person here in the desert, at the time. After being unable to find suitable housing near my daughters, my friend encouraged me to look for housing in Indio. Several months after moving here, I was invited to attend a Magnificat meeting at Donna Ross’s home. This was when our Chapter was in formation. At that meeting, I was elected Treasurer, and became a member of the Service Team. This was so out of the ordinary that we all had to admit that it could only have been the providence of God, at work. Again, my ears perked up as

I continued to receive letters from our Coordinator, addressed to “Dear Handmaids.”
Mary was the first woman to refer to herself as “the Handmaid of the Lord.’’ Before she was called to be the mother of our Lord, she was called to be a handmaid of the Lord. I have reflected often about what a handmaid of the Lord is, and what it means for me to be a handmaid of the Lord. In my understanding, a handmaid of the Lord can be married, single, or religious. She is not a servant, but called to serve. Her service is love. She abandons her self to the will of God, and becomes a bride of Christ and spouse of the Holy Spirit. I believe that every Christian is called to be a handmaid of the Lord—individually, or collectively. We are called to be mediators and intercessors for the Church, for our families, and for the world

Shortly after becoming involved with Magnificat, I was led to become part of the Holy Cross Associates. Holy Cross is a reminder to me, and to the world, that we are called to pick up our cross and carry it through death to Resurrection, with Jesus. We are called to lift up the cross of Jesus, to show that the cross was Holy—a gift of love—because through it our Lord draws everyone to him. “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Holy Cross is a bridge to connect me to the greater Mission of the whole Church. The whole Church, including the laity, is called to evangelize the world. If we don’t, the world will evangelize us. By world, I mean the “culture of death”—the culture that lives out their lives through their lower nature. We are called to be the light of the world, and to bring everyone to that light and into that light.

My life is a patchwork quilt, but it is not over yet. Life is full of mountains and valleys—and deserts. If we are fortunate, every now and then, we find ourselves on top of a mountain, looking out at the splendor of creation, and sometimes even into the kingdom of God. But, most of our journey is a journey of faith, like Abraham blindly following God through an unknown land—a desert—an uncharted territory without a map—not knowing where he is or where he is going, only that God is with him. To do this takes faith—believing that “all things work together for good for those who trust in the Lord.”

This is my faith—that God will collect all the pieces of my life—the plain and ordinary, the ugly, the gaudy, and the exquisite and beautiful—and sew them together, forming a beautiful and intricate patchwork quilt that has many stories to tell; a quilt that may be a comfort blanket for some, a covering of protection for others, or even an ornamental accent used as a throw on someone’s easy chair.

My life is just a little patchwork quilt, but the whole of creation is God’s patchwork quilt, and we are all a part of it.