Tuesday

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

Introduction

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.

2 comments:

Rose said...

Thank you Lenora, I always enjoy your writing. What a beautiful website...........
Love,
Rose

Anonymous said...

It is amazing to me some of the similarities in our lives. God lead me to your website and I know He would lead many many more...