Thanks to all those
who supported Sister Cherise
on December 7th for her Consecration!
“My Desire is Simple: I Just want to be His.”
Several years ago I was asked to respond to a few questions regarding my vocation story to be published on our website. To the last question I responded like this: My desire is simple. I just want to be His. Fast-forward nearly four years and I am now preparing to take my promises and to give the Lord all that I am (chastity), all that I have (poverty), and all that I will become (obedience) as an Apostle of the Interior Life.
The past years of formation in Texas and in Rome have been for me as much a joy as they have been a challenge. The call to holiness, which is universal and for all vocations (marriage, priesthood, and consecrated life) is quite demanding. When one decides to set out on that path, it is inevitable to come up against one’s own limits, fragilities, and sins (the challenge). But it is equally inevitable, when truly striving to grow, to see the grace of God alive and at work in concrete and tangible ways (the joy).
On June 9 of this past year (the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary), in a Mass celebrated by our founder, Fr. Salvatore, in our chapel here in Rome, I made a promise to live out the spirit of the promises of chastity, poverty, and obedience in my final formal step in the formative journey before promises. This moment proved to be very crucial for me as God really honored that promise and began to “gift” me with opportunities to live it out. The biggest opportunity mostly regarded obedience as the community asked me to change universities. This was a really difficult transition for me having made many friends and having grown so much in my two years at my old school. The idea of having to start all over, face the unknown, and leave behind people and a place that had become dear to me was actually pretty frightening.
After the summer finished and amidst my preparations for the big transition, I had the great privilege to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the week before classes started. For me it was like being taken home by Jesus who wanted to show me where He grew up, take me to His favorite places, and introduce me to all of His family and friends. And as the sadness and fears for the start at the new university overwhelmed me, it was nice to go away for a while with the Lord.
One special moment happened on the very first day of the pilgrimage. We were in Nazareth and with a free morning for those who wanted to sleep in, Sr. Clara and I decided to take a little trip to Mount Precipice which was near our hotel. This is the mount from which the people of Nazareth sought to throw down Jesus after He preached in the synagogue from the Book of Isaiah (Lk 4:14-30). Praying with this passage on the top of that peaceful mount, looking down at the valley below, I found the Lord speaking directly at me with these words: Today, I announce to you a year of grace in the Lord (Lk 4:19).
These words immediately filled me with great peace and consolation. Exactly in the midst of this difficult transition, Jesus was promising His grace to me, His presence with me. He was proclaiming to me that from that place of sadness and fear was to come great intimacy with Him…and He has not disappointed! Upon my return to Rome, and in my first weeks and months at the new university I truly did experience His being with me. However, nearing the end of Advent, I was still in a bit of a rut, caught up in my sadness, often only thinking of myself and many times lacking in love towards others.
Praying with the First Reading on December 21 (Songs 2:8-14) I was struck by a couple of lines that became my prayer in the following days: Arise my friend, my beautiful one…the winter is past…the time for song has returned. With these brief words the Lord spoke softly to my heart: I see you in your sadness. I know this time has been hard for you. I see you as you seek to love Me and do My will even when it hurts. But I miss your voice. It’s time to get up. A new Spring is in arrival. Look at Me. Sing Me a new song.
The joy from these moments of prayer is still fresh in my heart. It was in those days that an old and familiar desire took up a new intensity deep within me: that simple desire that I wrote at the beginning of my formative journey. The desire to just be His. But this desire was now expressing itself with a spousal love. Renewed in me was my desire to give God everything and to have Him be my everything…my “only-thing”. I found myself asking Him, needing to know: Do You feel loved by me? Am I enough for You? After all of this, are You sure You still desire to call me Yours?
The answer came just a few weeks later as the community accepted my written request to make my promises and to give myself completely to the Lord as an Apostle of the Interior Life. These years of formation and self-discovery have also led to many moments of vulnerability before the Lord and before the community, and what joy to know that I am fully known, loved, and wanted just as I am!
I know that the road to truly living in the simplicity of being His is long and did not end on December 7 when I gave my life to Jesus in Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. But I trust in the graces of consecration and in His promise to accompany me always in His love.