|My Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati Rosary bracelet.|
This past Lent was rough for me. I got sick (a bad cold after being subjected to freezing -- for L.A. standards -- temperatures in light layers). I accidentally had dairy when I went to Mexico and I spent the next month being physically debilitated because of it. I dealt with the last of the problems I had due to the anemia and everything else. I was racially profiled for the first time in my life. My spiritual life took a big hit, too. I was expecting it as both Advent and Lent are prime times for the enemy to mess with us. However, I wasn't expecting it to hit as intensely as it did.
I was hit with doubt and indecision about almost everything. I felt as if I no longer had any clarity about what God's will was for me and my life. In fact, I had zero plans for my life. I had tanked one of my courses in my SLP program which led to the decision to leave the program and look for a way to pay back my student loans. I went 4 months without receiving the Eucharist. I tried to go to Mass but obstacles hit me left and right. The anemia and the accidental dairy ingested caused a terrible lightheadedness and physical fatigue that made it impossible for me to safely drive to Mass. Taxi cabs failed to pick me up and take me to Mass without explanation. Last month I experienced three consecutive weekends of what seemed to be physical manifestations of intense spiritual attacks that both holy water blessed this past Epiphany and the medal of St. Benedict helped shorten the effects of, immediately. I won't elaborate more on it beyond that. I will say that it was during those intense three weeks that the apathy threatened to take hold.
During that time, what my former spiritual director said to me (twice!) kept replaying in my mind: that there was no point in me being a Catholic because I stunk at being one. Well, that's what I interpreted. His actual words during our last spiritual direction meeting (in which he kicked me out of his office) were "what's the point?" (in my being Catholic). Direct quote; I wouldn't dare attribute false words to anyone, much less a priest. What was the point of me being a Catholic if I didn't attend Mass regularly? What was the point of me being Catholic if I struggled to concentrate during my time in prayer? What was the point in my being Catholic? These words swirled around in my mind when I tried praying, especially when it was the Rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I would want to quit praying, wanting to give up, but I powered through the rest of the prayers (with a little help from holy water).
As I've mentioned in the past, I joined a young adult group late last year but I haven't been to many meetings/get-togethers this year. Mostly, it's been because I've been physically unable to. There were also meetings I wasn't told about (that I had no idea were even going on) so I didn't go because I had no idea. They've been nice people... but I've also not felt welcomed. I feel absolutely horrible for saying that (and I promise I'll get to the point of sharing this soon) but it's true. As much as I like the group of people, I feel like I'm excluded from what they do. It's understandable; they've been more active in parish activities (the majority being part of the choir) and they see each other more but it still stinks to feel left out. The kicker was when I contacted one of the members and suggested that we try to help set-up a more frequent carpooling system to outings in which they charged for parking... and a suggestion she, herself, had pitched to the group for that specific outing. She told me to work it out myself because she was too busy to help me for a different Mass event I wasn't even talking about. I felt the heat rush to my face and my ears when I read her response. It had been her idea; I only suggested perhaps setting up something so that the carpooling could begin before the outing (it was going to start at Mass and then end up at a different location) since some of us (I'm not the only one) have transportation issues sometimes. I've seen people (in the group and from the parish in general) ask for rides, so it was a suggestion to help them out. I had a way to get to get to Mass and the outing; it wasn't even for me. Needless to say, between that response, another group member publicly embarrassing me for something I'd say in all seriousness at the last big (read: crowded) meeting I attended and feeling like I wasn't welcomed... I decided to no longer attend group meetings.
All of these things -- what my former spiritual director had said and my experience with the members of the young adult group -- and my inability to go to Mass all contributed to me feeling and thinking that perhaps my former spiritual director was right and that me praying, doing my best (and failing spectacularly when I began doubting myself, especially when it came to my ability to go to Mass regularly), and not finding my place in the Church meant I should throw in the towel. I had these strong thoughts and feelings for almost the entirety of May. Add me feeling as if I didn't know what I was going to do with my life and everything else I mentioned... I was in a bad place.
On a whim (I don't remember if it was inspired by a dream I had that featured him or if he just kept popping up in my mind), I decided to start a Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati novena on May 1st. I mentioned it to Mom and she also, quite suddenly and without giving it much thought, said she would pray it along with me. I got the novena prayers in Spanish from the Frassati Argentina group for Mom and we prayed for the same things: clarity about my career/vocation (small v) and my health. The spiritual attacks (or what I think were attacks) got worse when I did the novena... but I didn't stop. Though the thoughts persisted that I should leave, remembering Bl. PGF's life story kept me from pulling away. I use to remember his ardent love for the Church. I also remembered how both St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) had moments in which they felt God had abandoned them as well so I kept going. I think I only missed praying the Rosary once and that's because I fell asleep because I felt unwell. Other than that, I don't think I missed either morning or nighttime prayers. Bl. PGF remained in my thoughts (and my heart) as my birthday approached. Whenever I felt like giving up, I would remember him and I tried to fight through the apathy and disappointment.
As silly as it sounds, the moment that I feel was the turning point was when I received my lab results at my second hematologist appointment. To know that my prayers had been answered reduced me to a puddle of tears and gratitude at the hospital (where my hematology appointments occur). I had been slowly gaining weight in the past year but I didn't break past the 124-125 mark (I'm usually between 125 and 128 lbs) and it would occasionally dip back down... until I did the novena. My weight, as I mentioned before, has remained steady and is back to where it was prior to my health issues starting 5 years ago. It took years to get down to the source of my health problems (sans those that are causing low platelets). It was the moment where I went "I suffered through so much... but I can see that God didn't abandon me. He heard my prayers despite my not going to Mass and my failure... and Bl. PGF came through for me in a big way." A day or two after receiving the wonderful news that I was healthier than I had been in years, the rest of my prayers (that were part of my novena to Bl. PGF) were answered.
The weekend before my birthday I returned to confession and Mass for the first time in 2 months. I have not failed to go to either confession or Mass since. On my birthday I got word on something (career related) that I'd been praying about, literally within 5 minutes of my waking up. (side note: totally counting that as a birthday gift from God, lol). I now have a clear(er) path that I will be taking starting this autumn when the next phase begins. I also got inspiration for my third novel, which was scrapped and started over again for the third time but which has stuck. (second side note: I'm glad I started over; this new idea is so much better than the first two I had.)
I feel like myself again. I feel that great love I have towards the Church though I've still struggled with certain things like overindulgence and temptations in recent weeks. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, my new confessor suggested focusing on my spiritual life this summer which I've been doing. I want to get into my problem with my experience with Ordinary Form Masses vs Latin Masses (and the communities for both) but I'll save that for the next post. Let's just say that I had a big eye-opener regarding this and it's what I'll be working through this summer. For now, I'm just trying to keep my confession and Mass attendance more regular, I want to figure out what I could do to help my concentration problem during prayer time, and I want to kick the bad habits I developed/that returned while I went months without attending Mass. Baby steps... but happy that I didn't leave the Church and grateful for the intercession Bl. PGF helped with.
I bought myself a Rosary bracelet with a medal of Bl. PGF to wear and use (to pray until I get myself the complete Rosary) for my birthday as a reminder of why I'm a big Frassati fangirl. That's what this post's picture is of; the Rosary bracelet. It's already helped me focus when praying the Rosary despite being like twice my width of my wrist, lol.
And before any of you say anything: yes, I know that feelings can trip us up and that we shouldn't pay attention. I also know that even in our darkest moments, God is always there for us. I kept reminding myself of that when I was struggling... but it didn't always help. Sometimes your mind can play tricks on you, just like your heart can. The devil knows how to best kick us when we're already down. Don't you think he knows that the easiest way to get me down is to make me feel unloved and rejected? Hi, I'm an INFP and phlegmatic-sanguine over here; I'm a people person despite being an introvert. I say I'm a social introvert for that very reason -- I like people. Making me feel like I'm rejected by people I admired -- my spiritual director and members of the group which I so wanted to be a part of? He knew how to get to me... but God is greater than him and God knows that my stubbornness (when used for good), my optimism (which did waver for a while), and tenacity are some of my best strengths. He knew that Bl. PGF was the best way to pull me out of that abyss of spiritual dryness and doubt.
I'm sure there were countless prayers that I don't know about, which helped me get through all of this. To those who prayed for me during this time, I want to say a massive "Thank you!" To those who I personally know are struggling through the same thing or something similar, please know I add you into my prayers specifically by (full) name because I understand how difficult going through this is. If you're going through doubts about the Church or anything of the sort, please don't be afraid to talk to someone... or even ask others for prayers. I volunteer to pray and fast for you; just let me know privately. I don't want anyone to go through this... or worse.
Anyway, this -- sharing what happened to me -- had been on my heart since last night and I'm grateful to be able to share it with you. I'm not fully out of the danger area (are any of us?) but I'm in a much, much better place than I was last month. Bl. PGF's feast day is coming up early next month so I'll be reposting the novena prayers (they differ daily) every day on this blog later this month leading up to his feast day (July 4th). I didn't think it was possible but I've become a bigger fan of his (and my mother is a (new) massive fan now that she saw the big changes since we did the novena) and I'm full of gratitude for his intercession. As he would say, "verso l'alto!" ("towards the heights!")
It's getting hot in my home office (it's already in the low 90s and it's only 12:25 p.m.) so I'm going to end this blog post and go migrate to another part of the apartment before I have to go pick up Mom from work.
I hope you're all having a lovely week thus far!
As always, thanks for reading and God bless!