Me, during the 2018 Rosary novena and St. Andrew Christmas novena: Lord, please help me imitate our Blessed Mother more closely.
Me, on March 25, 2020: Lord... I see what You're doing...
Lately, I've been reflecting a lot on how my relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary has grown over the years. For years after my reversion, I felt like I couldn't turn to her because of how sinful I was (and am). I didn't think she would answer my prayers because of how often I failed her and her Son. Over the years, that has changed.
I pray the Rosary every single day (I think I've only missed 3 days in the last 2-3 years due to illness-induced exhaustion). I used the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary for several years before I started doing the Divine Office via the Monastic Diurnal. I've done the annual 54-day Rosary novena for over 10 years now. I do the Memorare emergency novena when I'm in a bind. I do the daily consecration prayer (which my parish priest introduced to be when we first met), which has been part of my daily routine for the past couple of years. I consecrated myself her in June 2018, something I wish I had done years earlier. In a nutshell, I'm a total Mama's girl! That is why I chose my Instagram username, lapetitefleurmariale -- the little Marian flower.
Today is a special feast day for me because of her words, "Be it done to me according to Thy word", have been a reoccurring theme in my life. When she became my co-patroness (along with St. Therese) for the year 2019, I didn't know I would be repeating them so often myself. In hindsight, I should've known since I had asked God to make me more like her in late 2018. I got a taste of it during Lent 2019 but I really had no clue just what else was coming after that. Still, I had no clue just what big things He was going to ask of me.
My first big test came when I had to travel to Chicago, on my first solo trip ever (and on an airplane by myself for the first time ever), not knowing a single soul at the retreat beyond Fr. Basil... who I had only communicated with via email. I felt called to become a Benedictine Oblate but didn't have the money to do so. He provided.
I got to the retreat center and found out that they had botched up my dietary restrictions and thought I was taking my own food, leaving me with nothing but the tortillas I took to eat. Instead of calling it a day and heading back home, I stuck it out. There was no way God had gotten me there without good reason. I barely ate and I sleep about 3 hours per night the entire time I was there but I somehow managed to survive it and the flight back home.
On the second day of the retreat, I ended up in the ER... and would find myself at various ERs over the next 6 months. My health had a major relapse. I'm still down at 113 lbs from 130 lbs prior to my relapse. My anemia got worse over the last couple of months. My platelets tanked to the lowest they've ever been (but still not low enough for transfusions) late last year. My diet got even more restricted. I developed bilateral optic nerve edemas that still cause temporary blindness when I wake up in the mornings or from naps. My dental health has plummeted in recent months, unsure of what's triggering the sudden changes. We're not sure what's going on with my liver, too. We don't know what exact autoimmune disease I have though signs are pointing to either MCAS or Sjogren's Syndrome (the later would explain both the edemas and the dental issues). Yet I find myself praying the Rosary for others in the ER, patiently (or trying to be patient) trusting Him with my health, and trying to find gratitude even in that chaos.
Then came the emotional tests.
First, big (and, unfortunately, ongoing) familial problems added to my health relapse. The one good thing that's come out of this pandemic is that it's helping mend the broken relationships I have with certain family members.
Then I had to abandon months of discernment and wedding planning with my best (guy) friend because I couldn't ignore God's call to discern consecrated virginity. Providentially, this happened during last year's 54-day Rosary novena. Mama Mary was interceding big time; there's no denying that. I had to give up the sense of stability and security with a man who loves me for one of uncertainty and total abandonment and trust in His Divine Providence. This is especially true since CVs have to financially support themselves, which has been hard for me to do with my health issues. Still, the unshakeable peace I feel makes me certain that this is God's will for me. That and, boy, has my love for Him grown in recent months. I know I sound like a broken record but I cannot imagine myself not being His bride.
With the quarantine (day 12 today), the increasingly grim news on the coronavirus (knowing I'm in one of the most vulnerable at-risk groups with my health issues), and the uncertainty of it all, let's just say the last 9 months have been difficult. Physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually, I'm being stretched beyond my limits... but then a day like today comes along and reminds me of how every single thing that I go through is something that I must endure for the sanctification and purification of my soul.
I find myself growing more and more trusting in God and resigning myself more to His will, no matter how hard it gets. Last night, Mom found some physical signs that I might either have lower platelets or that my body is reacting to something, severity unknown. I had seen some but there was a new (and big) one, in an area that I can't see, that caused some alarm. I called my doctor today and have a telephone appointment with her tomorrow morning. I keep reminding myself that His will is what is best for me. That also goes with my coronavirus fears.
As I wrote on today's Instagram post caption, "I’m admittedly fearful of the unknown; of the sufferings I have yet to endure. I’m worried that I won’t get the Sacraments in time; that I won’t have a chance to do some good in this world while I can... but then I think back to Mama Mary. She said 'yes' despite the unknown. Even when St. Simeon told her of her future sufferings, she trusted Him completely. That gives me the strength I need to push aside my fears & continue saying 'yes' to God’s will for my life."
Of course, I will continue to pray that if it's part of God's will that I do get sick, that I may have enough time to get myself prepared -- both with health (there are some things I can do to help raise the red blood count levels) so that I can beat the odds and with the state of my soul (either getting into the confessional in time or being allowed to have a priest see me while there's still time) in either case. Yes, completely morbid to think about, but that is the reality of being a chronically ill Catholic in the midst of a pandemic. Life is not guaranteed but we must make the most of it and live as closely to God as we can.
Getting back to the point of this post: today reminds me that even in the middle of chaos, uncertainty, and suffering, God is always there. Look at Our Lady of Sorrows -- all the sufferings that the Blessed Virgin endured during her life. She watched her Son suffer and die in agony on the Cross for humanity. Yet, she remained faithful in humble obedience. She never waivered in her fiat. I want to be like her -- to always say my own "fiat"; to always say "yes" to all the little crosses that God asks me to carry for the rest of my life. (Side note: Our Lady of Sorrows has my most constant companion in the last 9 months, ever since the day I became an Oblate novice when my Oblate master gifted me a beautiful print that I've yet to find a frame for.)
I will continue to say "yes" to the sufferings, sacrifices, and sorrows that will undoubtedly come. Even if not now, in the future. In the midst of all those moments, I will try to remember the good, the beauty, and the love that is hidden in them.
I will also continue to say yes to the beautiful but difficult (for this impatient gal) moments that seem to be too far in the future.
I won't be able to make my Final Act of Oblation and become an official Benedictine Oblate (currently in my novitiate period) this summer as I had hoped but, God willing, I will after the pandemic dies down a bit... no pun intended. Right now it's looking like a Summer 2021 date for that. In the meantime, I will continue to grow in my spiritual life as a Benedictine.
The road to consecrated virginity will be a long one. We're looking at 2 years minimum, maybe 7 years maximum. I'm so grateful to continue receiving spiritual direction during this time (thank goodness for FaceTime since the L.A. Archdiocese has closed parishes, suspended Masses, and postponed the reception of Sacraments for another couple of weeks). I still don't know if Archbishop Gomez will allow me to go forward with the consecration (remember, bishops of the discerning CV's diocese have the final say and a "No" means it ends there) when the time comes to meet him and talk about my discernment process, but I will say "yes" to whatever path God leads me down. Whether it is (God willing; my heart is set on it) becoming a consecrated virgin, making private vows to virginity, or ultimately doing something else, I will accept His will for me. I keep hoping that what happened during one of my last trips to daily Mass (pre-quarantine) is a sign that I will become a CV.
Also, just a side note before I end this post: I had this moment a few weeks ago when I laughed upon realizing that God took my petition to become more like His Blessed Mother a lot more literally than I had in mind. I was praying to become less selfish, more charitable, more loving, more obedient, less feisty and defensive; less, well, incredibly flawed me. What I didn't expect was to be called to discern consecration virginity... but it makes sense. After all, she is the Queen of Virgins. She is the ultimate example of "vocation goals" for what life as a consecrated virgin should be. I see what You did there, Lord... and I welcome it, with my whole heart!
Anyway, I just wanted to share this with y'all. The post just came to mind while finishing the caption of the IG post. You know me; I write as I am inspired.
Mama Mary, thank you for being my ultimate role model; for being a beautiful example of true femininity. Thank you for your Fiat! Please continue to pray for me.
God, please continue to chip away my sinful habits and learn to become more and more like our Blessed Mother. I will always say "yes" to what You ask of me, even if it's increasingly difficult to do so -- difficult because I've grown comfortable in my own little bubble. Can I please be a bride of Christ? Really, that's all I want at this point! I want nothing more than to belong to Him. Please and thank you!
Happy feast of the Annunciation, everyone! Only 9 more months until Christmas! ;)
As always, thank you for reading and God bless! :D