Sunday, May 23, 2021

Am I Becoming a Consecrated Virgin or Am I Getting Married? — Discernment FAQs


Even though I’m no longer active on Twitter, I still get folks from the site who message me on Instagram or the blog’s FB page, asking how I’m doing or (increasingly) where I am in my vocation discernment. I’ve already given you a quick update on my health over the last couple of months so I’m going to tackle the second question in this post so I’m not repeating myself in private messages.

Am I still discerning consecrated virginity? 

Yes and no. Yes, I’m still discerning in the sense that I believe this is what God is calling me to do. I’ve been actively and earnestly discerning this vocation for the past year and a half. I’d previously thought about it but I didn’t have the courage to do it until things became a bit more complicated for me (more on this later). I’ve read the literature. I’ve had a spiritual director for most of my discernment guiding me. I’ve been living my life as if I were already a CV. 

I’m not discerning in the sense that I’m no longer asking God for clarity on whether this is my vocation or not. I feel at peace with this vocation and the discernment journey. I don’t think there’s much else I can do. It’s the waiting game right now. I’m waiting to talk to my SD and see if and when we can move forward with me having my interview with Archbishop Gomez. He (Abp. Gómez) will ultimately decide whether he believes this is my vocation or not. Since we were in lockdown during the first year of COVID and Abp. Gómez has been the USCCB president for the last almost 2 years, going forward and getting that interview has been on hold. Hopefully things will move forward again soon now that things are opening up and his term as USCCB president is coming to a close. 

How I knew I wasn’t meant for religious life or marriage.

Like with everything else, discernment is key. I discerned religious life first. I discerned it more than once because I wanted to be a nun for the wrong reasons the first time, in my early 20s. 

I also dated. I hated dating but my former SD said I had to at least try it so I would be sure it wasn’t for me. He wanted to be sure that I wasn’t running away from the vocation because of my dislike of dating and love of my independence. There was actually someone in my life before I started discerning CV — someone with whom I had talked to about marriage. Engagement and wedding dates were actually planned (and not by me!) but it wasn’t right. I was going into it for the wrong reasons. As hard as it was, As soon as I realized that I hated that Jesus didn’t have all of my heart I knew I couldn’t continue entertaining a possibility of marriage with anyone.

After a lot of prayer, the 54-day Rosary novena, a lot of time spent in Adoration, and attending daily Mass, I knew that I had to discern consecrated virginity. It took a lot of courage to break things off and to disappoint everyone who wanted to see me married but I couldn’t ignore the pull in my heart to give it fully to Christ. 

Did a bad experience scare me off of dating or discerning marriage? 

Nope. I’ve had some amazing men in my life, some of whom are still good friends to this day. My last experience wasn’t the best but even before things went south, I knew it wasn’t for me. I had known for years but a combination of doubts, pressure to marry from the most important people in my life, and my own stubbornness (I really wanted to get married and have a family) were the excuses I used to not properly discern. 

What if Archbishop Gomez says I’m not called to the CV vocation? Will I discern marriage again? 

I’m following what I believe is God’s will for me. If He wants me to become a CV (as I believe He does), I’ve been on the right path. If He wanted me to discern this because it was necessary for me to get in the right mind frame for marriage, than that’s what’s going to happen. If I’m meant to be single and make simple private vows, that’s what I’ll do. I’m just following God over here. 

A dear friend recently put it this way — maybe God is testing me, to see if I’ll do what’s being asked of me. Maybe, at the last minute, He will provide a poor sacrificial ram caught in the brambles like it happened for Abraham. (Side note: yes, I still laugh over that analogy — poor sacrificial lamb of a man if I’m a called to marriage).

Regardless of what ends up happening, I can’t go wrong doing what I believe is His will for me. And, yes, I truly believe God is calling me to this beautiful vocation of consecrated virginity. 

How have I grown during this discernment?

How much time do you have? Lol. This discernment journey has been a massive blessing in my life. I’ve learned so much about myself. God has shown me all the unhealed wounds I’d been carrying. (I’ll post about the healing process and what I’ve learned from it in the next post). I’ve grown tremendously in my spiritual life, though there have been long periods of spiritual dryness.  God has shown me my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve seen my selfishness, pride, and lack of humility. But He gives me hope that I’m not a total lost cause and that makes me excited for the future, whatever it may be. 

Can I still become a consecrated virgin despite my visual impairments?

Yep. I’ve started writing (working) again. I may eventually change careers if I regain most of my eyesight back but for now I have an income and resources which will help me not be a financial burden to the archdiocese. I can do a lot more these days than I did a couple of weeks or months ago. Even if this is it — if my eyesight doesn’t improve any more and I have the blind spots permanently — there’s a lot I can do for the archdiocese as a CV despite the physical limitations. God will provide. 

I think that pretty much covers the questions I often get asked. I don’t think I’ll address this topic again until after I have my interview and know whether I’ll move forward by setting my consecration date (yes, I’ve already picked one) and getting the small things (e.g. picking my consecration dress, choosing a scripture verse to engrave inside my ring, etc.) rolling. 

Please say a prayer for me as I wait and then move forward with my discernment. 

I hope you all have a lovely Pentecost Monday!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! 

Monday, May 17, 2021

Jealousy, Being Small, & a Return to Blogging

   I’ve been feeling the tug to return to blogging for a while now but I wanted to make sure I was in a place where I could do it again. And I am. This post is one I feel like God is asking me to write; to share this thing I’ve had on my heart  

If you haven’t been following updates on Twitter or Instagram (the only place where I’m actually active), you might’ve not heard what happened to me shortly after my last blog post. If you want a more detailed story of what happened (and how Blessed Carlo Acutis interceded for me), please read my first Epic Pew article in months

In a nutshell: I lost my eyesight and I almost died. I don’t say that to be a sensationalist. My body was shutting down and I seem to have had at least one adrenal crisis. I was almost completely blind by the autumn after a rapid decline of my eyesight over the summer. I spent weeks hospitalized between May and November of last year, trying to get healthy. Again, full details are in the article; details I won’t repeat on here. All I will say is that I’m immensely grateful for all those who prayed for me and the doctors who didn’t give up on me.

As I mentioned in the most hopeful Instagram update yet, my neuro-ophthalmologist was utterly shocked by how much of my eyesight has been restored in the last 3 months. I still have multiple blind spots in both eyes (and I can’t see anything straight ahead out of my right eye). However, the shrinking of the blind spots and how clearly I can see out of my left despite the lingering blind spots is causing us to hope for a miraculous recovery — one we are crediting Bl. Carlo for. I still need the accessibility features on my phone (everything I type or highlight is read to me) but I’m slowly getting there. I couldn’t see any text months ago. I still can’t see most photos nor watch movies but it’s getting better. The doctor gave me the okay to get back into writing at full capacity (or as much as I can do). That’s why I’m writing again. 

Now that I’ve given you guys a quick update to my life over the last couple of months, I can talk about what I want to share: God calling me to be small and the jealousy that prompted me to have this epiphany. 

As some of y’all are aware of, I’m not active on social media (save IG) so I miss out on a lot. And it seems like so much has happened in just a relatively short amount of time. More and more friends are having their books published by big name publishers. Almost everyone seems to have a podcast. My beautiful and clever friends and acquaintances are true inspirations with their entrepreneurial endeavors. It’s a beautiful thing to see… but I can’t help feeling jealous. 

I don’t wish them to be less successful nor do I “hate” them for their success. I’m simply jealous that they’re out there, doing things I had dreamt about. I feel left behind and I have moments where i feel as worthless and useless asl some people have made me feel. I’m sure you’ve seen some people on Twitter calling me a “poor little girl with a weak little body” and other condescending comments like that. 

Not being able to make ends meet  and unable to contribute to the household income is hard for me. I’m the one who is supposed to be taking care of my retired mother, not the other way around. I feel like a burden to her; having to rely on her to cook for me and be my literal eyes when going to new places so I don’t accidentally hurt myself with things I’m unable to see. If I could at least help bring in some funds it wouldn’t hurt as much but it does. And then I see everyone flourishing and thriving and the jealousy returns. 

I know this is all pride talking. “I’ve been writing longer. I’ve been at this longer. Why can’t I get a break! Why did these health crosses make me an invalid for months? Why is the future uncertain? Will I ever be able to do enough — be enough?” I’ve wrestled with all these questions and more. Thankfully, sooner or later I recognize these intrusive thoughts as being from the devil. The devil feeds our wounded pride. He wants to cause division and cause alienation. But God is greater than he will ever be and I can hear God’s voice. 

“Be small, my daughter. I love you regardless of what you can or can’t do. Be small. In your smallness, your heart will grow and more United to me you will be.” These are the words that I hear in the deepest part of my heart. 

God is calling me to be small. He knows how susceptible I am to letting little successes get to my head. He knows what a prideful person I can be. He wants me to reside in His heart and vice versa. He wants to completely engulf me in his love and mercy… and this is something that the jealousy made me realize. 

How will I try to be small? Staying off social media. Don’t get me wrong, I seriously miss all of you with whom I got to know via Twitter. As many of you know, I don’t reply to comments on Twitter; only links are posted on there. I’m going to continue sharing beautiful quotes by saints and other inspirational people (and, okay, the occasional funny reel) I come across on Instagram. But it’ll be less “this is the random thing I’m thinking or is happening to me” and more intentional posts I feel a tug to share — which was the initial purpose to my IG account. 

How else will I try to be small? Keeping myself to my little corner of the internet as quietly as possible. I’ll only share what’s on my heart after I take it to prayer first. I won’t insult God by not using the gift He has given me — the gift of writing. I don’t think of myself as a particularly good writer (and I’m not saying that to get compliments; please don’t) but I know that sometimes what I write helps others with whatever they have going on and that’s all I want — to help others.

I have a feeling God has not given me the success my peers are enjoying not only because of the risk of pride but also because He knows where my strengths and weaknesses are. I’m not a good Public speaker. I stink at evangelization because I live in dread of saying the wrong thing that will lead a person away from God; something that is actually not a Church teaching. It’s not about looking uneducated. I simply don’t want to say something that will harm another person’s journey towards Heaven. There are others who can — and do! — do that beautifully. I’m not one of those people. I can open my heart and share what I think and feel but that’s about all I can do. 

These are just some of the ways I’m going to start trying to be and stay small. I’m sure there will be other ways I’ve yet to discover. I know I have a lot of growing to do when it comes to humility — a lot! But just as St. Therese was small in her Little Way, so will I take a page from her book and find the ways God is calling me to be small. See, IG friends? I told y’all there was a reason why St. Therese was (and still is!) everywhere a few weeks ago. lol. 

I don’t know how frequently I’ll update this blog. I’ll rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help me with that. But I will be writing more often again. My laptop has bitten the dust (I haven’t used one in at least two months now) but between my phone and my (arriving soon-ish) tablet, I hope to both blog and write more articles for Epic Pew. 

Thank you all for your prayers and your time reading this. You have all been and will continue to be in my prayers. 

Until next time, thank you for reading and God bless!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Why the Last Month Has Been a Living Hell For Me (and It's Not COVID-19 Related)

This past month has been an absolute nightmare for me. Coronavirus lockdown aside, it took us over a month to figure out why I've had such an intense health relapse in the past month... but, really, the last couple of months altogether. The reason: a really, really bad allergic reaction to the back-to-back amoxicillin rounds I had taken for my molar infections.

When I used to think "allergic reaction," I thought of wheezing, throat-closing, facial features swelling, eyes watering, etc. You know -- the severe reaction. I never thought it could have a delay and that the physical manifestations would be as bad or surprisingly odd as I've had them.

I've experienced:
- Insomnia for weeks. That has now been followed by my recent inability to stay awake during the day as a result of weeks worth of being unable to sleep more than 3-4 hours per day.
- A skin rash that I thought was due to the stress I was under. Nope.
- Really, really bad jitteriness and anxiety. My anxiety actually wasn't as bad the first time I took amoxicillin as it has been this time around... and we were chalking it up to anxiety over the coronavirus. It may still be a combo of the two.
- My mental health going into deep depression mode. Again, we were blaming it on my failing health and the coronavirus situation, which may still have a part in it.
- My mental fog and the inability to concentrate, which has made me an unreliable writer for my poor bosses. Mercifully, they've been understanding.
- My platelets tanking under 100k (76k the first time, 96k this time).
- Possibly the daily, strong heart palpitations I've been experiencing. The first time I experienced crazy strong (but not too fast) palpitations was during one of the last doses I took. We thought it was anxiety. Nope. My doctor said, in hindsight, it was most likely a reaction to the dose since it started half an hour after I took it.
- Other things that I haven't mentioned.

Everything that has happened (and the new stuff) seems to be following the same pattern from last autumn (the first time I took amoxicillin). Some symptoms (e.g. jitteriness, extremely daytime sleepiness following insomnia, how "angry" the skin rashes look) have been worse this time. Others (platelets falling to 96k instead of 76k, the number of bumps from the rash overall) have been better.

 A few days ago marked the 30-day mark of when I took my last dose and you can tell I'm just now starting to detox from the effects. The rash started to fade on the day after I finished the Bl. Solanus Casey novena (which many of you prayed with me; thank you!). I'm starting to sleep more (a lot more; accompanied by jitteriness when I wake up). My mental fog is starting to lift and my mental health is improving. Yay for no longer being a depressed little robot!

I didn't start feeling like myself until Easter Sunday, which was coincidentally the month-mark of when I took my last dose. Theoretically, it should take 4-6 more weeks for this to clear up so here's hoping it'll continue and that the detox process gets easier in the next couple of weeks than it's been lately.

I would be lying if I said I haven't been scared this past month. I've been terrified. It's now day 34 since I last took a dose and we just figured out that all of this has been because of the amoxicillin. Again, this wouldn't have happened if I hadn't started the novena -- my doctor (who still hasn't seen me, btw; she's only gone on what I and the urgent care physician's assistant have told her) thought my rash was another skin issue. Even the PA didn't think it was an amoxicillin rash either. It wasn't until the novena was about halfway through that my doctor called to tell me that it did seem like it was an allergic reaction to the amoxicillin after all. That's also around the time that the previous pattern began showing up and it became an "OH I wonder if this is..." moment. After the novena ended, the rest of the puzzle pieces began to slot together and completed the picture. It's been worse this time around because I had to take a week's worth of antibiotics to take in late January-early February and a second-round in early March-mid March. It didn't give my body enough time to detox in between doses.

The last 2-3 days have been easier with the heart palpitations but worse with the jitteriness following naps during the day. Those closest to me have gotten panicked texts from me because of how absolutely terrible I crash and how panicked and odd I wake up feeling. Again, I had a similar reaction the first time around but it's been amplified about 10 times this time around, most likely because of the back-to-back doses.

I'm supposed to be taking Zyrtec for the allergic reaction but I've been sleeping most of my day away and I haven't been able to mentally prepare myself to take it in the few hours I am awake. To be honest, I'm afraid of an allergic reaction to the Zyrtec because of the medical PTSD of previous reactions to Benadryl and now the recent amoxicillin allergy.

And before you say, "But you're supposed to trust God." Yes, I do trust God but my mind (and the PTSD) right now is, unfortunately, is affecting my ability to think rationally. That doesn't mean I don't trust God. Remember, the amoxicillin greatly affected my mental health -- it literally messed with my brain chemistry. So, I'm just now starting to think rationally; to think more clearly. Remember the news of the young priest who committed suicide a few weeks ago as a result of a medication he was taking for GI problems; how it messed up his brain chemistry? Think along those lines for me, except I thankfully never contemplated ending my life. I was morbid in thinking I was going to die soon, I'll admit that, but not because I had any intentions of harming myself. Quite the opposite, I became hypervigilant of what was exacerbating symptoms so that I would feel better and get myself on a fast track to being on the mend so I could give myself more time to get to the confessional (whenever confessions are allowed again).

The fact that I went to the dentist this morning and that didn't have a panic attack nor was I paranoid about it pretty much confirmed that the effects are wearing off. (Side note: the appointment was considered a potential emergency situation; I was given more antibiotics as a precaution that I'm not taking unless I need to; it was given to buy more time while the lockdown is lifted and molar extractions are okayed by my insurance and the government since it's not an immediate emergency situation). Also, the fact that I'm not feeling depressed and morbid -- I actually feel like myself for the first time in weeks! -- is a good sign. I'm finally able to pray and say "Jesus, I trust in You" without any apprehension. I hadn't had more than a few hours of that trust and confidence in God for weeks when the next wave would hit. Yeah, those pills messed me up that bad.

I've spent the last 4-5 weeks unable to watch most Masses or pray because of how intense my mental fog or fatigue has been. I've been able to concentrate on my prayers for the first time in over a month in the last 2-3 days. My spiritual life took a massive beating. I hadn't been able to really do much for my vocation discernment, either, which I thought was bizarre but now makes sense. I wasn't sure if it was a spiritual attack or something else but it looks like we now have our answer. It could very well be a mix of the two -- a spiritual attack and a chemical imbalance, who knows!

So, that's where I've been lately... and why I haven't been blogging. That's why I kept asking for prayers on social media. I'm incredibly grateful to a lovely blog reader who suggested I ask Bl. Solanus Casey for this intercession because, thanks to that novena, we got answers to why my body had begun breaking down on me. Like I said, it wasn't until the novena was ending that the pattern began to emerge and things became clearer.

I pray that I can either start taking the Zyrtec tomorrow (I don't have to get up early for the first time in weeks) and/or that the rest of the effects begin to subside without my the jitteriness and other effects getting worse. Sure, most of the other physical symptoms are getting better but the anxiety is probably now peaking and the sleeping thing is just horrible to endure every time I wake up from a nap. 

Let it put it this way: Imagine that you've been sleep deprived for 24 straight hours after running a marathon all day. You're so tired but you can't sleep for some reason. Then, just as you finally settle to sleep, someone wakes you up in the most intense and frightening away, making your heart race and your body shake from the nerves. Amplify it a couple more times and you can maybe begin to imagine what I feel some naps. Sometimes my heart is racing, Yesterday it was beating at a weird rhythm for a bit and I was terrified until two first said they had similar experiences and that it probably meant I woke up at a weird REM stage. And, yes, the naps are absolutely necessary. I'm not fighting them. I'll fall asleep while eating sitting up anyway; I'm that physically exhausted at this point.

Please continue to pray for me. I'm going to call my doctor again tomorrow (I know she must be tired of getting 2-3 calls from me per week but I've had to update her on my evolving conditions) and see if we can't come up with a better game plan to make the rest of the detox process smoother. Also, please pray that there aren't any more surprises during the detox process. Yesterday's weird palpitations and yesterday and today's intense jitteriness post-naps have been new and very unnerving. Again, if I have to take the Zyrtec to minimize the effects I will but I'll be praying that I'm able to tolerate it better than other meds and that I don't get additional reactions or side effects from it.

I hope to get back into the swing of things around this blog now that I'm starting to slowly mend. I have a couple of posts planned in the upcoming week that, God willing, will actually be posted on time. Fingers crossed the fatigue lessens.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

How the Blessed Virgin Mary Has Taught Me to Trust and Say "Fiat."

“And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38).

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Coronavirus Pandemic from the POV of a Chronically Ill Catholic

I just got off the phone with my doctor. She told me to ask friends to get the medication she ordered for me (and, eventually, food) because I need to stay at home during this time.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't worried.

I would be lying if I said I didn't experience at least one minor anxiety attack per day when (I'm sure) well-meaning people trying to "prepare" me with stats and facts go overboard.

I would be lying if I said that I don't cry every day from feeling overwhelmed by everything going on. Putting aside my own selfish fears for myself, as an HSP, I easily absorb the feelings of those around me so I feel it all.

The CDC released a list of 10 medical conditions that are most at risk for "severe coronavirus illness". On that was list was blood disorders... which I have.

I've suffered from chronic thrombocytopenia (low platelets) for over 12 years now. I've had chronic anemia (on and off) for the past 5-6 years. I also occasionally have pancytopenia, meaning that my platelets, red and white blood counts are all under normal count from time to time.

I also have additional factors that put me at risk -- a liver issue they're still trying to figure out, malnutrition from the multiple food allergies that have severely restricted my diet (I can only have 4-5 foods... period), and I'm underweight from the restricted diet and recently emotional toll of family and relationship problems I faced. They're also trying to figure out which autoimmune disease may be causing my bilateral optic nerve edemas as well as my other health problems. Right now, the two that are most likely are MCAS or Sjogren's Syndrome.

My mother, who is 65, works in a convalescent hospital where about 99% of the patients are over 75 years old. She has her own medical issues that put her at risk. With the news and everyone talking about the coronavirus 24/7, is it any wonder we're both stressed out?

That's part of the reason why I decided to take a break from Twitter. Yes, the other part was because people were being rude. I've received threats. I've been stalked. I've been made to feel like I'm absolute trash unworthy to call myself a Catholic or even a decent human being. I've had people twist my words and/or imply that I was an idiot because I've asked for prayers when I've faced difficult situations.

Some people act like they know my body and my medical history better than I do, scaring me by telling me my heartburn (which I've dealt with since my teens) is really a symptom of a heart attack and that I'm a complete idiot for not going to the ER because they are a doctor/EMT/nurse and they know better than I, a simpleton, do. Yes, please, advise me to go to the ER for a bad GERD/heartburn flare-up almost identical to all the those I've experienced before... during a time where it could be potentially dangerous for me to contract something more severe. And, for the record, yes, I just spoke to my doctor about how bad the heartburn got and she advised me to take medication, go on a bland diet, and drink a lot of water for it. But, please, continue telling me I'm an idiot for not going to the ER.

All of these things, plus news of the pandemic, have been taxing on my mental health... which exacerbates the physical symptoms, acid reflux included. It's a never-ending cycle, y'all.

Crying is how I release the tension when I feel overwhelmed. Crying... and prayer.

Prayer hasn't been easy for me these days. My mind wanders easily; jumps straight into all the fears for my health and those of my loved ones (mother, brother, friends, etc.) I can't concentrate. I occasionally have to force myself to go through my daily prayer routine but I get it done. This is what the devil wants. He wants us to focus on ourselves and our fears (he loves when we live in fear) and turn our back on God during these difficult moments. While it's hard, given our fallen human nature, to not think about our fears and ourselves, we must try.

I was blessed to have prayed the Rosary with two of my good friends via FaceTime audio earlier today. It was one of the handfuls of times this week I was able to concentrate a bit better while praying. I hope to continue being able to pray with them (and other friends) while we're on lockdown because it does help. I'm stuck at home all day and since my mom works 5 days a week, I'm often by myself. I know I'm an introvert but science has proven that we do need a little bit of human interaction now and then, especially those of us who are sick.

I agree that it's been awful to have public Masses canceled but I understand why the decision was made. Trust me, I have prayed for months to be able to attend daily Mass... and I was finally getting that desire fulfilled. I went from attending daily Mass to having to stay home because of the risks, something I struggled with obeying. My initial reaction was "flip that table! I'm going to Mass, virus or no virus!" In fact, when I went to my last Mass a week ago, I went knowing I was risking it... and I spent the entire Mass with palpitations. After that impulse calmed down and I really thought about how God would want me to take care of the body He gave me -- and knowing that I was dispensed from the obligation of attending Mass -- I made the decision to obey. Obedience is a pillar in the Benedictine spirituality and one that has been hard for me to cultivate as a very stubborn and independent person. I keep trying to remember that those who are spiritually more mature and have more medical knowledge than I do have placed these rules for a reason so I will humbly submit to them.

Thankfully, I've always known of additional resources for when I'm stuck at home -- I've even written two articles on it for EpicPew (4 Ways to Experience the Mass Even If You're Stuck at Home and Discover These Underutilized Catholic Websites And Resources!). I can watch Mass, even do holy hours, via online websites. Does that mean it's an easy transition for me? No! It's still difficult for me to be away from my parish and the Sacraments. Do you think I want to be away from my Beloved, in the tabernacle or the adoration chapel, just when I've realized that I want nothing more than to be His future bride as a consecrated virgin? No! It's especially painful for me right now; right when I've finally figured out what my true vocation is. Still, I obey... and I remind myself that He is with me, even when I'm at home.

Oh, and for those who may be new to the blog... this isn't the first time I've been without the Sacraments for a long period of time. I've gone several months without the Eucharist before (when I was put on a gluten-free diet and before I was able to receive low-gluten hosts) so this isn't new territory for me... but it's somehow now harder than ever because of where I am in my spiritual life and vocation discernment.

Instead of dumping on poor Archbishop Gomez like so many other people are doing, I'm going to personally thank him. As a chronically ill Catholic, I know what it feels like to be thought of as a burden to others -- to those who are healthy and are "punished" because some of us are physically weaker than them. I understand the frustration of those who want to be able to attend Mass and receive the Sacraments but can't because "weaklings" like me could be exposed to something, if not directly than through contact with someone in our family who is healthy and attended Mass but was possibly infected by someone else who is in a low-risk group. Yes, we need Christ and the Sacraments now more than ever, but he made an extremely difficult decision because he, as the spiritual father of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, wanted to err on the side of caution. It's called prudence and it's a virtue, y'all. And, who says God isn't with us in our homes and wherever we are at all times?

Do you think it was a decision Archbishop Gomez (and, likewise, other spiritual leaders across the States and worldwide) made lightly? No. I've heard from several sources that those closest to our Archbishop say it was a difficult decision for him to make; one that weighed heavily on him. He cares about us and our well being, no matter what some people say. I don't even want to hear from those of you who are calling him a coward or saying that he cares more about our bodies than our souls. Now is not the time to be uncharitable. Now is the time to get together and pray for our priests who are at the front of the line. They are the ones who, along with those in the medical fields, will be dealing with folks severely infected with the virus. They will be administering the anointing of the sick and/or last rites. They are the ones who will risk their own safety and health for others.

Need I remind y'all that receiving the Eucharist frequently is a luxury we've all gotten used to.. and often take for granted? I've read that St. Therese only received it once a month. Those who live in rural areas who share a priest with multiple other communities don't have that same luxury we do. We have spiritual communion we can do that is completely valid; something we can do multiple times per day from what I've learned.

We have the gift of technology that allows us to watch Mass being celebrated. We can get together with others at a distance to pray together; to bring comfort to one another during these trials through a variety of different platforms. I even had the opportunity to receive impromptu spiritual direction via FaceTime because I was unable to leave the house at the last minute yesterday (guess whose car broke down... again). We have so many resources at our disposals and we have so many opportunities to use social media and the internet to spread the Good News and bring God to others, yet we're using it to tear one another apart; to bring negativity and division instead of unity.

I know that my saying all of this will fall on deaf ears to some but I hope others will try to see things from the POV of someone like me.

I don't want to see negativity on my social media timelines, it doesn't do me any good -- emotionally, mentally, spiritually, or even physically (since my emotional health tends to be closely tied to my physical wellbeing).

I don't want people attacking anyone else, whether they're personally attacking me or someone else whose views differ from theirs.

I want us to unite, as the body of Christ, and pray for one another. Not just for those of us a risk but everyone else. Odds are you know someone -- a family member, a friend, a coworker, an acquaintance, your own parish priest -- who is at risk. Pray for them.

Pray for those in the medical field. Doctors, specialists, nurses, EMTs, even the staff at clinics and hospitals. They are at the front of the line... and then go home to their families who are also put at risk.

Pray for priests, even the young and healthy ones, who will witness so much suffering -- even if that suffering is in the form of devout parishioners begging them to do "underground" Masses because they're so desperate to receive the Eucharist.

Pray for those who have been infected, whether they're in recovery or are still suffering. Pray for their loved ones who hurt seeing them suffer.

Pray for the souls of those who've lost their lives due to this virus as well as their families and friends who are grieving.

Pray for those who are poor in spirit; those who reject God and those who don't know Him out of ignorance.

If you're a fellow chronic illness sufferer, may I suggest offering up our aches and pains -- physical, emotional, and mental -- for others? We have such a gift to give by uniting our suffering with that of Christ on the Cross. As Pope St. John Paul II reminded us in Salvific Doloris, we can offer up our suffering for the good of others. Think about it, Jesus was surrounded by those who were suffering before He Himself suffered the agony on the Cross. He knows what we're going through... and knew pain and agony far worse than we will experience. The graces He will pour out into the world will be greater and sweeter because He knows how much pain we're in and how much courage it takes to endure the pain for the sake of others.

Anyway, I just wanted to put my two cents in because I haven't seen anyone else share anything close to this on social media. Granted, I'm not on Twitter right now (well, not a public account) but I'm sure something would've eventually trickled in through friends.

I hope you're all trying to stay as calm as possible during this time. I know it's much easier said than done. However, I also think that we can grow by leaps and bounds during this time. God wanted us to be alive at this point in time for a reason. God will undoubtedly help us learn how to better achieve sainthood through these difficult circumstances, we just need to be open to it.

Please remember His commandments: Love Him first and foremost and love thy neighbor as thyself. Praise Him even when things seem to have hit rock bottom (a la Job) and be charitable towards one another.

Alright, getting off my soapbox now. I hope you're all doing well (all things considering).

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :)