Monday, January 20, 2014

Me + St. Paul = Love

Oh, St. Paul...I just can't help myself! My spiritual director has tried to keep me away from Paul (yeah, I know. This is a thing that happens to me...), wanting me to step outside my "spiritual comfort zone", look to other saints and Scriptures and what not,  but you just can't keep this girl away! In my hour of need, I always come back to Paul. Especially as we are approaching one of my fav feasts- The Conversion of St. Paul (Jan. 25th)!

While we are on the subject, here are some of my favorite Pauline go-tos. Don't mind if I do:

"for I know him in whom I have believed and am confident that he is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day." (2 Tim 1: 12, we sang a beautiful hymn with this verse when I was with the Daughters)

"it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me"  (Gal 2:20,  just classic Paul :)

"Therefore, let us throw off everything that hinders...and persevere in running the race marked out for us..." (Hebrews 12:1, Paul is often credited with writing Hebrews, but it's not confirmed. But this verse sounds pretty Pauline and it inspired the title for this blog- duh!)

"Love does not insist on its own never faith, hope, and love remain these three, but the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinth 13, again, classic Paul and heard at every wedding ever)

This feast of the Conversion of St. Paul became really important to me when I was with the Daughters in my year of postulancy. I had been struggling with whether or not my issues of living in the convent were of my own doing- a need to die to myself- or if this vocation was just not for me. I prayed so hard to be able to die to myself and to give everything I had to investing in where God had placed me in that moment, which was the convent. We all know I ultimately decided it wasn't just me, that it wasn't the life for me, but I believe St. Paul helped me get through the dark times when I was questioning. 

I am praying a novena now that will end this Saturday, the feast of Paul's Conversion. Though I am a pretty different woman now at 32 than I was at 26, I find myself again asking similar questions and experiencing similar feelings about where God has placed me. When I was struggling in the convent, I felt restless. I wanted to be DOING something with my gifts, but I felt restricted. I knew the day would come when I would be called to use my gifts, but the struggle in that moment was painful. Though the situation is much different now, I feel once again, restless. I want God to just call me to or show me the next thing already. So as I prayed today, I thought back to the times I felt this way in the convent and wondered what got me through? The answer: St. Paul. 

So I'm going to him and his words again right now in the midst of this novena. I'm praying for revelation and peace, but also that I can handle whatever God gives me in the present. I had to sustain my restlessness for another 5 months between the Feast of the Conversion and Pentecost (when I ultimately left in '08) and I'm praying I don't have to wait that long for what's next, but I trust in God's time.

Is it weird that I'm still reminiscing and reflecting so much on my measly nine months in the convent many years later??! I guess it was just a pretty defining moment when I had to sell my stuff and quit my job and surrender my life and all that ;) I had a strong sense of self then, but I think I have an even stronger sense now because of it. And the discernment that happened at that time is worth going back to (see exhibit A from this time two years ago as well). I don't think that I am living in the past, but just looking for things that worked then to help me with the future. 

But God continues to reaffirm and show me that it is all about the present moment. Take today's Gospel for instance:

No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak.
If he does, its fullness pulls away,
the new from the old, and the tear gets worse.
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins,
and both the wine and the skins are ruined.
Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.- Mark 2: 16-22

This Gospel very much goes along with Paul's classic verse to the Galatians: "it is no longer I who lives, but Christ that lives in me." We have to throw off the old if we are to live with the new. Paul certainly did that. So this Gospel passage, along with Paul, reminds me- we can't go back, we can't hold on. We have to move forward and persevere in the present.

Thanks, St. Paul...hoping you will hook me up as well at the end of this novena too, buddy.

I mean, just look at that face...


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