Many of you already know the story of the murder of my friend Veronica. Her death truly sent me on a trajectory of intentional discipleship. But what many of you may not know, is that I had already, slowly started down that path.
I would say for most of my life, I was “open” and sometimes “seeking” Christ. But I remained stagnant for a number of years, living in the worldly world, accepting a lot, not all, but a lot of what the world accepts.
My son was in a Catholic school in our Diocese. In August, about a week before school started the Priest at the school my son was going to went on the internet and said things contrary to Catholic teaching. I found myself angry. I pulled my son out of the school and asked for a refund of what had been paid for the coming year.
I did get attacked by some people, not all, but some. I was attacked online for pulling my son out and for not seeing how great and modern the Priest was. I was in anguish. I cried and cried. You see the thing is, I knew what the Priest did was wrong, yet one of the things he said was okay was a thing I was practicing; Birth Control. I was standing up against this preaching, but I was living a lie myself. In my pride I had been convinced of my rightness. I had no humility. I thought myself right, not even glancing at 2000 years of Holy Spirit inspired teachings. Looking back, now it’s as if I was saying to God, “you can’t possibly know how hard it is.” Imagine, I was saying that to Christ, who hung on the cross for me. I was ashamed.
As I cried and felt isolated I knew I was angry for a reason. Because I knew deep down in my heart that the teachings of the church were correct and I had chosen to live with what the world taught. I felt like a hypocrite. I started to read. I read Pope Paul VI’s ENCYCLICAL LETTER HUMANAE VITAE, and I was astounded by the prophetic words the Pope uttered about Birth Control; divorce, abortion, infidelity, moral decline, an anti-child mentality. He had hit the nail on the head. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Still, this was so hard, my husband and I had made mistakes. Could God forgive me? I looked at my 3 young beautiful children, I knew the encyclical was right, the world looks at them as a burden, but they are a gift.
Throughout this time of turmoil. I had felt isolated because I had pulled my son out of a school and disagreed with a Priest that was so beloved by everyone. And please understand, I pray for this Priest. I wish nothing but love for Him. But I think he was leading his flock astray. The Bishop stepped in and the Priest apologized. But MY life, was now seemingly filled with anxiety and isolation. Most people I knew agreed with the Priest and were angry at the Bishop, save a few in my circle. There was one person in particular who I was surprised did not judge me harshly for leaving. In fact, she invited me and my son over, and that was Veronica. Though I have no idea how she felt about what the Priest did, she did not judge me for my decision and she still wanted our boys to stay friends even though they would now be at different schools. In fact, even though I knew she was separated, she never spoke ill of her husband either. She was dignified and respectful. Though I am sure she had closer friends she probably confided in, she never oozed the bitterness I often see in separated and divorced couples. I believe she was truly a Christian in my heart, by how she treated people.
Then she was murdered. You all know the story. My wailing, my crying. Feeling God speak to me asking me to change myself. “If you love me, Susan, you will keep my commandments.” I knew I needed to change. I needed to leave the worldly world behind. I built my Peaceful place. I prayed by having a conversation with God every day. I began to read as much as I could about my faith. The veil was lifted. The true and complete beauty of the church was revealed. I decided I wanted to be a good and faithful servant. When the Lord comes, and He separates the sheep from the goats, I want to be on his right side. That meant living the beauty of the church teachings, all of them, even the hard ones, which really are beautiful and bring greater fulfillment in the long run. I needed to change my behavior. I accepted the teachings of the church.
This meant I had to go to confession, the one I mentioned in my story about Veronica. I remember one day walking down the small main street of our historic town with tears coming down my face. I walked into the church. It was not my church at the time. I asked for the Priest and he made himself readily available. This was not something I was used to at all. I went into his office. He put on his stole. I sobbed, and sobbed, and sobbed. I think I confessed everything I had ever done or could remember doing. Then the most amazing thing happened. He did not judge me. He told me God loved me. He gave me Penance and Absolution. While conveying this Sacrament on me he acted in persona Christi. I was forgiven.
Awhile later, I went into the historic chapel at this church. There was no one there. I laid prostrate on the floor in front of Our Lord in the Tabernacle. I felt so unworthy, but also blessed, and so loved. How could I have possibly lived all these years and not seen this. Not seen HIM. Not seen the love, that He was chasing me, calling me to Him, and I had only halfway opened my heart. Intellectually I had known the teachings my whole life, but now Jesus Himself pierced my heart. I wanted Him to have all of my heart.
I still had a long way to go though. I felt God compelling me to write my story down. I resisted. I will tell people I love you Lord, but if I write it down, if I put it out there, I may be isolated again. I may get made fun of. So I waited. Then one day on Facebook a friend of mine who I probably had not spoken to in years popped in and wrote me a message. She said, “I like what you write on Facebook, I think you are funny. You should write a blog.” I could not believe it. Seriously. I could not. So, I told her that was weird, because I had been feeling compelled to write. I wrote Wiping the Face of Jesus. I sent it to her. She cried. I knew I had to publish it, so I did.
I told God, I am all in now, Lord. I have been working on building my trust in the Lord. Some days are harder than others, but so many blessings and small miracles have since happened that I am getting to the place where trust is getting easier and easier. I feel joy where I once had only felt panic. Before I start my days these days, I tell the Lord, I trust in you. Show me the next step, I will follow it. Transform me totally to conform to your will. Perhaps one day I will be there, but until then pray for me, and I will pray for you. I read a blog the other day by Charlie Johnson that said , “Trust, Do, Love. Take the next right step, spread hope to others.” That is now my motto. Hope is here. Hope’s name is Jesus Christ.