~ Maine Apostolate of Roman Catholic Homeschoolers

Dare to Hope

cross heartI would like to share a personal reflection as we begin our Lenten Journey.  I pray it may help others and serve as a reminder that as we pass through the Good Fridays of life we are led to Easter joy, Hope, and new life.  May you all have a good and holy Lent.
Romans 5:3-5

And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Since we are talking a lot about virtues these days, I thought I would share my most recent encounters with HOPE, the second theological virtue, the bridge between FAITH and LOVE.  The biggest cross in my life is depression.lonley  I have suffered from chronic depression since the age of 10.  Since third grade, I have been in and out of the guidance office at school; as an adult, I’ve been in and out of therapy and on and off medication.  I have suffered much in my life and can feel the pain and sadness of others to my core.  It is love that I struggle with.  Although I have known love in my life and I give it freely, I find it very difficult to feel love.  This inability to feel the love of those whom I can physically see and touch on a daily basis makes it extremely difficult to feel the love of God, whom I cannot physically see and touch.  Feeling the love of Christ, the love of our Blessed Mother hasn’t been possible for me.  My heart longs for love and yet God does not offer me the ability at this time to feel it.

In searching for solace, I turned to the treasures of the saints, especially St. Anthony and St. Therese of Lisieux. I had been praying to both of these saints for the past 15 years .  I always pray to Saint Anthony to help me recover lost things, but my ardent prayer to St. Anthony has been to help me find my lost soul.  I always feel so lukewarm in my faith.  I need him to help me find my soul, to help me find my fervor.  I had also been praying to St. Therese to help me to imitate her and remember her little way to heaven.

“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” 

I was granted a brief respite from despair in mid- January.  Our parish offers an adult Faith Formation event called “Encounter in the Upper Room”, a time for Eucharistic Adoration and hearing uplifting speakers.  I had not planned to attend. But on the morning of the event, the scheduled speaker, Deacon Steve,  invited me and a friend, so we went.  When we got there it was  announced that the Sacrament of Reconciliation would be available.hand of God  My first response was that I wasn’t prepared to go to confession, but as I sat there in the presence of our Lord, I felt called to go.  The priest spoke to me about the patient endurance of the saints and that I have been called to this same suffering.  We talked awhile, I received the beautiful gift of absolution, and left the confessional.   I walked down the length of the church making my way to a pew, when I glanced over to a niche in the wall.  There was Christ on the cross in a large life sized statue,  flanked on either side by statues of St. Anthony and St. Therese. The very saints I had been praying to!!  I fell to my knees,  gazing upon the Saints and thanking them for allowing me to come tonight.  Jean Keton Jesus' LoveThen I looked up and looming over me were the outstretched arms of our Lord.  There He was on the cross, looking down at me, He suffered this for me.  I began to sob uncontrollably.  I was crying not because of what He suffered, but because I felt sorry for myself. Why was God asking this of me?  Why was he keeping love from me?  Why would I have to patiently endure?  Haven’t I done that already?  Why do I have to wait in darkness? Why? Why? Why?

As I looked at Him, He answered me.  I saw His arm come down from the cross and wrap around my shoulder, I FELT His love, I saw in my heart my place in heaven.  For about one minute, I felt the warmth of His love.  The weight of this feeling made me bow down my head again and then it was gone.  I began sobbing again but this time I was sobbing because I knew this is what God was asking of me, He was asking me to patiently endure the trials of this life and He gave me a glimpse, an assurance that my reward will be waiting for me in heaven.  I got off the floor and made my way to a pew in front of the tabernacle.  I still felt the weight on me; I could barely sit up straight.  I just stared at the tabernacle saying the name “Jesus” over and over again.  A young man walking by saw my need and came back a few moments later with tissues.  I looked up, said thank you and felt a release from the weight.  I then knelt down and thanked Christ.  Thanked him for his LOVE and for that little moment of grace he just gave me. What a gift!

Jesus weptWhen I am feeling utterly crushed by the sorrow of life, I am reminded: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).   Now when I close my eyes I can feel His loving presence renewing my depressed spirit.  His kindness and sympathy are always ours; in our sorrow He cries with us. The passage in the Bible that helps me to know that God does actually understand what I am feeling is when “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35).  That one minute of Grace has given me a lifetime of hope, hope in the glory of God.

Hope is important because it taps into the energy required to keep going in the face of things that are difficult.  How we think about the future—how we hope—determines how well we live our lives.

PUT TO THE TEST

So how did this experience in January seems so far from my heart only one month later?  The devil is real; he is there constantly tempting us to fall–for me, fall into despair.  God too is real and he may test us, but he NEVER abandons us.  I have to remind myself of this constantly.   I do not always pass the test given, but I do always pick up my cross. It can be quite a workout but I believe that to be the true test.  Have you picked up your cross lately?

Gods test 2The test I am referring to and the extra hope I received came to me just last week.  Along with many other families, our family had been fighting  the winter illnesses and malaise all of February.  With so much energy devoted to fighting this illness and trying to get everyone back to good health, school work suffered.  By the end of the month, I had thrown in the towel and wanted to send the kids to  school.  My thought was that we had accomplished so little this year, that the schools must be better than what I was doing.  Now, many Christian homeschooling parents believe that sending their child to a public school is tantamount to ‘throwing them under the bus’, spiritually speaking.  Nevertheless, en route to my children’s orthodontist appointment, I found myself making an unscheduled visit to our local public school for a quick tour. After the tour and a chat with the principal, I arranged for my children to ‘shadow’ for a day.  I knew this wasn’t what God wanted me to do, but I felt hopeless;  I had given up.  Afterward, we continued on to the orthodontist.  While sharing with the ladies at the front desk that things were just too much for me and that I would be sending the kids to school, I began to cry.  As all consoling women do, they offered me cake.  I laughed and tried to pull it together.

Back at home, I crawled into bed and wept.  I just couldn’t get out of my own way; I could see the train wreck coming and I couldn’t get off the track.  Exhausted from the thinking and crying, I fell asleep.  I was awakened by a phone call from a friend.  Upon hearing of my struggles, she volunteered to tutor the children until I could cope with things a little better.  She was concerned for their souls!  Why wasn’t I concerned for their souls? We have worked so hard to mold our beloved children and keep them safe, and  I was willing to just  let them  jump off the cliff.  What was wrong with me?

This offer of help from my friend jolted me out of bed.  I immediately called the school to cancel the shadowing appointments and began planning to get my act together.   Then I reflected on  how the day had started: we had started with a special prayer as a family. “Send us a clear sign for what to do in regards to homeschooling,” we had  prayed.  I had assumed, as I found myself touring the school that morning, that that was the sign: the public school–yes, that would save me.  But NO, that wasn’t the sign.  The sign was my friend’s offer of LOVE, her concern for my children’s souls.  THAT was the sign.  Thank you God!  Thank you, God, for the crosses you send. Thank you for the priest you send to guide me. Thank you for the friends you send to help me carry my crosses.

Peace be with you 2As a Catholic I can receive help by praying to the saints – some of whom wrestled with problems such as depression in their own lives – and regular reception of the Sacraments.  I love the Church and her wisdom.  I love Our Lord and His mercy.  If you are suffering with depression, or feel that homeschooling is just too much, remember God is near. Be at peace,michelle heart signature 2

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