I spent the past week observing Pepper's anniversary. And learning how to dance while I sing at someone's face at the top of my lungs. Great stuff happening at Annie rehearsal, I'm telling you. Seeing my husband pretend to drink brandy, constantly talk about how much money he has, and insist he doesn't know a thing about little girls... it's awesome, really. :)
Also been engaged in the mundane task of earning money editing a friend's wonderful work of historical fiction (stay tuned), as well as volunteering at the hospital and writing an article to help my babysitter leave.
I wanted to post this selfsame article here to help her out. I thought of calling the piece "Solve a Problem Like Maria's," but I succumbed to the above title instead. Here goes, article-style (read to the end to find out how to help!):
On January 2nd, 2014, Maria Gonzalez received the call she'd been waiting for her entire life. Sr. Mary Fidelis of St. Dominic's Monastery in Linden, Virginia had very important news: Maria's application to be accepted into the convent had been approved. There is now a simple room waiting for her in the convent with a bed, a desk, a bureau, and a cross.
To see the 27 year-old, the casual observer wouldn't assume that here was a girl with a spot in the cloister waiting for her. These days, one most likely would find Maria in one of two places: praying at church, or cutting hair at Supercuts. With her own brown locks tied back simply in a low ponytail, the young lady's eyes sparkle. She's never been so happy. She's never been so in love. And—eager to eliminate school debt and enter the monastery as soon as possible--she's never worked so much overtime in all her life.
“A nun is a religious sister who lives a contemplative life in silence and solitude as an offering to God in union with Christ Crucified for love of his body, the Church, for the salvation of mankind. There, I said it!” laughs Maria, describing the drastic change her life will undergo as soon as funding can be found to eliminate the debt that keeps her from living her vocation. Maria hadn't always planned to retire from the world. From 2004-2008, Maria attended the University of New Hampshire, pursuing a career in anthropology. Between working towards entering the field of archaeology and trade school for hairdressing, her faith and religious things in general were on the back burner for awhile.
|Maria on right, with a friend, and cake|
In 2010, Maria's mom invited her back to church. “I said, 'Why not, I guess?' And I was back.”
“The first parish I joined as an adult was St. Pius V Church in Providence. I started frequenting the sacraments and taking an active role in my faith” Maria remembers. A Dominican parish with a very active young adult group, St. Pius was a place Maria could have fun and get back in touch with the faith of her childhood.
“Fr. Hyacinth [Marie Cordell, O.P.], our chaplain for the Youth Group, relates well with all of us. Besides adoration and talks, the weekly group also hosts pilgrimages and fun excursions, such as mountain climbing. “Through Father's example as well as that of the Dominican sisters at my parish, I have been able to observe a healthy balance between both the spiritual and human side of a holy, joyfully lived religious life.
|Fuzzy pic of Fr. Hyacinth in white, with St. Pius Youth group, Maria second from left|
Fr. Hyacinth has this to say about his aspiring parishioner: “Maria is a remarkable person of prayer, moral integrity, gratitude, and joy. It is such a tremendous joy for the parish and for myself to see and be a part of this grace that has blossomed in her. It is so exciting that a young woman we know well is becoming a Dominican contemplative nun! These sisters are at the very heart of the Church, as St. Thérèse of Lisieux perceived so lucidly. Maria understands this well, and it is such a beautiful thing that she wants to offer herself in this way.” For two years, Maria planned various service projects for the young adults, such as helping at the homeless, at nursing homes, and post incarceration shelters. Through these years as “Works of Mercy Coordinator,” Maria saw that “God’s will resides within the desires of my heart.” She eventually saw where these desires best found their fulfillment: “In consecrated religious life, I have found my path: my motherhood, my service to God and his Church.”
“I felt moved to give my life to God in this complete and total way one particular day in adoration, four years ago.” Maria relates. “During my vocational discernment, I experienced a great need for silence. God was kind of just forming me into my vocation.” The lack of silence is now one of the most challenging aspects for this woman between two worlds, the one full of noise and distractions she's leaving behind, and the world of silence of prayer she longs to be part of.
“Seeking silence would be my advice to anyone considering a vocation. Silence is nothing to be afraid of, and it's great for the soul, because God's voice is silent. I would encourage them not to give in to distractions, and to keep their eyes fixed on the one thing necessary. Be easy on yourself and others. Love earnestly from the heart. Frequent the sacraments and the response will be nothing short of a natural response to falling in love with Love, Itself. Asked when a person discerning a religious vocation “knows, for sure,” Ms. Gonzales smiles. “I asked God that, too, and I feel the answer is 'You'll know when you know.' In my case, as I learned just how deeply loved humanity is by God through Jesus Christ, I had an overwhelming ache to give back to God all the love of my heart. “
While she gradually felt the call on her life grow stronger and stronger over the years leading up to her acceptance this January, it didn't mean that this decision has been completely easy for her. Maria adores children, and is a babysitter in high demand. “Often, people say, 'But you'd be such a great mother! Don't you want kids? And what about romance?” My answer is: I have to follow my heart. Life is all about relationships. Religious life is about dedicating oneself to the most important of relationships. A nun draws close to God every day through prayer. She grows in love with others through charity and through the challenges of living in community. Her heart extend to the whole world.”
“Currently, I am striving towards my primary vocation: my call to holiness in the present moment, which is the everyone's call.” That's what she's doing while she's waiting, cutting hair, praying at St. Pius, and spending time with her family. “They are happy for me, but sad they will miss me. In the end though, it's not about what I am leaving behind; those things and people weren’t really 'mine' to begin with. Rather, I am gaining God’s will. It is the greatest gift one could be given.”
In the interest of living out “the fullness of life” as she calls it, while waiting anxiously to clear her school debt, Maria—when not cutting hair--has found helpful ways to pass the time. “I enjoy doing art, especially religious art, knitting, exercising regularly and occasionally running in charity races, and singing Irish and folk music with a group of friends. We occasionally sing at a local Irish pub. Doing these things gives me the joy of bringing God to others, and finding Him everywhere and in everyone. I have also come to realize the beauty of God’s creation in simple things like food, and have embraced eating healthy in a whole new light.”
While she works to enter as soon as possible, Maria finds comfort in the description of the enclosure fence from her future home at St. Dominic’s Monastery:
“The enclosure is God's space and is consecrated to Him. It is a place filled with the Holy One, where He is present in a special way. It is the place where one encounters God. This is why a young woman enters a monastery: to live with God in the desert of the cloister and to find Him in that place of solitude. This limitation of space and contacts with the outside leads to an opening of space within the heart of the nun. Rather than restricting her, the enclosure broadens her heart to embrace with compassion the suffering and needs of the entire world.”
Friends have set up a fundraising effort to get Maria to the monastery. “I am definitely going to pray for all those who kindly help me get to the convent by any contribution to alleviate my debt problem. And yes, people sing me that song from the Sound of Music all the time,” she laughs.
To contribute, go to www.youcaring.com/sendmariatotheconvent