Reverend father Angelo,
I’m a religious sister…
My question is: I realize that these things left a deep mark on me, to the point that I’m now oversensitive and, as soon as I find out that somebody criticized me, or I see that my intentions have been misunderstood, I lose heart or overreact. I’m ashamed to admit, Father Angelo, that I especially feel a lot of anger: a passion, a sentiment, a feeling that I have never experienced in such a strong way before, not even before entering the convent.
I swallowed a lot of anger because of all of these circumstances, these injustices, for the lack of righteousness that I see around me, for the excesses of do-goodism which create disparities (do-goodism towards those who feel entitled and keep asking for permissions that go against the religious rule and always obtain what they ask for, while those who try to live with consistency and embrace sacrifice get told “no” and so on…
I feel anger inside me, disillusionment towards religious life and people (because I met very shallow people, especially in the convent) and hypersensitivity to the idea of being criticized or misjudged. All of this has repercussions on my prayer life and my psychophysic health, because I’m always struggling internally and tense. How do I get rid of this anger? I know I should only care about God’s judgment… but I live amongst people… there’s an abyss between the theory, which I know well, and practice.
I also apologize for being a bit argumentative, it’s because of the suffering I carry within me.
I’ll conclude by saying that, despite all of this, I thank God for having called me and I wouldn’t want to go back. However, I recognize that right now I’m going through rough seas…
1. first of all I apologize for the delay in responding to you, but I haven’t had the time to carefully read your e-mail until today.
I can relate to what you’ve been through and are currently going through because nowadays a lot of people have had or are having the same experiences in the Church.
In some of their attitudes and in their behavior, as well as in their ideas and certain statements, one can see the erosion of religious life.
What to do in such situations?
I’ll tell you three things.
2. The first one is that God is never wrong, not even when he allows all this confusion (to use a euphemism).
The opening prayer for the ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time says: “Oh God, in your providence you arrange everything according to your plan of salvation: keep us from all evil and grant to us that which serves our own good. In the name of Our Lord…”.
So Our Lord arranges everything, even when allowing evil, according to his plan of salvation.
The Latin text is even stronger: ““Deus, cuius providéntia in sui dispositióne non fállitur, …” which translated literally means: “Oh God, whose providence in disposing of itself doesn’t make mistakes”.
3. The second one is this: everything leads us to a plan of adoration of God’s plans which, through the various vicissitudes of life, has our sanctification as an objective.
This sanctification aims at leading us towards a transforming union with Christ, that is to say towards being one with the crucified Christ to the point that we can say with Saint Paul: “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
This sanctification takes place through the dissolution of the kernel of wheat that allows itself to be macerated by the various elements of the soil in order to bear fruit.
4. Saint John of the Cross would say that what you’re going through corresponds to the dark night of the senses.
This dark night isn’t perhaps characterized in you by a lack of spiritual consolation in your prayer life, but it’s certainly characterized by misunderstanding (this is also a euphemism!) and by the loss of meaning of the religious life itself, with the pretext of reinvigorating it or taking it to a new level of sanctity which isn’t sanctity at all if we look at the lives or behaviors of its adherents.
Unless we want to call good that which is evil and sinful and therefore an offense to God.
5. In this phase of the spiritual life, Our Lord wants to take everything away from us and leave us alone because we are, in the end, alone with Christ and with Christ on the Cross, and we continue his Passion in our flesh for the life of the world.
6. If the kernel of wheat could talk when it is being attacked by the various acids of the soil in order to be dissolved it would say: leave me alone, stop tormenting me like this.
But in this case it certainly wouldn’t bear fruit.
7. Therefore I tell you to make yours the words which David told Abishai when he wanted Shimei to be punished for publicly cursing David telling him: “Get out! Get out! You man of blood, you scoundrel! The Lord has paid you back for all the blood shed from the family of Saul, whom you replaced as king” (2 Sam 16:7-8). And he was not content with just cursing him, but was “throwing stones at David and at all King David’s officers” (2 Sam 16:6).
These were David’s words to Abishai: “Let him curse, for the Lord has told him to.
Perhaps the Lord will look upon my affliction and repay me with good for the curses he is uttering this day.” (2 Sam 16:10-12).
“For the Lord has told him to” means because the Lord has disposed so, He has allowed this to happen.
8. The third thing I will tell you is the first to put into practice: keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, always.
The Holy Spirit urges us to have this attitude when He says: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader who takes us to the perfection of faith.
For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” (Heb 12:1-4).
9. It’s the same thing that God commanded to Abraham and, through Abraham, to every man: “When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abraham and said: I am God the Almighty. Walk in my presence and be blameless.” (Gen 17:1).
Being constantly in the presence of God is the secret to everything.
We have to stay in the presence of God with our eyes fixed on Jesus with David’s disposition when he said: “Yes, like the eyes of servants on the hand of their masters, like the eyes of a maid on the hand of her mistress, so our eyes are on the Lord our God, till we are shown favor.” (Psalm 123:2).
The Lord uses all of us to carry his plans forwards, including demons, like He Himself said to Saint Catherine of Siena.
10. If you live like this, in this interior hidden martyrdom, you’ll one day be able to say with Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, when Our Lord had her drink the chalice of suffering and humiliation with the final illness of her father: “Yes, the three years of father’s martyrdom seemed to me the most lovely, the most fruitful of all our life, I wouldn’t give them back for all the ecstasies and revelations of the Saints, my heart spills over with gratitude thinking about that priceless treasure that has to cause a holy jealousy in the Angels of the heavenly court” (Story of a Soul, 206).
Through this interior death together with Christ you can do immense good in the Church and in the world, a bigger good than the one you do through the exterior work you’ve been assigned.
Our Lord wants us to attend to our sanctification not just when the sea is calm, but also when the sea is stormy, like it is for you currently.
When the sea is stormy we progress more, if we live with the spirit of the evangelic beatitudes.
I assure you that I will cordially remember you in prayer and I bless you.