By An Anonymous Student, The Catholic University of America
This was supposed to be my last semester as a college student. My last months walking around campus, sitting in classes I loved with professors I adored.
This was supposed to be my last few months in Washington, DC. My last time to walk around the tidal Basin during the Cherry Blossom Festival, visiting the Basilica on campus whenever I needed some extra Jesus time.
These were supposed to be my last weeks living with friends on our own; our first taste of freedom. My last chance to say goodbye to some of my dearest friends who live scattered across the world.
It was supposed to be my last Easter celebrated at home. My last chance to see my community entering the Church, to see my beloved priests and deacons proclaim the Good News: Christ lives. My last chance to renew my baptismal vows at the very place I was baptized; my last chance to receive Christ where I first processed down the aisle in my white communion dress.
And now it’s all gone.
This year, I will not be able to. COVID-19 has taken these from me.
God willing, I will be entering the convent this summer. I won’t get the chance to celebrate in the substitute liturgical events proposed for September because I will be in the midst of my formation as a postulant, living in the world, but not of it. This year, my lent doesn’t really get to end the way I thought it would.
Lent is my favorite liturgical season because it is the time I can partake in Christ’s suffering with Him. Ash Wednesday is my favorite day of the year because it marks the beginning of the beautiful time of growth and self-knowledge. This year, though, I had a full undergraduate course load. I was beginning work on my Master’s degree, working on field experiences, and working two jobs to pay off student loans to enter this year. I had to make the decision to make only small sacrifices for my mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. This was tough because I didn’t feel like I was doing enough, but also was having a hard enough time doing one or two sacrifices a day. I was looking forward to a spring break pilgrimage to the Holy Land to refresh myself spiritually and have time to spend journeying with my friends for the last time and returning to campus ready to finish out the year.
The decision to apply to enter the convent was tough. I have a year left to finish my undergrad, two years until I would have graduated with a Masters degree and after that, I would be ready to enter the workforce, have my own classroom, my own family, my own life. The more I thought and prayed about these things, the more it just did not give me peace, the more I realized Jesus was on my heart more than schoolwork. Last year, when studying for exams I would frequently find Sacred and Immaculate Hearts doodled in margins of notes, and saint quotes, bible verses, even Mass parts scribbled on lecture slides. It was in Lent last year that I noticed my heart seemed to crave Christ more than the guy I was dating. Good Friday left me feeling like a widow more than a regular Catholic and that feeling shook me to the core. I ended my relationship and decided to start discerning.
The Eucharist was the central part of my discernment. Being able to receive Jesus– body, blood, soul, divinity– every day strengthened me against sin and temptation. Sacrificing time to adore Him in Eucharistic Adoration showed me how much I craved the quietness of God’s voice. The Eucharist was my life. I tried to arrange my class schedules around daily Mass times and I left an hour block of time every day to either attend Eucharistic Adoration or sit in a quiet chapel in front of the tabernacle. Over Christmas break, living up North, there were some days that I could not get my car defrosted on time for daily Mass. I started to realize how much I missed the Eucharist and how I just wanted to be under the same roof as Jesus every night. I realized I did not want to wait to enter the convent because I loved Christ with my entire being and wanted to be with Him now.
Why was the Eucharist so important to me? I spent most years of my life without it. My family left the Church when I was young, but I made the decision to return to it in High School. When I learned what the Eucharist was, I was awestruck. I could not believe that I, being so unworthy and sinful, was able to receive Christ, to become a dwelling place for Him as Mary once did. When I returned to the Church I vowed I would never miss another Sunday Mass again. I didn’t even want to miss a daily Mass. Going for so long without the Eucharist really showed me how I am nothing without God, Who is everything. The Eucharist is what fills me up every day, it nourishes my soul so that I can give myself fully to God’s work.
Now, being accepted to postulancy and waiting for my summer entrance date I can’t help and despair over what could have been. Mostly, I can’t help but despair over the fact that I am not able to attend my childhood parish for the last few months, and not able to celebrate the liturgy and be with the priests, parishioners, and sisters who have helped me find my vocation. I am not even able to receive the Eucharist, the center of my life. But, I do believe there is good to come. I thank God for this virtue of hope and knowledge that all darkness is broken by the power of the light.
Though I won’t be able to receive Christ in the place where I once processed in wearing a veil and white dress, I will soon receive Christ processing down the aisle in a white habit and veil. I will get to process in and receive my spouse in the wedding dress I will get to wear every day for the rest of my life.
This lent may last longer than we wanted, but there is a purpose. For me, it was realizing what I am sacrificing for Christ and how much I loved Him and need Him in my daily life. It was realizing now the value I have placed on my memories and physical location of them. It was feeling the heartbreak knowing I won’t hear that “Alleluia” in person for days, maybe weeks, after Easter has passed so that I could come to realize my dependence on the Gospel which it proclaims even a little bit more. Easter won’t come this year, or at least not in the crowded pew way we’re used to it. This year, Easter will have to come in our hearts and instead of hearing the Gospel proclaimed to us, we must learn to proclaim it ourselves.
We have been given a lent to remember. A lent of suffering we did not know could be felt, but now a lent that has become everyone’s reality, even if they aren’t Christian. Let us use this lent to listen to God. Maybe the empty hole in your heart is telling you to return to the Church, to embrace Christ more fully. Maybe the hunger you feel for the Eucharist in your soul is a hint of a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. Maybe this time can be used to draw closer to your family and introduce a routine of family prayer. This time can be used to dig deeper into the teachings of the Church and to more fully understand the faith which you profess. Maybe God is asking you to trust Him more, and to let Him provide no matter how difficult it can be.
Though this time is dark, I know that Christ is the light, the victor over death. I know that this Easter was just not meant to happen, yet. I know that the moment we return to those pews that first Sunday there will be tears of joy over the goodness of the Lord. Let us have hope that lent will end and we will be reunited with Christ, the bridegroom.