A few days ago, in an unexpected answer to weariness over yet another spate of work shenanigans, God showed me the reason why He willed some forms of suffering for me. He did this through an account of suffering endured by St. Faustina Kowalska due to bullying by another nun.
As I was taking leave of the sisters and was about to depart, one of them apologized much to me for having helped me so little in my duties, and not only for having neglected to help me, but also for having tried to make things more difficult for me. However, in my own heart, I regarded her as a great benefactress, because she had exercised me in patience to such an extent that one of the elder sisters had once said, “Sister Faustina must be either a fool or a saint, for truly, an ordinary person would not tolerate having someone constantly do such things out of spite.” However, I had always approached her with good will. That particular sister had tried to make my work more difficult to the point that, despite my efforts, she had sometimes succeeded in spoiling what had been well done, as she herself admitted to me at our parting, and for which she begged my pardon. I had not wanted to probe her intentions, but took it as a trial from God…
I am greatly surprised at how one can be so jealous. When I see someone else’s good, I rejoice at it as if it were mine. The joy of others is my joy, and the suffering of others is my suffering, for otherwise I would not dare to commune with the Lord Jesus. The spirit of Jesus is always simple, meek, sincere; all malice, envy, and unkindness disguised under a smile of good will are clever little devils. ~ St. Faustina Kowalska, Entries 632-633, Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul.
The minute I read that entry, I knew it was for me, there was no dodging it. And yet, I resolutely closed my door to it. I simply could not see myself acknowledging, much less thanking in my heart, the woman at work who’s making life so difficult for me. I could forgive, but to offer thanks for every piercing she had subjected me to, even in the hiddenness of my discernment, was asking too much of me.
That was for saints.
It was beyond me and beyond God to expect that of me!
But God being God, He is never encumbered by the many fences I erect against Him, neither does He allow Himself to be confined within the paddocks of my pride and fear.
God doesn’t give up either. He would have me face His teaching squarely and bravely.
After Mass by a visiting priest, I sought Father for Confession. And Jesus spoke through him.
Father’s sermon that day had been about St. Bernadette Soubirous, the Lourdes seer. And now, he returned to it, beginning where the Lourdes apparitions had come to an end, and Bernadette had sought the silence and hiddenness of convent life. There, she suffered under a Novice Mistress who could not see what God Himself had seen in His little Bernadette. As a result, Bernadette, more than any other novice, suffered deep humiliations and cruelty at her hands.
And then, Fr gently pointed out:
St. Bernadette did not become a saint because she saw Mother Mary – but because she endured all her sufferings.
Falling into quiet for a few seconds, the priest looked at me in an odd yet deeply gentle way, as if he was seeing me… and yet, as if he was looking through my eyes, into something else.
Patience, he nodded presently, as if the answer had just been given him. You must be patient, he spoke again, telling me I needed to suffer what my colleague was doing to me, in order to attain heaven.
Everything within me went still. Because I hadn’t said a word about my colleague to him. Fr was an outstation priest from another distant parish, filling in for our parish priest. There was no way he could have known.
But Fr wasn’t done reading my heart. He went on to lift the veil on the reason for the attacks at work.
It is due to jealousy, he said.
At his words, I saw before me, St. Faustina’s words in her diary entries about the attacks from the other nun. This time, they did not rebuff me. No barrier did I erect against the Voice that spoke through them, for the Shepherd’s staff is crooked for a purpose – to guide sheep bent on going elsewhere, through a gate, to the next pasture.
God was now using His staff to tug me towards this new pasture, this world that Bernadette had come to know. To live in it in joy. In obedience.
God is telling me that the way forward is by keeping my eyes on the pasture, the here and now, not on the roads that lead from it. The here and now for me was to carry my Crosses the Bernadette Way, to give of myself to others – the Bernadette Way, and the Bernadette~patience I needed, to suffer in order to unfurl the mercy of the Eucharist, as far as God wants to send it out through me.
Many years before, Jesus gave me my mission.
Wipe My Blood,
He had told me. Wipe My Blood. It had taken me many more years before I finally understood that it was a mission of reparation, to atone for the transgressions of others, even as I atoned for my many sins.
And today, St. Bernadette, the humble, holy, hidden saint of Lourdes to whom the Mother of God appeared, has come to show me how to live in this new pasture:
To live in the joy and freedom – of the Cross – not escape it.
To live by keeping my eyes on the here and now. To perfect my suffering – in order to save souls.
Someday, someday when I’ve finally reached the rainbow’s end, I will look back at the Crosses I’ve been given and my understanding will be complete. The day will come when I will no longer see those Crosses as hard, cruel and unbearable. Something to run away from, to be freed of.
I will finally come to see each Cross of mine as the very Heart of Jesus that I’ve searched the world over for. The Heart of the Good Shepherd, for whom no suffering is too much to save even one soul.
When that day comes, the rainbow will finally meet the earth.
I will see.
And I will rejoice.